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People's Dictionary of the Bible


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Concubine. A secondary wife. The practice of having concubines probably grew out of a desire for numerous offspring, and this also was one support of polygamy: when there was a plurality of wives, some were placed in an inferior grade. Concubines are mentioned very early in Scripture, as in the history of Abraham, Genesis 16:1-16, of Nahor, 22:24, of Jacob, 30. Sometimes wives, as in the cases of Sarah, Rachel and Leah, gave their servants to their husbands for concubines, in order to obtain children, and the children so born were then reckoned as belonging to the wife whose servant the mother was. Keturah is said to have been Abraham's wife, Genesis 25:1; and yet, 5, 6, all Abraham's sons save Isaac are called the sons of concubines. We must, then, conclude that the concubines had a recognized position, and that the children were legitimate, though more dependent, perhaps, upon the father's will for any share in his inheritance than the sons of the actual or chosen wives. The law of Moses did not stop the practice of having concubines, but modified it. Exodus 21:7-9; Deuteronomy 21:10-17. Concubines were often servants or captives, Exodus 21:7-11; Deuteronomy 21:10-14; but this was not always the case. The Levite's concubine, Judges 19:1-30, was neither; and it is observable that her father is called the Levite's father-in-law. After the establishment of the Israelitish monarchy, the kings increased the number of concubines; and the right over those of one monarch, accrued to his successor; so that to seize on any of them was regarded as an overt act of rebellion. 2 Samuel 3:7; 2 Samuel 12:8; 1 Kings 2:22; 1 Kings 11:3. The New Testament teaching restores marriage to its original character, requiring a man to be the husband of one wife. Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:6; 1 Corinthians 7:2.

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Bibliography Information
Rice, Edwin Wilbur, DD. Entry for 'Concubine'. People's Dictionary of the Bible. 1893.

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