What is a concubine? Why did God allow this in the Old Testament period?
A Concubine is…
A concubine is a female who willingly gives herself up to enslave herself or sell herself for a man for sexual pleasure. It is a relationship with someone to whom they are not or cannot be married. The reasons can greatly vary like the person’s religious beliefs, they are already married, a social rank status that prohibits their marrying, or even a recognition by others that restricts their marrying. Concubines typically had no rights, even with their own children. They also had no property rights of the one who owned the concubine and were not considered family in any way. A concubine slightly differs from a harem as a harem can be composed of wives and concubines and a harem restricts the presence of men, for the most part. As far as the concubines in Israel, many of them had the same rights as legitimate wives but were not treated with the same respect.
King Solomon’s Concubine
King Solomon lived as extravagantly as any man alive at that time. Solomon “had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart” (1st King 11:3). God never condones a man having more than one wife, anywhere in the Bible. On the contrary, God said that kings “shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold” (Duet 17:17). God warned the nation and the kings to not multiple wives since they can turn their hearts away from God and that exactly what happened to Solomon and “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been” (1st King 11:4).
Did God Allow Concubines?
God allows a lot of things but this doesn’t mean that He approves of them. Time and again Israel rebelled against God and He sent them into captivity for their own benefit as they would repent of their sin of rebellion and idolatry, that they would humble themselves so that they would plead for God’s forgiveness, and then God would return them again to their land. This vicious cycle was repeated over and over again and even though God allowed it, this doesn’t mean He condones it or approves of it. On the contrary, He forbids marrying or having more than one wife and this was still the case in the New Testament where the qualification for all elders was that they be the husband of one wife (1st Tim 3:2).
The Command for Chastity
Today we are living under the new covenant as it is superior to the old covenant in the sense that sins are taken away and not just covered but sins like adultery, fornication, or any other sexual immorality will not go unpunished by God (Rev 21:8). Paul was very concerned with sexual immorality in the church at Corinth, which was a sin-city if ever there was one in the first century. Paul wrote “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh” (1st Cor 6:15-16). That’s why the author of Hebrews wrote “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Heb 13:4). This says two things; God looks at the marriage bed, and really the marital relationship, as undefiled and “held in honor among all” but then contrasts the faithfulness or fidelity of the marriage partners to those who lived lives of sexual immorality as ones who will be judged by God (the sexually immoral and adulterous) and the other will be held in high honor (the married).
Today we have no excuse for committing acts of adultery or fornication. The Bible is clear that these things are sin. Any sex outside of marriage and that is now with your marriage partner will be judged by God. Paul wrote that any adulterer, fornicator, or sexually immoral person, “as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal 5:21) and “has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Eph 5:5b) and all of the “the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (Rev 21:8).
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon.