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Zilpah was the mother of two of the patriarchs of Israel, maidservant to Leah and concubine to Jacob. Having been given to Jacob to bear children for Leah, she gave birth to Gad and Asher. Mentioned only in the book of Genesis,[1] she is recorded as having contributed to sixteen offspring in total, including the descendants of Gad and Asher.[2]

Etymology

The name ‘Zilpah’ (zil.pah) is translated from the Hebrew name זִלְפָּה, which means ‘trickling’.

Biography

Zilpah was originally a servant to Leah’s father, Laban. When Laban tricked Jacob into making love to Leah rather than Rachel, he gave Zilpah to her as her maidservant.[3] After Leah had borne four children, she had stopped having children and became jealous of her sister. She gave Zilpah to be Jacob’s concubine[4] and Zilpah gave birth to two children, Gad and Asher.[5]

In the jealous conflict between Leah and Rachel, another two children were born to Bilhah, Rachel’s maidservant. All of the children were claimed by Leah and Rachel, while the concubines were used to further their rivalry by bearing children on their behalf.

Verses

  1. Genesis 35:26; Genesis 37:2 (Link)
  2. Genesis 46:18 (Link)
  3. Genesis 29:24 (Link)
  4. Genesis 30:9 (Link)
  5. Genesis 30:10-12 (Link)
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