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Barren, Barrenness

BARREN, BARRENNESS (Heb. עָקָר, H6829; Gr. στείρος). To be a wife without motherhood has always been regarded in the E not merely a matter of regret, but also a matter of reproach and humiliation. Notice Sarah’s sad laughter of despair (Gen 18:12), Hannah’s silent pleading (1 Sam 1:10ff.), and Rachel’s passionate alternative of children or death (Gen 30:1). This reproach attached to barrenness, among the Hebrews, was prob. partially caused by the expectation of every mother that she might be mother of the Messiah. Barrenness was a family’s great misfortune. It is significant that mothers of the Heb. race (Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel) were by nature sterile, and therefore God’s special intervention showed His favor to Israel. The wives of the patriarchs, in order to avoid the disgrace of barrenness, gave their handmaidens to their husbands, regarding the children born under such circumstances as their own (Gen 16:2; 30:3).

Barrenness is removed by the mercy of God, often through the use of prayer (Gen 25:21; 1 Sam 1:12). God in His mercy gives the barren woman a home and children (Ps 113:9); and the nation is considered to be a barren woman, who will sing because of the promise of children (Isa 54:1).