Five Women Who Saved Israel

Exodus 1:8-2:10

The Book of Exodus tells us how we should live by faith. The foundation of biblical ethics and morality is laid out for us in the holiness of God and then in the Ten Commandments. The Seventh and Ninth Commandments, which forbid murder and lying, are at the heart of today’s text.

In Exodus 1:8-14, we encounter a MURDERER—

Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become much too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.” So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites and worked them ruthlessly. They made their lives bitter with hard labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their hard labor the Egyptians used them ruthlessly.

A Pharaoh became king WHO DID NOT KNOW ABOUT JOSEPH. This is more than a reference to Joseph. To know Joseph is to know the one in and through whom God has preserved Israelites. This Pharaoh had neither knowledge nor understanding of God, so he did not FEAR THE LORD. If he had, he would have been an absolute fool to enslave the Israelites.

The wildest mistake, which a man can possibly fall into, is to act without considering God. Sooner or later, there is God, and then comes the awful crash of all his schemes and calculations. The king greatly erred in not knowing Joseph and his God. His land had been reaping blessings of God since the arrival of the seventy in Egypt in 1876 B.C. God had kept His promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3—

I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

Now, Pharaoh invoked the curses of God upon Egypt by touching the Apple of God’s Eye. The simple way to solve the problem would have been to let Israel go. Instead of releasing Israel, Pharaoh decided to use worldly wisdom to take care of his difficulty.

One key question that keeps coming up in the Book of Exodus is “WHOM WILL ISRAEL SERVE?” Israel is serving Pharaoh. To be in his service, however, means harshness and bondage, the lack of freedom to be what one is called to be. That is not God’s purpose for creation. Only in service to God, can service without bondage be found. With God, service is freedom. Yet, Israel will not be freed to do what it pleases; Israel is to move from one kind of servitude to another.

The Exodus does not constitute a DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, but a DECLARATION OF DEPENDENCE upon God. Only God can lay claim to life in such a way that true freedom is the result. Within a personal relationship with Yahweh, there is real freedom.

The stage is set to discover that God is a God who takes side. God is a God of the oppressed; God enters into Israel’s difficult, suffering situations to set things right. God is a God who is concerned to move people from slavery to freedom.

God is turning the tables on Pharaoh’s oppression—BUT THE MORE THEY WERE OPPRESSED, THE MORE THEY MULTIPLIED AND SPREAD. History shows that such cruel oppression results in many deaths. But not in this case! This proves how thoroughly vain it is to fight against the purposes of God. This oppression was the reasoning of a proud, wise and worldly mind, which is enmity against God. It was the FINITE pitting itself against the INFINITE. In this oppression, we have a picture of the world’s hatred for the people of God.

Pharaoh thought he was dealing shrewdly, but 1 Corinthians 3:19 and 1:19 explains otherwise—

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness.”

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

Therefore, it is proved here—the more Pharaoh oppressed the more the Hebrews grew. Times of severest trial have always been seasons of blessing to the people of God. The more fiercely have burned the fires of persecution the stronger faith has grown.

Frustration and failure leads Pharaoh to a new course of action—one much more intelligent by the world’s estimation. Exodus 1:15-21—

The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah,
“When you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?” The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.” So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.

Five women thwart the plans of this evil king—two midwives, one mother, one sister, and one princess— These “FIVE WOMEN WHO SAVED ISRAEL.” Shiphrah and Puah, two midwives are the first to upset Pharaoh’s plans.

The king’s plan to kill all the male babies would have met with great success except for the intervention of God. He used two midwives to confound the king; just as later, He used a baby’s cry to reach the heart of Pharaoh’s daughter. God uses the weak things of this world to defeat the mighty.

It is ironic that the king of Egypt stoops to converse with two lowly Hebrew women in order to move his plans forward. Little did he realize that he was overmatched! This is highlighted by the fact the women are named and Pharaoh remains nameless.

Again, we encounter the question, “WHOM WILL ISRAEL SERVE?” All the Egyptians readily obeyed Pharaoh’s commands, but what about these two Hebrew midwives?

When a government or ruler orders its subjects to do something that violates the direct commands of God, such as murdering children or worshiping an idol or ceasing to pray, then the government and its rulers must be disobeyed. Obedience to God takes precedence over all other edicts even as Peter and John argued in their refusal to stop preaching as ordered by the authorities in Acts 4:19—

But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.

