Exodus 1:17, 21
But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive.
And so it was, because the midwives feared God, that He provided households for them.
Read the context: Exodus 1:1-22
What had the king of Egypt commanded the midwives to do? (verse 16) Imagine yourself in their shoes for a moment. The mightiest king of the known world at that time has called you into his throne room. You know that you and your people have fallen out of favor with him and with all the people of the land. He has wielded his power to make you all slaves; he has a powerful army to back him up and make sure you all stay under his domination, even though you as a people are more numerous and mightier (see verses 7 & 9). The Egyptians’ methods of keeping you all subservient is not pleasant or easy; it is cruel; you are living under severe oppression. Note the words used to describe how the Israelites were treated in verses 11-14. Now you are standing before this cruel and mighty king; you know what he is capable of. Then he gives you this evil and gruesome command.
What will you do? Will you betray your people to protect your own life? Will you obey “those in authority over you” because you think you have no choice? After all, God’s Word says to do that.
But they did have a choice. They had a choice between 2 fears. What were the 2 fears? Which did they choose? What did it cause them to do? It’s interesting that verse 17 tells what they didn’t do and what they did do. It shows that every decision, every choice has a negative and a positive: to choose to do one thing necessarily means choosing not to do another thing.
It seems that these 2 women set the tone for the people of Israel. They charted the course, blazed the trail, and, in doing so, set the stage for the next major move of God. Read Hebrews 11:23-27. Note the 2 references to fear in verses 23 and 27. Moses’ parents and Moses himself were simply following in the train of these courageous women! How is faith intertwined with the fear of the Lord? I wonder if they ever realized the impact on others their choices made. Probably not. They were just doing what was placed before them to do.
Their refusal to obey the king gave them a personal audience with him once again. How did they respond to his questioning (verse 19)? Do you think they were telling the full truth? Hmm. This calls for discernment. How did God view their lie (verse 20)? When asked by an evil person to do an evil thing, the normal rules of life no longer apply. (i.e. Thou shalt not bear false witness.) They acted in keeping with Jesus’ statement in Matthew 10:16: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”
It’s truly amazing that the king of Egypt didn’t order these women to be executed. God protected them. But He did more than that. What did God do for them (verse 21)? In I Samuel 2:30 God says, “Those who honor Me, I will honor.” The story of these 2 women certainly illustrates that promise from God.
It is interesting that we are given the names of these 2 women (verse 15). Many secondary, supporting-role characters in the Bible are not named. But God recorded their names for all generations to know them. If their names weren’t so foreign to us, it seems that we should name our daughters after them; it would be an honor to bear their names.
Let’s extract some principles for living from this story and allow these 2 women to impact our lives. Their fear of God caused them to disobey the king. When is it right to disobey authority? Who was larger on the screen of their focal field, God or the king? It seems from this story that courage could be defined as doing the right thing in the face of great and fearful danger. Or, to put it in the terms of this study, courage is choosing to fear the Lord rather than man, and letting the fear of the Lord govern our decisions and actions, regardless of the danger to self. Record what you learned about the fear of the Lord. What is the biggest thing in your focal field? What are you most afraid of? Pray for this kind of courage and that your greatest fears would be replaced with the far greater and better fear of the Lord.