Monday, November 18, 2019

Identifying the Status of the Two Wives

Alice C. Linsley

A reader has asked for a list detailing the "patriarchs" and their wives in a simple format like this.

1. husband
a. wife 1
b. wife 2

The term "patriarch" does not appear in the Bible. The men with two wives were rulers and chiefs over their clans. These rulers were related as it was their practice to marry within and between the Hebrew clans (endogamy).

The pattern of two wives is found throughout the Bible among the Hebrew people. However, we are not always provided with the data we need to identify which wife is the first and which is the second. Some wives are not named. Moses' Kushite wife is an example, as are King Joash's two wives,  chosen for him by the priest Jehoiada.

In the case of sent-away sons there may be disruption of the usual pattern of marrying a half-sister in the man's youth and marrying a patrilineal cousin in later life. Jacob is an example. Leah is the first wife and her sister Rachel is the second wife. According to the biblical data, both women were Jacob's cousins.

In some cases, we are not told the names of the bride's father, which makes it difficult to identify her clan and whether she is the first or second wife. The second wife can be identified by "the cousin bride's naming prerogative." She is the cousin bride if her first born son is named after her father. The cousin bride is the second wife. The chief's first wife is usually a half sister, as was Sarah to Abraham. They had the same father but different mothers.

Examples of the cousin bride include Lamech's daughter Naamah, Abraham's wife Keturah, and Amram's wife Ishar. In this diagram we see that Lamech's daughter Naamah (mentioned in Genesis 4) married her patrilineal cousin Methuselah (Genesis 5) and named their first born son Lamech after her father. This is why it is necessary to speak of "Lamech the Elder" and "Lamech the Younger."

Here is a list, as requested. When no data is available about the marriage order, I assume that the order of the women's names in the Bible represents their status. The first wife is the principal wife as her first born son is her husband's proper heir. The first born son of the cousin wife belongs to the household of his maternal grandfather after whom he is named.

Lamech (Genesis 4)
1. Adah
2. Zillah

Terah (Genesis 11)
1. unnamed sister wife was a daughter of Nahor the elder
2. unnamed cousin wife was a daughter of Haran the elder. Her brother Haran died in Ur.

1. Sarai/Sarah, half-sister wife (Genesis 12, Genesis 20:12)
2. Keturah, cousin wife of the royal house of Sheba (cf. Genesis 10:7)

1. Leah, posed as a cousin wife, but she may have been a half-sister
2. Rachel, cousin wife

Amram, father of Moses
1. Jochebed
2. Ishar

1. unnamed "Kushite" or Nilotic wife
2. Zipporah

Elkanah, priest father of Samuel
Two wives, Penninah and Hannah. No data as to which was the first.

Two wives (1 Chronicles 4:5)
1. Helah is probably the half-sister wife
2. Naarah is probably the patrilineal cousin wife.

Two wives chosen for him by the High Priest Jehoiada. Joash's mother was Zibiah of Beersheba. Here we again see a connection between the royal house of David and the royal house of Sheba.

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