Women in the Bible: Puah and Shiphrah, Who Disobeyed Pharaoh’s Direct Order
Written by Jenn Arman | April 5, 2012
There are only six verses in the whole Bible about these two women, but their actions led to the salvation of the entire nation of Israel.
Puah and Shiphrah were in charge of all the Hebrew midwives in Egypt while Israel was enslaved in Egypt. One day, Pharaoh called Puah and Shiphrah to him and told them,
‘When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live’ (Exodus 1:16).
Let’s pause here for just a second so we understand the next part clearly. At this point in history, Egypt was the largest kingdom and the Egyptian Pharaoh was considered the most powerful ruler in the world. In fact, the Egyptian people regarded Pharaoh as a leader appointed by their gods. Imagine all the leaders in the world today. Now imagine that all of their power was all given to one single leader and that’s approximately how powerful Pharaoh was–and this particular Pharaoh wasn’t very nice.
Now, the most powerful ruler in the world has just ordered Puah and Shiphrah to kill every baby boy born to a Hebrew woman. What happened next is one of the bravest things I’ve ever read.
But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live (Exodus 1:17).
What do you think Pharaoh would’ve done to these women if he found out that they were letting the boys live on purpose? Most likely, he would’ve killed them.
The Bible doesn’t say whether Puah and Shiphrah told other Hebrew midwives what Pharaoh had commanded them or if they just ignored the command, but their courage led to the redemption of Israel from slavery in Egypt.
Can you guess who one of the boys was that these midwives helped save?
If you guessed Moses, then you’re right! Puah and Shiphrah had no idea their courageous act would lead to the redemption of Israel from slavery. The only thing these midwives knew was that Pharaoh was asking them to do something that would displease God and they feared and respected God more than Pharaoh.
What can we learn from Puah and Shiphrah?
- Believers do what is right in God’s eyes, not in the eyes of the world. That can be frightening. It takes courage to do what’s right in God’s eyes, but God always has a bigger plan that we might not see right away.
- There are no minor characters in God’s eyes. There are approximately 31,000 verses in the Bible. Only six of them are about Puah and Shiphrah, but their obedience to God saved a nation. I have to remember this because sometimes I quickly scan stories about people that seem small or insignificant. There’s no such thing as a small and insignificant child of God!
Read Puah and Shiphrah’s entire story in Exodus 1:15-21.
Would you have the courage to disobey someone as powerful as Pharaoh?
So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty. Because the midwives feared God, He established households for them (Exodus 1:20-21).