The Reformed Family: Two Women

Mrs. Lubbers is a wife and mother in the Protestant Reformed Church of South Holland, Illinois.

When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women ... if it be a son, then ye shall kill him.... Exodus 1:16

Two women. 

Two women who, through Gods gracious guidance, forever changed the course of human history. 

Two women, distinguished by names! The first Hebrew names mentioned since the death of Joseph some 300 years earlier.

Shiphrah and Puah.

Shiphrah and Puah were two relatively obscure midwives living in the land of Goshen in Egypt under the cruel and tyrannical Pharaoh who knew not Joseph. "And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigor: And they made their lives bitter withhard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field..." (Ex. 1:13, 14).

Treated inhumanely, the Hebrews, and other foreigners in Egypt, were conscripted into the work force of Rameses, coerced with the whip, unpaid, and condemned to the brickmaking and the stone quarries. "And the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried..." (Ex. 2:23). 

John Calvin writes that although the two treasure cities which the Israelites were required to build, Pithom and Raamses, could be interpreted as granaries or storage for weapons, it is probably more likely that they were fortresses; so that, in effect, the Hebrews were building their own prisons which, in turn, would necessarily prevent their escape from Egypt. 

Nevertheless, Pharaoh's first plan to diminish the disproportionate growth of the Hebrews by rigorous labor produced the opposite result: the birth rate of the Hebrew children continued in an increased ratio, so that the Egyptians "were grieved because of the children of Israel" (Ex. 1:12). 

Thus, Pharaoh resorted to Phase II of his program: the barbaric slaughter of the newly-born male children. Such a murderous program during times of peace had not been known before. The two Hebrew midwives were to implement his edict. But Shiphrah and Puah, probably the head of the "guild" of midwives - and certainly not the only midwives in Goshen — made sure that Pharaoh's extermination policy was not executed. These two courageous women saw to it that Pharaoh's plan to extinguish the Hebrew race by killing all males, the females then being absorbed by marriage into the Egyptian families, would never occur. It is possible that the midwives never told the Hebrew people of the king's command. 

Shiphrah and Puah understood that God's covenant is continued through the healthy and fruitful birth of children. Many children. Shiphrah and Puah would not have been daunted by the anthropologist's dire prediction of over-population leading to diminished food sources and planet pollution. Shiphrah and Puah would not have bought into a sensible and sophisticated birth-control plan for Hebrew women because of adverse circumstances. Shiphrah and Puah would have objected to the late Margaret Sanger's Planned Parenthood Federation. Shiphrah and Puah would have been stunned by the decision of a Supreme Court of a highly civilized nation to kill promiscuously the unborn. Quoting from Newsweek (Feb. 3, 1997) in an article by columnist George F. Will: "In a partial-birth abortion, the (if pro-abortion people will forgive the expression) baby is maneuvered by the abortionist so that it enters the birth canal feet first and is almost entirely delivered, with only a few inches of the skull still in the (here comes another presumably problematic word) mother. Then the abortionist makes a hole in the rear of the exposed portion of the baby's skull, inserts a vacuum hose and sucks out the baby's brains." Shiphrah and Puah would be righteously indignant to discover that children born under the best of conditions in the most prosperous of nations are considered to be somewhat of a hindrance to one's lifestyle or a drain on one's time, career, and finances. 

It has been Satan's strategy since the beginning of time to prevent the birth and flourishing of covenant children. Cain killed Abel. Esau plotted to kill Jacob. Saul attempted to slay David. Athaliah conspired to destroy the seed royal. Herod rids Bethlehem of all its children in his quest for The Child. The dragon lies in wait to devour The Child. This is the antithesis. The lines have been drawn since Genesis 3:15. Those lines of demarcation must not be blurred today. Satan hates Christ. His minions throughout history seek to destroy the covenant seed. Limit the family. Delay parenthood. Prevent the birth of covenant children. 

Following hard on the heels of the bold decision of Shiphrah and Puah comes the decision of Moses' parents, Jochebed and Amram. Phase III of Pharaoh's devilish plan was in effect. What a perfect excuse not to bring forth any more children was theirs! The times were desperately evil; the king had issued a command to drown the infants; the family was threatened. These were not good years to be having children. But had there been no Moses - the lawgiver - so there would be no Christ - the lawfulfiller. That is how serious their decision was. "By faith Moses' parents were not afraid of the king's commandment" (Heb. 11:23). 

With all our excuses, real or imagined, for refusing to bring forth children, God is not mocked. Our motive to have or not to have children will be judged before His perfect tribunal. No extra money, no house of our own, no savings account, no room to put another child, we can hardly care for the children we have, we haven't taken a vacation in years, children are so time-consuming and expensive - all these will be weighed by Him. I try to imagine giving birth to a precious infant if I knew that the government officials waited outside the door, listening for the child's first feeble cry, only to take him roughly and drown him. Would I have had the faith of a Jochebed, or a Shiphrah and Puah? 

And, yes, there is example and inspiration here for doctors, nurses, and all others committed to the care of fellow human beings. Yours is not to terminate life, nor to shorten it, nor to assist in preventing life, nor to play God over the petri dish. Life and death belong to Him.

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them (Ps. 139).

There is great reward in obeying God rather than man, even though that man be most cruel and powerful as was Pharaoh who terminated life at his caprice. Exodus 1 tells us that the families of Israel were wonderfully rewarded through the pious, heroic deeds of Shiphrah and Puah. Not because the midwives deceived Pharaoh, which they certainly did, but because they feared God. God dealt well with the midwives, those keepers of life, because they had respect unto his ordinances. And God prospered the Israelites (made them houses); He gave them families and many descendants. Israel multiplied and waxed very mighty because of these two women. 

Many godly women everywhere display the spirit, the love for God's covenant children, and the courage of these two women. May we live out of the faith, whether in the best of times or the worst of times, that God extends His covenant through us. We are saved in childbearing (I Tim. 1:15). 

Shiphrah and Puah. Models for godly women in every age. 

Two women who feared God, not Pharaoh.

Two women.