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Bilhah (בִּלְהָה "unworried", Standard Hebrew Bilha, Tiberian Hebrew Bilhâ) is a woman mentioned in the Book of Genesis. [1] Genesis 29:29 describes her as Laban's handmaid, who was given to Rachel to be her handmaid on Rachel's marriage to Jacob. When Rachel failed to have children, Rachel gave Bilhah to Jacob as a concubine to bear him children. [2] Bilhah gave birth to two sons, whom Rachel claimed as her own and named Dan and Naphtali. [3] Genesis 35:22 expressly calls Bilhah Jacob's concubine, a pilegesh .


The apocryphal Testament of Naftali says that Bilhah and Zilpah's father was named Rotheus. [4] He was taken into captivity but redeemed by Laban, Rachel and Leah's father, who gave Rotheus a wife named Euna, who was their mother. [5] On the other hand, the early rabbinical commentary Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer and other Rabbinic sources (Midrash Rabbah, and elsewhere) state that Bilhah and Zilpah were also Laban's daughters, through his concubines, making them half-sisters to Rachel and Leah. [6] [7] [8]

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

In the Book of Chronicles, Shimei's brothers were said to have lived in a town called Bilhah and surrounding territories prior to the reign of David. [9]

Reuben's adultery with Bilhah

Reuben was Jacob's (Israel) eldest son with Leah. Genesis 35:22 says, "And it came to pass, while Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine; and Israel heard of it." [10] As a result of this adultery, he lost the respect of his father, who said: "Unstable as water, have not thou the excellency; because thou wentest up to thy father's bed; then defiledst thou it—he went up to my couch." [11]

Some rabbinical commentators interpreted the story differently, saying that Reuben's disruption of Bilhah's and Jacob's beds was not through sex with Bilhah. As long as Rachel was alive, say these commentators, 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, Leah's eldest, felt that this move slighted his mother, who was also a primary wife, and so he moved Jacob's bed into his mother's tent and removed or overturned Bilhah's. This invasion of Jacob's privacy was viewed so gravely that the Bible equates it with adultery, and lost Reuben his first-born right to a double inheritance. [12] [13]

Family tree

Sarah [14] Abraham Hagar Haran
Ishmael Milcah Lot Iscah
Ishmaelites 7 sons [15] Bethuel 1st daughter2nd daughter
Isaac Rebecca Laban Moabites Ammonites
Esau Jacob Rachel
Edomites Zilpah
1. Reuben
2. Simeon
3. Levi
4. Judah
9. Issachar
10. Zebulun
Dinah  (daughter)
7. Gad
8. Asher
5. Dan
6. Naphtali
11. Joseph
12. Benjamin

Related Research Articles

Jacob Regarded as a Patriarch of the Israelites, later given the name Israel

Jacob, later given the name Israel, is regarded as a patriarch of the Israelites and is an important figure in Abrahamic religions, such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Jacob first appears in the Book of Genesis, where he is described as the son of Isaac and Rebecca, and the grandson of Abraham, Sarah and Bethuel. According to the biblical account, he was the second-born of Isaac's children, the elder being Jacob's fraternal twin brother, Esau. Jacob is said to have bought Esau's birthright and, with his mother's help, deceived his aging father to bless him instead of Esau. Later in the narrative, following a severe drought in his homeland of Canaan, Jacob and his descendants, with the help of his son Joseph, moved to Egypt where Jacob died at the age of 147. He is supposed to have been buried in the Cave of Machpelah.

Judah (son of Jacob)

Judah was, according to the Book of Genesis, the fourth son of Jacob and Leah, the founder of the Israelite Tribe of Judah. By extension, he is indirectly eponymous of the Kingdom of Judah, the land of Judea and the word Jew.

Asher Biblical figure

Asher, in the Book of Genesis, is the second son of Jacob and Zilpah, and the founder of the Tribe of Asher.


Leah is an important, albeit minor, character in Judeo-Christian literature, the unloved wife of the Biblical patriarch Jacob. Leah was Jacob's first wife, and the older sister of his second wife Rachel. She is the mother of Jacob's first son Reuben. She has three more sons, namely Simeon, Levi and Judah, but does not bear another son until Rachel offers her a night with Jacob in exchange for some mandrake root דודאים (dûdâ'îm). Leah gives birth to two more sons after this, Issachar and Zebulun, and a daughter called Dinah.

In the Book of Genesis, Zilpah was Leah's handmaid, presumed slave, whom Leah gave to Jacob "to wife" to bear him children. Zilpah gave birth to two sons, whom Leah claimed as her own and named Gad and Asher.


According to the Book of Genesis, Naphtali was the sixth son of Jacob and second son with Bilhah. He was the founder of the Israelite Tribe of Naphtali.

Dinah Daughter of Jacob in Hebrew Bible

In the Book of Genesis, Dinah was the daughter of Jacob, one of the patriarchs of the Israelites, and Leah, his first wife. The episode of her violation by Shechem, son of a Canaanite or Hivite prince, and the subsequent vengeance of her brothers Simeon and Levi, commonly referred to as the rape of Dinah, is told in Genesis 34.

