Friday, March 17, 2023
Shiphrah and Puah
18So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, ‘Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?’ 19The 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.’ 20So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. 21And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. Exodus 1:18-21
Most of us are familiar with the characters of the book of Exodus. We know about Moses and his siblings, Aaron and Miriam. We are probably aware of Pharoah and his daughter, who rescued Moses as a baby from the Nile. We maybe even know about Joshua, who led the Israelites into the promised land after Moses died. But do you know about Shiphrah (shif ruh) and Puah (poo ah)? They are mentioned in Exodus 1:15-21.
Shiphrah and Puah were midwives in Egypt. Their job was to deliver babies. In this passage they receive orders from Pharaoh to not let any Hebrew baby boys live. For Pharaoh the Israelites were growing in number and becoming too powerful. This was happening even though the Israelites were under slavery and oppressed. Pharaoh wanted their number to decrease, and he asked the midwifes to help him.
What did Shiphrah and Puah do? Did they obey Pharaoh? No. They let the Hebrew babies live and, on top of that, they lied to Pharaoh. They told Pharaoh the Hebrew women are too good at birthing babies. The babies arrive before the midwives arrive!
I think the midwives were in a difficult place. It was a hard choice. Should they disobey their leader or should they follow their conscience? Because they feared and respected God, they chose to allow the babies to live. As a result, the midwives were blessed and the Israelites multiplied.
When faced with a difficult choice, as hard as it may be, we need to follow the midwives’ example and choose right over wrong, love over hate. We also need to be advocates, to take risks to help someone needing help. What difficult choice are you facing? Who needs you to be their advocate? May you be reminded of Shiphrah and Puah as you face these questions.
Prayer: God thank you for midwives. Thank you for the ministry of Shiphrah and Puah. Help me fear and respect God in all my decisions. Help me be an advocate for all people. Amen
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