Five Barren Women in the Old Testament

When a woman is identified as “barren” in the Old Testament, you can depend on God to reverse it in the story. There are five such women in the Old Testament, and each experiences the power of God leading to a fruitful womb.

  1. Isaac’s mother, Sarah (Gen. 11:30; 21:1-2) who had married Abraham
  2. Jacob’s mother, Rebekah (Gen. 25:21) who had married Isaac
  3. Joseph’s mother, Rachel (Gen. 29:31; 30:22) who had married Jacob
  4. Samson’s mother, who was unnamed (Judg. 13:1-3) and had married Manoah
  5. Samuel’s mother, Hannah (1 Sam. 1:5-6, 20) who had married Elkanah

You can count these women on one hand, which shows the rarity of such accounts. Their stories nonetheless showcase the power of God as He advances His promises by overcoming obstacles.

Viewing the five women as a whole, three (Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel) were wives of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), all in Genesis. And since Abraham had Isaac and Isaac had Jacob, barrenness was an important motif for three generations in a row.

The other two women–the unnamed mother and Hannah–appear not only after Genesis but outside the Pentateuch and even after the entrance into the promised land. Any thoughts as to the timing of the births of Samson and Samuel in the history of Israel?


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