The Wikipedia article on the 12 tribes of Israel mention that Jacob had two wives, Leah and Rachel and two concubines Bilhah and Zilpah. What does the word concubine mean here? Is it like a mistress?


1 Answer 1


The word used in various pesukim in the Torah is פִּילֶ֣גֶשׁ (Pilagshim) and literally means "concubine". The Yerushalmi Talmud (Ketubah 5:2) asks the very same question, "what is the difference between a wife and a פִּילֶ֣גֶשׁ (concubine)?":

What is a wife and what is a concubine? Rebbi Meïr says, a wife has a ketubah, a concubine has no ketubah. Rebbi Jehudah says, both have a ketubah. A wife has a ketubah and the ketubah stipulations; a concubine has a ketubah but no ketubah stipulations.

Similary, in the Gemara (Sanhedrin 21a), Rav Yehuda cites Rav and explains:

What is the meaning of “wives” and what is the meaning of “concubines” in that verse? Rav Yehuda says that Rav says: Wives receive a marriage contract and betrothal; concubines are taken without a marriage contract and without betrothal.

The Ra'avad (Hasagot HaRaavad; Mishneh Torah; Hilchos Ichus 1:4) explains that the word concubine (Pilagshim, פִּילֶ֣גֶשׁ) is comprimised of the two words "פי שגל" (Pi Shagal) which means " a woman who serves both domestic and "marital" functions":

קודם מ''ת וכו'. כתב הראב''ד ז''ל אין קדשה אלא מזומנת והיא המופקרת לכל אדם אבל המייחדת עצמה לאיש אחד אין בה לא מלקות ולא איסור לאו והיא הפילגש הכתובה בפסוק ובעלי הלשון דורשין פילגש מלה הפוכה ומורכבת פי שגל עומדת לפרקים למשגל ולשמש את הבית ופעמים למשכב. וי''ס שכתוב בהם פילגשים בלי קידושין עכ''ל:


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .