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In the Book of Genesis, Bilhah (בִּלְהָה "Faltering; bashful", Standard Hebrew Bilha, Tiberian Hebrew Bilhāh) is Rachel's handmaid who becomes a wife of Jacob and bears him two sons, Dan and Naphtali.
The Testament of Naftali, part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, says that Bilhah and Zilpah's father was named Ahiyot ( lit. "sisters" ). He was taken into captivity and freed by Laban, Rachel and Leah's father, and he gave Ahiyot a wife named Hannah, who was their mother. Talmudic sources (Midrash Raba, Genesis 74:13 and elsewhere), on the other hand, state that Bilhah and Zilpah were also Laban's daughters, through his concubines, making them half-sisters to Rachel and Leah.
According to Rashi, as long as Rachel was alive, 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, eldest son of Leah, 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. 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.
The idea of handmaidens is expanded on in, The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood. In the novels The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, and Rachel and Leah by Orson Scott Card, Bilhah and Zilpah are half-sisters of Leah and Rachel by different mothers, following the Talmudic tradition.
|Children of Jacob by wife in order of birth (D = Daughter)|
|Leah||Reuben (1)||Simeon (2)||Levi (3)||Judah (4)||Issachar (9)||Zebulun (10)||Dinah (D)|
|Rachel||Joseph (11)||Benjamin (12)|
|Bilhah (Rachel's servant)||Dan (5)||Naphtali (6)|
|Zilpah (Leah's servant)||Gad (7)||Asher (8)|
|This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Bilhah. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.|