Exodus 1:15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 16 “When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.” 17 But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. 18 So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?” 19 The 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.” 20 So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong.
The account of the two midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, is set in a scene of overwhelming cruelty and oppression. The King of Egypt has enslaved the people of Israel having set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor Ex1:11 who are ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them Ex 1:14. Yet out of this misery comes a moment of great courage. The women disregard the edict of death imposed by the empire and instead choose to remain faithful to life. And so is recounted the first biblical example of individual moral resistance to an empire. Continue reading “Reflections on the Hebrew Midwives”