International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
bar'-en, (bar'-en-nes tsiyah; melehah; shakhol; `aqar; steiros; argos):
(1) Of land that bears no crop, either
(a) because it is naturally poor and sterile: tsiyah "dry" (Joel 2:20), melechah, "salt" (Job 39:6 the King James Version), shakhol, "miscarrying" (2 Kings 2:19, 21), or
(b) because it is, under God's curse, turned into a melechah or salt desert, for the wickedness of the people that dwell therein (Psalm 107:34 the King James Version; compare Genesis 3:17, 18).
(2) Of females that bear no issue: `aqar: Sarah (Genesis 11:30); Rebekah (Genesis 25:21); Rachel (Genesis 29:31); Manoah's wife (Judges 13:2, 3); Hannah (1 Samuel 2:5); steiros: Elisabeth (Luke 1:7, 36).
In Israel and among oriental peoples generally barrenness was a woman's and a family's greatest misfortune. The highest sanctions of religion and patriotism blessed the fruitful woman, because children were necessary for the perpetuation of the tribe and its religion. It is significant that the mothers of the Hebrew race, Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel, were by nature sterile, and therefore God's special intervention shows His particular favor to Israel. Fruitfulness was God's special blessing to His people (Exodus 23:26 Deuteronomy 7:14 Psalm 113:9). A complete family is an emblem of beauty (Songs 4:2; Songs 6:6). Metaphorically, Israel, in her days of adversity, when her children were exiled, was barren, but in her restoration she shall rejoice in many children (Isaiah 54:1 Galatians 4:27). The utter despair and terror of the destruction of Jerusalem could go no farther than that the barren should be called blessed (Luke 23:29).
(3) Argos is translated in the King James Version "barren," but in the Revised Version (British and American) more accurately "idle" (2 Peter 1:8).