Sermon preached by the Revd Christiane Simpson on Sunday, 7th August 2011 in St Mary’s Market Drayton
PHOTO: Shiphrah and Puah, courageous midwives
The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, “When you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.”
The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.
Posted by Violet Nesdoly on 15 October 2015, Shiphrah and Puah (Artist unknown)
Exodus 1; Matthew 22:15-22
Shiphrah and Puah - I wonder how many of you had heard their names before today – or at any rate, before you saw them written down on our notice sheet? These names may not readily trip off our tongues, but of course our summer sermon series is on unsung heroes of the Bible and these women certainly were heroes – or heroines. They demonstrated great faith in God; they took a stand against evil and injustice; they showed great courage. Because of this they furthered God’s plans and he blessed them.
PHOTO: Puah, Unsung Heroes of the Bible
The name may not readily trip off our tongues, but she demonstrated great faith in God; took a stand against evil and injustice; showed great courage. Because of this God’s plans is carried out and he blessed her.
Paintings by Elspeth Young, "Choose You This Day"
Posted by Heather@Women in the Scriptures on Wednesday, 12 August 2009 at 7:35 PM
Let’s look first at the background to their story. The book of Genesis ends with the death of Joseph who had become the most important official in Pharaoh’s household. His family settled in Egypt and grew into a great nation. On the whole, they continued to worship one God and lived separate lives from the Egyptians who worshiped many gods. The book of Exodus begins about 400 years after Joseph’s death, by which time his story and the debt the Egyptians owed to him had been forgotten.
PHOTO: Shiphrah, the other unsung Heroes of the Bible
Paintings by Elspeth Young, "The Protector"
Posted by Heather@Women in the Scriptures on Wednesday, 12 August 2009 at 7:35 PM
The new king obviously regarded the Hebrew people as a threat to his security. They didn’t share the same customs as his own people. They were increasing in number and he feared they might ally themselves with his enemies and try to overthrow his kingdom. His initial plan was to oppress them and force them into submission by making them work as slaves. This plan didn’t work, as they continued to increase in number even when the slave masters treated them more cruelly and worked them still harder. Now Pharaoh had to come up with a different plan.
PHOTO: The new king obviously regarded the Hebrew people as a threat to his security. His initial plan was to oppress them and force them into submission by making them work as slaves. This plan didn’t work, as they continued to increase in number even when the slave masters treated them more cruelly and worked them still harder.
Posted by John Ritchie, Digital Marketing Agency, London, Neoteric, UK (ISRAELITES IN EGYPT)
Pharoah’s plan was actually to initiate a programme of what we might now describe as ethnic cleansing or genocide (deliberate killing of a large group of people), but he aimed to do this in a subtle way. Rather than attacking the Israelites directly and killing the men who might take up arms against him, he would have the male babies killed, but allow the females to live. He would then have a supply of female slaves until the race eventually died out and his problems would be over. The obvious people to help carry out this plan would be the midwives. Childbirth was a dangerous business for both mother and baby. With very rudimentary medical care, it wouldn’t be unusual for babies to be stillborn or to die shortly after birth.
PHOTO: Shiphrah and Puah allow Israelite children to be born
Pharaoh didn’t know who he was dealing with when he gave this order to the Hebrew midwives. These women were so remarkable that their names have been preserved for us, these thousands of years later. Their names were Shiphrah and Puah. It’s says something that we know their names, but we don’t actually know the name of the Pharaoh. 
"The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live."
Posted by Wisdom and Birth on Friday, 20 July 2012 at 1:56 PM
So, the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, “When you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” Why would he expect Hebrew midwives to obey his orders and kill their own people? Some scholars believe they were actually Egyptian, which would make their compliance more likely. Yet I suspect Pharaoh wouldn’t have considered that anyone would dare to disobey him. He was the most powerful man in the known world, regarded by his own people as a god. These 2 women were no doubt the head midwives. Even so, they would have had little status – they were women and probably members of a subject race. In those times women’s status came through marriage and motherhood. Midwives were usually women who were unable to have children themselves and they found their place in the community by helping other women bring forth new life. They could well have chosen to help him through fear for their own lives or expectation of reward. They could have pleaded that they had no option but to carry out the king’s orders. But the king had reckoned without their faith and integrity.
PHOTO: Bithiah, Pharaoh's Daughter
In the Bible, Bithiah is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 4:18
Pharaoh’s daughter was not a Hebrew – but she displayed the same kind of courage and compassion as the four Hebrew women in this story. She may have been the daughter of the king, but even the daughter of the king was taking a risk by defying her father’s decree. She could have just kept walking along the bank of the river. She could have just looked the other way. She could have just ignored this helpless child. But she didn’t do that. She heard his cries and took pity on him.
