Although we have spent a great deal of time in this study looking at women whose children were famous and notable in the Bible, it is worthwhile as well to look at women who, for one reason or another, were denied the progeny that would have made their maternal lines last. There are several ways in which someone would have their maternal line end, and most of them were unpleasant. We will introduce some of these ways here and then discuss the various stories where the maternal line died out in greater detail. It should be noted that all of the ways a maternal line could die out were unpleasant and were considered absolutely disastrous in biblical culture. In some cases women died of barrenness because they never married, whether because they were survivors of rape , and therefore considered as spoiled, or because they were devoted to service or even sacrificed and thus denied the chance of being wives and mothers. In other situations, women were married but did not have children because of a special curse of barrenness. In still other cases women had children and those children died before having heirs, thus leaving a maternal line extinguished, usually as a matter of divine judgment .
In the stories that follow, we are going to read some of the more painful stories in the Bible, stories that reveal the ugliness that is suffered, especially by women and children, throughout the world even today. We will look at situations of date rape and incest, issues of vengeance, women being pawns in the larger political games of others, and women who attempted to secure their own lasting legacy only to have it snatched away by revolution and the inevitable liquidation of entire dynasties. This does not make for pleasant reading, and it reminds us that the Bible does not speak of the way things ought to be in its historical books in particular, but rather of the way things are. The hardness of heart that fills mankind is something that is easily visible from scripture and something we need to remember speaks as much about ourselves as it does about ancient Israel and Judea during the time of the Roman Empire. This can be a hard lesson for us to understand.
It should also be noted that not all of the women here act at their best. We do not always see these women act nobly and triumphantly, although we do see that sometimes, and we will celebrate these brave and noble women when we do see them suffer nobly. Unfortunately, we may also see much of what reminds us of the darkest moments in our own lives and in our own world. We will see women fighting off vultures and mourning to bewail their virginity thanks to the foolish behavior of their menfolk. We will also see distraught women suffering from what looks like PTSD, and others whose prospects for marriage and happiness were blighted by their relatives. The Bible does not give a rosy picture of humanity, and those of us who have seen the darker side of humanity will find plenty within these portraits of suffering women, some of whom suffered as a result of their own sins, and many of whom suffered as a result of the sins of those around them and in power over them, to remind us of the suffering of our own place and time.
Ultimately, these portraits often provoke in many readers the desire either to condemn God or to undertake efforts at justifying God from the implicit criticism that would come given the unjust suffering one reads. Many readers of these stories are motivated either to blame the women beyond what scripture says or to blame God for being harsh to humanity, as if we had a claim on God to demand that we be treated a certain way in life. I will attempt to avoid both of these extremes, as the women involved deserve no blame except that which the Bible assigns to them and that which can be reasonably inferred. Most of them, it is evident, are victims of time and chance, and circumstances beyond their control. Such things can happen easily to all of us if we are born in the wrong time and place and into the wrong family.
I speak here from personal experience. Perhaps my own compassion for the women we will be discussing whose desires at an enduring line were quashed is strengthened materially by the conditions of my life in at least two respects. For one, as a single man who has never had any children, I can understand on a visceral level the burden of longing for marriage and family that often frustrated these women. On another level, as a survivor of rape and incest myself, many of the stories of the women in these pages who have suffered the most have long excited the feelings of deepest compassion. As someone who has long been deeply anxious and concerned about the connection between my own largely unsuccessful longings and yearnings for intimacy and the harrowing experiences of my youth, these stories of the Bible are often not particularly comforting. Yet they are stories we must address in order to understand the Word of God, and so with this introduction, let us take a look at the poignant stories of those whose desire to be a part of a lasting maternal line were denied in scripture.
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