The decree from Pharaoh to kill Hebrew male babies must have caused unbearable suffering to the midwives. When Pharaoh ordered the Hebrew baby boys killed, however, he asked the wrong people. Hebrew midwives helped women give birth, caring for the baby until the mother regained her strength. Most midwives were friends, neighbors, or relatives of the mothers. Shiphrah and Puah may have been leaders representing the large number of midwives the Hebrew women would've needed. Consider the midwives in the story of Moses' birth found in Exodus 1:15-22.
Surely, the midwives must've suffered at Pharaoh's order to selectively murder innocent children. Suffering manifests itself both physically and emotionally. The killing of Hebrew sons would've eliminated the perceived military threat; daughters could be absorbed into Egyptian society as servants and wives. Unknown to Pharaoh, the success of his plans would've destroyed the Hebrews as a distinct people with whom God kept His covenant promises. I disagree. Pharaoh knew what he wanted to do. He desired the society to serve his own selfish needs rather than concern for the welfare of the people. In a culture where preserving a person's name was important, the names of the midwives are given, but Pharaoh's name isn't. I wonder why. An oversight on the part of Moses, the author of Exodus? Or Pharaoh's fear of the Hebrew's God. In my opinion, it was no oversight, but an unbearable suffering on the part of Pharaoh. He knew what he decreed was wrong. These women showed their faith by playing a vital part in God's plan by giving them courage to take a stand for what they knew was right.
In verse 21, we read how God provided the midwives with "households" because they feared Him. Yet, I don't believe it was fear of Him motivating them or the promise of a reward for doing what was right. I believe the midwives saved the babies out of their love for the women they helped to continue the human race.
The Bible is filled with examples of those willing to sacrifice their lives to obey God or save the lives of others. God doesn't expect us to obey authority figures when they ask us to disobey Him or His Word. These women showed great love for God by risking their lives to disobey Pharaoh's command. In this situation, disobeying the authority was proper. Against Pharaoh's orders, the midwives spared the lives of the Hebrew babies.
Did God bless the Hebrew wives for lying to Pharaoh? Yes, but not because they lied. God blessed the midwives for keeping His law, forbidding the senseless slaughter of innocent lives.
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