Ex. 1:15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 16 “When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.” 17 But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. 18 So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?” 19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” 20 So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. 22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.”
Shiphrah and Puah — two names which are probably not on the tip of the tongue and yet the listing of their names is very significant. They are delineated for emphasis so that they would be remembered as heroes of the faith.
More than likely they were the leaders of the midwives of the Hebrews. This would have been an entire team of women — who themselves had borne no children — but who helped others to deliver theirs. They were called in by Pharaoh and instructed to kill the baby boys but the women feared God. This means that they were honest, faithful, trustworthy and religious women. They had greater respect for God than they did for Pharaoh who probably tried to bribe them into doing this for him. More than likely he offered them some sort of reward for following through while threatening their very lives if they were disobedient.
After a period of time Pharaoh discovered that there were still a lot of little Hebrew boys around and he was quite displeased with the midwives. There are those who wonder whether the midwives lied in their response to Pharaoh or was their story the truth? It may have been the case that Egyptian women did not very actively participate in the delivery of their children. That they laid on their backs and expected a midwife to come and help them through most of the delivery. At the same time the Hebrew women may have been more “vigorous” — meaning that they were much more engaged in the process and the midwives may very well have told the women not to call them until the baby was coming out — or was out! The point is — this may have been a way that they got around the orders of Pharaoh and God may have given them the wisdom to have this plan. As leaders, they acted on that plan and saved many lives.
Pharaoh then commanded his own people to throw Hebrew boys into the Nile. As we will see, his own daughter defied this order and this may have stopped the genocide. Eventually this order would come back to haunt Pharaoh when his own men would be drown in the sea as they followed the Israelites during their Exodus.
I believe God is still in the business of calling female leaders to become heroes of the faith. We remember names from our own childhood readings of scripture — Daniel, David, Paul — but here are Shiphrah and Puah. Probably two names that you don’t recognize — and yet they are amazing women who feared God and are examples for us.
God is still calling women to be spiritual leaders for his people. These women were motivated by their “fear” of God. That means that their lives were entirely committed to being faithful servants of God, no matter what kinds of pressure they faced from the world around them. Historically God has used women to partner together with men, serving faithfully in the kingdom. There have been times when women have had to stand in the gap, becoming the stewards of the faith when it was under attack.
I believe we may be living in one of those times when the faith is severely under attack. There are those who want to kill Christianity and defeat the faith of the newly born-again. God is calling up his daughters and sons to remain faithful, defenders of the faith, and protectors of his children. The women were leaders who knew what it meant to faithfully raise up another generation. God is seeking out more Shiphrahs and Puahs who will fear him and be stewards of the faith during troubling times. When women fear God, he is able to use them in ways in which they would never even have imagined. Faithful stewards, willing to stand up to the corrupt authorities can change the course of history. Will we answer the call?
Lord, thank you Lord for your continuing call on our lives. Amen.
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