Human Reproduction and Infertility in the Hebrew Bible

Eleanor Vivian

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Given the biblical imperative to humanity to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1.28; see also 9.1, 7; 35.11) and the fact that several biblical narratives hinge on a woman’s reproductive incapability (Gen. 16–18; 21; 25.21–34; 30.1–24; Judg. 13; 1 Sam. 1), it is not surprising that there are extensive studies of human reproduction and infertility. The emergence of feminist criticism in the 1970s–1990s led to a particular focus on the way in which the biblical texts present the contribution of women to the procreative process, and many studies analyze the barren woman motif. Yet the various methodological and hermeneutical approaches applied to the study of human fertility and reproduction leads—somewhat inevitably—to a range of conflicting opinions on the role of the respective parties (the male, the deity, and the female) in reproduction and inducing fertility.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-292
JournalCurrents in Biblical Research
Issue number1
Early online date28 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • reproduction
  • fertility
  • infertility
  • feminist criticism
  • disability studies
  • comparative anthropology
  • barrenness
  • circumcision
  • covenant
  • kinship


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