Zilpah

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In the Book of Genesis, Zilpah (זִלְפָּה "meaning uncertain," Standard Hebrew Zilpa, Tiberian Hebrew Zilpâ) was Leah's handmaid, whom Leah gave to Jacob "to wife" to bear him children (Genesis 30:9).[1] Zilpah gave birth to two sons, whom Leah claimed as her own and named Gad and Asher (Genesis 30:10-13).

Zilpah is given to Leah as a handmaid by Leah's father, Laban, upon Leah's marriage to Jacob (see Genesis 29:24, 46:18). According to the early rabbinical commentary Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer, Zilpah and Bilhah, the handmaids of Leah and Rachel, respectively, were actually younger daughters of Laban.[2]

Zilpah also figures in the competition between Jacob's wives to bear him sons. Leah stops conceiving after the birth of her fourth son, at which point [3] Rachel, who had not yet borne children, offers her handmaid, Bilhah, "to wife" to Jacob so that she can have children through her. When Bilhah conceives two sons, Leah takes up the same idea and presents Zilpah "to wife" to Jacob. Leah names the two sons of Zilpah and is directly involved in their upbringing.

According to Rashi, an 11th-century commentator, Zilpah was younger than Bilhah, and Laban's decision to give her to Leah was part of the deception he used to trick Jacob into marrying Leah, who was older than Rachel. The morning after the wedding, Laban explained to Jacob, "This is not done in our place, to give the younger before the older" (Genesis 29:26). But at night, to mask the deception, Laban gave the veiled bride the younger of the handmaids, so Jacob would think that he was really marrying Rachel, the younger of the sisters.[4]

In Jewish tradition, Zilpah is believed to be buried in the Tomb of the Matriarchs in Tiberias.

Family tree[edit]

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


In popular culture[edit]

In the novel The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, Zilpah and Bilhah are represented as half-sisters of Leah and Rachel by different mothers.

References[edit]

  1. ^ For the etymology, see: Herbert Lockyer (22 November 2016). All the Women of the Bible. Zondervan. p. 242. ISBN 978-0-310-53108-1. 
  2. ^ Rabbi Eliezer. "Chapter 36". Pirke De Rabbi Eliezer. Translated by Friedlander, Gerald (1916 translation ed.). London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Turner & Co. Ltd. p. 271-272. 
  3. ^ Genesis 30:3
  4. ^ For Rashi's commentary on this, with English translation, see Rashi's notes on 30:10: [1]
  5. ^ Genesis 20:12: Sarah was the half–sister of Abraham.
  6. ^ Genesis 22:21-22: Uz, Buz, Kemuel, Chesed, Hazo, Pildash, and Jidlaph