Shiphrah and Puah

I was reading the first chapter of the book of Exodus this weekend. It is painful prose.

A nation of people are forced into hard labor. The treatment of these new slaves is horrible. When some of them are in labor, the resultant boys are to be killed.

The subjugation of a million people or more and the mandated infanticide is a result of fear. The king is afraid of all these people who are different than he is. The king is afraid of losing power, of losing land, of losing everything.

And so he lashes out.

I was reading the story thinking about what happens when people in  power are afraid. They react, we react, the way that everyone who is afraid reacts: by doing anything possible to preserve what power there is.

As we read about Pharaoh, we read about a person who has the power to destroy lives, to change everything. Because he was treated as a god, what he said was done.

But really, all of us can, in fear, destroy lives, to change everything. Perhaps not on the scale of Pharaoh, but we can lash out with words regardless of the cost. We can micromanage. We can tear ourselves and others to shreds.

There were, in the story, a couple of women who stood up to power. They could have feared losing their lives. They, however, respected the authority of God more than the authority of Pharaoh.

And they saved lives.

They were midwives, nurses who helped in the delivery process. And these two women, and perhaps a whole system of midwives, decided that they wouldn’t carry out his orders.

I know. This is an odd way to start the week. I should be saying something cheery. something upbeat, something to make us smile. But as I think about it, lots of us spend a lot of time in fear. It’s killing us.

But these women. One by one, individual choices, faith rather than fear.

Maybe there’s hope.


10 responses to “Shiphrah and Puah

  1. Very appropriate post for this week, Jon.

    With the wall street stuff, many are living in more fear this week than last.

    I must remind all (and myself) that GOD is the one we need to trust and not “the almighty dollar”.

  2. Jon,

    I bumped into Chris Brogan at the Blog World Expo this weekend. He suggested that I give your site a visit.

    I just subscribed to your RSS feed and look forward to reading your blog.

    As a side note, my wife was from Grabill, Indiana. I have found memories of the Amish buggies, the horrific smell of chicken poop, and the young Amish getting drunk and getting pulled over by the police in their buggies.

    Come on over and take a peek at my Boomer in the Pew blog when you get a chance.

    Dave Porter

  3. Thanks, Paul.

    Dave, nice to meet you. Another example of Chris making connections.

  4. Wait till you get to chapter 2–more courage there! (Of course you know that….) (We’re studying this in children’s quizzing this year.)

  5. I think this is the perfect way to start the week. You’ve identified the staggering problem of fear, and then pointed to the collective power of everyday people and their small actions. There is indeed hope.

    With all that’s in the news right now, I often feel overwhelmed and don’t know how to pray. But you’ve sparked in me a single, simple, powerful prayer that just might cover all bases: Lord, deliver us from our fear.

    Thanks for your post.

  6. On a different note, I signed up for your mybloglog community, but it doesn’t seem to be recognizing me here (or at least hasn’t connected me to my WordPress account). Did I miss some crucial step?

  7. Did the two women, Shiphrah and Puah, lie about why they weren’t killing the newborn Israelite sons?

    I guess the law hadn’t come into existence yet, but how did they know they shouldn’t kill?


  9. Pingback: 8 ways people find me « Levite Chronicles

  10. The duty to tell the truth is not absolute. When it is reasonably strongly certain that the hearer would abuse the truth, (s)he does not deserve to hear the truth.
    Morality did not come into being at Sinai. Eve and Adam knew they were not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Cain and Abel knew they were to offer sacrifice to the LORD. Cain knew he was not to murder his brother. The law forbidding murder was repeated at Ararat. Adultery was recognized as a severe crime. The sabbath observance was given before the rest of the Ten Commandments.
    If one was hiding Jews from the Nazis, and the Nazis came searching for Jews, and asked if you knew where any Jews were, you would not reveal their presence by telling the SS the truth. And, if you just refused to answer, that would be interpreted as “Yes” and you would be imprisoned or killed, the house would be thoroughly searched, burned, or demolished until the hiding place was discovered. The proper answer would be “No, I don’t know where any Jews are,” or whatever answer would convince the Nazis that you didn’t know where any Jews were.
    Consideration has to be given to the likelihood of your falsehood being accepted, the consequences of getting caught telling an untruth, and the gravity of the crime that would be committed if you told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
    Shiphrah and Puah – Exodus 1:15
    Rahab – Joshua 2:1-6:24
    Notice that these all were women.