Hovering discreetly behind the door, Sarah overhears Abraham’s conversation with the three visitors—unrecognized as God’s emmissaries—in a 1656 etching by Rembrandt. When one of the guests announces that the aged couple will have a son, Sarah laughs in disbelief. The scene is based on Genesis 18:1–15.

Author Ackerman notes that the Bible recounts the stories of six barren women—Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Hannah, the wife of Manoah and the Shunammite woman—and their subsequent pregnancies in strikingly similar ways. In the accompanying article she follows these women and their offspring and notes that what God has given can also be taken back: The children of all six women are either threatened by God with death or are consecrated to God.