A term which, in modern authors, commonly signifies a woman who, without being married to a man, lives with him as his wife; but in the Bible the word concubine is understood in another sense-meaning a lawful wife, but of a secondary rank. She differed from a proper wife in that she was not married by solemn stipulation, but only betrothed; she brought no dowry with her, and had no share in the government of the family. She was liable to be repudiated, or sent away with a gift, Ge 21:14, and her children might be treated in the same way, and not share in their father's inheritance, Ge 25:6. On cause of concubinage is shown in the history of Abraham and Jacob, Ge 16:16. Concubinage, however, became a general custom, and the Law of Moses restricted its abuses, Ex 21:7-9; De 21:10-14, but never sanctioned it. The gospel has restored the original law of marriage, Ge 2:24; Mt 19:5; 1Co 7:2, and concubinage is ranked with fornication and adultery.
in the Bible denotes a female conjugally united to a man, but in a relation inferior to that of a wife. Among the early Jews, from various causes, the difference between a wife and a concubine was less marked than it would be amongst us. The concubine was a wife of secondary rank. There are various laws recorded providing for their protection (Ex 21:7; De 21:10-14), and setting limits to the relation they sustained to the household to which they belonged (Ge 21:14; 25:6). They had no authority in the family, nor could they share in the household government.
The immediate cause of concubinage might be gathered from the conjugal histories of Abraham and Jacob (Ge 16; 30). But in process of time the custom of concubinage degenerated, and laws were made to restrain and regulate it (Ex 21:7-9).
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" Mt 19:4-5,8). 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 (Ex 21:7-9; De 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" (Ac 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 (1Co 6:15-20). To take the royal concubines was regarded as tantamount to seizing on the throne. (See ABNER; ADONIJAH.)
The difference between wife and concubine was less marked among the Hebrews than among us, owing to the absence of moral stigma. The difference probably lay in the absence of the right of the bill of divorce, without which the wife could not be repudiated. With regard to the children of wife and of concubine, there was no such difference as our illegitimacy implies. The latter were a supplementary family to the former; their names occur in the patriarchal genealogies,
and their position and provision would depend on the father's will.
The state of concubinage is assumed and provided for by the law of Moses. A concubine would generally be either (1) a Hebrew girl bought of her father; (2) a Gentile captive taken in war; (3) a foreign slave bought; or (4) a Canaanitish woman, bond or free. The rights of the first two were protected by the law,
Ex 21:7; De 21:10-14
but the third was unrecognized and the fourth prohibited. Free Hebrew women also might become concubines. To seize on royal concubines for his use was probably the intent of Abner's act,
and similarly the request on behalf of Adonijah was construed.
CONCUBINE, ?????. This term, in western authors, commonly signifies, a woman, who, without being married to a man, yet lives with him as his wife; but, in the sacred writers, the word concubine is understood in another sense; meaning a lawful wife, but one not wedded with all the ceremonies and solemnities of matrimony; a wife of the second rank, inferior to the first wife, or mistress of the house. Children of concubines did not inherit their father's fortune; but he might provide for, and make presents to, them. Thus Abraham, by Sarah his wife, had Isaac, his heir; but, by his two concubines, Hagar and Keturah, he had other children, whom he did not make equal to Isaac. As polygamy was tolerated in the east, it was common to see in every family, beside lawful wives, several concubines. Since the abrogation of polygamy by Jesus Christ, and the restoration of marriage to its primitive institution, concubinage is ranked with adultery or fornication.