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The Pharaoh's Handmaidens by John Collier

A handmaiden, handmaid or maidservant is a personal maid or female servant.[1]

Depictions in Abrahamic texts[edit]

The Annunciation by Murillo, 1655–1660, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg.

In the Hebrew Bible, the term handmaid is applied to a female servant who serves her mistress, as in the case of Hagar being described as Sarai's handmaid,[2] Zilpah being Leah's handmaid[3] and Bilhah as Rachel's handmaid.[4] In each of these cases, the mistress "gave" their handmaid to their husbands "to wife", to bear his "seed" (children). The use in the Torah of the prefix "to", as in "gave to wife", may indicate that the wife is a concubine or inferior wife.[5] The text repeats that these people remain handmaids of their mistress though they are also the concubine of the mistress's husband.


In Christianity, Mary, the mother of Jesus is referred to as the "handmaid of the Lord" or "servant of the Lord",[6] both of which are titles of honour for the mother of Jesus.[7] The Gospel of Luke describes Mary as the "handmaid of the Lord when" she gives her consent to the message of the Angel (cf. Luke 1:38), and when she proclaims the greatness of the Lord because of "the great things" he has worked in her (cf. Luke 1:49)."[7]

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ It is also used metaphorically for something whose primary role is to serve or assist."Handmaiden - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Merriam-webster.com. 2012-08-31. Retrieved 2013-09-17. 
  2. ^ Genesis 16:3
  3. ^ Genesis 30:9
  4. ^ Genesis 30:3-4
  5. ^ Women, similar to wives from vadimcherny.org
  6. ^ Closs, Michael P. (29 June 2016). The Book of Mary: A Commentary on the Protevangelium of James. FriesenPress. p. 27. ISBN 9781460284872. 
  7. ^ a b Press, Liturgical (2012). Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Liturgical Press. p. 192. ISBN 9780814634868.