There are many points in the bible that many Christians find confusing. One of those has to do with men having concubines and this is mentioned several times in the Bible.
It is helpful to know what a concubine is, since people may have mistaken ideas about that.
In the Bible, a concubine was a woman that a woman acquired as a secondary wife. The main purpose of a concubine was to bear children, particularly male children. Certainly, she also was meant to satisfy the man’s sexual desires, but that wasn’t her main role. It was the responsibility of the man to feed, clothe, and see to the needs of any concubine he had, so not all men were allowed to have a concubine. Having multiple wives or concubines was a sign of wealth, and the more a man had, the wealthier he was.
Concubines were women who were usually of certain types. She might be a Gentile woman who was taken in war. She could be a foreign slave who was purchased. She could be a Hebrew girl who was sold by her father (not an uncommon practice back then). Or she could be a concubine because she chose to be.
Hebrew law was quite specific about the rights of a concubine, too. She didn’t have as many rights as a wife, but she had more rights than a slave. The man’s responsibilities were also laid out in Hebrew law, and these were set up to protect concubines.
Through the years, some religions have taken this to mean that God condoned a man having more than one wife. Both King David and King Solomon had numerous wives as well as concubines and both were favored by God. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines…he was opulently wealthy. However, that doesn’t mean that God condoned the practice. Rather, the laws were put in place long after the people were already acting sinfully in having multiple wives. Again, the law was to protect the concubine, who would otherwise have probably been treated badly.
Probably the best-known concubine in the Bible was Hagar, who was the handmaid of Abraham’s wife, Sarah. Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham because she, Sarah, was barren and unable to have children. Of course, God did take care of that and Sarah bore Isaac when she was 90-years-old.
Abraham was another very important favored man of God. Again, though, God never condoned the practice. He clearly laid out the fact that a marriage was to be of one man to one woman, not multiple women or other variations. It was never God’s idea for a man to have multiple wives. At the same time, God clearly wanted to protect the women who were taken as concubines. In no way were the Hebrew laws meant to say that the behavior was okay, but to say, “If you are going to sin by doing this, you must take proper care of these women.”
In fact, the word for concubine in Hebrew is Piylegesh. This is a borrowed word that is used to describe something that is not indigenous to Israel. So the whole notion didn’t even come from Israel and was foreign to the Hebrews.
There were other laws and statements that protected wives, too. Frankly, God was ticked off when men abused their wives and were unfaithful to them (Malachi 2:13-16).
Did you ever wonder about biblical figures having multiple wives or concubines?
I didn’t know that any man in the bible had multiple wives or concubines
I already knew this