Bilhah and Zilpah aren’t familiar names in the Bible, yet their contribution to the nation of Israel is significant.
When Laban’s two daughters marry Jacob, their father gives them each a wedding gift: a servant.
To his daughter Leah, he gives his servant Zilpah, while to his daughter Rachel, he gives Bilhah. These two servants shouldn’t have had a significant role in the Bible, but that’s not how their story unfolds. Their lives have a distressing parallel to Hagar who preceded them.
Here’s Bilhah’s story:
In her desperation to have children, childless Rachel offers her servant, Bilhah, to Jacob to make babies in her place. Her foolish husband agrees, impregnating his wife’s servant—twice. As a result, she gives birth to Dan and Naphtali.
In a sad sidenote, Bilhah’s stepson Reuben later sleeps with her. Though aware of what happened, Jacob (Israel) does nothing about it.
This suggests that both Jacob and Reuben view Bilhah as property more than a person. This isn’t God’s perspective but man’s perversion, which resulted from sin.
Throughout all this, Bilhah has no say in what happens to her. As a servant, she must obey her mistress. And she’s a voiceless victim to her stepson’s lust.
But as God often does, he watches out for the underdog, with Bilhah’s offspring becoming part of his chosen people. This means that of Jacob’s twelve sons, two come from Bilhah, with two of the tribes of Israel descending from her.
Regardless of what happens to us, do we believe God is on our side? How should we respond when people use us as objects and don’t treat us as they should?
[Read Bilhah’s story in Genesis 30:1–8 and 35:22.]
Learn about more biblical characters in Old Testament Sinners and Saints, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover. Get your copy today.
A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 1,000-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.