Today’s Scripture: Exodus 1:8 – 2:10
The story of Exodus 1 is a familiar one, even if you’ve never read the Old Testament.
It’s a story of a powerful force pitted against a small one.
In the powerful corner: Egypt. After becoming a unified state in 3150 BC, Egypt was a mighty empire for thousands of years, particularly until the end of the “New Kingdom” in 1050 BC. Some scholars think the Israelites lived in Egypt from around 1700 to 1260 BC, which means they were there during the height of its power.
Representing Egypt: the king. The most powerful man in this most powerful nation.
In the other corner: the Hebrews. In the Old Testament, this word is only used by non-Israelites about Israelites, as the king of Egypt does in Exodus 1. It refers to a lower class that has lost their status in a community to which they originally belonged.
Representing these “Hebrews”: two midwives. Not a king, not even a leader – just two women.
The Egyptian king is the odds-on favorite in his effort to oppress the Hebrews.
Get ready for an upset.
The turning point might come in verse 17. The midwives have just been instructed by the king to kill all the male Hebrew babies. I imagine the two women were pretty afraid to be addressed by the king. This fear could have led them to obey his terrible instructions, but there’s someone more important that they fear:
“The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do” (1:17).
The balance shifts. The women decide to defy the king. Eventually they will be remembered by name – Shiprah and Puah – while this king remains anonymous to us.
This story is a familiar one not because it is so well-known, but because it repeats itself today. Mighty evil forces are at work in the world, in our communities, even inside of us. Theses forces can keep us up at night worrying. We fear them.
But then, we do what Shiprah and Puah did: we fear God more.
And if our fear is in God, then we have nothing to fear.
Because our God good… all the time.
And the balance shifts.
Research credit to the New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, the New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, and The Torah: A Modern Commentary.