Oppression that is directed against spiritual obligations or personal rights is condemned by God. Magistrates, rulers, judges, employers, and individuals are all challenged to resist in perpetuating such practices or else they will face the judgment of God. As God’s ministers and servants of His people, government officials are particularly liable to His wrath for failure to observe this warning.

But what about lying to government officials? Isn’t that morally offensive? Look at Exodus 1:19—

The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.

They are LIARS! There are numerous incidents in the Bible where God’s people lied. Twice Abraham lied to Pharaoh and Abimelech saying, “Sarah is my sister.” Now it is true that Sarah was his half-sister, and it is true in that culture that it was sometimes possible to issue a “sister contract” along with a marriage contract that then gave the wife greater protection. But it is also obvious that neither of these nuances were caught by either monarch, if that’s what Abraham had intended to produce.

Both monarchs complained that they had not been adequately apprised that Sarah was indeed Abraham’s wife. The tragedy is that Abraham taught his son the same lie, which Isaac then used. In the cases of Abraham and Isaac, God had to come to the rescue because of their lies. He did not approve of their actions. It was clearly a sin to lie and it backfired.

But what about the lies of Rahab and the Midwives? The issue at stake in their case is whether God recognizes and approves of otherwise dubious methods that are alien to the integrity of His character in fulfilling the purpose of His will. Can strong faith be coexistent and be actuated by the infirmities of unbelief?

It is true that Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25 recognize Rahab as a righteous woman of faith. But the areas of Rahab’s righteousness and faith must be strictly observed. Lying that had won her this divine recognition; rather it was her FAITH—she believed in the LORD God of the Hebrews and she feared Him more than the king of Jericho did.

We are presuming too much if we say that untruth was indispensable to the successful outcome of Rahab’s believing action. Granting, that in the providence of God, the untruth was one means through which the spies escaped, it does not follow that Rahab was morally justified in using this method. Yet, God can fulfill His holy will through our unholy acts. In fact, he can and does overrule evil for good. To justify lies because it is so closely bound up with the total result . . . is poor theology and worse ethics.

Doing evil that good may come may be good pragmatism, but cannot be squared with biblical ethics. Since God is truth, lying can never be lawful, because that cannot be right which is contrary to the nature of God.

Breaking one of God’s laws to avoid breaking another one is a complex ethical dilemma. But can we allow situations to determine our ethics? If the situation makes it necessary, are we free to lie, steal or cheat? Does this text give us warrant to speak an untruth under the proper conditions? It appears that God endorsed and rewarded the MIDWIVES for their lies. But this position cannot be sustained by the text, for twice (verses 17 & 20) the text attributes the reason for God’s blessing them to the fact that they FEARED GOD.

Pharaoh does not deserve to know all the truth, but the midwives owe it to God to speak only the truth. Yet, Shiphrah [shif-ruh] and Puah are to be applauded. They were committed to keeping babies alive— unlike abortion doctors, pro-choicers and many legislators of today.

On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 288-139 to ban partial birth abortions. Do you know what a partial birth abortion is? It is crushing the baby’s head as the baby is being delivered— before the baby is completely out the mother, the doctor kills it. One hundred and thirty-nine representatives voted to continue this increasingly popular practice. It is doubtful that the Senate will stop this practice. These Representatives and Senators are PHARAOHS. The same could be said for the people who vote them into office or did not bother to vote against them. They simply do not FEAR GOD! Will cast your vote with the FEAR OF GOD or with PHARAOH on Tuesday?

I probably should say cast your vote wit the DEVIL. Exodus is a book filled with Types. We are to understand Pharaoh’s oppression of Israelites in light of John 8:44—

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Three negative terms are used in the Bible for Children: Children of the Devil, Children of Disobedience, and Children of Wrath. On the positive side, it speaks of those who put their faith in Christ as Children of God.

The Book of Exodus is the OT foreshadowing of NT redemption and salvation through a Savior. We would greatly miss the spiritual purpose of the opening Chapter of Exodus, if we failed to recognize that the Israelites are in bondage. They are slaves, who belonged to Pharaoh—they were captives and slaves of the king of Egypt. Egypt typifies the world and Pharaoh typifies the DEVIL, who holds the world captive and serving him.

