Okay, so this is how it seems like the correct translation of this pasuk is:

that Reuven went and lay with Bilhah, his father’s concubine…” (Bereshit 35:21-22) That would be an unbelievable act if it were literally true. Therefore, Rashi, based on the Gemara in Shabbat 55b, explains what happened as follows: “…When Rachel died, Yaakov moved his bed, that had been placed in the tent of Rachel, into the tent of her handmaiden, Bilhah. Reuven came and contested this shaming of his mother. He said, ‘If my mother’s sister was her rival, that’s one thing, but that her handmaiden should be a rival as well, that is intolerable!’ Therefore, he moved his father’s bed to his mother’s tent.” (Rashi 35:22, text beginning “He mixed up”) Because Reuven entered into matters that were none of his business, the Torah used such strong language to describe his act.

Does anyone (any perush...) interpret it literally, that Reuben slept with Bilhah?

  • 1
    I think Paneach Raza does. This shiur lists all the opinions:
    – robev
    Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 23:26

2 Answers 2


Several commentators do explicitly state that Reuven actually did lie with Bilhah.

Bechor Shor

ונמצא שאבד שתי נשיו רחל שמתה ובלהה ששכב ראובן עמה

And it turned out that he lost two of his wives – Rachel who died, and Bilhah whom Reuven lay with.


הלך לאהל בלהה ושכב עמה

He went to Bilhah's tent and lay with her.


הלך ראובן ושכב עם פילגש אביו

Reuven went and lay with his father's concubine.


As explained at http://parsha.blogspot.com/2010/12/reuven-and-bilhah.html?m=1, it is the opinion of various Tannaim (Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi) in the Midrash and Talmud that Reuven literally had relations with Bilhah.

  • 1
    Maybe you should bring (cite, or better yet, quote) [especially] the Talmudic passage brought there, for the benefit of readers (as the linked page may not outlive this answer, and they shouldn't have to go there to read the answer itself, anyway).
    – Tamir Evan
    Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 1:20

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