There’s an ancient rabbinic tradition that speaks very highly of this Egyptian princess. According to this tradition, God told her that because she took in a child that was not her own, and called him her son, God would take her in and call her his daughter. And just as she gave Moses a new name, God gave her a new name. Instead of being called, in Hebrew, bat-Par’oh, the daughter of Pharaoh, she would be Bat-ya, the daughter of God. 
Painting by Frederick Goodall, The Finding of Moses (1885)
Posted by Jacob Cherian on Monday, 22 July 2013 at 12:12 PM
Of course, it would have been easy for them to dispatch a new-born without anyone being the wiser. It might have looked a bit suspicious when it became apparent that the death rate among boy babies had risen dramatically, but boys often were weaker. Yet, for midwives, whose role was to bring new life into the world, to betray the trust of the women who depended on their help and to actually destroy the lives of the ones they were committed to doing their utmost to save would have been a truly terrible thing. They were being asked to betray their own people and to go against all they stood for. Not only this, they were being asked to betray their faith in God and they couldn’t consent to this. “The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.”
PHOTO: If Pharaoh was only afraid of the Hebrew males, he was seriously underestimating the Hebrew females. Already two Hebrew women had frustrated his plans. And they would not be the last.
Painting by Nicolas Poussin, Pharaoh's Daughter Finds Baby Moses (1638)
Posted by Jacob Cherian on Monday, 22 July 2013 at 12:12 PM
The king feared the Hebrew people. He didn’t trust them; he didn’t understand their way of life. It’s a basic human reaction to be afraid of those we don’t understand, those different from us. Pharaoh’s fear led him to break the most fundamental law basic to all human societies – that of not taking innocent lives. The midwives, however, feared God and this fear was a different kind of fear. The Hebrew word used here means that they revered God, they stood in awe of him, they recognised his power. They had such respect and awe for God that they were able to overcome their natural human fear of the king. The king was afraid of what he didn’t know. The midwives did know God. They trusted in him and had faith that he was in control. They put obedience to him above obedience to men. They were certain that the murder of innocent children was against God’s holy law, so they would have no part in it.
It wasn’t long before the midwives were summoned before the king. Imagine how terrifying it must have been to have to stand there, before this unscrupulous and powerful man and give account of their actions. But they showed great courage and wisdom. No doubt they encouraged each other and drew strength from their faith in God. They made the king believe they’d tried to carry out his plan. They told him, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.”
PHOTO: It was soon clear that Pharaoh had more than met his match when Shiphrah and Puah refused to do what he told them. They feared God, but they didn’t fear Pharaoh, so they let the boys live. When Pharaoh found out, he called them in and demanded to know why they had done this. But Shiphrah and Puah were not intimidated. 
Then the king of Egypt sent for them and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?”
The women answered Pharaoh, “The Hebrew women are not like the women of Egypt, they are strong. They have their babies before we get there.”
Posted by: wwyeshua on 12 April 2015
The king couldn’t disprove this. The Hebrew women were being forced to work hard throughout their pregnancy. This may not have been easy for them, but it could well have made them better prepared for the rigours of birth. By contrast, the Egyptian women would have been shut away in their homes, not taking any exercise and may have needed much more help to give birth.
Although it isn’t apparent from our Bible translation, it appears the midwives might have been telling a kind of racist joke, playing on the king’s prejudices and appealing to his sense of superiority. The word translated as “vigorous” is very similar to the word that means “animal”. They were in effect saying, “Look, these Hebrew women aren’t like your nice, refined, delicate Egyptian ladies - they’re like animals. By the time we get to them they’ve already had the baby. We don’t get any opportunity to do as you ask.” Pharaoh no doubt regarded the Hebrew people as less than human and perhaps used this as an excuse for the way he treated them. We only have to think of the way slaves were once regarded in our own country or of the way the Nazis justified their treatment of Jews, gypsies and people with disabilities.
Because they feared him, God, blessed Shiphrah and Puah and gave them families of their own. Some might argue that they had been deceitful, but their motivation had been to save innocent lives and to honour God. In our gospel reading, Jesus said, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” As Christians we are to obey those in authority, but not when it means disobeying God. God is the creator, the giver of life. Surely it can never be right to wantonly take another’s life.
PHOTO: Jochebed and her daughter, Miriam, came up with a plan to save Moses life
She got a basket made of reeds and coated it with tar and pitch. She turned it into a little ark, in which God’s chosen would ride above the waves and sail to safety. 
They put him in the ark of reeds, floating upon the waters of the Nile towards the Egyptian princess.
