While it’s true that when we think of the book of Exodus mothers don’t immediately pop into our minds, it is nonetheless the case that in addition to Jochebed, his mother, there were at least five other women who had a significant impact on Moses’ life. Two of these were Shiprah and Puah. They were Hebrew midwives (1:15).
Women have special abilities in regard to the cultivation of life. After all, who ever heard of mid-husbands? These two ladies were helping to bring life into the world when they were ordered to become dealers of death in regard to the baby boys that were born. This wasn’t a suggestion from their superiors, or from some faceless bureaucrat, but from the most powerful man in Egypt. What a difficult situation they were in and what enormous pressure they must have felt! But they feared God. We’re told that not once, but twice in the text (v. 17, 21). Their fear wasn’t an enslaving, dread of punishment (1 John 4:18), but a healthy reverence for God that is the beginning of true knowledge (Proverbs 1:7). It was the recognition that God was the Almighty One, not Pharaoh.
Our culture seems to have drifted quite far from this fundamental truth. Instead, we create a god in our own image, recognize only the parts of Scripture we are familiar and comfortable with, and have a Jesus who fits in with our generation. We have no transcendent god, just a nice domesticated deity.
Not so with the midwives! These two ladies dug in and refused to do what Pharaoh had commanded. By doing so they led the way for all of the Hebrew people. (After all, the story of Exodus ends right here if these ladies don’t boldly stand for life). They set the tone in their generation for faithfulness under difficult conditions. They showed that courage is not the absence of fear but the presence of faith—and their faith was wonderfully present!
And because it was, they were blessed. They go on to have families of their own (v. 21). But there’s more to the story, not only are they blessed but Israel is blessed by their actions (v. 20). Here is the Abrahamic promise (Genesis 12:2-3), being fulfilled in them! They are blessed that they might be a blessing to the larger community!
There a lot in the story of these two ladies to challenge and encourage us.