When I was a young Airman, I worked in Labor and Delivery as the primary surgical technician for c-sections. More times than I care to count, I was present when hard decisions were made about maternal or baby health. Sometimes those choices had to do with a plummeting baby heart rate, a few times it had to do with a prolapsed cord, and once it had to do with a teratoma mass (this is a very rare cell tumor that can contain fully formed tissues, teeth, hair or bones). The outcomes of those decisions were typically positive with both mother and baby surviving. Sometimes those outcomes were much sadder.
In Exodus, we know there was a pharaoh trying to control Israel’s population through hard labor and ultimately by ordering Hebrew midwives to kill any male infants that they delivered (Exodus 1:15-16). This is a much hard decision of the labor and delivery kind.
Within the scripture we see Shiphrah and Puah, the midwives, put into a scenario where they had to choose to follow the orders of the earthly leader or the commandments of the heavenly one.
It’s important to note that Moses refers to these two midwives by name. Perhaps out of the multitude of other midwives, these two are most important because of their seniority in the area. Perhaps they were mentors or teachers of the other midwives. Perhaps because of that leadership role, they would have been expected to follow the pharaoh’s orders and become an example to the rest of the midwives. Perhaps they are remembered in the Old Testament scrolls because of their fear of the Lord and their disobedience of the murderous order (Exodus 1:17).
They could have been simply lost to the years as historically insignificant.
But they were not.
Why? Because they refused man and chose to obey God (Acts 5:17-19). They did not kill any babies, let alone just the male infants. In that choice, they remained faithful to the Lord. They were able to stand before God as righteous servants rather than wretched ones. They changed the course of world history by preserving God’s chosen people.
Their decisions were life and death ones with eternal implications. Like modern obstetrics, they were making the hard decisions of labor and delivery.
“The midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live.” Exodus 1:17 (NIV)