The Problem With Concubines in the Bible (Genesis 30:3)

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From the beginning, God has highly esteemed marriage.

It’s literally the first thing He created after He created the entire world. The seven days were over. He looked at man, and said that there needed to be a helper for Adam. He made Adam fall asleep, took a rib, and created a woman.

From the beginning, they were meant to be a team (Matthew 19:9).

It’s puzzling, then, why so many men choose to have multiple wives in the Old Testament. This isn’t just a problem with people like Abraham and Jacob; David, Gideon, Caleb, and, perhaps most infamously, Solomon, were all married to multiple women at the same time.

Concubinage represents a lower tier of wife. A concubine’s primary job was two-fold: provide an heir in case the chief wife couldn’t and fulfill the husband’s sexual desires.

Surprisingly, to our modern consciences, there was nothing legally wrong with having concubines. Exodus 21:7-11 and Deuteronomy 21:10-15 both talk about some regulations concerning multiple wives. As long as he had the means to support all these women, he could theoretically have as many wives as he wanted.

The counter argument for concubinage is that marriage, even if it’s of a secondary status, provides necessary protections for women. Becoming a concubine gave women a chance at survival who otherwise might have been overlooked and neglected by society.

The problems with his type of setup should be obvious. Not only does it demean the value of a human life, but it also distorts the purpose of marriage, which, at its core, is based on exclusivity.

Far be it from me to rain on Jacob’s parade, but I would argue he made a huge mistake in marrying multiple women. Then, whenever Rachel and Leah’s handmaids were given to him as well, his problems intensified. 

If you don’t agree, ask Solomon how having so many wives worked out for him.

Instead of trying to satisfy their desire and secure their progeny, husbands would’ve been better suited by fixating on one woman and forming a partnership with them. That’s what marriage is all about, after all.