Who was Zilpah in the Bible?

BibleAsk Team


Zilpah was Leah’s servant whom Leah gave to Jacob, her husband, as a maidservant or a concubine. The meaning of Zilpha’s name may be “short nose.” Jacob married both Leah and Rachel – the daughters of Laban (Genesis 29). And Laban gave Zilpah to Leah as her attendant (Genesis 29:24). And he also gave Bilhah to Rachel as her attendant (Genesis 29:29). In so doing, Laban, thought to bless his daughters and fulfill a custom of his time (Genesis 24:59).

Leah and Rachel were involved in a marital race for favor through bearing children. Leah had four sons, but then she stopped bearing children. Jacob’s next two sons were through Rachel’s servant. And Leah, wanting more children in her name, followed the path of her younger sister Rachel and offered Zilpah as a concubine to Jacob (Genesis 30:9–10).

Jacob’s lack of strictness in marriage began with polygamy and ended in concubinage. God did not place His approval on such an ancient custom where the offspring born to that concubine would be considered children of the mistress. The Lord overruled in the raising of the seed of Israel and He used these children in His eternal plans.

Gad and Asher

Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a first son and Leah said, “A troop comes!” The first son was called Gad. After that Zilpah bore Jacob a second son and Leah said, “I am happy, for the daughters will call me blessed.” The second son was called Asher (30:9-13). The children of the concubines were counted as the children of the mistress. In that culture, concubines didn’t have rights. It was Leah that named both Gad and Asher (Genesis 30:10–13). These two sons were born to Jacob in Padan Aram (Genesis 35:26). The sons of Zilpah, Gad and Asher, became forebears of two of the twelve tribes of Israel (Genesis 35:26).

Jacob’s Prophecy

At the end of his life, Jacob called all of his sons to prophecy upon them. And to Gad and Asher he said, “Gad, a troop shall tramp upon him, but he shall triumph at last. “Bread from Asher shall be rich, and he shall yield royal dainties” (Genesis 49:19-20).

In these words, Jacob foretold that an enemy force will attack Gad, but the tribe will endure with patience, and they will successfully repel. Although the known history of the 12 tribes does not provide an information on this prophecy, the account given in 1 Chronicles 5:18–22 reveals that the Gadites illustrated bravery as foretold by their father. The Gadites who came to David were resembled to lions, and their swiftness was compared to that of the gazelle (1 Chronicles 12:8–15), these qualities identified a strong tribe.

Jacob’s prophecy on Asher points to the fruitful soil that was to be Asher’s future territory. In fulfillment of this prophecy, Asher took as his inheritance the lowlands of Carmel on the Mediterranean, as far as the territory of Tyre. This was one of the most fertile lands of Canaan, rich in wheat and oil, with which Solomon used to provide for the household of King Hiram (1 Kings 5:11).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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