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The Hebrew Midwives...

Scriptures Expounded - Posted on Monday, February 1, 2016
by Temi Peter
The Hebrew Midwives...

The Hebrew Midwives...
But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive.
Exodus 1:17

After the demise of Prime Minister Joseph in Egypt and the Pharaoh that appointed him, there arose a new Pharaoh who either didn’t know about Joseph at all or never cared to know or didn’t give a damn! He automatically found an enemy in the Israelites thriving in Egypt at the time. The Bible says this of the children of Israel in Egypt during Joseph’s lifetime and before the coming of the new Pharaoh:
“And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.”
Exodus 1:7

This new Pharaoh was jealous of the Israelites and decided to give ‘the dog a bad name in order to hang it’. In order to convince his people especially those who could be sympathetic towards the course of the children of Israel and who might take offence to his preconceived plan against them, he accused them of being more and mightier and than they (the Egyptians) in Exodus 1:9:
“And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we:”
That was by every means untrue. The Israelites could never have been more in number than the Egyptians whether in the past, in the present or in the future. Also, his fear of the Israelites taking over their land or joining forces with external forces to overthrow them as recorded in Exodus 1:10 was unfounded. The reason is that they had always known that someday they would have to leave Egypt for the Promised Land, the land God had promised and sworn to give Abraham, Isaac and Jacob according to Genesis 17:8, Genesis 35:12, Genesis 28:13, Genesis 50:24 and Exodus 33:1. In fact, Joseph made his brethren take an oath that they would dig up his bones and carry them along when the time was right for them to leave for the Promised Land, the land of Canaan. All these go to show that the Israelites could have no plan whatsoever of perpetuating themselves in Egypt.

Nevertheless, Pharaoh was able to sell the dummy to his people and a plan was mapped out to afflict the children of Israel by subjecting them to slavery with the aim of reducing their numbers as recorded in Exodus 1:10. Howbeit, the more they afflicted the Israelites the more they multiplied and grew according to Exodus 1:12. Unknown to Pharaoh, he was acting out a script the Lord had prepared centuries before he was born. The Lord has intimated Abraham of the impending slavery his seed will be subjected to in Genesis 15:13-14:
"And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance."

From the scripture above, we can see that the Almighty God had destined that the Israelites will pass through four hundred years of slavery in Egypt as a prerequisite for their readiness to leave for the Promised Land. When Pharaoh saw that his plan of limiting the progress of the Israelites had succeeded only in one aspect – their prosperity had turned into poverty since they became slaves – with the other aspect, their population, growing notwithstanding the hardship they were going through, he came up with a more dastardly and heartless plan to completely annihilate the Israelites. He decided to kill every male child born by the Israelites as written in Exodus 1:16. This was a kind of ‘final solution’. If the plan had pulled through, after a while, there would be no male Israelites anymore and eventually there would be no Israelites! He would have completely wiped out the children of Israel in Egypt. This had always been his plan from the onset and not enslaving them. It was when he saw that it (wiping out the Israelites) was unachievable that he settled for subjecting the Israelites to perpetual slavery. How and why did his second plan fail? His second plan failed because the Hebrew midwives, foremost of whom were Shiphrah and Puah, decided to fear God and disobey his evil instruction.

Pharaoh had commanded the Hebrew midwives in Exodus 1:15-16 to kill every male child and spare only the female ones born by the Hebrew women. But this instruction fell on deaf ears as the Hebrew women in Exodus 1:17 decided to fear God and did not as the king commanded but rather spared the male children. What a risk they must have taken! The Bible did not record anywhere that the Lord gave them instructions beforehand to disobey Pharaoh. It is also noteworthy that at the time, the Lord had not given the children of Israel the ten commandments and other ordinances and laws to live by. Apart from the first commandment God gave Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden that they should not eat or touch the forbidden fruit (Genesis 2:16-17, Genesis 3:3), I don’t think the LORD at any time gave mankind and by extension the Israelites any laid down laws/commandments/ordinances for living until he gave Moses the ten commandments in Exodus 20. Until that time, every one of them did as they saw fit. Yet, it was not an excuse for them to do evil because from the onset, the LORD had judged man’s evil deeds and thoughts of the heart notwithstanding the fact that there was no written law anywhere guiding man’s existence. Many biblical instances point to this fact. When Cain killed Abel, he was punished for it (Genesis 4:8-14). Also, when the wickedness of the people in Noah’s generation became great and the thoughts of their heart were continually evil, the LORD wiped them out (Genesis 6:5-13). When Abram went in unto Hagar, the LORD stayed away from him for about 13 years after which he reestablished the relationship, ordered him to walk before him and be perfect and changed his name to Abraham (Genesis 17:1).
Even when the error was committed unknowingly, the one who erred was not spared like it was in the case of Pharaoh who decided to take Abram’s wife Sarai on the ground that she was his sister according to what Abram had told him earlier (Genesis 12:10-20) and Abimelech who also did likewise innocently (Genesis 20:18). In the same vein, our LORD God also rewarded those who chose to walk before him uprightly. Enoch walked with God and God took him. God found him too ‘good’ to remain on the earth (Genesis 5:24). He became the first human being to experience the rapture. Also, in Genesis 6:9, the Bible testified of Noah as being a just man and perfect in his generations and that he walked with God. Hence, when the LORD wanted to wipe out humanity from the face of the earth, Noah found grace in the sight of the LORD according to Genesis 6:8 and the LORD spared him and his family. Thus, Noah’s family repopulated the earth after its first destruction.

