Shiprah and Puah – the courageous midwives.

Exodus takes up the story of the descendants of Jacob, who are now living in Egypt.  The descendants of the family invited by the Pharoah grateful to Joseph, are now numerous and the Pharoah now ruling has no memory of Joseph.  As their numbers have increased, toleration has decreased and so they are now living under a hostile regime being made to work as slaves.

“In all their work the Egyptians treated them harshly”. 

In order to re-balance this perceived problem, Pharoah ordered that the Hebrew midwives should kill all their new born boys, but could allow girls to live.

Shiprah and Puah, two God-fearing Hebrew midwives, did not obey the earthly commands of Pharoah and let the boys live.  Pharoah, noticing that there were plenty of Hebrew boys, called them before him to explain themselves.

Well said these two rather clever women – Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women. 

“They are vigorous and give birth even before a midwife arrives.”

No-one of course records if this assertion was true and indeed if Pharoah believed them.  However, he realised that these two good women would stand firm and so he made another order that all baby boys born to the Hebrews should be thrown in the Nile, although girls’ could be allowed to live.

Shiprah and Puah – just a glimpse of two women working under difficult circumstances and reconciling following the precepts of God and the commands of their earthly rulers.  We are told that:

“God blessed the midwives, and the people increased…because the midwives feared God, he made them mothers of families.”

Next time, we will look at one mother who ensured that her baby survived the cruel command of Pharoah.

Shiphrah, Puah, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved April 2, 2021].

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