Barren (when spoken of persons, properly עָקָי, akar', στεῖρος). Barrenness is, in the East, the hardest lot that can befall a woman, and was considered among the Israelites as the heaviest punishment with which the Lord could visit a female (Ge 16:2; Ge 30:1-23; 1Sa 1:6,28; Isa 47:9; Isa 49:21; Lu 1:25; Niebuhr, p. 76; Volney, 2:359; Lane's Egyptians, 1:74). In the Talmud (Yeramoth, 6:6) a man was bound, after ten years of childless conjugal life, to marry another woman (with or without repudiation of the first), and even a third one if the second proved also barren. Nor is it improbable that Moses himself contributed to strengthen the opinion of disgrace by the promises of the Lord of exemption from barrenness as a blessing (Ex 23:26; De 7:14). Instances of childless wives are found in Ge 11:30; Ge 25:21; Ge 29:31; Jg 13:2-3; Lu 1:7,36. Some cases of unlawful marriages, and more especially with a brother's wife, were visited with the punishment of barrenness (Le 20:20-21); Michaelis, however (Mosaisches Recht, v. 290), takes the word עֲרַירַי (destitute, "childless") here in a figurative sense, implying that the children born in such an illicit marriage should not be ascribed to the real father, but to the former brother, thus depriving the second husband of the share of patrimonial inheritance which would otherwise have fallen to his lot if the first brother had died childless. The reproach attached to sterility, especially by the Hebrews, may perhaps be accounted for by the constant expectation of the Messiah, and the hope that every woman cherished that she might be the mother of the promised Seed. This constant hope seems to account for many circumstances in the Old Testament history which might otherwise appear extraordinary or exceptionable (Ge 3:15; Ge 21:6-7; Ge 25:21-23; Ge 27:13; Ge 28:14; Ge 38:308; De 25:9). This general notion of the disgrace of barrenness in a woman may early have given rise, in the patriarchal age, to the custom among barren wives of introducing to their husbands their maid-servants, and of regarding the children born in that concubinage as their own. by which they thought to cover their own disgrace of barrenness (Ge 16:2; Ge 30:3). SEE CHILD.

Definition of barren

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