Lively Women

Scripture: Exodus 1:8-2:10

Key Verse(s): Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?”  And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. (2:7-8)

Observation: Although this story includes Moses’ birth, this is really the story of the cleverness and courage of five “lively women.” As mentioned above, after enslaving Israel does not have the desired effect, Pharaoh turns to simply killing Hebrew baby boys. First he enlists two midwives, Shiprah and Puah, but they refuse to obey Pharaoh. They are too smart to directly oppose him knowing that to do so would lead to their own deaths. Instead, they play on Pharaoh’s divisiveness and use his claim that the Hebrews and the Egyptians are distinct people in order to save the lives of countless Hebrew boys. Their actions to save the lives of Hebrew boys in general lead to the saving of one Hebrew boy in particular, the aforementioned Moses. The author of Exodus continues with the story of three unnamed women acting to derail the deadly plans of Pharaoh. Moses’ mother, his sister, and the Pharaoh’s own daughter are all used by God to save Moses’ life and begin the liberation of all of the Hebrew people. In the key verse, all three women are represented. The mother who has trusted God by putting her baby in an ark (translated as a basket) will be summoned by the daughter who stays a safe distance away to see what will become of her brother. This is only after Pharaoh’s daughter has heard this Hebrew baby boy’s cry and had compassion on him. All three know they are defying the command of the Pharaoh. All three know that they could be put to death if their deeds become known. However, all three, along with Shiprah and Puah, are so filled with life that they act courageously to preserve life.

Analysis:  To say that this story is only about the weak and lowly overcoming the most powerful person in Egypt is to play into the myth of women as the weaker gender. We know the Bible illustrates repeatedly how God uses the most unlikely people to be deliverers and heroes. However, with Genesis and the creation story in mind, we are reminded that women were not made the weaker gender but were made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Instead of focusing on the great odds against these women being able to act to defeat Pharaoh’s purposes, perhaps we should focus on the creativity and courage of the women. These women are used by God to begin the process by which the children of Israel will become the nation of Israel. Yes, there is the element of the weak overcoming the strong but to limit this story to that is to limit these women and God’s creation. After all, God gave women the role of carrying children and giving birth, so it is only fitting that lively women are used to bring life out of death. These women, Moses’ birth-mother in particular, foretell Jesus’ coming and redemption on the cross. Rome intended the cross to be a source of intimidation through death but Jesus redeemed the cross and we now claim victory in that same cross. Likewise, Moses’ mother redeems the killing of innocent Hebrew children as her son Moses by placing him in the Nile River, the intended source of death, so that he is raised and redeemed from the Nile River. Not only that but he then becomes the source of life and liberation for Israel and eventually the entire world.

Prayer: God give us the courage and boldness of these women. Help us to stand up against all oppression and injustice. Grant us the strength to act and bring life out of deadly situations. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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