What does Exodus 1:15-21 really mean?

Exodus 1:15-21 is about the faith and courage of the Hebrew midwives who bravely defied the orders of Pharaoh to kill the Hebrew babies, demonstrating the protection and vindication of God over his chosen people regardless of the oppression they faced.

15 Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah,
16 “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.”
17 But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live.
18 But the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?”
19 Then the midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.”
20 So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong.
21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.


Setting the Scene for Exodus 1:15-21

In Exodus chapter 1, we find ourselves in the land of Egypt during a time when the Israelites were multiplying rapidly. Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt, became concerned about the growing number of Israelites and feared that they might become too powerful. In response to this fear, Pharaoh ordered the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, to kill all Hebrew baby boys at birth to control the population growth.

Shiphrah and Puah, however, feared God and did not obey Pharaoh’s command. They let the baby boys live, and when Pharaoh questioned them about it, they cleverly explained that the Hebrew women gave birth before they could even arrive. Their faithfulness to God and their courage in defying Pharaoh’s orders played a crucial role in preserving the lives of many Hebrew baby boys during this dark time in Egypt.

The scene is tense and filled with a sense of danger as Shiphrah and Puah risk their lives to protect the innocent. The surroundings are likely a humble dwelling where the Hebrew women give birth, with the midwives providing comfort and assistance during the deliveries. The courage and faith of these two women set the stage for the eventual deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, showcasing the power of standing up for what is right in the face of adversity.

What is Exodus 1:15-21 about?

This verse from the book of Exodus tells us about the courage and integrity of the Hebrew midwives who defied the orders of the powerful Pharaoh to kill male babies. Despite the risk to their own lives, these midwives chose to listen to their conscience and fear of God rather than obey an unjust command. Their actions show us the importance of standing up for what is right, even in the face of adversity and persecution. Let us reflect on this verse, considering the power of individual choice and moral courage. What would we do in a similar situation? How do we respond when faced with conflicting demands from authority figures and our own moral compass? The story of the Hebrew midwives challenges us to examine our own values and priorities, and to find strength in doing what is just and compassionate, even when it is difficult. This verse ultimately reminds us that we all have the capacity to make a difference and uphold our principles, no matter our circumstances. It is a call to stand firm in our beliefs and find the courage to act with integrity, even when it means going against the tide. Let the bravery of the Hebrew midwives inspire us to strive to follow in their footsteps in our own lives.

Understanding what Exodus 1:15-21 really means

The passage in Exodus 1:15-21 takes us back to a time of oppression and fear in Egypt, where the Israelites were enslaved. Pharaoh, alarmed by the increasing numbers of the Israelites, issues a cruel decree to the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, commanding them to kill all Hebrew baby boys at birth. Despite this ruthless order, these courageous women choose to defy Pharaoh’s command out of their reverence for God. Their names, Shiphrah and Puah, are not mere labels but symbols of bravery and resistance against injustice.

In the phrase “feared God,” we witness the midwives’ unwavering commitment to honoring God’s authority above all else. Their decision to let the boys live is not just an act of disobedience but a profound display of moral courage and faith in the face of tyranny. This act of defiance echoes throughout history, resonating with biblical teachings and ethical principles that prioritize divine will over human commands.

Drawing parallels to other biblical passages, such as Acts 5:29, Proverbs 9:10, and Matthew 10:28, we see a consistent theme of prioritizing obedience to God over earthly authorities. The midwives’ story serves as a timeless reminder of the wisdom in fearing the Lord and the ultimate protection found in aligning oneself with His will. Their example challenges us to reflect on our own convictions and the extent to which we are willing to uphold them in a world that often demands compromise.

In a contemporary context, the narrative of Shiphrah and Puah speaks volumes about the relevance of moral courage, faith in action, and respect for life in today’s society. Their unwavering commitment to preserving life underscores the sanctity of human existence and calls us to reexamine our own ethical stances in a world that sometimes devalues the sacredness of life.

Consider a scenario where a healthcare worker faces a moral dilemma, akin to the midwives’ predicament. Just as Shiphrah and Puah had to navigate the tension between their duty and their beliefs, modern-day professionals may find themselves at a crossroads where their faith and ethics clash with societal expectations. By emulating the midwives’ resolve and reliance on God, individuals today can draw strength from their example and make principled decisions even in challenging circumstances.

In conclusion, the narrative of Shiphrah and Puah serves as a beacon of light, guiding us towards a deeper understanding of faith, courage, and obedience to God. Their legacy challenges us to examine our own convictions, stand firm in the face of adversity, and trust in the wisdom that comes from aligning our actions with God’s will. May their story inspire us to embody the same unwavering faith and moral courage in our daily lives, making a lasting impact through our commitment to righteousness and justice.

How can we stand up for justice and righteousness?

One way we can stand up for justice and righteousness is by recognizing and standing against oppression and injustice. We should not turn a blind eye to those who are being mistreated or marginalized, but instead, we should speak out and take action to defend the rights of the vulnerable and oppressed. Advocating for justice and righteousness aligns us with God’s values of love, compassion, and fairness.

Another way to stand up for justice is by promoting equality and fairness in all aspects of society. This includes standing against discrimination, prejudice, and bias, and working towards creating a more just and equitable world for all individuals. We demonstrate our commitment to upholding justice and righteousness by actively seeking to dismantle systems of inequality and advocating for equal rights and opportunities.

Additionally, we can stand up for justice by being a voice for the voiceless and a defender of the weak. This means using our platform, resources, and influence to advocate for those who are marginalized or oppressed, and to work towards creating a more inclusive and compassionate society. We embody the values of God and contribute to making the world a better and more just place for all by actively engaging in acts of justice and righteousness.


Channel the courage of the Hebrew midwives who defied tyranny. Let their steadfast faith inspire you to stand strong in the face of adversity. Uphold righteousness and protect those in need with unwavering conviction. Will you rise up and face challenges with the same resolve and faith as these brave midwives?