What Is A Concubine? Why Was This Allowed In The Old Testament?

What Is A Concubine? Why Was This Allowed In The Old Testament? August 21, 2015

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).

He-had-700-wives-who

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).

Conclusion

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.

"Bored old atheist troll.Poor things."

A List of Sins from the ..."
"Boiled meat? That would be the Pagan Celts. They loved the stuff."

A List of Sins from the ..."
"I have to ask: "IF GOD TELLS US TO COMMIT A SPECIFIC SIN - IS ..."

A List of Sins from the ..."
"Where in the Bible do you see God establishing a human government, unless it was ..."

Who Would Jesus Vote For?

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Evangelical
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • SJ

    God didn’t allow for polygamy. It says in the Old Testament Law that kings were suppose to have only one wife and kings in ancient Israel were required to write down the laws so they would know them.

    Deuteronomy 17:

    17 Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.

    18 And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites:

    19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them:

    20 That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.

    • Jack Wellman

      That was my conclusion too and the same verse you used I also used (Duet 17:17). Thanks friend.

      • SJ

        Oh yes you did….I skimmed too fast and missed your quotation.

        If you think about it Deut. 17:17 was prophetic as well….The Torah was written a really long time before the time that Solomon lived.

        17 is the number of victory in the bible.

    • Mark James Hill

      He is not supposed to multiply wives or gold or silver. That is not evidence that God did not give those things to the kings. Basically its saying they should not seei them. Kings were not Gods desired method of rule in the first place. The Isealites begged God for a King and payed for their sin. He wanted to lead them.

      It just never says polygamy is wrong period so you just can5 read into the scripture. No adding to scripture no matter how bad you want to.

    • Mark James Hill

      So it doesnt say they should have 1 wife does it?what it says is HE should not multiply wives. Does it say anything about God giving him wives?or addition of wives? The only reason you would interpret that passage that way is because that ia what you already believe and you dont wabt to change. Its interesting but that is all.

  • pud

    Goodie! The psychopathic celestial dictator watches you have sex in addition to watching you day and night, monitoring your thoughts, recording your dreams and he convicts you for even thinking “wrong” thoughts! And you worship him? An ever present eternal supervising authority who reads your mind? And you’re ordered to love him? And you do? Tell me something more pathological than that!

    And while you’re at it why don’t you tell everyone how you lied and posted a fraudulent website as true and refuse to be accountable or shameful for doing so? Why won’t you own up “pastor jack”?

  • Erp

    I very much doubt concubines usually chose to be concubines. They were sold into it by their fathers (possibly because of family poverty) or slaves inherited, bought, or taken in war. Did Hagar, Bilhah, or Zilpah have any choice? A concubine was also used to produce sons; that was the reason Hagar became Abraham’s concubine.

    Also the Bible seems perfectly fine with a king having a moderate number of wives and/or concubines. 2 Samuel 12 has God giving David multiple women (namely the previous king’s wives) “into his ares”.

    7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave your master’s house to you,
    and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and
    Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even
    more.

    • SJ

      A surface reading of the bible may make polygamy seem fine but it really never was when you follow the outcome of events.

      David repented of his polygamy.

      quote:
      One of the qualifications for a Minister in GOD’S Church is that he have only ONE wife! No POLYGAMIST may be a Minister of Jesus Christ in His True Church!

      Here it is: “A bishop [elder, overseer, preacher, minister] must be blameless, the husband of ONE wife” (I Tim. 3:2). Likewise, a man may not even be a deacon if he has more than one wife (verse 12).

      More on how God forbade and punished polygamy here:
      http://giveshare.org/family/polygamy.html

      • Erp

        David repented of his adultery (and murder) not his polygamy; he had nothing to repent for there as far as the writers of Samuel and Chronicles were concerned. Jeremiah 3 even depicts God as being married to the nations of Judah and Israel (who are depicted as being very bad wives). The New Testament writers had a very different take and were likely influence by living in a Greek/Roman cultures that was strictly monogamous.

        • SJ

          I’m sorry but I don’t accept this interpretation as final.

          The kings of Israel were responsible for obeying the Law of the Torah. Jesus Christ himself was Torah observant. He had to be to be sinless.

          God would want the kings to set the example for the rest of the people under their rule.

          It could very well be that David repented of the adultery, the murder and the polygamy.

          Solomon’s son’s kingdom was taken from him by God…..divided into 12 pieces and ten were given to Jeroboam because he engaged in polygamy with pagan women.

          When you engage in polygamy I believe you engage in a form of spiritual adultery….polygamy is a form of heart idol….and when you start to put women ahead of God you have made a grave spiritual error. It is ok to adore a woman. It is another thing to worship them in high numbers and lose your headship over them. Multiple women can’t complete a man.