Painting by Pedro Américo (1843-1905), Moses and Jochebed (1884)
Posted by Museum syndicate
God also blessed the Hebrew people. They continued to flourish, in spite of all attempts to break their spirits. Finally, the king had to resort to more overt methods. He gave orders to his own people to take any boys born to the Hebrews and throw them into the Nile. As we discover by reading on into the next chapter of Exodus, God also thwarted this plan. A daughter of the tribe of Levi gave birth to a son. She and her daughter came up with a plan to save his life, involving Pharaoh’s own daughter. This child, of course, was Moses, who would grow up to become a great man of God and lead his people out of slavery. As courageous midwives, Shiphrah and Puah were instrumental in bringing to birth this part of God’s plan.
PHOTO: His mother hid him in a basket in the Nile, where an Egyptian princess found him and decided to keep him. This child, of course, was Moses, who would grow up to become a great man of God and lead his people out of slavery. As courageous midwives, Shiphrah and Puah were instrumental in bringing to birth this part of God’s plan.
Posted in Moses HQ WALLPAPER, Moses In The Basket
These two women deserve to be called heroes. They are an example to us in the way they kept faith in God and demonstrated courage and integrity. They stood up for what was right and refused to collaborate with those seeking to do harm. They feared God rather than man. They couldn’t have known what the outcome would be in terms of blessing for themselves and for their whole nation – just as we cannot know what impact our actions may have in the longer term. Their story is a challenge to us to be open to God, to be obedient to his word and to fear and reverence him above all things.
PHOTO: These five women, then, are indispensable to the story of salvation. They are absolutely key to God’s plan of redemption. Without their courage and their compassion, the story of salvation would have been brought to a stop before it had even started. Think of it: we wouldn’t be here today if it had not been for the actions of these women. They truly should be remembered as heroes. 
Miriam, Moses bigger sister
Jochebed mother of Moses
Bithiah the Pharaoh’s daughter (Princess), step-mother of Moses
Shiphrah and Puah the two Hebrew Midwives
The 11th century Jewish rabbi Rashi's Talmud commentary on the passage from Exodus identifies Shiphrah with Jochebed, the mother of Moses, and Puah with Miriam, Moses' sister, making the two midwives mother and daughter respectively (see Google defination).
Jochebed, Jehovah is her glory, the wife of Amram, and the mother of Miriam, Aaron, and Moses (Numbers 26:59). She is spoken of as the sister of Kohath, Amram's father (Exodus 6:16,18, 20; 2:1-10). 
Painting by Edwin Longsden Long (1829 - 1891), The Chosen Five of Crotona, 1885
Posted by Jan Cote on Monday, 8 October 2012
The amazing thing about these women is that they are, with the possible exception of the Pharaoh’s daughter, ordinary people. Their actions are heroic, and yet at the same time these actions are very simple. Anybody could have done them – anybody who had enough courage and enough compassion.
There’s a lesson in that for us. We don’t currently live at a time and in a place where acting compassionately is a matter of life and death. But we never know when we might be called upon to put courageous compassion into effect. The way for us to be ready is to practice – it’s to do small acts of compassion right now, so that we weave compassion into the very fabric of our lives. That way we will be prepared if we are ever called upon to display compassion in dangerous times. 
And there’s something else about those small acts of compassion – we never know what their long term effect is going to be. What may seem like a small gesture may have immense implications. After all, five women saved a single child, and the course of human history was forever changed. 
PHOTO: Heavenly Father, teach us to reverence and trust You more and more. Thank You for blessing and protecting those who fear You with Life! What a precious gift! We pray in Jesus' name. Amen!
A prayer and desire is found in Psalm 115:13, 14. "He will bless those who fear the Lord, both small and great. May the Lord give you increase more and more, you and your children." 
Painting by Edwin Long (1886), The discovery of Moses, Pharaoh's Daughter Finds Baby Moses
 THE FIVE WOMEN WHO SAVED MOSES, Posted by Thornhill Baptist Church, http://www.thornhillbaptist.ca/main.php?prm=28,6
 Jochebed , Dictionaries - Easton's Bible Dictionary - Jochebed, http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/jochebed/
Exodus 1 - https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+1&version=NIV
Exodus 1:1-22 - https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+1%3A1-22&version=NIV
Exodus 6:16,18, 20; 2:1-10 - https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+6%3A16%2C18%2C+20%3B+2%3A1-10&version=NIV
Matthew 22:15-22 - https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+22%3A15-22&version=NIV
Numbers 26:59 - https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+++26%3A59&version=NIV
Psalm 115:13, 14 - https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+115%3A13%2C+14&version=NIV
- http://knowingjesuschrist.com/devotionals/exodus/shiphrah-and-puah-exodus-1 - Texts