Women of Welcome
I (Bri) suspect that it wasn’t long before Pharaoh received word that the midwives did not obey his command. Imagine receiving orders to return to the palace and appear before Pharaoh after you intentionally defied his orders. How frightening! Was Pharaoh’s anger the only thing to fear? I assume Shiphrah and Puah had a long list of fears, including (but not limited to) how Hebrew families would respond to them killing their children or how their friends in the community would disown them for such a heinous act.
If you were a midwife, intentionally killing babies couldn’t be good for business. How would you continue in your profession after word got out? Not only that, infanticide was a crime in most countries at that time. Pharaoh had asked them to do something he couldn’t do. He wanted Shiphrah and Puah to quietly commit illegal acts of genocide and do so with the utmost loyalty.
In disbelief of their insubordination, the king called the midwives back into his court, “Why have you let the male children live?” Their reason: “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” Now, most commentators suggest this statement was partially true. Exodus 1 tells us the Hebrews “increased greatly,” and it’s reasonable to believe there weren’t enough midwives to go around (catching every infant at the moment of birth). Still, we know from verse 17 that their response to the king wasn’t completely straightforward. Shiphrah and Puah feared God. That was their reason.
Egyptians paid tribute to many gods: gods of wisdom, vengeance, sun, stars, and even fertility. The Hebrews worshiped one God while living among Egyptians who worshiped many gods, but something was obvious throughout the region: The Hebrews were flourishing. Despite their oppression and ruthless slavery, they were blessed.
The Hebrews’ God was different. Their God was present and active in their lives.
Whether these midwives were Egyptians or Hebrews, they feared Elohim (the living God) more than anyone else. Pharaoh had asked the unthinkable, overestimating his power in their hearts. While they had every reason to fear Pharaoh, their fear of Elohim instilled a boldness that saved lives and an entire nation.te.