Bravery in the Face of Adversity

Denise M. Kohlmeyer

When it comes to bravery in the Bible, who comes to mind? King David, for sure. For his unflinching courage in facing down the Philistine behemoth called Goliath. Daniel, absolutely. For his uncompromising faith in refusing to bow down to the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. Joshua, most definitely. For sticking to his single-minded mission of wiping out the enemies of God. Shiphrah and Puah, no doubt. For their...Wait...What! Who?


Sadly, these two names are virtually unknown in the annuls of the Old Testament (their story can be found in Exodus 1). Yet, these two obscure Hebrew women — whose names mean "beautiful" and "splendid" respectively — showed amazing bravery in the face of adversity. Extreme adversity. They risked their careers as high-ranking midwives, not to mention their lives, by covertly defying Pharaoh's outrageous edict to kill all the boy babies born to their kinswomen. United in their intent, they sought to undermine this mad man's plot to curb the population of the ever-burgeoning Israelite nation.

But thanks to their bravery, the nation was saved. More importantly, a particular baby boy was saved, a baby who would grow up to become the rescuer of this stubborn, stiff-necked people, perhaps of even Shiphrah and Puah themselves, in which case — if they lived long enough to see the Exodus — they had literally saved their own redeemer. Whose name was Moses.

What motivated these women to do what they did? Why were they willing to put it all on the line, as it were, even baldly lying to Pharaoh's face?

Gotta love these women! What chutzpah!

A simple phrase explains it all: "They feared God." It's mentioned twice in this chapter, verses 17 and 21; and when a word or phrase in Scripture is mentioned more than once in a passage (called the Law of Second Mention), it's important. Very important!

These women feared God, not Pharaoh. They knew that God could do more to them by way of eternal judgment than Pharaoh ever could by way of earthly punishment. "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28, ESV). While Shiphrah and Puah didn't know this verse, yet they lived by it, having had the principle instilled in them as women raised in the Hebrew traditions, practices and beliefs. This "fear of God" had been taught to them since childhood, long before they ever went into service as royal midwives. Their fear (yirah, reverence, piety, awe) of God was as natural to them as breathing, borne out of their knowledge of who He is based on the names He has:
YAHWEH: the great I AM, the Self-Existent, Uncreated One;
ELOHIM: the Creator of the heavens and earth;

ADONAI: Master and Overseer of all peoples and possessions;
JEHOVAH JIREH: the One who provides;

EL SHADDAI: the Almighty One.
It is this God, in fact, that Moses would later say had sent him to convince the Israelites to leave Egypt. Tell them, God had said, that, "I AM who I AM...say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you'" (Exodus 3:14). These names alone, demonstrated by the 10 powerful and devastating plagues, would be enough to persuade the people.

And Pharaoh's name? It means "great house." Just a house. Ok, a palace. We'll give him that!

His kingdom? One country: Egypt. Ok, so it was the most powerful country (politically, economically, scientifically, socially) at that time.

But still...

Yes, Shiphrah and Puah feared the right Person, whose name encompasses more than just His nature, but His very Being! A name that transcends time, space, and place.

And what's even more amazing is that these two women did not have any Scriptures. None! Moses hadn't, for obvious reasons, put pen to papyrus yet. The sacred Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) was over a century away from being written. All that Shiphrah and Puah knew about God was what had been passed along by their ancestors through oral transmission: through songs, stories, and personal experiences and encounters with God.

That was it!

With our overwhelming availability of godly resources today, both electronic and otherwise, our modern-day fear of God does not even come close to that of these stalwart women. Oh that it would!

Their bravery, we see then, was an outgrowth — a by-product, if you will — of their reverential fear of God. First comes fear, then comes bravery. Not the other way around. This was the same with David, Daniel, Joshua, and everyone else since. A genuine, deep-seated fear of God must be in place long before any adversity hits, otherwise our faith falters. Each of these saints was only able to stand up in the face of difficult, horrific circumstances because the fear of God was already a well-entrenched attribute in their lives.

And Shiphrah and Puah's bravery did not go unnoticed, nor unrewarded. God witnessed it all, and was pleased. Very pleased!

Their reward was two-fold: first nationally, then personally. The nation was not only saved from certain extinction, but it actually increased exponentially. Shiphrah and Puah's defiance enabled many baby boys (Moses included) to grow up, marry, and produce children of their own. And by the time of the Great Departure 80 years later (roughly three generations), there was rumored to be more than two million Israelite men, women and children.

Take that Pharaoh!

This explosive growth was also in keeping with God's promise to Abraham some 800 years earlier — that the patriarch would become a great nation, that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the heavens (Genesis 12:2-3; 26:4) — a promise which Shiphrah and Puah would most definitely have known about...and did everything they humanly could to uphold it.

Secondly, God showed "kindness" to these two women by giving them "established households." This likely means that they became the matriarchs of enduring Jewish families, families that literally owe their existence to them even today. What a legacy!

These two beautiful and splendid women truly lived up to their names and stand as stellar examples for us. Oh friends, we would do well in these modern times, particularly with all that is going on politically, economically, socially, spiritually and globally, to cultivate this same fear of God. Not a quaking fear that falls down in the face of adversity, but a confident fear that stands up to it, a fear borne of and backed by ALL the wonderful, powerful names of God:
YAHWEH: the great I AM, the Self-Existent, Uncreated One;
ELOHIM: the Creator of the heavens and earth;

ADONAI: Master and Overseer of all peoples and possessions;
JEHOVAH JIREH: the One who provides;

EL SHADDAI: the Almighty One.

Image Credit: reneebigelow; untitled; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | God-Father

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Published 6-6-16