Genesis 29:31

Hebrew Bible

29 (Laban gave his female servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel to be her servant.) 30 Jacob slept with Rachel as well. He also loved Rachel more than Leah. Then he worked for Laban for seven more years. 31 When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, he enabled her to become pregnant while Rachel remained childless. 32 So Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “The Lord has looked with pity on my oppressed condition. Surely my husband will love me now.” 33 She became pregnant again and had another son. She said, “Because the Lord heard that I was unloved, he gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon.

Ruth 4:11

Hebrew Bible

9 Then Boaz said to the leaders and all the people, “You are witnesses today that I have acquired from Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech, Kilion, and Mahlon. 10 I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, the wife of Mahlon, as my wife to raise up a descendant who will inherit his property so the name of the deceased might not disappear from among his relatives and from his village. You are witnesses today.” 11 All the people who were at the gate and the elders replied, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is entering your home like Rachel and Leah, both of whom built up the house of Israel! May you prosper in Ephrathah and become famous in Bethlehem. 12 May your family become like the family of Perez—whom Tamar bore to Judah—through the descendants the Lord gives you by this young woman.” 13 So Boaz married Ruth and slept with her. The Lord enabled her to conceive and she gave birth to a son.

 Notes and References

"... A passing comment that provides some insight into these women’s status is the reference to the “handmaids tent” in 31:33. As part of Laban’s search for his stolen gods, the narrator reveals that while Rachel and Leah each have a separate tent, the handmaids share one tent. This minor detail demonstrates the status differential between the “wives” and “the handmaids.” The location of the women indicates their status level. Rachel and Leah are co-wives and thus warrant their own tent. Zilpah and Bilhah, however, are forced to dwell together. Another indicator of the women’s status is the absence of any detail about when they died and where they were buried. Leah, we know, is buried with Jacob in Machpelah (49:31) and Rachel by the side of the road on the way to Ephrath (35:19). No such details are provided about Zilpah and Bilhah. With the exception of the Bilhah incident in 35:22, we do not encounter the two women after Jacob meets Esau in chapter 33. They cease to be characters in the story. Even outside of Genesis the two are not always given the recognition they deserve. In Ruth 4:11 it is Rachel and Leah that are given credit with “building the house of Israel.” In fact, Zilpah and Bilhah are never mentioned again in the Hebrew Bible. They seem to fade from the story having served their purpose, which was to provide offspring for their childless mistresses ..."

Byron, John Childlessness and Ambiguity in the Ancient World (pp. 17-46) Society of Biblical Literature, 2010

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