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In the Book of Genesis, Bilhah (בִּלְהָה "Faltering; bashful", Standard Hebrew Bilha, Tiberian Hebrew Bilhāh) is Rachel's handmaid and a concubine of Jacob who bears him two sons, Dan and Naphtali.

The Testament of Naftali, part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, says that Bilhah and Zilpah's father was named Ahiyot ( lit. "sisters" ). He was taken into captivity and freed by Laban, Rachel and Leah's father, and he gave Ahiyot a wife named Hannah, who was their mother.

After the death of Rachel, Reuben, the firstborn son of Jacob and Leah, loses his right to a double inheritance when he is accused of infidelity with Bilhah.

According to Rashi, as long as Rachel was alive, Jacob kept his bed in her tent and visited the other wives in theirs. When Rachel died, Jacob moved his bed into the tent of Bilhah, who had been mentored by Rachel, to retain a closeness to his favourite wife. However, Reuben felt that this move slighted his mother, Leah, who was also a primary wife, and so he moved Jacob's bed into his mother's tent. This invasion of Jacob's privacy was viewed so gravely that the Bible equates it with adultery.

Bilhah is said to be buried in the Tomb of the Matriarchs in Tiberiasmarker.

Popular culture

The idea of handmaidens is expanded on in, The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood. In the novel The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, Bilhah and Zilpah are represented as half-sisters of Leah and Rachel by different mothers, also in "Rachel and Leah" by Orson Scott Card.

References

  1. Gen. 30:3-5, 35:25
  2. Gen. 35:22, 49:3,4; Deuteronomy. 21:17



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