The first chapter of Exodus has a number of brave women mentioned. We find out in the beginning of Exodus times have changed in Egypt since the time of Joseph. The Egyptians have forced the Hebrews to become laborers and slaves because there were fearful that the Hebrews became strong and large in number. Egypt’s Pharaoh then commanded two Hebrew midwives Shiphrah and Puah to kill any boys they helped birth but to let the girls live. It says in verse 17 that Shiphrah and Puah feared God and did not do as the Pharaoh commanded. When Pharaoh called them and said “Why have you allowed the baby boys to live?” They said the babies were being born quickly before the midwife could get to them. It goes on to say in verse 26 that God was blessed the midwives and established families and households for them.
These two women remind me of stories I’ve heard about WWII. In the concentration camps there were midwives were told to kill babies born and many pregnant women were sent to the gas chamber upon arrival. There is one story of a polish woman Stanislawa Leszczyńska, who delivered approximately 3,000 babies at Auschwitz. Of those she aided in delivering only 530 babies survived according to the insider.com February 5 issue. The insider goes on to say that Leszczynska tattooed the surving babies in hopes they would be reconnected with the family again. I can recall another story of a midwife who would smuggle Jewish babies out of the camps in her doctor bag. Can you imagine the fear and stress these women faced?
And yet despite the fear, the possibility of death, Shiphrah and Puah were protected by God and basically stood up to Pharaoh.
Pharaoh then made a command to everyone that any Jewish son that is born to was to be drown in the Nile river. Can you imagine being a pregnant Jewish woman in a time like this? Once Moses was born his mother hid him for three months. Can you imagine hiding a baby for 3 months? Moses was either a quiet angel baby or she had a lot of help. I have three children, I remember how tired and worn out you are those first two months and then on top of that to have to keep your baby hidden and quiet. That sounds like a miracle in itself and would take a lot of faith and courage.
At 3 months it says in Exodus 2 verse 3 she could no longer hide him so she got a basket made of papyrus reeds and covered it in tar, to make it waterproof and placed Moses in the basket and put the basket among the reeds by the bank of the Nile. The Bible then mentions she tells Moses’s sister Miriam to watch a distance away and see what will happen.
I don’t blame her not being able to watch. If it were me I’d be crying so hard I’d need to go away for a minute. She was truly putting her baby in the hands of God and that takes great courage.
I know you know how the rest of the story goes. Pharaoh’s own daughter is at the Nile bathing and she hears Moses crying. Pharaoh’s daughter takes pity on the baby and Miriam offers to get a wet nurse, Moses’s real mother, to nurse him and help care for him. Not only is Moses saved but he gets to be held and nursed by his real mother for a time. I believe Miriam is very brave here, watching for an opportunity and not being afraid to approach the princess of Egypt to help her family. We don’t know how old Miriam is. I believe she had to be younger than 14. She showed great courage despite her age and God rewarded it by not allowing her family to be split up yet.
We worry so much about our children, I know I worry about mine. What they are watching, sex trafficking, school shootings, terrible illnesses, the list goes on. But we can’t live in fear that something is going to happen to them. These women put their children in God’s hands daily. This challenges me to be braver with my children to trust God to protect them and allow them a little bit more space and freedom to make their own choices. I hope it challenges you too.