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Bilhah and Zilpah, women in the Bible

Zilpah, whose name is believed to mean “drooping”, was given to Leah as a handmaiden by Laban, Leah’s father, when Leah was given to Jacob as a bride. Zilpah is first introduced in the Bible in Genesis 29:24. She is on the Biblical Timeline Poster between 1754-1704 BC.

Bilhah, whose name is believed to mean “bashful or faltering”, was given to Rachel as her handmaiden by Laban, Rachel’s father, when Rachel was given to Jacob as a bride. Bilhah was first introduced in the Bible in Genesis 29:29.

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Jacob had four wives

Who is Zilpah?

After Leah had already bore Jacob four sons and then stopped having babies, she presented Zilpah to Jacob to act as a type of surrogate mother and have more children for Jacob. This was done as part of an ongoing rivalry between Leah and her sister Rachel, Jacob’s second and favorite wife. Zilpah bore two sons to Jacob, which would have been Gad and Asher. These were Jacob’s sons number seven and eight respectively. The account of Zilpah’s role as Leah’s surrogate mother can be found in Genesis 30:9-13.

While Zilpah is a considered a minor Bible character, she was a vessel used to usher in two of the tribes of Israel. You can read about Jacob, also known as Israel, blessing Gad and Asher as tribes of Israel in Genesis 49:19-20.

Who is Bilhah?
When Rachel was barren for many years and became overwhelmed with jealousy of her sister Leah, Jacob’s first wife that had already bore four sons, she gave her servant Bilhah to Jacob to become her surrogate mother. As such, Bilhah gave birth to Dan and Naphtali as detailed in Genesis 30:1-8.

Bilhah was later briefly mentioned in Genesis 35:22 when Jacob’s firstborn son Rueben reportedly slept with her after Rachel had died. This act caused Reuben to lose his birthright inheritance as pointed out in Genesis 49:3-4.

Bilhah is also considered a minor Bible character but was also used to bring two of the twelve leaders of the tribes of Israel onto the earth. The blessings of Dan and Naphtali as tribes of Israel can be found in Genesis 49:16-17, and 21.

Some Bible scholars believe that Zilpah was younger than Bilhah and was given as the maidservant of Leah to contribute to the deception that surrounded the two brides. Jacob had worked for seven years as part of an agreement to earn Rachel’s hand in marriage from her father, Laban. However, Laban gave Leah as the veiled bride to Jacob instead. Jacob did not become aware of the substitution until after the marriage acts had been committed. Laban excused his actions as part of his people’s tradition to always marry the oldest daughter first. This caused Jacob to commit to another seven years of labor to pay for Rachel’s hand in marriage though he took her as his wife only a week after he took Leah.

Elsewhere in the World
During this time on the Bible Timeline with World History, the following events at various locations around the world are recorded:

  • The Middle Kingdom of Egypt reestablished prosperity and stability. This brought about art, literature, and building projects reappearing on the Egyptian scene. Military and political security, agricultural and mineral wealth, and religion all flourished during this period.
  • Hittites take over the area now covered by Turkey. The Hittites were considered members of the Bronze Age, but forerunners of the Iron Age.
  • Bronze to Iron Age – During this period making items of bronze seemed to be migrating into the Iron Age. The manufacture of artifacts from iron was noted. Iron became a very valuable commodity and was used to produce goods.
  • In Greece – In Greece, the Middle Helladic Period was in full swing. During this time, settlements drew closer together and gravitated toward hilltops. During this period, rectilinear pottery was being influenced into curvilinear by the Minoans.
  • China – The first Chinese dynasty known as the Xia migrated into the Shang Dynasty around the 18th century.
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5 thoughts on “Bilhah and Zilpah, women in the Bible

  1. But from whom were Bilhah and Zilpah descendant ?

  2. But from whom were Bilhah and Zilpah descendant ?

    Who was the mother and father of Bilhah and Zilpah?

    How old were they? How many children did Laban have?

    1. Whom were Bilhah and Zilpah descendant?
      Who were there parents.?

  3. I have often wondered the nationality (color) of the wives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but can not find any concrete evidence. The wife of Moses came from the Sudan area of Africa, yet still don’t know here color. Not that it means that much, but I find it very interesting that most Christians believe all were white.

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