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Puah and Shiphrah

Last year, New York passed a bill expanding the right for legal abortions into the third trimester. Other states are now seeking to follow in their footsteps and pass similar legislation. This bill allows abortions of fully developed babies up to birth. Those advocating for the bill have admitted that it would even allow the killing of an infant while the mother is in labor. Some are now advocating for the murder of those babies born alive after a failed abortion. 

Whenever the issue of abortion comes up in the news and I hear about the murder of so many innocent lives, I am often reminded of a passage of scripture found in the first chapter of Exodus. 

When we come to the end of the book of Genesis, we find the nation of Israel escaping starvation by coming to Egypt. Under the leadership of Joseph, the nation is saved and they remain in the land of Egypt for some time. At the opening of Exodus, however, the nation is under new management. A few centuries have passed, and suffice it to say, the new Pharaohs are not as kind-hearted towards the Jews as their predecessors. The first chapter ends with a gruesome account, in which the Pharaoh commands the infanticide of all the male children born to the Hebrews, by drowning (1:22). 

Sound familiar? 

We are told in this passage, that prior to this massacre, the Pharaoh attempts to kill the babies by allocating the help of two midwives, Puah and Shiphrah. Pharaoh commands these two women to kill all the boys, delivered by Hebrew women. The Bible then tells us that Puah and Shiphrah refused to follow the Pharaoh's command because they “feared God.” (1:17). The women tell Pharaoh they cannot do what he askes because the Hebrew women deliver their children before they can arrive. Because of their faithfulness to God, we are told that God blessed these women with households (1:21). 

Due to recent events, I went back to reread this account. As I read, I was struck by two things.

First, these women were more concerned with the opinion of God, rather than Pharaoh. Moses includes the reason why these women disobeyed Pharaoh’s command because they “feared God.” There can be no doubt that Pharaoh had the authority to punish these women for their disobedience and yet, they disobeyed. Further, these women must have been very skilled in their roles as midwives for the King to seek their help. The King is offering them the chance to be involved in his plans for the country. This would undoubtedly come with prestige and honor from the Pharaoh and among the Egyptians. Yet, these women did not care about any of the benefits that may have come with following the king’s commands. We are told repeatedly in the New Testament to not be friends with the world for we cannot be friends with the world and have fellowship with God (James 4:4, 1 John 2:15-17). These two women are examples of what that looks like when lived out. They could not have intimacy with the living God while murdering the innocent, and neither can we. 

Second, we are told the names of these two women. In verse 15, we are told that the first was Shiphrah, meaning “beautiful one” and Puah meaning “Splendid one.” What is particularly interesting about this fact is that the Pharaoh in this passage is not named. 

 Radmacher makes this note:

“Their names Shiphrah (“Beautiful one”) and Puah (“Splendid one”) are persevered in this account because they were godly women with courageous faith. At the same time, the names of the pharaohs - the “important” people of the day - are omitted.” (NKJV Nelson Study Bible). 

For centuries now, the bravery of these two women has been read and reread by those that came after them. Not only have they been honored by this account in centuries past, but their obedience to God will be honored in this account for all eternity (1 Peter 1:25). No doubt the Pharaohs of their time thought their names would be remembered forever. These men surely had pyramids and monuments ascribed with their names. However, they’ve long been forgotten, while Puah and Shiphrah will be honored in the age to come due to their faithfulness.

We see this elsewhere in scripture. When speaking to the churches in Revelation (Chapters 2-3), John details many different types of rewards that will be given to the overcoming believer. In Chapter 3, the Lord speaks to the Dead Church saying that he will confess the name of the overcomer to the Father and before all the angels (5b). Later to the Faithful Church, he promises to build a pillar for the overcomer to stand in the temple of the coming Kingdom (vs12). John was writing to people who already had eternal life. He wrote to the churches of his time, all of which will be in the Kingdom to come. In these verses, however, he is offering something in addition to their eternal life. The Lord will publicly honor those who faithfully follow him. In a small way, that is exactly what we are seeing with Puah and Shiphrah. They weren’t the only saved women of their time but they did something worthy of praise. They faithfully followed the one true King and for that, they are honored in these verses. 

The Lord rewards those who are faithful to Him. These two women stood for life when the world sought to kill, and they were rewarded greatly for their obedience. May we all strive to be like Puah and Shiphrah. 


4 comments on “Puah and Shiphrah”

  1. Oh, how this blessed me Kathryn~!!! It just amazes me how that the Lord brings to me the very things I'm thinking about, or studying, or just needing at any given time. Our small Ladies Bible Study (4-5) that meet weekly in my home ..(or did until this pandemic... and are now back to doing that).. are going through your dad's commentary in Hebrews. Also I just watched tonight that movie you recommended a number of weeks ago, RISEN. So much of what I find myself reading or watching (without necessarily looking specifically for that subject) ends up being on the subject you just shared. It's the subject of God's faithfulness in REWARDING those who are found faithful to HIM in this life and having the joy and privilege in His coming Kingdom to be a partner (companion) with Him IF we never give up and stay faithful. I just love it when the Lord does that for me~!!! I call those times.... "nuggets" from the Lord... or His mercies that are new every morning.

    This is the first chance I've had to read your post, and it fits right in with what the Lord's been laying on my heart to focus on. HE's so good, and in this time of distancing from everyone, He's faithful to provide just what I NEED to focus on HIM.

    Thanking God for you and all these dear ladies who write here at Free-Grace Women. I don't always comment on everyone, but I always appreciate reading them and thanking God for each one who shares their testimony and insights here on this wonderful blog.

  2. I feel like this should be published in GIF, too!?

    I love this article because these special women leaped out at me when my kids and I studied Exodus earlier this year. Your comment about how their names are recorded in Scripture (and in eternity!) vs. the pharaohs who were nameless in the story, really struck me! God’s appraisal is so vastly different from the world’s!

    Beautiful writing, beautiful friend! ❤️

  3. Excellent insights from a well written article. Thank you, Kathryn. Civil disobedience is commended when life is on the line. And so is thinking of creative alternatives--Jocabed DID obey the pharaoh and throw her baby boy in the Nile. She just put a waterproof basket around him first.

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