          Look at Solomon….He refused to cut down the asherah poles and high places and started to worship false Gods.

          God’s image is one man and one woman combined. That is why Adam and Eve were made in the image of God.

          God doesn’t have multiple personality disorder. It is Adam and Eve not Adam and Eve, Mary, Martha, etc.

          All levity in regard to polygamy has done is subjugate and devalue women when women are also made in the image of God. One bible teacher I know says that the man/ Adam represents or symbolizes the head while the woman/ Eve represents or symbolizes the heart.

          The head and the heart together are the complete image of God.

          That’s why so many same sex marriage opponents say “It’s Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve.”

          • Erp

            You forget that according to the Bible, God told David through Nathan that God had given Saul’s wives into David arms (or bosum) and no where is David condemned for having many wives (besides Saul’s wives there were also Michal, Abigail, Maacah, etc.). In fact 1 Kings 15:5 states “For David had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD and had not failed to keep any of the LORD’s commands all the days of his life–except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.”

            Solomon is condemned for having _pagan_ wives. If all his wives had been Jewish would there have been any need for Asherah or high places?

            Now personally I think David as depicted in the Bible did quite a bit more wrong than adultery with Bathsheba and murdering Uriah. Among other things failing to punish his eldest son for raping his half-sister Tamar (and also failing to help Tamar, her full brother was the one to take her in after the rape); allowing the murder of the sons of Rizpah and Merab (or Michal depending on the version of the Bible) and then not having them buried for several months. However the writer of 1 Kings 15 skips over those.

          • SJ

            That is very literate on your part to remember so many details. I haven’t been reading as much on David recently as you have. I have been studying a bit on spiritual warfare recently and I think people greatly under estimate the strength of demonic influence in Old Testament times. We know Saul was demon afflicted but that doesn’t mean other people weren’t afflicted including David and Absalom. I think David was afflicted by the demon Asmodeus in the Bathsheba incident as was Absalom in the Tamar incident and very possibly Solomon was as well.

            It says Absalom was ” vexed ” with Tamar and vexed is an old fashioned way of saying obsessed and obsessions are frequently cited as a demonic manifestation.

            That is why polygamy is a problem throughout the Old Testament. Because there was no power to cast out demons in the Old Testament times before Jesus Christ lent his power and authority to his followers.

            That is also why they made war so much. I believe the non-Israelite nations were even more demon infested than the Hebrews and most likely why God told them to stay holy and set apart from them. Demons could be transferable just like sin is transferable like leprosy and can take a host organism over like leaven.

            We also don’t know if David made intercession through prayer and offerings to God hoping He would cure Absalom of his demons. Job made intercession for his children in case they sinned. I would have to research the Psalms and other Old Testament books to see if David did this. We know he soothed Saul with a harp.

            There are 16 major demons with multiple classes of sub demons.

          • Erp

            You realize that according to the Bible it was Tamar’s “half-brother, Amnon, who was also David’s eldest son not her full-brother, Absalom, who raped her? Absalom took her in afterwards and several years later murdered Amnon to avenge his sister. Absalom fled after that only to return later when his father forgave him and eventually tried to usurp his father’s throne (and raped some of his father’s concubines). David probably would have forgiven that except his general, Joab, killed Absalom.

            I think David needed to give Tamar justice which would have meant Absalom would have no reason to avenge her outside the law and probably would not have thought of usurping the throne; sacrifice would have been useless. Micah 6:8 “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”; no mention of sacrifice. Though there is no guarantee that the writer of Kings agreed at all with Micah. The writer of Chronicles would think sacrifice was a good idea but he never mentions the story of Tamar. Demons btw are naught but an attempt by men to blame something outside themselves for their actions.

            So have you read Tobit to learn about Asmodeus?

          • SJ

            Yes, I know it was Amnon. I don’t know why I wrote Absalom….Sometimes I transpose names because as I get older my memory isn’t as good as it once was

            I haven’t read Tobit. I’ve read one of the spiritual warfare books by the Robesons and one of these days I will complete the second one.

            If demons were just an attempt by man to blame something outside of themselves then why did Jesus and the disciples cast them out?

            I would read up on the subject before offering an opinion because there is nothing in the bible to say they ceased existing among us. I believe a demon is an extreme manifestation of sin and sin is missing God’s mark. Some old time preachers say the bible is a mirror. Notice people’s reactions to it. When some people look into the mirror they get offended and then the denials and self rationalizations begin. Other people take it seriously, repent and let God change them.

            Sin can be outside of us and it can be trying to operate from within us that is why the New Testament said to be careful about the company you keep. ” Don’t be deceived, bad company corrupts good character.”

