If you had asked me this past Saturday who Shiphrah and Puah are, I would have responded, “Uh………you know, as familiar as those names sound, I’m just not remembering Shiphrah and Puah right now.” Perhaps some of you know of these two women, but I would have drawn a blank. Not now, though. Yesterday’s message at church from Exodus 1 reintroduced me to these two women, and I’m very thankful for that privilege.
For a little background, the people of Israel had traveled to Egypt under the rule of Joseph. Jacob’s family grew and grew, filling the land of Egypt and becoming mighty. All the original Israelites had died, including Jacob and Joseph, as well as the Pharaoh who knew and loved Joseph. A new king arose over Egypt who did not know Joseph. This king became fearful of the numbers of Israelites who lived in the land, thinking that if there was war then the Israelites would join with the enemy and overtake Egypt. Therefore, this king made the Israelites become slaves……….but the more he afflicted the people of Israel, the more they multiplied and spread out.
Seeing that Plan A wasn’t working, this Pharaoh moved on to Plan B. He ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill all the boy babies that were born, thinking that this barbaric form of birth control would limit the growth of the Israelites and thus eventually rid Egypt of the Jews. This is where Shiphrah and Puah come in. They were midwives……….probably two chief midwives. Pharaoh instructed them to kill the boy babies that were born to the Israelite women but to keep the girl babies alive. Simple enough, right?
But Pharaoh didn’t count on one complication. Exodus 1:17 says, “BUT the midwives feared God…….” This fear of God forced Shiphrah and Puah to make a decision. Verse 17 continues, “……….and did not do as the King of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live.” So sure enough, Pharaoh found out that Shiphrah and Puah were not killing baby Israelite boys………and he called these two midwives to come in for a little meeting.
I don’t know how Shiphrah and Puah felt at this point, but I imagine they were more than a little scared. This is Pharaoh, who had no qualms about killing innocent baby boys and other Israelites as well. From everything that was going on around him………….everything that he had initiated concerning the Jews…………..this Pharaoh seems more than a tad bit brutal. I wish we knew all that was said at this appearance before Pharaoh. I love thinking of the bravery of Shiphrah and Puah! Yet it goes far beyond being brave.
Shiphrah and Puah were obedient to God, first and foremost. I imagine that they feared Pharaoh………..but they feared God more. This is the fear of God that involves reverence OF Him, and trust IN Him. It’s the fear of God that Peter and the apostles had when they were given strict orders by the authorities not to teach about Jesus anymore………and Peter answered in Acts 5:29, “We must obey God rather than men.”
So back to Egypt. I had never paid much attention to the fact that in verses 20 and 21, God lets us know that He was “good to the midwives.” Verse 21 clearly says that “…….because the midwives feared God, that He established households for them.” God blessed them and was good to them because of their obedience.
I really like Shiphrah and Puah. I love the example they have set for me…………an example that is both profound and yet very simple. Obedience to God comes first, in every single area of my life. Obedience takes many different forms for each of us, but in whatever area that God is requiring obedience to Him, it’s best to obey. Solomon said it so well in Ecclesiastes 8:12, “Although a sinner does evil a hundred times and may lengthen his life, still I know that it will be well for those who fear God – who fear Him openly.”
Shiphrah and Puah probably wondered if they would have their heads cut off……….or worse………..as they stood before the king and declared their loyalty to God. I don’t know what my obedience to God will cost me, but obey I must. I do know that God promises it will be well for me if I obey. His blessings take various forms, and some we won’t see until eternity. But we can take God at His word and know that it will be well for us when we fear Him, and fear Him openly.
Shiphrah and Puah are amazing! Not because they were women, or because they stood up to mean old Pharaoh, or because they saved babies………all of which are important…….but they are amazing because they obeyed God above anyone and anything. That’s the kind of amazing I want to be, every day, through good and bad. Whatever the pressure……whatever the decision………whatever the pain……….whatever the outcome………
Fearing and obeying God!