What does Exodus 1:18 really mean?

Exodus 1:18 is about the courage and defiance of the Hebrew midwives who chose to fear God rather than obey the unjust orders of Pharaoh, showcasing the power of individuals to resist injustice and stand up for what is right.

18 But the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?”


Setting the Scene for Exodus 1:18

In Exodus chapter 1, we find ourselves in the land of Egypt during a time when the Israelites were multiplying and becoming exceedingly numerous. Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt, grew concerned about the strength and potential threat posed by the Israelites. In response to this fear, Pharaoh issued a cruel decree to the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, commanding them to kill all Hebrew baby boys at birth.

Shiphrah and Puah, faithful servants of God, found themselves in a moral dilemma as they were faced with the choice of obeying the orders of the powerful Pharaoh or following their conscience and protecting the innocent lives of the Hebrew babies. Despite the risk of severe punishment, these courageous women chose to defy Pharaoh’s command and let the baby boys live. Their bravery and commitment to righteousness set the stage for the unfolding of God’s plan to deliver the Israelites from oppression and lead them to freedom.

The scene is tense and fraught with danger as Shiphrah and Puah navigate the treacherous waters of political power and moral responsibility. The surroundings are likely humble and modest, reflecting the modest circumstances of these midwives who held the power of life and death in their hands. The faith and courage displayed by Shiphrah and Puah in the face of tyranny serve as a powerful example of standing up for what is right, even in the most challenging circumstances.

What is Exodus 1:18 about?

This verse showcases profound courage and loyalty to God’s commandments. The Hebrew midwives, under intense pressure from Pharaoh, chose to prioritize their fear of God over their fear of man. Their actions demonstrate a deep-rooted faith and conviction in following God’s laws, despite the grave consequences they faced for disobedience. Reflecting on this verse prompts us to consider our own values and principles in the face of adversity. Are we willing to stand firm in our beliefs, even when it goes against societal norms or powerful authorities? The Hebrew midwives’ unwavering faith challenges us to examine our own moral compass and the extent to which we are willing to uphold it, regardless of the challenges we may encounter.

Their defiance of Pharaoh’s orders serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of standing up for what is right, even when it is difficult or dangerous. Their example inspires us to prioritize our allegiance to God and righteousness above all else, trusting in His protection and guidance as we navigate the trials and tribulations of life.

Understanding what Exodus 1:18 really means

In Exodus 1:18, we witness a pivotal moment where the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, display remarkable courage in defying the orders of Pharaoh. The context reveals a time of oppression and fear, as the Israelites grew in number, prompting the ruler’s drastic measures. Despite the command to kill Hebrew male infants, the midwives chose to honor God’s commandments above the earthly authority’s decree.

This narrative resonates with broader themes found throughout the Bible. Acts 5:29 emphasizes the primacy of obeying God rather than human authorities, echoing the midwives’ unwavering commitment to divine principles. Proverbs 9:10 further underscores the wisdom that stems from revering the Lord, guiding individuals towards moral courage and ethical decision-making.

The relevance of this passage extends to contemporary society, where individuals often grapple with moral dilemmas and conflicting loyalties. The midwives’ actions serve as a poignant reminder of the importance of moral courage, faith, and accountability to a higher power. Their example challenges us to prioritize ethical principles over fear of consequences and to uphold justice in the face of adversity.

Drawing a parallel to modern-day whistleblowers sheds light on the enduring significance of this biblical account. Just as the midwives risked their lives to protect the innocent, individuals today may face similar challenges in upholding truth and righteousness in the midst of opposition.

Pharaoh’s question, “Why have you done this?” encapsulates the tension between earthly authority and divine obedience, highlighting the midwives’ defiance rooted in faith and moral conviction. The phrase “Let the boys live” symbolizes the sanctity of life and the midwives’ unwavering commitment to upholding it, regardless of personal risk. These expressions encapsulate the profound moral integrity and courage displayed by Shiphrah and Puah.

In essence, Exodus 1:18 transcends its historical context to offer a timeless lesson on moral integrity, faith, and the courage to stand for what is right in the sight of God. It challenges us to reflect on our own convictions, priorities, and willingness to uphold ethical principles even in the face of adversity.

How do we prioritize God’s commandments over human laws?

The verse from Exodus teaches us the importance of prioritizing God’s commandments over human laws by highlighting the story of the Hebrew midwives who defied Pharaoh’s orders to kill Hebrew baby boys. The midwives chose to follow God’s command to protect and preserve life rather than obey the king’s law, as they feared and respected God more than they feared Pharaoh’s punishment. This narrative serves as a powerful example of placing God’s commandments above human laws, regardless of the consequences. We, as believers, have a duty to prioritize obedience to God when human laws conflict with God’s commandments in our own lives. This requires us to have a strong and unwavering faith, trusting in God’s ultimate authority and wisdom over the laws and judgments of men. We demonstrate our devotion and commitment to God above all else by doing so, even when faced with difficult choices or potential repercussions from earthly authorities. Courage, faith, and a deep understanding of God’s will are required to prioritize God’s commandments over human laws. We show our allegiance to God as our ultimate authority and commit to living a life that honors Him above all else by staying true to our faith and convictions, even in the face of adversity.


Just as the Hebrew midwives courageously defied Pharaoh’s orders, we too are challenged to stand boldly for our beliefs in the workplace and within our families. Let us be like shining beacons of faith, unwavering in our convictions, and unafraid to uphold what is right. Today, let us commit to being true to our values, even when faced with difficulties or opposition. How will you showcase your unwavering allegiance to your principles in the world around you?