The question you may want to ask is; what was the basis for judging a man to have lived uprightly if there were no written laws/commandments to live by as was the case with mankind before they had the Ten Commandments. The answer is not farfetched. When Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil against the commandment of the LORD, they became wise and automatically possessed the ability to discern good from evil. From that point mankind lost their innocence and became responsible for every of their actions. So, even when there were no laws or Ten Commandments, mankind always knew what was right and what was wrong and the LORD judged them accordingly. That’s why James 4:17 says that:
“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
Hence, when the Hebrew midwives decided to disobey Pharaoh’s instruction to kill the newly born male Israelites, they were merely exercising their natural innate ability to discern right from wrong. They knew that carrying out Pharaoh’s instruction amounted to mass murder of innocent lives. God could never be happy with that notwithstanding the fact that they would have been carrying out an instruction, the LORD may have still held them responsible. They must have been adhering to the admonition given to us by our LORD Jesus Christ several centuries later in Matthew 10:28 and Luke 12:4-5:
“And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.”
Hence, they didn’t care if their disobedience to Pharaoh will attract grave consequences rather they decided to fear God instead. When Pharaoh found out that the Hebrew midwives didn’t carry out his instructions he confronted them in Exodus 1:18 and the midwives responded in Exodus 1:19:
“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.”
Their excuse was far from tenable in the sense that they could still carry out the instruction if they wanted to but for their fear of the LORD. When Pharaoh realised that he couldn’t make the Hebrew midwives annihilate their fellow Hebrews, he urged his own people to do so in Exodus 1:22.The Hebrew midwives had disobeyed Pharaoh and gone away with it! I doubt if this third plan also succeeded because if it did Moses wouldn’t have been rescued from the river by his (Pharaoh’s) very own daughter! She may have just carried out her father’s instruction on sensing that the child was Hebrew (Exodus 2:5-6). Rather, she spared him and hired his mum to nurse him right under Pharaoh’s nose. What a wonder! Meanwhile, the LORD had rewarded the bravery of the Hebrew midwives in choosing to fear Him rather than Pharaoh. The Bible says in Exodus 1:20 that the LORD dealt well with midwives so that the people multiplied and waxed very mighty. He didn’t stop there. He also made them houses according to Exodus 1:21. This I can’t fathom. I guess owning a house had become a big deal for the enslaved Israelites. The Bible stressed the fact that the LORD made the Hebrew midwives houses because they feared Him:
“And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses.”
Exodus 1:21
They also had their names recorded in the Holy Book for everlasting reference (Exodus 1:15).

Once again, in the absence of any written law guiding man’s existence, the LORD rewarded those who knew the right thing to do and chose to do it. As Heaven-bound Christians, anytime anywhere we have to choose between having the fear of God and the fear of man, we must not hesitate to choose the fear of God. It may be costly and in some cases, life threatening, but the reward is sure. It takes the grace of God to do so, though. As we remember Daniel’s refusal to obey the King Darius’ instruction that nobody should pray (Daniel 6), Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s refusal to serve King Nebuchadnezzar’s gods or worship his golden image (Daniel 3), Peter and John’s refusal to stop preaching Jesus Christ as commanded by the priesthood (Acts 4:18-20) among so many other scenarios, and how God came through for them, may we find the grace and ability to fear the LORD at all times in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
I close with Proverbs 9:10:
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.”

Posted by:
Temi Peter


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