In Exodus 1:15–21, was it right that the midwives lied? It seems that God honored what they said.
The occasion of this passage is the predicament the Children of Israel found themselves in as they prospered in Egypt. They grew in number so greatly that the new king of Egypt, not connected with God’s Chosen People as previous kings had been, decided to do something about them. He could have simply forced them to leave his country. But he decided to get all he could out of the people by brutally making them slaves. Next, his anti-Semitic views caused him to decree to the Hebrew midwives that they should kill all the baby boys born to Hebrew women.
This plot certainly was one of Satan’s numerous attempts to destroy the royal line through which Jesus was to come. However, the plot failed because the midwives feared God and didn’t do what the king demanded. When asked why they hadn’t complied, they replied that the Hebrew women gave birth before the midwives would come and help them deliver (Exodus 1:17–19). Then, as you mentioned, God blessed the midwives (v. 20).
Regarding Shiphrah and Puah, we must see them as administrators of a league of midwives who were accountable to Pharaoh for those midwives. The two alone could never begin to deliver all of the babies in the nation. If Shiphrah and Puah were not lying, it would mean that the Hebrew babies indeed were born before the midwives assisted. In fact, God could miraculously cause that to happen. Some Bible scholars believe that the midwives deliberately delayed their arrival to deliver so that the babies would be born and the midwives wouldn’t have to kill the boys. Then the parents would also have a chance to hide the baby boys.
But what if Shiphrah and Puah actually lied? Under extreme pressure, they may have, fearing for their lives. However, those who believe that they lied do not attempt to justify the lying. They simply believe that, in spite of their lying, God blessed them for their obedience in not carrying out Pharaoh’s wishes (Acts 5:29). It does not mean that God approved of lying. God was not dependent on any lying on the midwives’ part to carry out His will. God uses us in spite of our sins and shortcomings.
Whatever happened, we know that this was not the end of Pharaoh’s plots. When he couldn’t get the midwives to “cooperate” with this mass infanticide, he commanded the Egyptian people to kill all the Hebrew baby boys they could find (Exodus 1:22). Here enters the birth of Moses and his miraculous deliverance by the very family of Pharaoh! God occasionally uses unusual people to accomplish His purposes.
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