The Barren Women of the Bible

Posted by on Nov 20, 2022

The Hebrew Bible has the miraculous stories of six barren women, their conception, and giving birth to male children. We will address them in the following vein and offer another one for the reader’s consideration, as we will explain the reason for this in due course.

There is a well-established Rabbinic tradition that the conception of Yitschak the son of Avraham was entirely by way of promise, not natural. His miraculous conception and birth, however, are not unique to the Scripture in which other miraculous conceptions and births are recorded.

Reading of the Biblical stories is an experience that takes place in time. Hence, every time a reader encounters the same stories over again, the text should have different effects over the reader than the first time even though the stories are the same.

The Hebrew Bible, therefore, delineates these stories as having layered background, in which they must be read not only in the immediate context, but also with a sense of what has happened before or will happen after the narrative. The question, then, is: How this repetition affects the reader and what conclusions can be made? Having asked this question, we will have more to say upon this point presently.

“Before I formed you”

DNA human genome inside the chromosomes. "Before I formed your DNA inside of your mother's womb, I knew you".

DNA human genome inside the chromosomes. “Before I formed your DNA inside of your mother’s womb, I knew you”.

In order to clarify these stories in their entirety, we must initially make some inquiries about the mystery of life. As man has no knowledge of the way of the natural things, so that the origin and mystery of life in the mother’s womb and the works of the Creator, lie beyond his natural knowledge and understanding.

This mystery is written in the Book of Life whenever a new life begins. In it, all body members and all days which have been determined for the formation of life are written, even when none of these members and days were yet in existence.

This mystery of life is further expounded through the prophet Jeremiah, who wrote it down,

Before I formed you in the belly I knew you, and before you came out of the womb, I did set you apart … (Jer 1:5)

Among the days which are pre-formed in the idea of the Creator to create life, there is also a day for the creation of the unformed body, i.e., the embryonic beginning of life, in which He has already pre-known man.

Thus, the omniscient knowledge of the infinite Creator YHVH embraces the beginning of life, its development, and completion in one principle: the mystery of life that is beyond human comprehension, as it is said,

As you do not know what the way of the wind is, or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child, so you do not know the works of Elohim who makes all. (Ecc 11:5)

Below we will present the stories of the six barren women of the Bible in their order of appearance. A good departure point is the story of the matriarch Sarah.

The matriarch Sarah and the promised son

YHVH did for Avraham and Sarah what He had promised them previously: she conceived, and at the time appointed bore a son to them, when Avraham was 100 years old, and Sarah was 90.

And YHVH visited Sarah as He had said, and YHVH did for Sarah as He had spoken. So, Sarah conceived and bore Avraham a son in his old age, at the appointed time of which Elohim had spoken to him. (Gen 21:1-2)

Avraham called the name of the promised son “Yitschak”. This name for the promised son had been selected by YHVH, in connection with Avraham (Gen 17:17) and Sarah’s laughing (Gen 21:6) that sprang from the contrast between the promise and the reality. Thus, the name “Yitschak” indicates the miraculous nature of his conception and birth, as the name indeed means “laughter”.

And Sarah said, “Elohim has made me laugh, and everyone who hears of it laughs. (Gen 21:6)

Sarah also had previously laughed with unbelief at the promise when she laughed within herself, saying, “After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my master being old too?” (Gen 18:12). Now she laughed again at the fulfillment of the very promise, and the people laughed too.

We should note here that the name of the promised son thus given by YHVH was never changed in any way, as the names of his father and his son after him were, for it was YHVH Himself who created this name and told Avraham to call his son such.

When we reflect, we will notice that Sarah’s conceiving was a greater wonder than Avraham’s begetting a child. For we find instances of men over ninety begetting children in later generations, not to mention that Avraham fathered Ishmael from Hagar and again fathered children from his new wife Keturah after Sarah’s death.

But Sarah was not the only one who laughed at her pregnancy. The correct translation of the verse 6 above suggests that Sarah might have been an object of people’s ridicule on the account of her unnatural impregnation. We should recall that this was also a young woman’s concern many, many, years later.

Read more: Did YHVH Tell Abraham to Sacrifice Isaac? – Time of Reckoning Ministry.

