Israel Antiquities Authority/Israel Museum/David Harris

Fertility figurines, used by women to ward off evil during pregnancy and childbirth and to ensure fecundity, have been discovered throughout Israel and neighboring lands. Excavated in a Phoenician cemetery at Akhzib, on the Mediterranean coast, this delicate figurine dates to the seventh or sixth century B.C.E. Wearing an Egyptian-style wig, the seated woman rests one hand on her swelling belly—a gesture common among pregnant women.

In the Bible, a woman’s social status depended on her fertility, which often determined whether the family line would continue. When Sarah’s maidservant Hagar had a son by Abraham, Sarah felt her rank diminish: “Now that [Hagar] sees that she is pregnant, I am lowered in her esteem” (Genesis 16:5).