The Midwives of Israel
Women of Integrity
By Susan E. Todd
(Exodus 1:15-21)

(Exodus 1:15-21) And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah: And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live. But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive. And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men children alive? And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them. Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty. And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses.

Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, the most powerful man in the land, summons Shiphrah and Puah, two Hebrew midwives, and commands them to kill all the male children born to the Israelites in Egypt. His specific instructs to them are to kill the sons and to let the daughters live. Why did Pharaoh issue such a harsh edict? We have to go back to the beginning of the chapter for the answer to that question. Verse seven tells us that, " ... the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them." The growing nation of Israel posed a threat to the Egyptians. So they attempted to control the population by killing all the male babies.

The Egyptians had a big problem: too many foreigners. They thought they had a great solution: infanticide. There was only one hitch. God didn't approve of it. Let's see what happened.

The Bible says the midwives feared God therefore they disobeyed Pharaoh and allowed the male children to live.

I imagine a period of time passed, maybe one or two years, or even a few more and Pharaoh, noticing that they seemed to be little boys running around, summoned the midwives once again. He wants an explanation. Why haven't the midwives been doing as he said and killing the male babies? Why are these boys being allowed to live?

The midwives lie to Pharaoh. They tell Pharaoh that the Hebrew women deliver their babies before the midwives arrive to assist them. What??? Lie!!! Why that's a sin, isn't it? Yes, of course it is. Wasn't God mad at them? Didn't God punish them?

Let's continue with our story and see what God does. The Bible says God dwelt with them. Dwelt means to delay, abide, remain or linger in a place; to abide as a permanent resident or to inhabit for a time.

When Pharaoh told them to commit murder they did not have to think about what they should do. Why? God dwelled in them. He was a part of their lives. They didn't have to go and find Him. He was already there.

The Bible also says that God rewarded them. For what? For disobedience? No. For fearing God. Acts 5:29 says, "" Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men." This is right after Peter and the apostles were thrown in prison for preaching the gospel. An angel of the Lord let them out and charged them saying, "Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life." (verse 20).

What did they do? They packed up their few belongings and went back home murmuring and complaining about how badly they were treated. Right? That's not what it says in my Bible. Verse 21 tells us, "And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught..."

If we continue on with the story in verses 41 and 42 we read, "And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ."

Why did they do this? Why did they defy the authorities that had them imprisoned and beaten for preaching the gospel? We just read the answer. It is better to obey God than men. Human government should never override God's laws. Peter knew this. Paul knew this. The Hebrew midwives knew this. It is something we need to learn.

These women knew that they could have died for their disobedience to Pharaoh but they feared God more than what man could do to them. And the Bible says that God rewarded them by building their houses.

Now what does that mean? Are we talking about physical houses here? Did the Lord build them a nice little cottage by the sea? No. Don't forget that they were still in bondage like the rest of the Israelites. So what house did God build for them? He built their heritage; their legacy; their lineage. And not just the midwives but all the people of Israel. He gave them children as an inheritance. God prospered them.

(1 Kings 11:38) And it shall be, if thou wilt hearken unto all that I command thee, and wilt walk in my ways, and do that is right in my sight, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did; that I will be with thee, and build thee a sure house, as I built for David, and will give Israel unto thee. The Lord is speaking to Solomon's son, Jeroboam, here. We read in the beginning of this chapter that Solomon turned from the Lord and worshipped the strange gods of his wives. Therefore, God took the kingdom away from him and gave it to his son. God gave Jeroboam the same promise that He gave Solomon. If you keep my commandments and walk in my way, I will build your house. Unfortunately, Jeroboam eventually became apostate too.

(Psalm 127:1) Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. This is a verse that we often use in the ministry and is often misunderstood by people. Once again, this is not talking about a physical building but about people. Those of us in the ministry labor for souls to be saved and people to grow spiritually, not for buildings. Especially on the mission field, our "church" meets wherever it has to, be it a building (warehouse, office, auditorium); an apartment; a tent or a field. The church is not a building but the body of believers.

Getting back to the subject of obeying God or man let me ask you a question: what choice will you make?