The matriarch Rivkah and the two nations in her womb

And Yitschak was forty years old when he took Rivkah as wife, the daughter of Bethu’el the Aramean of Paddan Aram, the sister of Lavan the Aramean. And Yitschak prayed to Yehovah for his wife, because she was barren. And Yehovah answered his prayer, and Rivkah his wife conceived. (Gen 25:20-21)

Since Yitschak 40 when he married Rivkah and 60 when Eisav and Ya’akov were born (Gen 25:26), we know that they had waited no less than 20 years to have children. Avraham (160 years old) was still alive when the twins were born and died when the continuation of his seed, Ya’akov, was 15 years old.

Yitschak’s marriage, like his father’s, was for a long time childless; not to extreme old age, however, but “only” for 20 years. Yitschak had to pray for the next descendant on the line of the seed of the promise, so that his conception and birth might not be regarded merely as a fruit of nature but be recognized as an intervention from heaven. After this 20-year test, YHVH heard his prayer and granted the continuation of the promised seed.

Rivkah conceived and the fruit of her womb secured the blessing of the heavenly promise. But behold, there were two seeds in her womb: one was stronger than the other, and the older served the younger; that was not what Yitschak prayed for: two nations in his wife’s womb were already fighting.

Read more: Did Yitschak Allow to Be Deceived in His Blessing? – Time of Reckoning Ministry.

The matriarch Rachel and the removal of her reproach

And Elohim remembered Rachel, and Elohim listened to her and opened her womb. And she conceived and bore a son, and said, “Elohim has taken away my reproach”. So, she called his name Yoseph, and said, “Yehovah has added to me another son”. (Gen 30:22-24)

The experience of infertility in the ancient world was utterly disgraceful. Such disgrace or reproach was often based in the notion that infertility was a punishment from above, and the removal of this reproach was through the opening of the woman’s womb.

We must therefore view these verses as telling us that when Rachel became pregnant with Yoseph, and we are told “Elohim opened her womb” (Gen 30:22), to mean that prior to the conception her womb was closed. Before the conception of her rivalrous sister, Leah, the same statement is made: “YHVH opened her womb” (Gen 29:31). This peculiarity makes us think that if neither Rachel nor Leah could have become pregnant without supernal intervention, then both women were by nature infertile. The only difference was whose womb the Creator would open first; that happened to the womb of the unloved wife, Leah.

The act of positioning side by side Yoseph’s birth and Ya’akov’s request to return to Kana’an in the very next verse 25 cannot be overlooked.

And it came to be, when Rachel had borne Yoseph, that Ya‛akov said to Lavan, “Send me on my way, to go to my own place and to my land. (Gen 30:25)

But first we need to address how Ya’akov referred to the land of Kana’an: he said to his father-in-law, “my own place, my own land”.

While Avraham, Sarah, Yitschak, and Rivkah considered the land of Charan to be “the land of my father”, Ya’akov did not, for Yitschak was the only one of the patriarchs who was born in the promised land, lived his entire life there and never left it. Hence, he clearly identified the land of Kana’an as his home and “the land of my father” (for like his father he was born in Kana’an).

But why did Ya’akov see the opportunity to leave the foreign land only when his son Yoseph was born?

Rashi noticed this peculiarity and interpreted it thus: “As soon as Esav’s nemesis was born (that is Yoseph) (Gen 30:25), Ya’akov no longer feared to return to the Holy Land, as it is written (Oba 1:18): “And the House of Ya’akov shall be fire, the House of Yoseph shall be flame, and the House of Esav for straw”.

Ya’akov returned to the Land with one more son, Binyamin, but he lost his beloved wife Rachel on the way.

Read more: When Binyamin Merited the Temple – Time of Reckoning Ministry.

The mother of Shimshon the Nazirite

And a messenger of Yehovah appeared to the woman and said to her, “See now, you are barren and have not borne, but you shall conceive, and you shall bear a son.  … For look, you are conceiving and bearing a son. And let no razor come upon his head, for the youth is a Nazirite to Elohim from the womb on.” (Jdg 13:3-5)

Israel was living under the supremacy of the Philistines for forty years. This supremacy did not end until the great victory which Israel gained over their nemesis under the command of Shemuel the prophet (1Samuel 7).

