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What We Learn from Two Hebrew Midwives

When I think of people who show and live out their allegiance to God in the Bible, I immediately think of Shiphrah and Puah. They are better known as the Hebrew Midwives who saved Israelite baby boys at a time when opposing rulers called them to be killed. These midwives could have done the easy action of submitting to Pharaoh’s command, but they remained faithful to God in the end.

The Context

The Israelites had settled in Egypt to survive a famine, and their numbers grew throughout the land (Exodus 1:7). A new Pharaoh rose to power in Egypt and did not care at all about Yahweh. Pharaoh saw that the Israelites had become numerous and mighty compared to his army (Exodus 1:9). He decided to deal shrewdly with them and try to stop their power by oppressing them and making them slaves (Exodus 1:10-14).

Part of dealing shrewdly with the Israelites involved trying to decrease the population. Now enter Shiphrah and Puah. Shiphrah and Puah were Hebrew Midwives who helped deliver babies. Pharaoh told them that if a Hebrew woman gave birth to a baby boy, they should kill it, but if it was a baby girl, they could let it live. Pharaoh told them to kill the boys because he was worried about the Israelites becoming a military threat. Out of their allegiance to God, however, Shiphrah and Puah did not follow the command from Pharaoh and instead kept the baby boys alive. They offered Pharaoh the explanation that the Hebrew women were simply too quick in giving birth for the midwives to arrive in time.


“The Pharaoh decided to deal shrewdly with them and try to stop their power by oppressing them and making them slaves.”


Covenant

One aspect of this story is both the covenant and faithfulness of God playing out. The two major covenants that took place before this were the Noahic and Abrahamic covenants. Both of these included a call to be fruitful, multiply, and to fill the earth (Genesis 9:1, 7; 17:6). God also promised Abraham that he would be made into a great nation in the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:2-3). Although he thought he was merely safeguarding his dominance, Pharaoh was in actuality opposing these covenants by stopping the Israelites from being fruitful and multiplying.

Shiphrah and Puah helped the Israelite people to continue to be fruitful by saving the baby boys. If it weren’t for them, God would have helped his people another way because he is faithful to his covenants. but we should be thankful for Shiphrah and Puah for remaining faithful to God and his covenants as well. God used their faithfulness in his grand plan to save humanity.


“God promised Abraham that he would be made into a great nation in the Abrahamic Covenant.”


Serve Where You Are

Another lesson we see in the story of Shiphrah and Puah is that you don’t have to be in a powerful position to make big changes. Shiphrah and Puah had jobs that weren’t necessarily that powerful, but through their faithfulness to God, their jobs became significantly powerful. While Pharaoh was acting as a giver of death, Shiphrah and Puah used their position to be givers of life. Even before the Ten Commandments were given to the Israelite people, they knew keeping the babies alive was the right thing to do. Lowly midwives silenced the king of Egypt through their faithfulness to God.

It is remarkable that while we don’t know the name of the Pharaoh, we do know the names of the midwives who remained faithful to God over Pharaoh. God uses all of our faithfulness, whether small or large, to help advance his Kingdom. It doesn’t matter if you are on staff at a church of 100 or 10,000, or if you work an office job or as a stay-at-home mom, you are called to and can serve God faithfully wherever you are.


“You are called to and can serve God faithfully wherever you are.”


Allegiance to God

One word that rings especially clear in this story is allegiance. Shiphrah and Puah could have followed Pharaoh’s command out of loyalty to their king—but they had a higher allegiance. They chose to fear God and not man when they saved the boys and acted in civil disobedience. In Acts 5, the high priest and the Sadducees arrested the apostles for preaching Jesus and performing signs in his name, placing them in prison. Once they were released by an angel of the Lord, they kept right on teaching and preaching.

Again, the apostles were brought before the council and questioned for their actions, and Peter said, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). This is the same attitude Shiphrah and Puah took toward God and against Pharaoh. They chose to put their lives on the line out of their allegiance to God.


“They chose to put their lives on the line out of their allegiance to God.”


Even though we probably won’t end up in the same high-stakes position as Shiphrah and Puah, our faithfulness and allegiance still deeply matter. Are we allowing ourselves to honor influential people or prioritize advantageous pursuits before God? Our allegiance to God should bleed out into every area of our lives. Let our allegiance to God be remembered over anything else we can do. Let the legacy of Shiphrah and Puah be our legacy, too.

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