Women of Faith Wednesday: Shiprah and Puah, the Exodus Midwives

“Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiprah and the other was named Puah; and he said, ‘When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.’  But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live.  So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, ‘Why have you done this thing, and let the boys live?’  The midwives said to Pharaoh, ‘Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian woman; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife can get to them.’  So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty.  Because the midwives feared God, He established households for them.  Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, ‘Every son who is born you are to cast into the Nile, and every daughter you are to keep alive.’ “   -Exodus 1:15-22

This is how the story of Moses and the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt begins, with the faith of these two midwives.  At this point in history the Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptians, but they were multiplying at a fast pace and there were millions of them.  The Egyptians were afraid the Israelites would start an uprising against them, so the king devised a plan to kill all of the male babies.

But these two midwives stood in his way.  They didn’t let fear of the king overcome their faith in God.  When he requested that they kill all of the boy babies Shiprah and Puah directly disobeyed him, then lied about it! I can imagine that if these crimes had been found out they could have been put to death.  But the passage tells us that because they feared the Lord He blessed them, He protected them and provided them with households and families of their own.  However, it is important to note that they are not rewarded for lying, but for their unwillingness to kill.

I want to point out that the Bible uses two types of fear when it talks about fear of God.  One is actual fear or dread of God’s power and punishment, which is mostly felt by unbelievers.  The other is faith in Him or respect for His awesome power and love for us.  The book ‘What Are You Afraid Of?’ by Dr. David Jeremiah has a great chapter on this subject.  Dr. Jeremiah points out that a larger fear will make a smaller fear seem silly and insignificant.  To the midwives God is much bigger and more powerful than some earthly pharaoh!  This way of thinking is what drives their brave actions.  They have faith that, in doing His will, God will protect them from whatever pharaoh might do to them.  Their faith was bigger than their fear!

“Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear Him have no lack!”  -Psalm 34:9