All throughout the bible God shows himself time and again as being the one who has our backs. He is the one who knows our needs before we ask, before we have realized that we even have a problem! In the Garden of Eden, we see God knowing that Adam would need a companion, and provided him with one.
In Exodus, we see God providing for Moses before he is even born. Egypt has a new Pharaoh who is frightened at the growth of the sons of Israel. This Pharaoh is concerned that the Hebrews would turn against Egypt if an enemy nation would come against them. Because of his fear, he devises a plan in Exodus 1:15-16, “Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah, and the other was named Puah; and he said, ‘When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.”’ Moses wasn’t even born yet and the Pharaoh was planning his death but, God had his back.
There are some interesting points in verses 15-16. The first question that comes to my mind is what are midwives doing having an audience in front of the pharaoh? Commentators and scholars debate about these midwives. The controversy is that if they are just ordinary midwives why would the pharaoh entertain them? The pharaoh was very particular who he allowed an audience with. Also, were these two midwives, charged with helping to give birth to all of the Hebrew women? I believe that these women led all of the midwives. The pharaoh called them to him because as leaders he was giving them instructions regarding his plan. These women were highly regarded in their field, not lowly regarded, because of their skill as health practitioners, and they also functioned in the religious realm. They were seen as women who had control over life and death which gave them power.
Another question that arises in these verses is are these midwives Egyptian or Hebrew? W.F. Albright states, ‘“Shiphrah” and “Puah” are thus perfectly good Northwest Semitic names of women from the first half of the second millennium.” “Shiphrah” means “to be beautiful” and “Puah” (comes from an unused root) meaning to glitter, be brilliant and another source defines it as “girl”. So these midwives appear to be Hebrew women who are known to the pharaoh and function under him. God placed these women in the exact position, and right time so that they could save Moses’ life.
In verse 17 we see how the midwives reacted to pharaohs orders; “But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live.” This took great courage to take a stand against pharaoh. So many times in our lives we arrive at a crossroad and instead of trusting God, we wimp out and not take a stand. The midwives did take a stand and now they were called back to pharaoh and he said in verse 18, “Why have you done this thing, and let the boys live”? At this point these women could have been frightened at the accusation and succumbed to the fear.
Instead, look at what they said to the pharaoh in verse 19 from the Tree of Life version, “The midwives told Pharaoh, ‘Because the Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women. They are like animals, and give birth before the midwife comes to them.’” The midwives here are using the Egyptian prejudice, hostility and fear of the Hebrews as an excuse as to why they couldn’t get to kill the male children. It’s like the midwives are saying, “you know these women are just like animals!” The Egyptians had such prejudice towards the Hebrews that this answer to Pharaoh fits into their preconceived view of them as being subservient animals.
Shiphrah and Puah’s faithfulness was rewarded with a blessing from the Lord in verse 21; “And because the midwives feared God, He established households for them.” The word “households” has the promise of a future with children for these midwives. God has their back and has provided through them for Moses to be saved from Pharaoh’s orders. This promise from God is important because throughout this chapter God is orchestrating events so that His people could survive and prosper.
God hasn’t changed. God still has your back, just trust Him.