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CONCUBINE, a slave woman in ancient societies who was the legal chattel of her master, and could enter in legitimate sexual relations with her master. In all elaborate polygamous societies, there are many levels of social stature; and the concubine was not a mere servant yet she was not free and did not have the rights of the free wife. One Heb. and one Aram. term is used for this type of female slave. 1. פִּלֶ֫גֶשׁ, H7108, common var. פִילֶ֗גֶשׁ, “concubine.” This term is of non-Sem. origin with no known etymology. It refers to the ancient form of marriage in which the bride stayed in her father’s house, and the groom was permitted to spend the night with her as he chose, until he would raise her station to full wife and keep her in another domicile. The keepers of these houses or precincts were often eunuchs. The concubine held a place of honor and her children, esp. sons, could become co-heirs with the children of the wife. Concubines from Gentile nations were as despised as any mixed marriages in Israel. The times concubine is mentioned are almost all limited to the period of the patriarchs, conquest and early kingdom. The most frequent mention occurs in Judges. After that time they appear to have been a royal prerogative (2 Sam 21:10-14; 1 Kings 11:3; et al.).

2. לְחֵנָה, H10390, a loan word in Aram., “a temple servant,” occurs only in the scenes of the Babylonian court narrated in Daniel 5:2, 3, 23. The KJV and the RSV both tr. “concubine,” but there is no evidence that such is the exclusive meaning of the term. The antagonism between concubines and wives as recorded in the OT is paralleled by texts from other similar cultures such as the Medieval Japanese Genji Monogatari, by the 11th cent. poetess, Murasaki Shikibu. The story of the wives and concubines of Jacob and the subsequent ill will between the brothers indicates that concubinage was never a happy state of affairs. See also Marriage.