Women of Welcome
From World Relief

Our study begins with the descendants of Jacob living in the land of Goshen because of God’s provision through Joseph’s relationship with Pharaoh. 

The people of God were flourishing and multiplying throughout the region. They were given some of the best lands in the area and most likely given the best tools and supplies needed to farm and feed Pharaoh’s livestock. After years of family disputes and famine, the Hebrew people found themselves thriving, living in a place of privilege (Ex. 1:7) among their Egyptian neighbors. 

During this time in history (1900–1700 BC), power struggles between competing kingdoms were common, and regional takeovers were a legitimate concern. Exodus 1:8–14 says that a new king arose over Egypt, one that did not know Joseph and therefore began to fear the flourishing of the Hebrew people. Because of his fear, Pharaoh decided to “deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us.” As the oppressive burdens increased, so did the blessing of children among Hebrew families. Here enter the midwives. 

Biblical commentaries suggest these midwives could have been Hebrew (they had Hebrew names) or Egyptian (as conversations seem to set them apart as superintendents of other Hebrew midwives). Whether they were Hebrew or Egyptian seemed irrelevant to their profession. Shiphrah and Puah were important members of society. Their team of midwives was busy with the multitude of Hebrew births. 

Midwives provided emotional, physical, and spiritual support to women in their most vulnerable childbearing stages. They were witnesses to the miracle of life constantly. Entering the homes of thousands of families, they helped newly born infants catch their first breath. Their presence in these moments most likely created a close bond with women throughout the community. 

“Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, ‘When you serve as a midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live’” (Ex. 1:15–16). 

Can you imagine what it must have felt like to be told by the most powerful leader in the region to betray your profession, your neighbor, another woman, or a mother? 

You’re a trusted friend to thousands of families in your city, and now you’re being asked to do the unthinkable. You’re asked to betray the very instincts and values ingrained into your being. You’re asked to betray humanity. What depth of shock and grief must have pulsed through their veins as they stood before Pharaoh and heard this command? 

How could they ever be expected to do such a thing? 

I (Bri) imagine these two women leaving Pharaoh’s presence, walking down the palace steps, and back into their community. The agony in their hearts must have been unbearable.

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