Exactly what is the difference between concubines in the Old Testament and wives? It said that Abraham had two wives, Sarah and Keturah, but then he had other concubines (such as Hagar, etc). Were concubines also married within the covenant (such as celestial marriage)? If not, why would they not also have the same opportunity for eternal marriage? Thank you so much for any help you could give.
Great question. Elder Bruce R. McConkie gave the following definition of the term concubine:
“All down through the history of God’s dealings with his people, including those with the house of Israel, concubines were legal wives married to their husbands in the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. … Anciently they were considered to be secondary wives, that is, wives who did not have the same standing in the caste system then prevailing as did those wives who were not called concubines.”
Essentially, the difference between concubines and wives is that concubines were usually slaves or lower caste members, whereas wives were free Hebrew women. However, this doesn’t mean that concubines were necessarily unhappy about their marriages. Becoming a concubine would elevate a woman in status, and her children were recognized as legitimate children of their father. Consequently, becoming a concubine was often desirable to lower-caste women.
Because both wives and concubines were legally married to their husbands under the Law of Moses, in the eternal scheme of things, there would be no reason why concubines would be denied the blessings of eternal marriage.