God vs. the Government – Learning from Shiphrah and Puah

photo credit: Joybot via photopin cc
photo credit: Joybot via photopin cc

Exodus 1:15-21, NLT:

 15 Then Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, gave this order to the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah: 16 “When you help the Hebrew women as they give birth, watch as they deliver. If the baby is a boy, kill him; if it is a girl, let her live.” 17 But because the midwives feared God, they refused to obey the king’s orders. They allowed the boys to live, too.

18 So the king of Egypt called for the midwives. “Why have you done this?” he demanded. “Why have you allowed the boys to live?”

19 “The Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women,” the midwives replied. “They are more vigorous and have their babies so quickly that we cannot get there in time.”

20 So God was good to the midwives, and the Israelites continued to multiply, growing more and more powerful. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.

What does this passage say about God, Jesus, and/or the Holy Spirit?

That God favors those who put His priorities first. That civil obedience does not mean blindly following those in power and allowing atrocities to happen.

What does this passage tell us about people, life, or faith?

That people in authority do not always make God-honoring decisions. Following blindly is not a good idea. We are to do the right thing, even if it isn’t the popular/legal thing to do. Following God means fighting injustice.

Why did God put this passage in the Bible?

The fact that the Bible records the names of the midwives – Shiphrah and Puah – is significant. Their actions in defending the rights of the unborn/infants got them mentioned by name in the Bible and blessed by God with children of their own. This passage is here not only to honor these two women, but also as an example of how God expects us to behave.

English: Pharaoh and the Midwives, c. 1896-190...
English: Pharaoh and the Midwives, c. 1896-1902, by James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902), gouache on board, 10 5/8 x 8 3/4 in. (27 x 22.3 cm), at the Jewish Museum, New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How does this passage relate to my life?

The question of God vs. government is a good one. The Bible tells us that God put our leaders in charge over us and that we are to respect their authority (Romans 13: 1-5), but what happens when the government is corrupt? When the laws of the land go against God? Examples like this one, where the midwives saved the lives of Hebrew infants at great personal risk and were blessed for it, give an illustration of when civil disobedience is necessary.

This theme is also seen in the books of the prophets, Amos and Micah, where the judgment of God is brought about, in part, by social injustice of the people. Micah tells us how the Lord expects us to act.

“No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” ~Micah 6:8

How can I put this truth into practice?

As Christians, I think we hide behind Romans 13 assuming that because God has put our leaders in power that our job is simply to obey them. But we have an obligation to do what is right, to love mercy, and walk humbly with God. We can do that by praying for the leaders of our country, by being informed of issues and standing up for what is right—by voting, by contacting our congressional representatives on issues…what else?

I, for one, have been guilty of idly standing by and letting the government go where it goes. How do you stay informed? How can we be proactive rather than reactive? What types of social injustice is occurring now that we should we stand against?

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