I'm writing a paper about Ruth and I found a midrash that describes Boaz as being an infertile man (Ruth Rabba 6:2). From Ruth's prayer, he is allowed to conceives.There are others that put the opposite, that he had 60 children, but all died ((Bava Batra 91a:10-12). My question is: is there any explicit reference to another man (other than the forefathers) in the TANACH as being infertile? Or is Boaz the only other one mentioned like that? I would like other examples because in the case of women, this is recurrent. According to Rachel Adelman, there are 6 women mentioned as infertile: 3 matriarchs and even Hanna; Samson's mother (anonymous); and Shunammite. Any other cases regarding to men?

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    Hi and welcome to Mi Yodeya! We look forward to learning with you. I hope you've had a chance to read the site tour and have everything you need. May I recommend putting the midrash or at least the key lines from it into the question itself to help us understand where you are coming from and to give us a basis to help you research this interesting point.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented May 16, 2023 at 9:31
  • As you mention, there is a source that Bo'az had many previous children, and that he suffered because he displayed a lack of sensitivity towards Mano'ach and his wife who, before they had Shimshon, were themselves childless (Bava Basra 91a; note that while Shoftim 13:2 ["וְאִשְׁתּוֹ עֲקָרָה וְלֹא יָלָדָה"] states that Mano'ach's wife was barren, Bo'az described Manoa'ch as a "barren mule" ["כודנא עקרה"]).
    – Fred
    Commented May 16, 2023 at 19:56
  • Thank you, Rabbi Kaii and Fred. I wrote the resource about the issue I'm asking, and also clarified what I am looking for. I need other examples - if there are some - about infertile men (other than patriarchs and Boaz). Commented May 21, 2023 at 10:22

1 Answer 1


The Avos (the forefathers) have several mamarei chazal written about them being infertile:

Yevamos 64a:

אָמַר רַבִּי יִצְחָק: מִפְּנֵי מָה הָיוּ אֲבוֹתֵינוּ עֲקוּרִים — מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מִתְאַוֶּה לִתְפִלָּתָן שֶׁל צַדִּיקִים

Rabbi Yitzcḥak said: For what reason were our forefathers initially infertile? Because the Holy One, Blessed be He, desires the prayers of the righteous (and He therefore wanted them to pray for children).

Then continue down the daf...

אֲמַר לֵיהּ רָבָא לְרַב נַחְמָן: וְלֵילַף מִיִּצְחָק, דִּכְתִיב: ״וַיְהִי יִצְחָק בֶּן אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה בְּקַחְתּוֹ אֶת רִבְקָה וְגוֹ׳״, וּכְתִיב: ״וְיִצְחָק בֶּן שִׁשִּׁים שָׁנָה בְּלֶדֶת אוֹתָם״! אֲמַר לֵיהּ: יִצְחָק עָקוּר הָיָה.

Rava said to Rav Naḥman: Let us derive from Isaac that one may wait a longer period of time, as it is written: “And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah…to be his wife” (Genesis 25:20), and it is written with regard to the birth of Jacob and Esau: “And Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them” (Genesis 25:26). This indicates that one may wait twenty years. Rav Naḥman said to him: Isaac knew that he was infertile, and therefore there was no reason for him to marry another woman, as Rebekah was not the cause of their infertility. (Sefaria translation and addition notation)

אִי הָכִי, אַבְרָהָם נָמֵי עָקוּר הָיָה! הַהוּא מִיבְּעֵי לֵיהּ לְכִדְרַבִּי חִיָּיא בַּר אַבָּא. דְּאָמַר רַבִּי חִיָּיא בַּר אַבָּא אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן: לָמָּה נִמְנוּ שְׁנוֹתָיו שֶׁל יִשְׁמָעֵאל — כְּדֵי לְיַיחֵס בָּהֶן שְׁנוֹתָיו שֶׁל יַעֲקֹב

The Gemara responds: If so, Abraham also should not have married another woman, as he was also infertile. Rather, the tanna requires that verse that states when Jacob and Esau were born for that which Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba taught. This is because Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba said that Rabbi Yoḥanan said: Why were Ishmael’s years counted in the Torah, as they do not appear to be relevant to its narrative? In order to determine through them the years of Jacob, i.e., Jacob’s age at the time that various events took place, as explained in tractate Megilla (17a). The verse concerning Jacob’s birth was not meant to allude to a halakha about remaining married before having children, but to make it possible to determine Jacob’s age by relating it to the age of Ishmael. (Sefaria translation and notation)

אָמַר רַבִּי יִצְחָק: יִצְחָק אָבִינוּ עָקוּר הָיָה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״וַיֶּעְתַּר יִצְחָק לַה׳ לְנֹכַח אִשְׁתּוֹ״. ״עַל אִשְׁתּוֹ״ לֹא נֶאֱמַר, אֶלָּא ״לְנוֹכַח״, מְלַמֵּד שֶׁשְּׁנֵיהֶם עֲקוּרִים הָיוּ

Rabbi Yitzcḥak said: Isaac our father was infertile, as it is stated: “And Isaac entreated the Lord concerning [lenokhaḥ] his wife because she was barren” (Genesis 25:21). It is not stated that he entreated the Lord for [al] his wife, but lenokhaḥ, which can mean opposite, against, or corresponding to; this teaches that they were both infertile. (Sefaria translation & notation)

  • Thank you Dov. I clarified my question: I would like to know if there are other men (than the patriarchs) infertile, just as there are other women cited as infertile besides matriarchs (Hanna; Samson's mother (anonymous); and Shunammite. Commented May 21, 2023 at 10:32

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