Lately, I have been wanting to do a bit of a brief study on the barren women of the Bible. I have felt that with the heartache of our last post, it was important for Jeff & I to know that God orchestrates certain hardships to accomplish his will, and that for at least 8 women (couples) in biblical history, God showed up amidst the pain…
- SARAI/SARAH (Genesis 15-18) -Wife of Abram/Abraham
A Promise: God promised Abram “Count the stars…So shall your offspring be” and even after “Sarai had borne him no children”, God confirmed the covenant he had made with Abram saying”I will bless her (Sarai) and will surely give you a son by her”. Abram and Sarai were childless together for approximately 25 years.
Reaction: Abraham was filled with disbelief and suggested that maybe his firstborn from another wife, Ishmael, would receive the LORD’s blessing. When Sarah heard this, she laughed (possibly out of disbelief, or out of annoyance that her miracle would take place when she was already old, worn out & tired)
A Promise Fulfilled: Abraham was 100 years old and at the age of 90 (yes, 90 years old!) Sarah gave birth to Isaac (which means ‘he laughs’). Sarah had 1 son.
Outcome: Through Abraham & Sarah, Isaac was born which essentially began the lineage of Jesus Christ.
2. REBEKAH (Genesis 25) -Wife of Isaac
The Prayer: After “Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The LORD answered his prayer and his wife Rebekah became pregnant”. I am told Isaac & Rebekah were childless for about 20 years.
A Prayer Answered: “There were twin boys…the first to come out…Esau…his brother came out…Jacob”. Rebekah had 2 sons.
Outcome: Through Isaac & Rebekah, Jacob was born which continued the lineage of Jesus Christ.
3. RACHEL (Genesis 30) -Wife of Jacob
The Plea: Jacob had two wives (who were sisters) “the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb but Rachel was barren.” Rachel said to Jacob “Give me children, or I’ll die!” I haven’t been able to find anything concrete, but I would ball park that Jacob & Rachel were childless for about 11 years?
God’s Response: “God remembered Rachel…and opened her womb”.
Reaction: After Rachel gave birth to her son Joseph, she said “God has taken away my disgrace…may the LORD add to me another son.” Rachel died in childbirth with her second son. Rachel had 2 sons.
Outcome: Through Jacob & Rachel, Jospeh was born which continued the lineage of Jesus Christ.
4. UNNAMED (Judges 13) -Wife of Manoah
The Reality: “…a wife who was sterile and remained childless” it is unclear how long her and Manoah were childless.
The Promise: The angel of the LORD appeared to her and said ‘…you are going to conceive and have a son.'”
Reaction: The woman ran to tell her husband the good news! Manoah prayed for guidance in bringing up the boy. In reverence and worship, Manoah and his wife prepared a burnt offering to the LORD. “The woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson.” It appears she only had 1 son.
Outcome: Samson helped deliver the people of Israel.
5. HANNAH (1 Samuel 1) -Wife of Elkhana
The Reality: “Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.” “…year after year…the LORD had closed her womb.” “…she wept and would not eat.”, “…Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD ‘…remember me…give me a son…”. It is unclear just how many years Elkhana & Hannah were childless.
God’s Response: Eli (a priest) said to Hannah, “…may…God…grant you what you have asked of him”(not a direct promise, but I’m sure it gave Hannah cause for hope.) “The LORD remembered her…Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son.” Hannah had 4 sons & 2 daughters.
Outcome: Samuel eventually became the last and greatest judge of Israel.
6. MICHAL (1 Samuel 19-2 Samuel 8) – Wife of David
The Reality: “…Michal…had no children to the day of her death.”
The Result: No descendant of King Saul ever regained the throne of Israel
7. UNNAMED (2 Kings 4) -Wife of unnamed Shunammite man
The Reality: Although it’s clear this woman desired motherhood, it doesn’t appear that she ever prayed for it. It is unclear how long this couple was childless.
The Promise: Elisha said to her “…you will hold a son in your arms.”
Reaction: She is evidently afraid to allow herself to hope when she pleads, “Don’t mislead your servant.”, “She gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her.” It appears she only had 1 son.
Outcome: After this boy grows a bit, he dies and his mother cries out to Elisha “Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes’?”, for which the LORD responds by raising the boy from the dead, through Elisha.
8. ELIZABETH (Luke 1) -Wife of Zechariah
The Reality: “But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.” It is unclear how many years Zechariah and Elizabeth were childless.
A Promise: “…the angel said to him…’…Elizabeth will bear you a son…'”
Reaction: Zechariah questioned the angel and God rendered him mute for a time as a result.
A Promise Fulfilled: After, she became pregnant, she said “…The LORD has done this for me…and taken away my disgrace…”. “When it was time…she gave birth to a son.” Elizabeth gave birth to John who would later be known as John the Baptist. Sarah had 1 son.
Outcome: People would have heard of his miraculous conception and as a result, even from the womb John the Baptist would have already had an incredible platform to stand on as he led others to faith in Jesus Christ.
This was a project I have been wanting to do for quite sometime already and I am so thankful for a free day where I have been able to get into the Word and really take some notes on the subject. A few things that resonated with me were:
– It is interesting to me that for Rachel & Hannah, God remembered them. Now, I know that God doesn’t ‘forget’ about us, so I may have to do a deeper study on what exactly it means when “God remembers” someone… It also strikes me that since Rachel (especially) was not promised a child, her pregnancy would have come as a surprise.
– Sarah, Manoah’s wife, the Shunammite woman & Elizabeth were all promised a child which God, of course, fulfilled.
– In every instance, even in Michal’s, God’s hand was at work coordinating events that would progress the story of Jesus Christ.
– Lastly, my heart goes out to Michal. She had been in love with David from her youth and in fact became his first wife. She would’ve felt his divided attentions as he took wife after wife and watched him enjoy the children these other women bore him. Even at the end of her childless life, tensions were high between her and David and I just can’t imagine (actually, I can) the sadness that must’ve consumed her heart as she took her last breath.