Laban (Bible) Biblical figure

Laban, also known as Laban the Aramean, is a figure in the Book of Genesis of the Hebrew Bible. He was the brother of Rebekah, who married Isaac and bore Jacob. Laban welcomed his nephew as a young man, and set him the stipulation of seven years' labour before he permitted him to marry his daughter Rachel. Laban tricked Jacob into marrying his elder daughter Leah instead. Jacob then took Rachel as his second wife, on condition of serving an additional seven years' labour.

Reuben (son of Jacob) Biblical figure

According to the Book of Genesis, Reuben or Re'uven was the eldest son of Jacob and Leah. He was the founder of the Israelite Tribe of Reuben.

The Twelve Tribes of Israel are, according to Judeo-Christian texts, the descendants of the Biblical patriarch Jacob, also known as Israel, through his twelve sons by various women, who collectively form the Israelite nation. Within ancient Judaism, one's tribal affiliation had a great impact on his or her practices and opportunities, as some tribes enjoyed privileges others did not and some tribes received more blessings than others. Modern scholars dispute whether there ever were (exactly) twelve Israelite tribes, and think that the number 12 more likely signifies a symbolic invented tradition as part of a national founding myth.

Chayei Sarah 5th weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading

Chayei Sarah, Chaye Sarah, Hayye Sarah, or Hayyei Sara, is the fifth weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading. It constitutes Genesis 23:1–25:18. The parashah tells the stories of Abraham's negotiations to purchase a burial place for his wife Sarah and his servant's mission to find a wife for Abraham's son Isaac.

Toledot Sixth portion in the annual Jewish cycle of weekly Torah reading

Tol'dot, Toldos, or Tol'doth is the sixth weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading. The parashah tells of the conflict between Jacob and Esau, Isaac's passing off his wife Rebekah as his sister, and Isaac's blessing of his sons.


Vaychi, Vayechi or Vayhi is the twelfth weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the last in the Book of Genesis. It constitutes Genesis 47:28–50:26. The parashah tells of Jacob's request for burial in Canaan, Jacob's blessing of Joseph's sons Ephraim and Manasseh, Jacob's blessing of his sons, Jacob's death and burial, and Joseph's death.

Vayetze 7th weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading

Vayetze, Vayeitzei, or Vayetzei is the seventh weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading. It constitutes Genesis 28:10–32:3. The parashah tells of Jacob's travels to, life in, and return from Haran. The parashah recounts Jacob's dream of a ladder to heaven, Jacob's meeting of Rachel at the well, Jacob's time working for Laban and living with Rachel and Leah, the birth of Jacob's children, and the departure of Jacob's family from Laban.

Vayishlach Eighth portion in the annual Jewish cycle of weekly Torah reading

Vayishlach or Vayishlah is the eighth weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading. In the parashah, Jacob reconciles with Esau after wrestling with a "man". The prince Shechem rapes Dinah, whose brothers sack the city of Shechem in revenge. In the family's subsequent flight, Rachel gives birth to Benjamin and dies in childbirth.


Vayeshev, Vayeishev, or Vayesheb is the ninth weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading. The parashah constitutes Genesis 37:1–40:23. The parashah tells the stories of how Jacob's other sons sold Joseph into captivity in Egypt, how Judah wronged his daughter-in-law Tamar who then tricked him into fulfilling his oath, and how Joseph served Potiphar and was imprisoned when falsely accused of assaulting Potiphar's wife.

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  1. For the etymology, see Holman Reference (1 May 2007). Holman Illustrated Pocket Bible Dictionary. B&H Publishing Group. p. 49. ISBN   978-1-58640-314-0.
  2. Genesis 30:3–5
  3. Genesis 30:6–8, 35:25
  4. "The Testament of Naphtali" (1:9) as translated in The Forgotten Books of Eden by Rutherford H. Platt, Jr.
  5. "The Testament of Naphtali" (1:11) as translated in The Forgotten Books of Eden by Rutherford H. Platt, Jr.
  6. Rabbi Eliezer (1916). "Chapter 36". Pirke De Rabbi Eliezer. Translated by Friedlander, Gerald (1916 translation ed.). London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Turner & Co. Ltd. p.  271-272.
  7. Ginzberg, Louis (1909) The Legends of the Jews, Volume I, Chapter VI: Jacob, at
  8. See also, Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer, xxxvi.
  9. 1 Chronicles 4:27–29
  10. Genesis 35:22
  11. Genesis 49:4
  12. Drazin, Israel, and Stanley M. Wagner: Onkelos on the Torah: Be-reshit, p. 239
  13. Fraade, Steven: Legal Fictions: Studies of Law and Narrative in the Discursive Worlds of Ancient Jewish Sectarians and Sages, p. 423
  14. Sarah was the half–sister of Abraham ( Genesis 20:12 ). An alternative tradition holds that she was Abraham's niece (see Sarah#In rabbinic literature).
  15. Genesis 22:21-22 : Uz, Buz, Kemuel, Chesed, Hazo, Pildash, and Jidlaph