On your job have you ever been asked to lie, to cheat, to steal, or to do something that you knew was morally and/or legally wrong? Have you ever been asked to compromise your beliefs, your standards and your values for the sake of your job? What did you do? What should you do?

As a Christian there should be no doubt how you should handle it. If God truly dwells in you then He will be very close and you should not even have to think about your response. It should come as natural as breathing.

The first thing to do when you take a job is to set the rules with your employer. They have rules that you have to obey in order to keep your job. So must also have rules that they have to obey in order for you to continue working for them. What should some of those rules be? No lying: "Don't ask me." No cheating: "Don't even think about it." No stealing: "Out of the question." No immorality: "No way!" No compromising: "Ever."

No Job??? Fine! Keep looking. Make it clear up front that you are a Christian and that you do not believe in those things, will not tolerate them, nor will you participate in them. If you are hired PLEASE understand that you WILL be tested. "Just this once, I'll never ask you to do it again, I promise." "If so-and-so was here I'd ask her but she is out to lunch right now and I need this done right away." "There will be a nice big bonus waiting for you." Make sure that you pass the test. Your reputation, your testimony and the cause of Christ are at stake.

Before you hit me with all the "what ifs" let me give you this rule of thumb. If what you are asked to do is contrary to what is written in the Bible then don't do it. Period. The answer must be "NO!" Now, that means that you have to be in your Bible to know what God expects of you. OUCH!!! If you are not close to God it will be a lot harder to make the right choice and it will also be a lot harder to get in touch with Him when you need His help.

Determine in your mind that you may have to quit your job or be fired when you take a stand to do right.

If you have a job now where you have had to do immoral, unethical or illegal things in the past then make up your mind whether you will continue doing them, and obey man, or you will stop, and obey God. If you want to stop and make a fresh start then determine right now what you will say the next time a situation for evil presents itself. And you know it will. The devil will see to it.

Be prepared to quit if you have to. You may struggle for a while financially but God has promised that he will provide for you if you will obey Him.

The same applies to friends and associations that you have that you know are displeasing to the Lord. What choice will you make where they are concerned? Will you continue in these relationships just to make those people happy or will you take a stand against them? What if some of these people claim to be Christians? Remember 1 Corinthians 15:33, "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners." If they are trying to get you to do wrong then either they are not really saved or they are horribly backslidden. If that is the case do not join them in their sin.

(Joshua 24:15) And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

Not only do you need to obey the Lord, but like the Hebrew midwives, you need to fear the Lord. Fear can mean many things including worship of God and respect or reverence.

Psalm 111:10 says, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever."

Proverbs 1:7 says, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction." What is fear? In this context it is the law and the Word of God.

Isaiah 33:6 tells us that " . wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the LORD is his treasure." The fear of the Lord brings both wisdom and knowledge and gives us the stability that we need in times of trouble. It is like a treasure. And like a treasure it is valuable and something wonderful to possess.

Besides the Hebrew midwives there are others in the Bible who feared God.

(Genesis 42:18) And Joseph said unto them the third day, This do, and live; for I fear God: Joseph feared God and Joseph was tested. Joseph didn't think twice when he was seduced by Potiphar's wife, "should I or shouldn't I." He knew he shouldn't and he knew what to do. It could have cost him his life but God rewarded him. Joseph passed the test.

(Job 1:1) There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil. Job feared God and Job was tested. Job's own wife, all that he had left in the world, turned against him at his lowest point. (Job 2:9-10) Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die. But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips. Job passed the test. (Job 13:15) Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him. Because of Job's fear of the Lord he was given great wisdom and understanding and, in the end, double what he lost.

(Luke 23:39-40) And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? Even the dying thief, as he hung on the cross, recognized the need to fear God. He was tested by the other thief and he passed the test. He is in heaven today.

Why should we fear God? God commands us to fear Him. (Deuteronomy 10:12) And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul,

(Ecclesiastes 12:13) Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

Peter preached it. (1 Peter 2:17) Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

Paul preached it. (Acts 13:16) Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.

The angels will preach it. (Revelation 14:7) Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.

If you find it difficult to obey God and do right maybe you have lost your fear of the Lord. Isn't it about time that you got it back?