Shiphrah and Puah

Scripture References: Exodus 1:1-21

There are some characters in the Bible who are mentioned in few verses but teach us more precious lessons to apply in our lives. Today we are going to see such characters from Exodus – they are Shiprah and Puah.

  1. Who were these two women and what was their role?

 We know from Genesis chapter 42-50, how during Joseph’s time there was a famine. Jacob and his sons along with their families came to Egypt and settled there. Around 70 people. God blessed them and multiplied them. Then came a period, when Joseph and all the sons of Jacob died, there was this new generation, who knew nothing about Joseph. They saw these Israelites as a great threat, because the Israelites grew more in strength and in number. So the new King of Egypt ordered his people to oppress and afflict them. They were subjected to hard and forced labor. But more they were afflicted, more they multiplied and grew. At this point of time the King of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of them was Shiphrah and the other was named Puah and there we see these two women.

Now talking about their role, they were Midwives. Midwives are ones, who help women in labor to deliver safely. They were Hebrew midwives, which means they were Israelites, who were put in charge to take care of their own women who were due to deliver.

2.What were the instructions given to them and what did they do?

The King instructed them to kill all the Hebrew male child at the time of labour and let the girl child live. The King wickedly thought by doing this the Israelites would not grow, would not rebel and would not become a threat to his nation.

But what did these two women do? They feared God and didn’t do as the king ordered them. Rather they left them alive. When king questioned them?  They replied “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are lively and give birth before the midwives come to them.”

3.As a result of their doing, what happened?

God blessed them and dealt well with the midwives. God blessed them with family and multiplied them too.

4.Lessons to learn from the life of Shiphrah and Puah :

a. To fear and obey God, more than men.

Our first priority should always be to obey God. At a human level as women, we are called to be submissive to our husband. As a citizen of a nation, we are called to submit to the rulers and authorities God has put over us.  But our first priority should always be God. If any human authority comes in contradiction to what God has commanded, we should fear and obey God and not me, be it our husband or our boss at workplace or any ruler primarily we should obey God.

b. Their wise reply to the King.

Response of these women to the king was partial truth.  Since these Hebrew people were oppressed and forced to hard work,  that would have caused these Hebrew women to be lively (strong) and have an easy delivery. We see this even today. Doctors tell women to be active, do walking and all household works, so they might have a minimal pain and a normal delivery.  God gave these women wisdom in the way they answered the king.  They replied in such a way that King couldn’t reply back or doubt them.  Though what they shared wouldn’t have been complete truth, they shared partial truth rather than lying.  We must seek God’s wisdom and learn to answer wisely when we are put in these kind of situations. It would be easy to tell a lie but God hates lying. It is good to seek God’s wisdom and tell the truth, a very important lesson which we learn from these women.  This is not lying.  We need to understand the biblical principle that God doesn’t expect us to tell everyone everything. If we foresee that sharing some information may lead the other person to do evil, we can rightly  hide that information from them and this doesn’t amount to lying.

c. Blessings of the Lord

God indeed blesses those who fears him, trusts him and stands firm by keeping his command. They didn’t do all these thinking or expecting God to bless them. But God sees every obedience and rewards in right time. Here by their act of obedience, God not only blessed these midwives, but through them he blessed the whole nation. Because of their obedience, Moses’s life was spared and not killed as a baby. He later delivered the whole nation from Egypt. Sometimes we don’t know what will come out of our obedience. When we obey God faithfully not only our lives but generations will be blessed. God does all things for his glory.

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