While the Israelites were under the oppression of the Philistines on account of their sins and were also severely oppressed on the part of the Ammonites, the messenger of YHVH appeared to the wife of Manoach, a Danite, to deliver the good news: “you are barren and have not borne, but you shall conceive”.

And then the messenger added, “And he (the Nazarite) will begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines” with which he no doubt intended to show that not only his conception would be miraculous, but also his life from the womb would affect his power to deliver his people. The promise of YHVH was kept and the son the woman bore received the name of Shimshon.

Twenty years before this victory, however, the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant from the Israelites (1Sa 7:2). It was within these twenty years that most of the acts of Shimshon the judge of Israel occurred. The end of his life must have taken place a year or two before this defeat of the Israelites.

But before even the son was born, three prohibitions the messenger of YHVH imposed upon the woman and the child. These three prohibitions distinguished the condition of a Nazarite (see Num 6:1-8). The only other thing mentioned in the Torah, which Shimshon did not enforced, was the warning against defilement from contact with the dead. And that cost him the premature end of his judgeship over Israel.

Perhaps these lesson and warning for Israel was hidden in the message of the messenger to Shimshon’s father, “Let the woman guard all that I said to her”, that Israel could only obtain deliverance from its enemies by seeking after a complete consecration to YHVH and from everything that was unclean after the manner of a Nazarite, to which Israel had been called as the people of YHVH.

Manoach then asked the question: “What is your name?”, for Manoach did not know he was a messenger of YHVH but a man. And when the Messenger ascended in the flame, Manoach and his wife saw this, they fell upon their faces to the earth, because they discovered from the miracle that this was the Messenger of YHVH who had appeared to them.

We should recall that another Messenger of YHVH appeared to Mosheh in the burning bush. Manoach and his wife must have recalled that story at Sinai, when he said, “We shall certainly die, because we have seen Elohim!” (Jdg 13:21-22).

Read more: “Why do you ask My name, it is hidden?” – Time of Reckoning Ministry.

Channah, the mother of Shemuel the prophet

There was a certain man whose name was Elkanah. He had two wives, the name of one was Channah, who was childless, and the name of the other Peninnah, who had children. Channah was bitter in life, and prayed to YHVH and wept greatly. And she made a vow that if YHVH would look on her affliction and remember me, and give her a son, then she should give him to Him all the days of his life.

Eli the high priest heard her praying and said, “Go in peace, and the Elohim of Israel give you your petition which you have asked of Him”. These words of the high priest were not prophetic, but a pious wish, which nevertheless YHVH in His grace most gloriously fulfilled.

The next morning Elkanah knew his wife Channah, and YHVH remembered her. And the time came to be that Channah conceived and bare a son, whom she called שְׁמוּאֵל Shemuel, “Elohim-heard”, for she asked YHVH to hear her prayers.

And it came to be at the turn of days, that Channah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Shemuel, “Because I have asked Yehovah for him”. (1Sa 1:20)

As soon as the boy was weaned, Channah brought him to the high priest for a service before YHVH forever. Shemuel then became the prophet who anointed the first king of Israel, Shaul, and the king after YHVH’s heart, David.

Read more: How Old Was David When He Killed Goliath? – Time of Reckoning Ministry.

The Shunammite woman and her son

There was a prominent woman in Shunem, who had an old husband and no children. She was very kind to the prophet Elisha, the disciple of the prophet Eliyahu, showing him good hospitality, as often as he passed by that place. After some time, Elisha wanted to make some acknowledgment to his hostess for the love which she had shown him and asked her what he could do for her.

She answered saying that she lived quietly and peaceably among her countrymen, so that she had no needs. Knowing that she had no son because her husband was old, Elisha then told her that about that time next year she would have a son. And it was fulfilled at the appointed time.

And the woman conceived and bore a son when the appointed time had come, of which Elisha had spoken to her. (2Ki 4:17)

But the faith of the woman was soon to be put to the test. When the child grew, it came to be on a day that he complained of a severe headache while in the field. He was then taken home to his mother and died at noon on her knees.

The mother without telling her husband of the death of their son went as quickly as possible to Elisha and said, “Did I ask a son of my master? Did I not say, ‘Do not mislead me’?” (2Ki 4:28). The prophet figured out what could have happened to the boy. Elisha sent his servant ahead of him to lay the prophet’s staff on the face of the child but to no avail. When Elisha himself arrived, the boy was lying dead.