            Death entered mankind from sin and death brings all kinds of weakness with it so just like a lot of old school preachers used to point out ” sin is terrible “. The awfulness of sin is something preachers used to stress so people would make the connection to their own personal need for repentance.

            Sin is not something we can rationalize or psychologize away. It is demonic and it is communicable and why we desperately need Jesus to break its’ power.

            The ancient world didn’t have Jesus Christ for quite some time though. God was busy teaching them right from wrong through the law and letting them know they were lawbreakers/sinners and in need of a savior. So Judaism later split into two camps when Jesus came. Some Jews followed Jesus Christ and some didn’t.

            Heart idols and demons have always plagued people. Jesus Christ is the only one that could ever heal a person of them.

            Why is this important to know? For several reasons but particularly to know that Jesus Christ does have power and authority over demons even today.

            Did you ever hear of Buddha casting a demon out of anyone? I haven’t. All the ancient world religions acknowledge demons existed yet Jesus Christ is the only one with the power to cast them out and keep them out.

            So that fact alone on top of the sinlessly perfect life of Jesus shows people the difference between Jesus Christ and all other world religious leaders.
            Jesus Christ actually has power. He cast demons out of people, he raised Lazarus from the dead and he rose from the grave himself. There is no other world religious leader that ever conquered death and rose from the grave. Just Jesus Christ.

            So Jesus Christ isn’t just to be studied. His life is to be put on and lived….You could compare and squabble over interpretations of the bible and all the various details all day but the main thing is to get Jesus and let him change you and maybe one day when you are mature enough you will start to study up on ” the authority of the believer”. Believers do have authority but we have to mature and study to be approved and learn how to judge well enough to be able to call on Jesus’ name to use his authority.

            You can always do a topical study on this question and seek to know a lot of details for yourself.

            This is a powerful song that sings about the power of Jesus Christ’s blood.

            Give God the Glory
            https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=nPUX748nIFQ

            These times are calling for people to be sober. Read the New Testament….in the End Times will come seducing spirits….so we need to be sober and filled with the Spirit. It is harder for evil spirits to deceive a sober person because a sober person is in possession of his facuties and can judge things more clearly and knows right from wrong if he’s been reading the bible.

          • dallastexasviewer

            Do not speak anymore about this demon. This demon has been taken care of forever. Its name need no longer be mentioned (archangel Raphael).

          • dallastexasviewer

            God only considered the episode of David, Bathsheba, and Uriah to be one sin although many of us would nickel and dime David and claim this episode was composed of many sins. David sinned just once in his entire life. Between David and Jesus, only 1 single sin was committed in total. Pretty good job for 2 Judah warriors compared with the multiple sins of 2 Benjamite warriors (King Saul, Saul of Tarsus – dba apostle Paul)

            1 Kings 15:5
            For David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life – except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.

          • Reese Daniel

            What about when David sinned about counting the people (census?). God punished him for that and it WAS a “sin”.

          • dallastexasviewer

            1 Kings 15:5

            For David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life – except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.

            I understand your questioning 1 Kings 15:5, and it does seem problematic i.e. the Census incident.

            But also consider this: The Old Testament teaches that Jesus/Messiah/Christ/Immanuel may have sinned early in his life before he reached the age of accountability.
            THE SIGN OF IMMANUEL:
            ISAIAH 7 –
            “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. 15 He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. 17 The Lord will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father’s house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria”

          • CHAD

            Very interesting indeed, but its not a sin to choose wrong, especially for a boy.

          • dallastexasviewer

            It appears you are right. But then how do we explain original sin. “Born in sin, come on in” (to Hell that is). Anyway, regarding the Census, one account says God caused David to take a Census because God wanted to punish Israel. Another account says it was Satan that caused David to take the Census. From JOB, we understand that it was Satan who went to God for permission to attack JOB, and God allowed it, but God would not give Satan permission to kill JOB. God can turn the heart of the King any way he wants to accomplish God’s will. So David may have appeared to sin, but it was really God who used David to sin so that Israel the nation could be punished. Since God cannot sin, he uses Satan to do this work. The Psalmist wrote that God has evil angels at his disposal. But God only uses them to chastise individuals? or nations – I’m understanding?

            Psalm 78:49 (KJV) He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels among them.

          • dallastexasviewer

            It appears you are right. But then how do we explain original sin. “Born in sin, come on in” (to Hell that is). Anyway, regarding the Census, one account says God caused David to take a Census because God wanted to punish Israel. Another account says it was Satan that caused David to take the Census. From JOB, we understand that it was Satan who went to God for permission to attack JOB, and God allowed it, but God would not give Satan permission to kill JOB. God can turn the heart of the King any way he wants to accomplish God’s will. So David may have appeared to sin, but it was really God who used David to sin so that Israel the nation could be punished. Since God cannot sin, he uses Satan to do this work. The Psalmist wrote that God has evil angels at his disposal. But God only uses them to chastise individuals? or nations – I’m understanding?

