It’s not every day that a scriptural connection is made to Talmudic legal exchange, where a pre-existing connection is not already made. This is especially true regarding the status of concubinage in Jewish family law. A discrepancy in legal holding exists not only in Scripture but among the holding of The Courts as well. In my view, the Talmudic nonconformity of this matter is rooted in the biblical definition of concubine. The verse (Gen. 30:4) relates that Bilhah — the handmaid of Jacob — became his wife: “And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife (isha), and Jacob went in unto her.” However, the Text later relates to us that Bilhah was Jacob’s concubine (ibid 35:22), or pilegesh: “And it came to pass, while Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine…”
Upon an exchange and unraveling of possibilities to form a resolution to this perplexing conundrum, it appeared to me that the verse which relates that Bilhah was his wife was stated in chapter 30 of the book of Genesis. However, a treaty (ibid 31:50) is made between Jacob and the father of Rachel and Leah; Laban. A clause in the treaty would have forced Jacob to divorce any wives that are not Laban’s daughters: “If you shall afflict my daughters, and if you shall take wives beside my daughters, no man being with us; see, God is a witness between you and me.” As this anti-polygamous clause was a provision of the pact between Jacob and Laban, Jacob was forced to proceed with two options: divorce his handmaids, or keep them in a manner which circumvents the prohibitive language in the pact. Therefore, in order to keep Bilhah, he made her (and likely Zilpah) his concubines, but not wives, thus exempting them from the restriction against marrying additional wives stipulated in the pact. If this theory stands, the irony of the situation would almost be humorous, as Laban would have been defeated at his own game of slyness and deceit.
There are alternative approaches to this problem that lies in the philological root of the word pilegesh. The root-word of this term; PLG, is defined as a form of division or a half. The suffix Shin of the word could be a contraction of the word for woman, or wife: isha. In this case, a permissible definition of pilegesh would render the term as a half-wife. This would rank such a woman as a wife of some sort. Some have theorized that this term is of Indo-European origins; reaching the Hebrew lexicon through the Philistines. While there is not ample room for this sort of lexical construction, It is translated by the Greek Septuagint as παλλακίς (pallakis); phonetically similar to its Hebrew counterpart. Breaking the word down to its compound roots would yield: pi (“at, on, towards”) and legh (“to lie down”) and nominal ending “s” in proto-Indo-European. It was later translated by Jerome in his magnum opus; the Vulgate (382 CE), as concubina. The term is a compound word, equivalent to concub– a variant stem of concumbō (“to lie together”) and the feminine suffix īna. This rendition lends the term to denote a relationship outside the confines of legal marriage, leaving such a woman without the restrictions and benefits of a wife proper.
Consequently, the pilegesh would remain a secondary wife, or as a form of a surrogate to the wife for whom she was bearing children. The fact that she was given to Jacob as a wife only secures the line of succession. As for the restrictive clause of the pact, the oath extracted from Laban was given by Jacob after Bilhah was already given to Jacob as a wife and bore him children. The fact that she was Laban’s servant before being given to Rachel could have endeared her to him. The children of Bilhah were considered the children of Laban; this would not exclude Bilhah and Zilphah from the pact’s restrictions. There is even precedent in early rabbinic literature; identifying Bilhah and Zilpah as Laban’s own daughters (see Targum Yonatan to Gen. 29:24,29). A supportive passage to the second theory proposed may be found in Judges 19:9. The verse relates: “The man arose to move; he, and his concubine, and his lad. And his father-in-law, the young woman’s father, said, “Behold, the day is drawing towards the evening. Please lodge [here]; the day is nearly over. Lodge here so that your heart may be merry, so that you may arise early tomorrow morning for your journey and be on your way home.” From this discourse, it may be understood that the pilegesh was married to the man- her father was his father-in-law and he would be considered the father’s son-in-law. The fact that the Tora uses pilegesh and isha for the same woman (Bilhah), as well as the discourse related in Judges 19 titling the father of the pilegesh as a father-in-law, could be used to explain that the concubines had the status of legal wives. The differences, if there were really any, obviously had nothing to do with the legitimacy of inheritance or lineage.
