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Traditional Jewish text - Exodus 1:1-21 (midwives)

15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shifra and Puah, 16 "When you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live." 17 The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. 18 Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, "Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?"

19 The midwives answered Pharaoh, "Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive."

20 So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.

Discussion Questions
  1. It is somewhat ambiguous in the text whether these midwives are themselves Hebrews or whether they are midwives who serve the Hebrew community. Do you think it matters? How might their identities as Hebrews or non-Hebrews change the way we understand their actions?
  2. The midwives disobey Pharoah because they fear God. What do you think "fear of God" means? Is this a motivation that resonates with you?
  3. Would you characterize the actions of Shiphra and Puah as civil disobedience? Why or why not?

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Traditional Jewish text - Exodus 1:1-21 (midwives)." (Viewed on December 22, 2014) <http://jwa.org/teach/livingthelegacy/exodus-1-1-21-midwives>.

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