Women of the Bible | Zilpah and Bilhah

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.

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

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 first born 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:

  • 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 time 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 time 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 time 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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3 comments… add one

  • Donna J.D. Branham

    Is there any way to find out who both Bilhah”s and Zilpah’s parents were? I am doing a research on the heritage of the twelve tribes of Israel, and would like to investigate the background information of the four women’s parents. I already know about Leah and Rachel having the same father, Lavan (Laban.) I have found that B’tu’el is another name for Laban, Gen. 24:15, and his mother was Milkah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother. -(Complete Jewish Bible, Translation by David H. Stern, page 23.) I haven’t referenced the Strong’s Concordance of the Bible yet, perhaps I will find some information regarding the mothers of these women. Thanks

    • margaret

      Hi Donna:
      There are three suggestions
      1. According to the Dead Sea Scrolls they are sisters whose parents were redeemed from slavery by Laban. (Testament of Naftali)
      2. According to Rabbinic sources they are also daughters of Laban through his concubines making them half sisters of Rachel and Leah. ((Midrash Raba, Genesis 74:13)
      3. According to Aggadah tradition Zilpah was the niece of Deborah, Rebekah’s wet nurse.

      References
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bilhah
      http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/zilpah-midrash-and-aggadah

  • paul

    Though my research i have to to the conclusion that Zilpah’s mother and farther was chaz and dave.

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