Women in a field holding a Bible

Celebrating Women of the Bible: Shiphrah and Puah

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Many of the stories in the Bible took place during dark times politically and socially: the book of Exodus is no exception. The Israelites were reproducing like rabbits, which was not a good thing for Pharaoh. He didn’t like the idea of this other people group gaining numbers and growing stronger because they could ultimately lead to a revolt of his precious kingdom. So he made them slaves and forced them to build Egypt and placed heavy burdens upon them. He changed the conversation in society so that the Egyptians would hate and fear the Israelites. Then he unleashed his pièce de résistance: kill all the Hebrew boys.

This hurts my heart and makes me want to punch someone in the face all at the same time. But, it’s upon this dark backdrop that the amazing will and providence of God is shown through two of the most unlikely heroes: Hebrew midwives.

Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?” The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.”
Exodus 1:15-21 (ESV)

Pharaoh so underestimated these women; in his mind, there was no way they were ever going to be a threat to him. He was untouchable, his plan was perfect, and he was going to have his way. But God saw differently.

Whether you’re male or female it’s easy to feel overlooked or insignificant. How many times do we look at the world around us and wonder how we can make a difference? How often do the voices of doubt whisper in our ears? Or how many times do we question if we have a calling?

Now, can you imagine how these women felt? It would’ve been frightening to disobey the man who could destroy you. And yet, they obeyed God rather than man.

So, I ask you: is there any area that you fear man more than God? Or have gone against what you know to be right all to please someone else?

Ouch. I don’t like asking these questions because I have to answer them myself. I’ll be the first one to raise my hand and say that I’ve done this and do this more often than I’d like to admit.

Today, I want to encourage all of us (myself included) to take a page out of the midwives’ playbook and choose to obey God instead of aiming to please man. It could be something as little as choosing to go home and spend time with your family instead of raking in the overtime. Or choosing not to go see that movie despite the peer pressure you feel. Or spending time with the Lord instead of whatever activity you know isn’t life-giving.

These women were absolutely incredible! And I believe we can celebrate them and honor God by intentionally living differently. Let’s start today!

To go Deeper: Read Unnamed: Pilate’s Wife, Just Obey
Watch Days of Darkness


  1. Reblogged this on Work in Progress and commented:

    One of the things that I absolutely adore about the Lord is that he doesn’t have a clear job interview process. He doesn’t sit people down and ask them a list of formal questions. No prior skills are required, no special degrees are encouraged. Instead, he simply asks for willingness.

    In fact, he tends to pick the most unlikely of the bunch to use for his purposes. And I’m so grateful for that!

    It’s easy to believe the lie that we’ll never do anything of note in this life or what we’re working on won’t amount to much, but example after example in the Bible proves this wrong. The Lord can and does use each of us in our spheres of influence to positively impact those around us. He used two Hebrew midwives to defy the King’s unjust order to change the course of a nation.

    Who knows what one small step of faith and obedience can accomplish today!


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