Barren Women

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Tanakh records six cases of women who had difficulty conceiving but then miraculously gave birth to a son:

The significant parallels between the stories suggest that the barrenness of the women was not random, and that both the initial inability to bear children and the subsequent conceptions were Divinely planned. What, though, was the goal of this barrenness?

Content Parallels

Literary Allusions


Points of Contrast


As seen above, one of the points shared by almost all of the stories is the later importance of the son. In five of the cases,9 the son later becomes a forefather or a leader of the Israelite nation, and in three of these, an explicit promise is made to the parent about this eventuality. In fact, it almost seems that maternal barrenness is a prerequisite for producing a leader of the Children of Israel.10  In light of this, it is important to understand why Hashem caused11 so many of the mothers of the nation to be barren.

The barrenness has been explained in various ways by commentators: