“The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, ‘When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.’ The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.”-Exodus 1:1-5
Throughout history, it seems like the enemies of Israel, have in their intense hatred all eventually succumbed to a form of madness in their attempts to harm the Jewish people.
The actions they ended up taking not only harmed the Jews but also caused great damage to themselves.
Come to think of it, this is really no different than a suicide bomber whose seething hate and desire to see his enemies destroyed is so intense that he or she could care less if they die in the process.
Well, the same thing happened with this unnamed Pharaoh in Exodus Chapter one.
He grew so worried and frustrated with the growing Hebrew population, he decided to do something desperate.
He ordered “the midwives of the Hebrews” to ensure that if a baby born from a Hebrew woman was male, he was to be immediately aborted.
This was impractical and stupid because such actions would only serve to decrease his future labor force which would put a serious dent in the Pharaoh’s grand construction plans for the nation.
Fortunately, his plan didn’t pan out because we’re told that the midwives chose to fear God rather than Pharaoh.
So who were these brave midwives we’re told about in the Scriptures?
A midwife was actually a highly respected profession in that era.
Her role was to assist a woman in her labor.
This included washing the newborn, rubbing it down with salt, and cutting the umbilical cord.
Another important role she had was in the case of the birth of twins to testify as to which one popped out first.
In the case of two male twins, this was very important because of the firstborn blessing tradition.
The midwives were very organized and even had their own guild.
Most likely, the two woman Shifra and Pu’a who Pharaoh summoned to oversee the abortion process of male Hebrew babies were the heads of this guild.
Given the probably hundreds of births taking place among the Israelites daily in Egypt, obviously it would have been impossible for Shifra and Pu’a to attend to each birth individually, rather they were in charge of managing the many junior midwives who worked below them.
Now sometimes the question is asked: Were Shifra and Pu’a Hebrews?
Although their names do have a strong Semitic ring to them, they are not Hebrew names.
I believe Shifra and Pu’a were NOT Hebrew for the following reasons:
First, I highly doubt that Pharaoh would have used Hebrew midwives to assist in the murder of their own kind.
Second, these woman pointed out that “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.”
So we know these midwives had experience assisting the births of both Egyptian and Hebrew woman.
However, the Egyptians at this time hated the Hebrews, so I can’t imagine that an Egyptian woman and her family would have tolerated a Hebrew midwife assisting with the birth of their children.
The great spiritual takeaway we glean from this story is that here we are presented with the first recorded instance of civil disobedience in the Scriptures.
I also take away how much the Lord highly values life.
At this time in the world, baby sacrifice was rampant.
Finally, when I studied this part of the Scripture this morning, the evils of abortion were brought home to me with a renewed intensity.