            Psalm 78:49 (KJV) He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels among them.

          • CHAD

            Very interesting indeed, but its not a sin to choose wrong, especially for a boy.

          • dallastexasviewer

            Are you sure David sinned holding a census? Which Bible account are you reading? (a) 2 Samuel chp 24, or (b) 1 Chronicles chp 21 ?

            One account says that the Lord was angry with Israel and caused King David to take a census so that Lord could punish Israel. This was not a temptation, but rather God turning the heart of the King to do God’s pleasure (punish Israel). The other account says that Satan wanted to punish Israel so that he caused/made David decide to take a census. In either case, David was being used to cause Israel to be punished.

            Please note the many discrepanices that exist in the 2 Samuel vs. 1 Chronicles accounts. EXample: One account says that the census found 1.3 million warriors and the other 1.57 million warriors. That is a major difference of 270,000 warriors. One account says that the threshing floor/oxen was bought for 50 silver coins and the other account says 600 gold coins were used for the purchase. This difference can hardly be reconciled.

          • Robert Arredondo

            No thats not correct, david also sin when God told him not to count the army he had and depend on the Lord , so david had one of his men count it anyway , but God charge david with it, whether he did it or some one else ,david gave the order, just like he gave the order for uriah to be killed.

          • dallastexasviewer

            Robert Arredondo.
            1 Kings 15:5 says…
            For David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life – except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.

          • Mark James Hill

            Your way off. Not condemned for polygamy just for marrying foreighners who served other gods. You gave no scrioture evidence of polygamy being wrong . Its simply what you want to believe culturally or otherwise.

  • Mark James Hill

    Hmmm the passage about elders actually gives more credibikity that having multiple wives and or concubines was acceptable except for elders. Which is why there is a need for a specific scripture seperating qualifications of elders from everybody else. The reason would be obviois to anyone who even has 1 wife. It takes tine and energy to care for wives thus would be a distraction from the additional duties of an elder. The only reason anyone would disagree with this woukd be becaise they refuse to accept the obvious. Cukturally you cant accept the facts.

  • dallastexasviewer

    http://www.facebook.com/concubineJesus. Jesus the concubine was ravaged to death by evil men (Benjamites – Judges chp 19-21). Why did God/Jehovah (the Levite husband) allow his Son to be killed/sacrificed this way? Because Isaiah tells us in chapter 53 that it was pleasing to God for Jesus (the Passover Lamb without spot) to die this way for our Salvation. It was God’s plan. A concubine is an earthly woman who belongs to an earthly man and inherits nothing from him, whereas Jesus is a heavenly man who belongs to God and inherits all things from His Father. These things have been hidden. It’s not that 40,000 Judah warriors (22,000 + 18,000) died to avenge a single lowly concubine, but rather, Jesus the concubine died for the many, for all who will receive him from the House of Israel. Jesus warned in Matthew 7:15 and Mark 8 to beware of Benjamite Pharisee wolves in sheep’s clothing and their yeast/false teaching. 5[000] fed, 5 loaves bread, 12 baskets gentile fragments collected; 4[000] fed, 7 loaves bread, 7 baskets gentile fragments collected. Riddle Answer = 22 or 22,000; 18 or 18,000. 40,000 points to the Judah warriors killed fighting evil Benjamin. 40 points to the 40 Days Appearances of Jesus (Acts 1:3) to his close Disciples (those he ate and drank with) after he rose from the dead, then ascended to heaven to stay until the Last Day (Acts 1:11, 3:21, 10:41). Jesus did not make special appearances after the Ascension, nor appear as anything other than as a man in the form of flesh and bone during the 40 Days prior to the Ascension. Thus, Saul of Tarsus (Benjamite Pharsiee) did not see Jesus on the road to Damascus but rather Satan disguised as an angel of light. A LITTLE SLEEP, A LITTLE SLUMBER, A LITTLE FOLDING OF THE HANDS TO REST, AND SPIRITUAL POVERTY (yeast/false teaching) WILL CREEP IN (into the Body of Christ/Church/NT writings) LIKE A BANDIT (Benjamite Pharisee Wolf in Sheep’s clothing – Saul/Paul of Tarsus pseudo-apostle).

  • dallastexasviewer

    You said: 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). But David had multiple wives, and he slept with a young Shulamite girl not his wife whilst married to Bathsheba. These guys were the apple of God’s eye and the wisest men on earth.