Women of the Bible: Rachel and Infertility


“Give me children, or else I die.–Rachel, from Genesis 30:1

Psalm 113:9: He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children.Praise the LORD!

As women of faith, we are taught that one of our most important duties, as well as blessings,is bearing children. Many of us grew up playing with baby dolls, changing pretend diapers and feeding with pretend bottles. For the majority of us, if we wish it to happen, becomes reality. Sometimes we don’t plan it at all–it happens on its own. We grow up to become mothers and grandmothers and everyone lives happily ever after.

But what if it doesn’t happen? What if, despite our prayers and medical visits, expensive fertility treatments, we find ourselves unable to become pregnant? Or, in many cases, we celebrate the little pink line on the pregnancy test only to miscarry both our child and our hopes for motherhood. It’s heartbreaking and unexplained. Why does God sometimes withhold children from good women, and allow bad mothers to have baby after baby, with seemingly no plan or purpose?

What does that mean? Are childless women ostracized, left out of God’s will and finding punishment? Surely not. Though painful and unexplained, I don’t believe that our God is THIS kind of God.

The problem of the “barren womb” is documented many times throughout the old testament.

Rachel of the Old Testament was beautiful and loved by Jacob, and Matheson points out that their relationship is the first marriage that is recorded to have begun in friendship and not arrangement–a marriage of choosing. But Rachel could not have a baby, and it pressed on her spirit. Having been taught that God blesses women by giving them children, and serving little purpose in a patriarchal society, I’m sure she felt worthless and heartbroken when the baby didn’t come.

Genesis 30 tells the story:
When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!”
Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?” Here Jacob represents the helplessness of the husband in this kind of situation.

Then she said, “Here is Bilhah, my servant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and I too can build a family through her.” Poor Bilhah! Forced to bear a child and to give it away, never being fully able to be called Mama. A whole different kind of pain.

A few verses down, after a heated competition with her sister where other women were involved and impregnated, Rachel finally becomes pregnant with Joseph. “God has taken away my disgrace,” Rachel said. “May the Lord add to me another son.”

Many times, women like Rachel who think they cannot get pregnant, do. Equally as many do not.

Take heart, dear one. You are not being punished; you are loved.

Jesus waits, in the quiet, in the questions. Reach out to him for he is there. He counts your bitter tears and sees your suffering.

You are not alone.