Summary: Ordinary women who possessed a courage that was remarkable. In their actions they mirrored the very nature of God – God is the giver and sustainer of life.


“But the midwives were God-fearing women: they disobeyed the command of the king of Egypt and let the boys live” (Exodus 1: 17).

The scene is set for us, “…there came to power in Egypt a new king who knew nothing of Joseph” (v. 8). He was a king who saw the increasing population of the Israelites in the land of Egypt and became anxious. Egypt’s national security was considered to be under threat. As a result of this perceived emergency the Hebrew people were enslaved. Oppression and cruelty were the result of a suspicious king to the point that the Hebrew slaves’ lives became unbearable.

Seemingly, forced labour was not enough to rid the Egyptian king of his insecurities concerning the people of God. The Egyptian king was given to genocide! The evil Egyptian king formulated a wicked scheme. He summoned Shiphrah and Puah; the Hebrew midwives and instructed them to kill every boy that was born to a Hebrew woman. Shiphrah and Puah disobeyed the king’s command - they spared the boys (v. 18).

Shiphrah and Puah are recorded in Israelite history as ‘saviours’. They were ordinary women who possessed a courage that was remarkable. Without concern for themselves they sought to preserve life rather than take life. In their actions they mirrored the very nature of God – God is the giver and sustainer of life.

At this moment in time, goodness and evil were doing battle, and the women were formidable opponents. With proper respect for God, they stood their ground and were not willing accomplices. These unknown women emerge as heroines and rightly so. In a male dominated society, these women used their initiative. Moreover, they were prepared to face up to the anger of the king. And it is that determination that God blessed - the women who safeguarded the lives of infants were rewarded with families of their own (v. 21).

Shiphrah and Puah are not insignificant women!

The reality of life suggests that evil will raise its ugly head when we least expect it. The question then arises “When evil is present are we ready to face up to it?” These women were ready – they reverenced God (v. 21).

If the evil that the Egyptian king had devised had of succeeded, God’s plan of salvation for mankind would have finished there and then. Thus, these women earn a rightful place in the unfolding salvation story.

Shiphrah and Puah leave an example for us to emulate. They stood against evil. The frail resources of two women had succeeded in outdoing the power of a tyrant. The reality is a godly person has might and power beyond themselves!

As quickly as they appear on the biblical stage the two disappear. And we are told of the next stage in the Egyptian king’s evil plan, to throw all baby boys into the river (v. 21). We are left to wonder whether Shiphrah and Puah fair well in the ensuing slaughter of innocents. It would have been safer for them if they had no children! However, the women had already shown their resolve, and even if they faced a ‘double jeopardy’, there is every indication that they would remain true to God. Job, a man well acquainted with suffering uttered - “Let him kill me; I have no other hope than to justify my conduct in his eyes” (Job 13: 15).

Yes, Shiphrah and Puah are courageous women! Against all odds they remained faithful.

How do we measure up?

To use the words of Job, “I have no other hope than to justify my conduct in his eyes.”

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