Cookies Policy

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

I accept this policy

Find out more here

Co-opting the Secondary Matriarchs

No metrics data to plot.
The attempt to load metrics for this article has failed.
The attempt to plot a graph for these metrics has failed.
The full text of this article is not currently available.

Brill’s MyBook program is exclusively available on BrillOnline Books and Journals. Students and scholars affiliated with an institution that has purchased a Brill E-Book on the BrillOnline platform automatically have access to the MyBook option for the title(s) acquired by the Library. Brill MyBook is a print-on-demand paperback copy which is sold at a favorably uniform low price.

Access this article

+ Tax (if applicable)
Add to Favorites
You must be logged in to use this functionality

Bilhah, Zilpah, Tamar, and Aseneth

image of Biblical Interpretation

Sarah, Rebekah, Leah, and Rachel are termed the “Matriarchs.” In contrast to these women, Bilhah, Zilpah, Tamar, and Aseneth/Asenath are the “Secondary Matriarchs.” They are “foreign wives.” Bilhah and Zilpah are Arameans and the mothers of the eponymous ancestors of the tribes of Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher. Canaanite Tamar bears Judah’s son Perez, who becomes the link to the Judah tribal line. The Egyptian Aseneth, Joseph’s wife, bears the eponymous ancestors of the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim. The “foreignness” of these Secondary Matriarchs is not noteworthy in Genesis. Years later, however, Ezra/Nehemiah promote endogamy and reject foreign wives/exogamy. A similar pro-endogamy/anti-exogamy view is found in the Maccabean and Herodian times, although sometimes conversion – voluntary or forced – is another strategy. It is difficult to understand the growth of the Jewish people however defined or calculated – from the period of Ezra/Nehemiah to the destruction of the Second Temple – without these conversions.
In the pseudepigraphic writings of the late and then postbiblical Second Temple period, as well as in rabbinic literature, the ethnic origins of the Secondary Matriarchs becomes an issue; consequently they become co-opted into the “Abrahamic” family – they are shown to be Jews. This article begins with a wide variety of examples in the Pseudepigrapha and rabbinic writings (Talmud, midrash) to address how the Secondary Matriarchs are understood to be ethnically “family” and not “foreigners.” It then analyzes the issue of endogamy/exogamy in Ezra/Nehemiah, as well as in the Maccabean-Herodian and rabbinic periods, as an explanation for the creation of the “additional biographies” of Bilhah, Zilpah, Tamar, and Aseneth.

Affiliations: 1: Bet Shemesh, Israel
; 2: Aurora, CO, USA


Full text loading...


Data & Media loading...

Article metrics loading...



Can't access your account?
  • Tools

  • Add to Favorites
  • Printable version
  • Email this page
  • Subscribe to ToC alert
  • Get permissions
  • Recommend to your library

    You must fill out fields marked with: *

    Librarian details
    Your details
    Why are you recommending this title?
    Select reason:
    Biblical Interpretation — Recommend this title to your library
  • Export citations
  • Key

  • Full access
  • Open Access
  • Partial/No accessInformation