Possibly, THE LIE of the Midwives reflects that the Israelites still belong to devil and are his slaves. They have yet to be redeemed and rescued from Pharaoh. God’s plan is to set them free. But freedom will be accomplished through a deliverer, whose name will be MOSES. Moses foreshadows Jesus Christ. The mission of Moses and Christ was to set the oppressed free. At the Synagogue of Nazareth, Jesus announced His mission in Luke 4:18-19—

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, release to the oppressed are all metaphors for spiritual bondage, that is being oppressed slaves of Satan. Jesus told an important parable concerning His mission in Mark 3:27—

No one can enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house.

This short parable is one of the keys that unlock the purpose of the Book of Exodus as well as the NT. THE STRONG MAN is SATAN and HIS POSSESSIONS are PEOPLE. Exodus and the Gospels tell how Moses and Christ tied up the Strong Man (Satan) and carried off his possessions (the people).

In Chapter One of Exodus, we find Pharaoh oppressing God’s people. The prince of this world is defying God! Satan is not about to give them up to God without a fight. DECEIVED and OUTWITTED by the midwives, Pharaoh turns to the third and final phase of his sinister plan. Exodus 1:22—

Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”

What a masterstroke of wisdom on Pharaoh’s part. No Israelite male infants means no potential Israelite warriors or potential Israelite husbands to produce offspring. Genocide, the killing off an entire ethnic population, was Pharaoh’s solution to his problem. In a chillingly similar modern situation, Adolph Hitler called this same plan the “FINAL SOLUTION.”

It is not difficult to peer behind the scenes and behold one who was seeking to use Pharaoh as an instrument with which to accomplish his fiendish scheme. This is an out breaking of the Serpent’s enmity against the Seed of the woman as predicted by God in Genesis 3:15.

This is just a part of a long series of attempts by Satan to keep the Messiah from being born. We should not read Exodus 1:22, without hearing the weeping and wailing when Herod the Great slaughtered the infant boys at Bethlehem fifteen centuries later. Satan used Herod the Great to try to slay the baby Jesus. Ironically, God warned Joseph in a dream to escape to Egypt so He could call His Son out of Egypt in fulfillment of what the Exodus foreshadowed.

We don’t have to look far below the surface to discover who is really slaying the infants. It is confirmed, in Revelation 12:4, who is working behind the scenes—

His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born.

Revelation 12:9 identifies the dragon and stars—

The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

Just as the dragon employed Herod the Great to destroy the Messiah, he employed Pharaoh to destroy the coming deliverer. Satan knew that God’s promise to bring the Hebrews to the Promised Land was fast approaching. Make no doubt about it! He does not want you or I to belong to God. Jesus explains Satan’s fight to win souls in the Parable of the Sower—

The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.

Satan attempts to win others over with the pleasures of this world. If that does not work, he sends persecution their way. Only believers who cultivate their hearts with the Word of God escape his clutches.

Suppose Pharaoh’s effort to wipe out all Hebrew infants had succeeded, what then? The channel through which the promised Redeemer was to come would have been destroyed. There would have been no David, and if no David, no David’s son. Satan would have won the battle—all of Adam’s race would go to Hell.

Better might a worm withstand the tread of an elephant than a puny creature resist the Almighty.

We also do not want to overlook God’s ironic retribution of sowing and reaping that goes with Exodus 1:22. The king of Egypt drowned God’s people in the Nile River so God drowned Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea. We reap what we sow, even though the harvest may be slow in coming. It seemed as though God was doing nothing. Almost four hundred years had to elapse since Jacob’s arrival in Egypt. During these years, God was preparing His people, but He was also waiting in mercy and giving the wicked nations of Canaan time to repent. God is never in a hurry. He had His leader chosen for the Hebrews. The fullness of time was near; it was time for Israel’s deliverer to be born.

Exodus 2:1-10—

Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and
gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months.
But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said. Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” “Yes, go,” she answered. And the girl went and got the baby’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”

Moses focuses on his mother, but Hebrews 11:23 includes his father also—

By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

We learn from Exodus 6:20 that the godly, Levite parents of Moses were Amram and Jochebed. We might attribute parental-love and the child’s beauty to his parent’s action. However, the Bible informs us that it was neither affection nor infatuation, but FAITH. According to Romans 10:17, “faith comes from hearing the message.” Faith is not a leap in the dark!