Aside from the etymological analysis, I personally object to this proposal, as this verse does not refer to the pilegesh as an isha. Just because in this particular context, the term “father-in-law” (ḥoteno) refers to the father of the concubine, does not necessitate one to conclude that she had the status of being his legal wife. Perhaps the term ḥotan is also given to the father of one who has a concubine, as the Semitic root for father-in-law (ḤTN) is defined as a ritual contract. In fact, in Arabic, it is used to refer to circumcision; a contractual religious practice. This would mean that a concubine would be bound to a form of contractual agreement that is not qiddushin or a ketuba. Indeed, R. Abraham b. David astutely notes (glosses to Mishne Tora: Laws of Ishut: 1§4) that a concubine is distinct from a prostitute (qedesha) in that she is reserved for on specific man (likely confirmed by an authentic affidavit) and a prostitute is free to all men (see Gen. 38:21). In other words, it is possible that two separate legal categories exist for a full-fledged wife and concubine, while the father of both such women are awarded the title of father-in-law. These two separate legal titles have practical ramifications. For example, the divorce clause in the Tora is specific to an isha; not a concubine. Since a pilegesh is not an isha, she would not need a divorce if she wants to remarry. 2 Samuel 5:13 and 1 Chronicles 3:9, 14:3 also refer to them as two separate categories of women: “And David took him more concubines and wives.” I also object to the notion that Bilhah was Laban’s possession, as he had relinquished her to Rachel (Gen. 29:29) and Rachel was now out of Laban’s jurisdiction (ibid v. 28), leaving Rachel and Bilhah under Jacob’s domain.
In truth, without clear evidence of a divorce requirement for a pilegesh, there is no argument which indefinitely invalidates either argument proposed above. Every theory, based upon the Text, is equally valid. Perhaps that is why this very analysis is concisely restated and debated between the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmuds. The opinion of the renowned jurist, Rav (c. 175 CE- 247 CE), is stated in the Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 21a)- “What are [the legal definitions of] nashim and pilagshim? R. Judah stated in the name of Rav: wives [are married] with a prenuptial agreement (ketuba) and ritual betrothal (qiddushin). Pilagshim [are married] without a ketuba or qiddushin.” Whereas the holding preserved in Palestinian Talmud (Ketubot 34a) — according to all views — states that a pilegesh is a legal wife (albeit, one opinion states that she is not granted a ketuba)- “What is [the legal definition of] a wife (isha) and of a pilegesh? R. Meir states: a wife [is married] with a prenuptial agreement (ketuba), a pilegesh [is not married] with a ketuba. R. Yuda states: both [are married] with a ketuba; a wife (isha) has a ketuba with [the option of adding] stipulations. A pilegesh has a ketuba, but does not have [the option of adding] stipulations.” The inference being, wives and concubines are both required to receive qiddushin; the legal act of acquiring a wife. On a final note, this analysis should serve as a model and reminder for students of Scripture and Talmud alike: the two do not contradict each other in principle. If it appears to the student that they do, it is the he that lacks, not the Texts.
 Laban was infamous for his duplicitous behavior, as in Gen. 29:25-26.
 R. David Qimḥi: Sefer HaShorashim (P.304). See also Gen. 10:25, Job 20:17, Psalms 55:10.
 See the reputable Sahih al-Bukhari: The Book of Dress: Vol. 7: Book 72: 777, 779 referring to circumcision (الْخِتَانُ- root ḤTN). This root-word is also used by Moses’ wife, Zipporah, in Exo. 4:24–26, to refer to circumcision. As this covenantal practice was traditionally performed on males, the Far Eastern practice of female genital mutilation is not referred to by the same name, but is instead referred to as khafḍ. Of special interest, the Quran makes no reference to this practice, leading some strict-constructionists of the Quran to believe that the practice is forbidden, arguing that the Quran (unlike the instructions in the Ḥadiths) forbids altering one’s body. See Sura 4:119, 95:4.
 See Deu. 22:13. Likewise, Deu. 17:17 forbids the Israelite monarch from having “many wives”. The first quota of this restriction is recorded in the Mishna (Sanhedrin 21a), defining “many” as 18: “‘He may not amass too many wives’: this means eighteen. R. Judah says: he may amass more, so long as they do not lead his heart astray.” King Solomon’s excess spousal count in 1 Kings 11:1-10 is a matter of overlooked transgression. Based on the Text’s report of his wives and their polytheistic tendencies, I do not know why the Text does not record him as transgressing the deuteronomic law against kings marrying “many” women.
 As in the homiletic exegesis in Palestinian Talmud: Pe’ah 3a.