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February 02, 2010

life-giving: lessons from the Bible's barren eight

In the Bible there are eight women who are listed as being barren: Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Manoah's wife, Hannah, Michal, the Shunamite woman and Elizabeth. Last year I compared and contrasted their stories in the Scripture. What follows is some of what I learned, in a distilled form. This is by no means a comprehensive study of barrenness in the Scriptures, but simply some lessons seen in their eight biographies.

Clearly, there is an intensity connected to life-giving in women. Whether the depths of a barren woman's grief or the elation of a new mother; the sinful rivalries between women vying for pregnancy or the faith-filled prayers of godly life-givers; this aspect of woman* is something consuming. It touches a nerve. Energy pumps through woman--for good or for bad? Will we deal death, as fallen women; or life, as redeemed?

CREATED: Women were created to imitate the original Author of life by bearing fruit and filling the earth. We are to live purposefully and productively. Through our bodies come nations and peoples, chosen by God from the womb! We were also made to believe in the Author of life and to communicate personally with with Him. God gives importance to the task of life-giving, coming to announce some births Himself. This is the overall picture of women as life-givers.

FALLEN: Sin, which brings death, has brought death to every corner of our existence. Each of the Bible's eight barren women shows the effects of the curse (Gen. 3:16) in that she is unable to do that which was a normal part of her mandate.

In relation to God: We try to reach His goals in our own ways (ie: "Sleep with my maidservant" - Sarah/Hagar or Rachel/Bilhah), evidencing a lack of faith. We laugh at His promises (Sarah). We lie to try to hide our sin (Sarah).
    In relation to men: We want our men to be God. We idolize them and demand of them what only God can give (Rachel to Jacob). We want our men to put us in God's place in their lives (Michal's criticism of David's worship). We use our tongues not only to demand and to criticize, but to be sarcastic. (Note that Michael was the only one of these eight women who never had children. It is noteworthy that it was her sarcastic tongue in speaking to her husband that got her into trouble. This spoke volumes to me....)

      In relation to other women: We blame, envy, despise, wrestle and provoke.

      In Christ, women are freed to see God, men, other women and our children through Christ's eyes.
      In relation to God: We should pour out our hearts before God, communicating with the only One who can solve our complaint and grief (Hannah). Redeemed, we are to rely on Him for fruitfulness and faithfulness.
        In relation to our children: We dedicate (or loan) our "fruit" to God's service (Hannah).

        COMMON THEMES in the barren women narratives:

        • A right understanding of God is essential to a right understanding of reproduction.
        • God's view of children: In Bible times the ability to have children was seen as a gift from God and a sign of His blessing. Children were not seen as accidents, hindrances or simply masses of tissue. They were dearly wanted, not avoided.
        • Turning to God: Barrenness caused both men and women to look to God in a new way, realizing their need of His "visitation" for their conception. Women also realized that man cannot fulfill the deepest desires of their hearts; nor can man always understand woman's grief or needs.
        • God's involvement with and interest in women and pregnancy. He personally came to announce Samson and Isaac's births (something that He did not even do to announce His coming through Mary).
        • God's sovereignty: people have sex, but God gives life as He chooses. Sex does not necessarily lead to children, just as godliness does not equal fertility.
        • God's glory: God is honoured in these stories of barrenness. (Hannah's prayer and Samuel's ministry, Samson's position as judge). We are caused to wonder at His supernatural power...He is unseen, active and living.
        The tales of the eight mentioned barren women of the Bible are full of lessons for every woman, whether married or single, physical mother or spiritual mother. Unfortunately, many of their examples are negative ones (notice that the "fallen" section was the biggest). As we see how we were created and avoid the pitfalls of our sinful nature, we have the opportunity to know joy in our role as women serving a gracious Redeemer.

        *I'm using the Lifegiver: Created, Fallen, Redeemed pattern picked up from Barbara Mouser's great study, Five Aspects of Woman. The fact that "her" skeleton fit my findings in this study so well indicates that the skeleton is not of her own making. It is built into the Scriptures.


        1. The count is actually 8 . I am sure just a mistake and most have already noticed , but wanted to say it just in case .

        2. Thank you for letting me know of the error! I had never noticed and no one else had corrected me. I've updated it to eight :)!

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