Since they acted by faith, they probably received a word from God concerning the birth of their son, Moses, and what to do. He was a fine child—beautiful in God’s sight, so they gave him to God by faith. Acts 7:20 adds—

At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child. For three months he was cared for in his father’s house.

Parents, you never know what God sees in each child that is born, and it is important that you raise your children in the FEAR OF THE LORD.

What if you were Moses’ parents, where would you taken the child if you were trying to save him? We would have carried him as far away from the river as possible!

It took real faith to put the child in the river, the very place where the infant boys were being destroyed! How easy it would have been for an Egyptian to tip over the papyrus basket coated with tar and pitch or poke a hole in it and drown the infant. But NO! The hand that made this BASKET was a hand of faith that saw no possibility of drowning. It had constructed a vessel of mercy, to carry her child over death’s dark waters, into the place assigned him by the immutable purpose of the living God.

That’s right! We understand this mother’s faith because of the Hebrew word TEBAH, which the NIV translates BASKET. TEBAH is used only here and in Genesis for NOAH’S ARK. God reserved this special word in Scripture to two events so we might not miss its theological importance.

This basket is a miniature of Noah’s Ark, covered with tar and pitch. Both vessels saved the life of a man of God. As Noah’s preservation had cosmic significance, so will Moses. God’s plan for the future rests squarely on the shoulders of one of Israel’s helpless sons, a baby, whom Satan seeks to destroy.

Though Moses was brought to the place of death, he was made secure in the ARK. And all of this speaks of Christ, who went to the place of death in order to be our Deliverer. The Book of Exodus is indispensable in providing the proper interpretation of what God is doing in Jesus Christ.

From Adam to Christ, there is none greater than Moses is. He is one of the few characters of Scripture whose course is sketched from his infancy to his death. He is the most commanding figure of the ancient world. All of God’s early dealings with Israel were transacted through Moses. He was a PROPHET, PRIEST, KING, SERVANT, SHEPHERD, MEDIATOR and DELIVER all wrapped up in one person. It is easy to see why Satan did not want this person to survive. When Satan learned that One greater than Moses arrived on the scene fifteen centuries later, the murderous attack on the infant boys was repeated.

The events at the River are presided over by God. Could it be possible that at just the right moment, God might have pinched Moses so he would cry? Neither by chance nor by accident did that Pharaoh’s daughter go down to the River that day. The living God is looking after this infant boy. He uses the child’s tears to touch the princess, and the infant’s sister, Miriam, to arrange for the child’s own mother to raise him.

Doesn’t God have a real sense of humor? What could be more ironic than these events? This is more than a twist of fate. The living God’s hand is moving these events along step by step. Romans 8:28 is written all over these events—

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Big doors often swing on small hinges. God not only directs the rise and fall of nations, but also rules the fall of a sparrow. God put into the heart of this Egyptian princess to go to that particular spot at the River to bathe. God saw her heart of compassion and humility that would submit to the suggestion of Miriam, the slave girl.

Pharaoh proposed to deal shrewdly with the Israelites that they might not leave Egypt. Yet in the end, God compels the king to give board, lodging, and education, to the very man who accomplished the very thing he was trying to prevent! In the end, Pharaoh’s wisdom turned to foolishness and Satan’s devices to defeat!

With two midwives, a mother and a sister, God shows that he is able to use people of faith from lowly stations of life. With the princess of Egypt, God also demonstrates He uses people without faith from high stations of life to accomplish His purposes. Although, there is no record of what happens next. It appears that the princess’ compassion to Moses publicly shows how bankrupt her father’s plan is and he abandons it.

FIVE WOMEN SAVED ISRAEL. FOUR WOMEN of low standing and ONE WOMAN of high standing have upset the plans of Pharaoh—the god of Egypt.

Through these FOUR HEBREW WOMEN, God demonstrates to the world that the power of faith is greater than Satan’s power. Satan is confounded; and the marvelous wisdom of God is displayed in the WOMEN WHO SAVED ISRAEL.

In the male dominated Ancient World, this marks a humble beginning for the nation of Israel—it owes its existence to five women used by God.

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