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Fausset's Bible Dictionary


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The desire of offspring in the Jew was associated with the hope of the promised Redeemer. This raised concubinage from the character of gross sensuality which ordinarily it represents, especially when a wife was barren. This in some degree palliates, though it does not justify, the concubinage of Nahor, Abraham, and Jacob. The concubine's children were adopted, as if they were the wife's own offspring; and the suggestion to the husband often came from the wife herself (Genesis 30). The children were regarded, not as illegitimate, but as a supplementary family to that of the wife. Abraham sent them away with gifts during his lifetime, so as not to interfere with the rights of Isaac, the son of the promise.

The seeming laxity of morals thus tolerated is a feature in the divine scheme arising from its progressive character. From the beginning, when man was sinless it was not so; for God made male and female that in marriage "they TWAIN should be one flesh" Matthew 19:4-5; Matthew 19:8). But when man fell, and, in the course of developing corruption, strayed more and more from the original law, God provisionally sanctioned a code which imposed some checks on the prevalent licentiousness, and exercised His divine prerogative of overruling man's evil to ultimate good. Such a provisional state was not the best absolutely, but the best under existing circumstances. The enactment was not a license to sin, but a restraint upon existing sin, and a witness against the hardness of man's heart.

The bondmaid or captive was not to be cast away arbitrarily after lust had been gratified (Exodus 21:7-9; Deuteronomy 21:10-11); she was protected by legal restraints whereby she had a kind of secondary marriage relationship to the man. Thus, limits were set within which concubinage was tolerated until "the times of this ignorance" which "God winked at" (Acts 17:30) passed by, and Christ restored the original pure code. Henceforward, fornication is a sin against one's own body, and against the Lord Christ, with whom the believer is one in body and spirit (1 Corinthians 6:15-20). To take the royal concubines was regarded as tantamount to seizing on the throne. (See ABNER; ADONIJAH.)

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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Concubine'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. 1949.

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