8. Abraham’s Handmaiden
Genesis 16 tells us that Abraham’s wife, Sarai, could not bear children. She agreed that Abraham could take a second wife to beget a son: their Egyptian handmaiden named Hagar. This practice is attested to in many texts found by archaeologists. The Alalakh Texts (18th century BC) and even the Code of Hammurabi all agree that procuring a son in this way was an accepted custom.
The Nuzi Tablets are a group of texts particularly relevant to this episode. Dated to the second half of the 15th century BC, they were retrieved from an ancient Hurrian site in present-day Iraq. These texts mention that a sterile wife could provide a slave girl to her husband in order to beget a son. In ancient times, infertility was almost always attributed to sterile women; ancient sources rarely blame the man when it comes to this issue.