by Ben & Tara Orchard
Shiphrah and Puah. Not particularly memorable names. But they are certainly memorable women for what they did in ancient Egypt by fearing God, standing up to Pharaoh and refusing to kill infants (Exodus 1:15-22).
It is well worth noting that God chose women to save the slaughter of the innocents. He did not call for a Hebrew militia of mighty men to stand up to the king of Egypt and guard their women and protect the newborn baby boys. Instead, God chose some ordinary women to have a vital part in saving a nation. Their only qualification? They feared God.
There are other godly women in the book of Exodus like Jochebed and Miriam. Jochebed, the mother of Moses is listed with her husband in the "Faith Hall of Fame" in Hebrews 11, and Miriam is one of the leaders of Israel. But for now, let's focus on Shiphrah and Puah. The first chapter of Exodus is the only place these godly women are mentioned.
Tara. Being a godly, Christian woman requires discipline, perseverance, integrity and humility. She is woman who is generous in forgiveness and grace. She is not a perfect woman, but she strives to make Christ the center of her life. She sees the benefits of discipling and training others. Being a woman devoted to the Word of God and to prayer allows her to make wise responses and decisions. She knows the importance of guarding her tongue from coarse jesting, sarcasm, mocking, slander and gossip. This is an essential part of becoming a godly woman. The Word in us will protect us from sinful words coming from us.
Ben. I think it's important to note that godliness is not a masculine trait, it's a Divine trait. As such, anyone who is in relationship with God can become godly, male or female, young or old. What do we see in these women that defines their godliness?
1. They Feared God
Godliness is devotion to God that results in actions that please him (See The Practice of Godliness, by Jerry Bridges). Bridges says that godliness begins with an attitude of fear.
Tara. Fearing God is mentioned twice in the passage. The opposite of this is fearing man. It's not in the text, but one can't help but wonder if some of the other Hebrew midwives warned Shiphrah and Puah about going against Pharaoh. "Are you sure you want to do this? You could lose your job, or your life. Be careful, don't rock the boat, tread lightly. Don't you know this might affect the rest of us? The Egyptians might be very offended."
The benefits to fearing God:
• Deeper trust
• Others are encouraged
• God is glorified
2. They Were Courageous
Ben. The fear of God does not stand alone. It is is not a single emotion or attitude. The fear of God results in action. For Shiphrah and Puah the fear of God translated into courage. Because they understood the power and majesty of the eternal God, they had the courage to stand up to a man whom they recognized as a mere mortal whose power was limited.
Tara. Galatians 1:10 says, "For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ." Being as bond-servant requires courage to step out in faith when common sense tells you otherwise, and others don't agree. When we practice courage it doesn't feel comfortable or safe. We might get pushback from co-workers, family members, or peers.
3. They Were Women of Faith.
Ben. Courage does not stand alone either. Many people show courage in the face of danger. But the courage of Shiphrah and Puah came from an ongoing trust in God. They were women of faith. They did not divorce their faith in God from the decisions they had to make. When they disobeyed Pharaoh they were demonstrating an unrelenting trust in the God whom they feared.
Tara. Exodus 1:20 says, "So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied and became very mighty." Deep blessings resulted not only for the midwives, but for the children of Israel. The faith of these two midwives had a profound effect on the course of events God had planned for the nation of Israel. We never know what the impact our courageous acts of faith will make on our lost world.
I can't help but wonder what other Godly traits Shiphrah and Puah exhibited. To make such a courageous stand they must have been deeply committed to prayer and the knowledge of God passed down to them from the previous 400 years. They must have practiced their courage in previous instances. In addition to training others in the necessary skills of midwifery, I am sure they passed on their devotion to God as well to other women.
These ordinary women inspire us to courage to do extraordinary things. What is God asking you to do? When we fear God He will give us the courage and faith to obey Him. Strong winds of opposition might threaten to topple us, but God’s promises keep us upright and allow us to stand strong for His ultimate glory!