Elisha then entered the house, where the boy was lying dead upon his bed, and shut the door behind them both. He then lay down upon the boy and the body of the child became warm. After the restoration of the boy to life, Elisha had his mother called and gave her back her son.

Read more: The Two Prophets in Revelation – Time of Reckoning Ministry.

The seventh story

In all these instances of miraculous conception of old women, it is not implied or suggested that conception other than of a natural form is meant, i.e., through the way of intercourse between man and woman (see Genesis 29 and 30).     

What is miraculous therefore is not the conception as such but what led to it, namely, the supernatural opening of the womb of the barren women. How exactly the empty wombs were opened so that the barren women conceived and bore children we are not told, and we will not leave it unexplained.

What is natural for a woman after the reproductive age is to experience a significant change in the hormonal balance in her system. This is the time in a woman’s life in which the menstrual cycle ends, and menopause begins. Menopause is a natural process of aging, which is characterized as the stage when the ovaries completely stop producing reproductive hormones, and there are no longer monthly periods for consecutive twelve months. That was the period the six old women were in.

What can the Creator of woman do to make her reproductive again is to reverse this natural process by turning the hormonal glands “on”. He who has created the laws of biology, is the One who can reverse them at His will. What humans call “miracle” for the Creator it is nothing more than a temporary suspension of His natural laws. It does not take much of a miracle here in reversing the hormonal balance of a woman. “Is any matter too hard for YHVH?”, asked the messenger.

For this reason, the authors of these six stories do not describe the conceptions as “miracles”, but it is simply said,

And Yehovah visited Sarah as He had said, and Yehovah did for Sarah as He had spoken. So, Sarah conceived and bore Avraham a son in his old age, at the appointed time of which Elohim had spoken to him. (Gen 21:1-2)

Yet, there was a case in the Scripture which was very different of the cases of the six barren women. A young woman in her best years of reproductive age conceived and bore a child without having ever been with a man (Mat 1:18, Luk 1:35). And this conception has become a stumbling block for many to believe. Why? It does not take much of a miracle here either than the miracle of the parting of a sea. Again, “Is any matter too hard for YHVH?”

If a birth is only possible at fertilization of a woman’s reproductive egg by a man’s semen, and if we believe that the Messiah was born to a virgin mother, how is it possible that a human can be born to a woman who had never known a man?

These seeming contradictions have led some to believe in various contentious and groundless theories, and others to even disbelief the virgin birth of the Messiah.

Some of these theories say that the Messiah was born without Y chromosome, the strand of DNA in the cell nucleus that carries the genes of man. And since he had no human father, he had only XX chromosomes (the genes of woman), instead of XY chromosomes (of man).

This explains, they claim, why the Messiah could not have sinned, because he had not inherited the “original” sin of the first Adam transferred from man to man since then, as if the Y chromosome were designed to carry such a task. This is a groundless claim to make, as we further explained the origin of woman in the article How Woman was Created from Man – Time of Reckoning Ministry.

But as we further argued in the article The Human Messiah Part I – Time of Reckoning Ministry, the Messiah as was given the capability and opportunity to sin, but he did not. Moreover, in his obedience even to death to take on himself the punishment of the sinners, he deserved to receive the kingship of the Kingdom of heaven.  But the irony today is that such unscriptural theories serve very well the woke indoctrination of sexless or unisex human being.

So, was the virgin birth of the Messiah without a human father even possible? It looks like we are asking a question without an answer. But what if we are asking the wrong question about the mystery of life of the Anointed One of YHVH?

In the referenced above article, we started arguing as to why we no longer speak today of a child being born by a mother, as if that was an action performed upon the child by the mother, as the preposition “by” carries: “by means of; with aid of; through the act or agency of”. But rather we say, “born to a mother”, because this is indeed an event upon which woman and man have no control upon.

And as we concluded in the foresaid work, as the first Adam was of the earth, so is the second Adam from heaven; as the first Adam was not born by a woman but from YHVH, so was the last Adam was born to a woman from YHVH. But for the in-depth analysis of the mystery of life of the Anointed One of YHVH, refer to the source.

Continue reading: The Pre-existing first-born Son of Elohim – Time of Reckoning Ministry

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May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days!


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