Tuesday, 28 February 2012

7. Shiphrah and Puah - for anyone whose baby arrived before the midwife...

John Bell, charismatic leader of the Iona Community in Scotland, once got up in front of a large evangelical congregation in Reading and addressed God as 'midwife of change...' There was the faintest whiff of a gasp inside  a church which was more used to hearing of God as Lord, King and Father.

But God as midwife...takes us nicely to Shiphrah and Puah (who??), midwives who safely delivered Hebrew babies in defiance of powerful male incitement to genocide under the despotic Egyptian Pharaoh in Exodus 1:15-21.

John Bell (again) speaks of a time when he was invited to speak at Westminster Abbey. Looking through the set readings in preparation for his sermon he noted it was Exodus1:1-14 and 2: 1-10 (Joseph's story rounded off; beginning of Moses's story) because Exodus is all about Moses, right?

Right; but where was the passage about the midwives? Expunged from the Lectionary apparently. Had it not been for the women who feared God more than they feared male power there would not have been a Moses, or any baby boys.

When Shiphrah and Puah are summoned before Pharaoh to explain why the male babies are continuing to be born, they are courageous and witty: 'Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women - they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.'

Way too much detail for Pharaoh - how can he possibly tell if this is technically correct or not?! He goes silent, while the God who brings to birth blesses the midwives with babies of their own.

I can't say I've ever given birth before the midwife arrived but I'VE COME QUITE CLOSE...


  1. True- she did. thanks to a quick thinking midwife and a wheelchair the crisis was averted!

  2. This is great! I never looked at the story of Moses from the viewpoint of the midwives before. I am pondering where is it I fear "man" more than God. And what will I do with this realization?

    I am enjoying your Lenten writings about the women of the Bible. Very encouraging for me to read.

    I did deliver my 2nd baby before the doctor arrived and he scolded both the nurse and I for not waiting.

    I am here from See-Through Faith.

    1. I don't think babies wait for anyone do they?!
      Thanks for your comments. Glad you're enjoying the posts, Susan.