When Rachel's slave girl Bilhah
bore a child Rachel proclaimed "God has done me justice" (Gen 30:5).
Maharsha (Shmuel Eidels, 1555-1631) explains that Reuben's transgression was that he didn't realize that Jacob had actually freed Bilhah
from her slavery.
"The Red Tent" miniseries also stars Vinette Robinson (Bilhah
), Agni Scott (Zilpah), Aiste Gramantaite (Ruti), Ouidad Elma (Abi), Hiam Abbass (Queen Re-Nefer), Saif Al-Warith (Simon), Camila Aouatefe (Pregnant woman), Nadia Kounda (Kiri), Amine Lamriki (Nehesi), Sonia Okacha (Sherya), Will Payne (Young Jacob), Zoe Clark (Young Dinah), Gabrielle Dempsey (Young Leah), Holly Earl (Young Rachel), Anas El Baz (Royal Messenger), Pedro Lloyd Gardiner (Levi), Caitlin Joseph (Young Zilpah), Tika Peucelle (As-Naat), Stewart Scudamore (King Hamor), Sean Teale (Prince Shalem), Douglas Rankine (Reuben), Toby Sebastian (Re-mose), Darwin Shaw (Benia), Sheila Vand (Meryt) and Mourad Zaoui (The Guard).
It is debatable whether or not the practice of concubinage falls under the rubric of traditional polygamy--the concubine was not "married" to the master, and while her status was higher than that of a slave, it was lower than that of a wife and oftentimes (as in the cases of Sarah and Hagar, Leah and Zilpah, and Rachel and Bilhah
) she even belonged to the primary wife.
The specific idea of using a handmaid when the wife is infertile due to global disasters has been probably inspired by the biblical citation that appears in the first epigraph: "And [Rachel] said [to Jacob], Behold my maid Bilhah
, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her." (Genesis 30:1-3).
Its macroscopic narrative, however, fails to delineate the evolution of servants and handmaids who are first introduced in their relations to Abram/Abraham and his servant, Eliezer of Damascus; Sarai/Sarah and her handmaid, Hagar of Egypt; and, Sarah's grand-daughters-in-law, Leah and Rachel, and their maids, Zilpah and Bilhah
Although censure is not the only conceivable explanation for anonymity, it makes sense also with Potiphar's wife in Genesis 39 and contrasts with many major and minor female characters who are named in Genesis: Eve (Genesis 1-4), Adah wife of Lamech (4:19-23), Zillah (4:19-23), Namah (4:19-23), Milcah (11:29, 22:20-23, 24:15-47), Sarai/Sarah (17-18, 20-21, 23-25, 49), Hagar (16, 21, 25), Rebekah (24-29, 35, 49), Keturah (25), Judith (26:34), Basemath (26:34, 36:3-17), Mahalath (28:9), Rachel (29-31, 33, 35, 46, 48), Leah (29-31, 33-35, 46, 49), Bilhah
(29-30, 35, 37, 46), Zilpah (29-30, 35, 37, 46), Dinah (30, 34, 46), Adah wife of Esau (36:6-16), Oholibamah (36:2-41), Timnah (38:12-14), Mehetabel (36:39), Tamar (14, 38), and Asenath (41, 46).
Genesis 30:1-43, where Bilhah
conceived and bore a child for Rachel.
Rubinstein similarly relates four of Bashevis's works to their Kabbalistic source material and examines their narrative structure.
Like others who have read The Red Tent, I can't wait to talk to her about her vivid portrait of the Biblical women who, in her telling, made up the heart and soul of Jacob's prosperous clan: Dinah, Jacob's only daughter by Leah; Leah herself; Rachel, her rival for Jacob's affections; and their sister-handmaidens, Zilpah and Bilhah
. Thus the oft-repeated question: Was there really such a thing among our ancient foremothers as a red tent?
Two generations later, barren Rachel frantically offers her maid Bilhah
to Jacob for sexual intercourse so that "I (Rachel) will be built ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) through her" (Gen 30:3).
"Your mother" refers to Leah (or perhaps to Leah, Bilhah
and Zilpah, all of whom are Joseph's stepmothers)--the other mother figure(s) in Joseph's life.