Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, of whom the name of one was Shiphrah and the name of the other Puah; and he said, “When you do the duties of a midwife for the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstools, if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.” But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive. So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this thing, and saved the male children alive?” And the midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are lively and give birth before the midwives come to them.” Therefore God dealt well with the midwives, and the people multiplied and grew very mighty. And so it was, because the midwives feared God, that He provided households for them. (Exodus 1:15-21)
Two Women Of Courage
Shiphrah and Puah are two unknown heroes of scripture. As the story of the Hebrew exodus unfolds it begins with a horrible decree by the most powerful ruler on earth. The Egyptian Pharaoh orders Shiphrah and Puah, Hebrew midwives, to kill all the Hebrew boys that were to be born. The descendants of Abraham have multiplied to numbers so large there is concern if something is not done the country will be overwhelmed by these foreigners. A solution was put in place to keep in check the rise of the Hebrew slaves. Infanticide was made legal by order of Pharaoh and to deny his will would mean certain death to the women. What Pharaoh had not realized was the faith of these two women would set in motion events that would bring about the downfall of the nation of Egypt.
Leaving the place of Pharaoh Shiphrah and Puah had a decision to make. If they denied the kings command they would be killed. Their fears were not so much about what Pharaoh would do but rather how God would deal with them. Courage filled their hearts as they decided to deny the king’s command. When the midwives began to serve the birth of the Hebrews they did not kill any babies but rather preserved them. Hearing the news Pharaoh ordered the midwives to his court. Demanding a reason for his command not being followed the women suggest the Hebrew women are so lively they cannot stop the birth in time. Pharaoh then directs every Egyptian citizen if they hear of a Hebrew male child being born they are to throw the baby into the Nile river. The faith of Shiphrah and Puah preserve them.
There was great faith in standing against Pharaoh in the beginning. Greater faith was found in the action of the women when a baby born was born not to destroy them. And then a much larger faith came when called to the court of Pharaoh the women trusted in the Lord to deliver them. As a reward for their faithfulness God dealt kindly with the women providing households for them.
In all the generations of godly people heroes arise who are the common people of faith. The only mention of Shiphrah and Puah is found in our text yet because of their faith a great story of courage is preserved for thousands of years. They were simple women. No fanfare. Nothing to make them stand out except they were women serving the people in that age old profession of midwives. We need women like Shiphrah and Puah to stand for the Lord today. Simple women who show their faith by their courage. To deny the command of Pharaoh was no small matter. Today we need women who will take stands of courage to follow the will of God and deny the influence of a world filled with sin. Women who will dress themselves modestly in clothing showing Christ in their lives. Young ladies who will refuse to fall prey to the sexual perversion of worldly lusts. Christian wives who submit to the oversight of their husbands as the church to Christ. Mothers who instill the love of God in their children instead of the love of the world. Grandmothers who lead and teach younger women to love their husbands, guide the family and build a home of courageous living.
Shiphrah and Puah found their reward in trusting God the Father. Women of faith. Women of action. Two of God’s saints who denied the most powerful man on the earth because they feared the One who was greater.
To stand held only by the invisible chains of higher duty, and, so standing, to let the fire creep up to the heart – that is truer heroism. (Phillips Brooks; 1835-1893, Perennials from)