What Is A Concubine In The Bible


The Bible contains many references to concubines, including some that describe various features of this term. This article delves into the Bible to explain what a concubine is and how it might have been an entrenched part of ancient society. It also looks at how modern readers might view the institution of concubinage, the rights of concubines and the importance of the concubine roles in Biblical texts.

What Is A Concubine?

The term ‘concubine’ is used in the Bible to refer to a woman who is not married to, but is in a committed relationship with a man. The relationship is usually, but not always, sexually based. According to Biblical scholars, concubinage was an accepted form of marriage in some cultures during Biblical times. In these societies, concubines were considered non-public wives and often held a lower status than legitimate wives. It has also been suggested that concubinage might have been used by men in the Bible as a way of satisfying sexual needs that could not be fulfilled in marriage.

In ancient societies such as those depicted in the Bible, concubines were sometimes subject to mistreatment. They could be taken away from their families and treated like property, with no rights or protection from their male partners. Some Bible stories describe concubines escaping from abusive partners, suggesting that such occurrences were not uncommon.

The Bible does not offer clear guidance on the status of concubines. However, it does offer examples of different ways in which concubines interacted with their partners, suggesting that in certain societies concubinage was respected. In some examples, concubines are treated with kindness and even love, suggesting that they could also have a positive relationship with their partners.

Concubines in the Bible

The Bible contains several stories involving concubines. One of the most prominent is the story of Jacob, Rachel and Leah in the Book of Genesis. Jacob had a relationship with both Rachel and Leah, and was said to have indulged in concubinage with the latter. This story suggests that concubinage was tolerated even in those societies in which monogamy was the norm.

Another prominent example is the story of David, who had several concubines. By the time of David, however, concubinage had begun to decline, suggesting that even in the time of the Bible, concubinage was becoming less acceptable.

In addition, the Bible contains references to concubines that appear to be supportive of the institution. In the story of Ruth, for example, Boaz rescues Ruth from a potential life of prostitution by proposing to her and bringing her into his household as his concubine. This suggests that, in certain cases, concubinage could be seen as a form of protection for women.

The Bible also contains warnings against abusing concubines. In Exodus 21:7-10, for example, a man who mistreats his concubine is warned that he is to be held responsible for her suffering. This could suggest that even in Biblical times, concubines were to be treated with respect and dignity, despite their lower social status.

Modern Attitudes Towards Concubinage

Modern attitudes towards concubinage vary widely. Some consider it to be a form of sexual exploitation, while others view it as a way of providing protection to vulnerable women. In many countries, however, concubinage is illegal and is viewed as a punishable offence.

Despite this, there are some societies in which concubinage is still practised. For example, in parts of North Africa, women can enter into concubinage agreements as a way of avoiding poverty or providing for their families. In some cases, these agreements are undertaken with the consent of both parties, although in other cases, women may be coerced into them.

In many countries, there is an ongoing debate about the rights of concubines and about the morality of concubinage. Some argue that, even if it is not entirely legal, concubinage can be a way for women to protect themselves from poverty and other forms of exploitation. Others argue that, no matter the legal status of concubinage, it is ultimately an act of exploitation and should not be supported.


In conclusion, the Bible contains many references to concubines, and it is clear that, in the societies described in the Bible, concubinage was an accepted institution. The Bible also contains warnings against mistreating concubines, suggesting that even in those societies, they were to be respected and treated with dignity. Today, attitudes towards concubinage vary widely, with some arguing that it should be outlawed, while others maintain that it is a viable form of protection for women.

Social Implications

The social implications of concubinage are far-reaching and complex. In some societies, concubinage is still accepted and tolerated, with the consent of all parties involved. In other societies, however, concubinage is seen as an act of exploitation, and is thus subject to legal penalties.

Concubinage can also have implications for gender equality and the representation of women in society. In some cases, concubinage can be seen as a way for women to gain financial and even social status, which in turn can empower them in other areas of life. On the other hand, the institution can also be seen as a way to perpetuate the subjugation of women, as they are not officially married and have fewer rights than legitimate wives.

Finally, concubinage can have implications for the broader understanding of marriage and relationships. In some societies, it can be seen as an alternate form of marriage, with all the rights and responsibilities of a traditional marriage. In others, it is seen as a form of exploitation and disrespect of the institution of marriage.

Modern Concubinage

Modern concubinage is far removed from the institution described in the Bible, but it still raises a number of ethical and legal issues. In many countries, concubinage is outlawed, but in some cases, it is still practised in a consensual manner. It is therefore important to understand the legal and social implications of modern concubinage, and to ensure that all parties involved in such relationships are aware of their rights and responsibilities.

In many cases, governments and civil societies have taken steps to protect the rights of concubines and to ensure that they are not victims of exploitation. This can include access to legal support and resources, as well as access to social services and economic aid.

Ultimately, modern attitudes towards concubinage are complex and varied. But it is clear that, no matter how the institution is viewed, it is an important subject that should be discussed at length to ensure that all parties involved in such relationships are treated with respect and dignity.

Religious Perspectives

Religious perspectives on concubinage vary widely. In Judaism, concubinage is strictly forbidden, while in Christianity, concubinage is generally frowned upon, but not expressly forbidden. In some religions, such as Islam, concubinage is allowed, although there are a number of conditions that must be met in order for it to be considered acceptable.

Religious scholars often point out that while concubinage is mentioned in the Bible, it is not expressly approved of by God. Rather, it is seen as a social institution that was accepted by the ancient Israelites, and as such, was allowed to continue in some form. Today, religious leaders generally oppose concubinage, as it is viewed as an affront to the sanctity of marriage.

Nevertheless, for some people, concubinage can be seen as an acceptable alternative to marriage. In some cases, concubinage can provide protection and security for women who do not want or are unable to enter into a legal marriage. But it is important to note that concubinage should never be forced upon anyone, and that all parties involved should be aware of their rights and responsibilities.

Implications for the Future

The future of concubinage is uncertain. In some countries it is banned, while in others it is still practised in certain contexts. As attitudes towards relationships continue to evolve and societies become more tolerant, it is likely that concubinage will become less acceptable in many countries.

At the same time, it is important to understand that concubinage is still practised in many parts of the world, and that in such contexts it can provide an important form of protection and security for women and children. In these cases, it is important to ensure that all parties involved in such relationships are aware of their rights and responsibilities, and that they are treated with respect and dignity.

Ultimately, concubinage is a complex and controversial issue, and it is important to understand the different perspectives on the institution, especially in light of the changing social and legal landscape. As such, it is an issue that deserves further study and discussion, in order to ensure that all parties involved in such relationships are treated fairly, and that the rights of concubines are respected and protected.

Marcos Reyna is a Christian author and speaker. He is dedicated to helping create disciples of Christ through spreading the power of the gospel to others. He has written several books and articles on a variety of theological topics, including matters of faith, worship, biblical studies, practical ethics, and social justice. A trained theologian and devotee of spiritual writing, Marcos has a mission to spread Christian love everywhere. He lives with his family in Nashville, TN where he spends his days encouraging others to seek Christ's grace in all things.

Leave a Comment