Exodus 1—The Hebrew Midwives

My guest blogger is Lynda Weaver-Williams, who long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away showed me the importance of the Hebrew midwives in Exodus 1.

Two Daughters of Israel Just Say No

Unless you have been hibernating this winter, you are aware that a great freedom movement happened in Egypt this year. By the millions, Egyptian women and men rose up against their iron-fisted leader of 30 years and in less than a month and with very little violence on their part, he was headed to a resort on the Red Sea.

It was not the first time women in Egypt took a stand for freedom. The first chapter of Exodus records a brief but vital story of two women who challenge another iron-fisted Egyptian leader and it sets in motion the survival of the people of Israel (Exodus 1:15-21).

Their names are not household words: Shiphrah and Puah. They are Hebrew slaves and they are midwives. Their job is to make sure babies and their mothers thrive (the first ‘Thrive’ moms?). The King of Egypt commands the midwives to kill the male babies as soon as they are born, or  ‘on the birth stool’ as the Bible says (Ex. 1:16). This King is threatened by boy babies (for him, soldiers in the making). Some King. But Shiphrah and Puah defy this King and let all the babies live.

For me, the ‘God’ part of the story is that the midwives know who is ultimately in charge. There is a King, and it may appear for all intents and purposes that he is the authority. But, as scripture says, ‘The midwives feared God.’ (v. 21). It is important that we know the meaning of ‘fear’ in this context. It is not terror, panic, alarm, dread or the heebie-jeebies.

In the Old Testament when we come across the word fear in relation to God, it conveys a sense of deep reverence and awe. It is based on an understanding that there is in human affairs a Sacred Presence beyond our control and inclined to our well-being.

The midwives have this sense of who is really in charge in this world. They know where true power resides. It seems to me that it is always a challenge for us to figure that out: is the power of our culture—of what to own, how to look, how to spend our time, money, energy, what to do with our bodies, etc.—ultimate? Or, like Shiphrah and Puah, can we trust that there is a Sacred Presence beyond our control who is inclined to our well-being?

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4 Responses to Exodus 1—The Hebrew Midwives

  1. Paul Buckland says:

    Love this blog!!!!! Talk about “Wild Women for God!” If they can live with that courage in such a bold way, it gives me empowerment (is that a word?) to live without fear in my daily life. For the women that were carrying those children- I can’t imagine the fear they lived under for 9 months, waiting to see if their child would be killed. What peace of mind for them to know there are women of such faith that can support them through that. Shew! LOVED the guest blogger!

  2. Mary Beth says:

    Also love the story of the midwives and their example of great faith! Further along in Exodus 4, I find this passage really confusing:
    24 At a lodging place on the way, the LORD met Moses[a] and was about to kill him. 25 But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it.[b] “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said. 26 So the LORD let him alone. (At that time she said “bridegroom of blood,” referring to circumcision.)

    Why would God want to kill Moses (or is it his son?), especially as he’s on his way to Egypt because God told him to go? Any help? 🙂

    • sammywilliams says:

      This text came up toward the end of Lunch Break Bible Study last Wednesday. It will be the first passage we discuss this week. See you there!

      • Kasey Buckland says:

        Love it! I’m going to try to come! I want to know the answer!
        ok- 2 more questions…..
        1-If God was the one “hardening the hearts” of the Egyptians and Pharoah, then they didn’t really get a fair shot to make “the right decision” and let the Israelites leave on their own accord. Maybe he would have let them go sooner. Did they really have to die in the Red Sea? God kept “hardened their hearts”- is that so the story is that much more impactful?
        2-I’m having a hard time pairing the God of the old testament to him in the New. People didn’t have the “free will” we have now. God called the shots and wasn’t afraid to punish, hurt or wound his people in the Old. Is there an easy way to explain this? You know when people have to act business and tough at work then can come home and feel comfortable and get all vulnerable? (ie-like a police man at work, then family man at home) I’m seeing God like that. Seems like his “work” persona in the old and “home” persona in the New. Help me straighten this out in my head. 🙂

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