Childlessness in the Bible

Life was clear-cut in Biblical times. If you didn’t have a baby, it was because you couldn’t conceive or couldn’t carry a pregnancy to term. None of the husbands said, “I don’t want to have kids.” Maybe they thought it, but they wouldn’t dare say it. Couples needed children to help with the work and to carry on the family to future generations. Some poor woman on her 15th pregnancy might have wished for a condom, but we don’t hear about that.

I recently happened upon a website that lists all the women in the Bible who suffered from infertility. It’s important to note that all of these women eventually gave birth: “And she conceived and bare a son.”

We’ve got Sarah, wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac; Rebekah, wife of Isaac and mother of Jacob and Esau; Rachel, wife of Jacob, mother of Joseph and Benjamin; Manoah’s wife, the mother of Samson; Hannah, wife of Elkanah, mother of Samuel; Elizabeth, wife of Zacharias and mother of John the Baptist, and a Shunammite Woman, whose husband and son are unnamed.

We also read about St. Anne, patroness saint for childless people, who conceived the Virgin Mary in her old age. And, at another site, we read about this prophetess who was unable to conceive for a long time, but eventually became a mother of six “through devoted prayer to God.”

I would love for the Bible to tell us about women who were never able to conceive or whose husbands refused to give them children. There must have been some, but we don’t read about them in the Bible. The choices were much clearer in those days. If you could have children, you did. If you couldn’t, you prayed for divine intervention.

The issues are much more complicated now, but I suspect prayer wouldn’t hurt. If nothing else, pray for clarity and peace. Run through the Serenity Prayer. If you’re not religious . . . well, I welcome your suggestions.