Exodus 1:16
And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live.
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(16) Upon the stools.—Literally, upon the two stones. It has been suggested that a seat corresponding to the modern hursee elwilâdeh is meant. This is a “chair of a peculiar form,” upon which in modern Egypt the woman is seated during parturition. (See Lane, Modern Egyptians, vol. iii. p. 142.) But it does not appear that this seat is composed of “two stones;” nor is there any distinct evidence of its employment at the time of child-birth in Ancient Egypt. The emendation of Hirsch—banim for âbnaim, is very tempting. This will give the sense, “When ye look upon the children.”

Exodus 1:16-19. The stools — Seats used on that occasion. But the midwives feared God — Dreaded his wrath more than Pharaoh’s, and therefore saved the men-children alive. The Hebrew women are lively — We have no reason to doubt the truth of this; it is plain they were now under an extraordinary blessing of increase, which may well be supposed to have had this effect, that the women had quick and easy labour, and the mothers and children being both lively, they seldom needed the help of midwives: this these midwives took notice of, and concluding it to be the finger of God, were thereby imboldened to disobey the king, and with this justify themselves before Pharaoh when he called them to an account for it.

1:15-22 The Egyptians tried to destroy Israel by the murder of their children. The enmity that is in the seed of the serpent, against the Seed of the woman, makes men forget all pity. It is plain that the Hebrews were now under an uncommon blessing. And we see that the services done for God's Israel are often repaid in kind. Pharaoh gave orders to drown all the male children of the Hebrews. The enemy who, by Pharaoh, attempted to destroy the church in this its infant state, is busy to stifle the rise of serious reflections in the heart of man. Let those who would escape, be afraid of sinning, and cry directly and fervently to the Lord for assistance.Upon the stools - Literally, "two stones." The word denotes a special seat, such as is represented on monuments of the 18th Dynasty, and is still used by Egyptian midwives. 16. if it be a son, then ye shall kill him—Opinions are divided, however, what was the method of destruction which the king did recommend. Some think that the "stools" were low seats on which these obstetric practitioners sat by the bedside of the Hebrew women; and that, as they might easily discover the sex, so, whenever a boy appeared, they were to strangle it, unknown to its parents; while others are of opinion that the "stools" were stone troughs, by the river side—into which, when the infants were washed, they were to be, as it were, accidentally dropped. The stools; a seat used by women when ready to be delivered, conveniently framed for the midwife’s better discharge of her office.

Ye shall kill him, which it was not difficult for them to do without much observation.

If it be a daughter, then she shall live; either,

1. Because he feared not them, but the males only; and some add, that he was advised by one of their magicians, that a male child should be born of the Israelites, who should be a dreadful scourge to the Egyptians. Or,

2. They reserved them for their lust, or for service, or for the increase of their people, and the raising of a fairer breed by them.

And he said, when ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women,.... Deliver them of their children:

and see them upon the stools; seats for women in labour to sit upon, and so contrived, that the midwives might do their office the more readily; but while they sat there, and before the birth, they could not tell whether the child was a son or a daughter; wherefore Kimchi (h) thinks the word here used signifies the place to which the infant falls down from its mother's belly, at the time of labour, and is called the place of the breaking forth of children, and takes it to be the "uterus" itself; and says it is called "Abanim", because "Banim", the children, are there, and supposes "A" or "Aleph" to be an additional letter; and so the sense then is, not when ye see the women on the seats, but the children in the place of coming forth; but then he asks, if it be so, why does he say, "and see them" there? could they see them before they were entirely out of the womb? to which he answers, they know by this rule, if a son, its face was downwards, and if a daughter, its face was upwards; how true this is, must be left to those that know better; the Jewish masters (i) constantly and positively affirm it: he further observes, that the word is of the dual number, because of the two valves of the womb, through which the infant passes:

if it be a son, then ye shall kill him; give it a private pinch as it comes forth, while under their hands, that its death might seem to be owing to the difficulty of its birth, or to something that happened in it. This was ordered, because what the king had to fear from the Israelites was only from the males, and they only could multiply their people; and because of the above information of his magicians, if there is any truth in that:

but if it be a daughter, then she shall live, be kept alive, and preserved, and brought up to woman's estate; and this the king chose to have done, having nothing to fear from them, being of the feeble sex, and that they might serve to gratify the lust of the Egyptians, who might be fond of Hebrew women, being more beautiful than theirs; or that they might be married and incorporated into Egyptian families, there being no males of their own, if this scheme took place, to match with them, and so by degrees the whole Israelitish nation would be mixed with, and swallowed up in the Egyptian nation, which was what was aimed at.

(h) Sepher Shorash. rad. (i) T. Bab. Sotah, fol. 11. 1. Niddah, fol. 31. 2.

And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live.
16. upon the two stones] This is the lit. rend. of the Heb.: the same word is used of the two circular stones, fixed horizontally on a vertical axle, to form the potter’s ‘wheel’ (see ill. in EB. iii. 3820). The allusion is in all probability to the two stones upon which the Hebrew women, in accordance with a custom attested for other nations, either knelt or sat at the time of their delivery: Ploss, Das Weib in der Natur u. Völkerkunde, 1887, ii. 174 f., 177 f., Schapiro, Revue des Études Juives, xl. (1900), p. 45 f. Spiegelberg (Aeg. Randglossen zum AT., 1904, p. 19 ff.) cites from old Egyptian and Coptic texts the expressions, to sit on the brick, and (once) on the two bricks, in the same connexion.

Verse 16. - The stools. The explanation furnished by a remark of Mr. Lane ('Modem Egyptians,' vol. 3. p. 142) is more satisfactory than any other. In modern Egypt, he says, "two or three days before the expected time of delivery, the midwife conveys to the house the kursee elwiladeh, a chair of a peculiar form, upon which the patient is to be seated during the birth." A chair of the form intended is represented on the Egyptian monuments. Exodus 1:16As the first plan miscarried, the king proceeded to try a second, and that a bloody act of cruel despotism. He commanded the midwives to destroy the male children in the birth and to leave only the girls alive. The midwives named in Exodus 1:15, who are not Egyptian but Hebrew women, were no doubt the heads of the whole profession, and were expected to communicate their instructions to their associates. ויּאמר in Exodus 1:16 resumes the address introduced by ויאמר in Exodus 1:15. The expression על־האבנים, of which such various renderings have been given, is used in Jeremiah 18:3 to denote the revolving table of a potter, i.e., the two round discs between which a potter forms his earthenware vessels by turning, and appears to be transferred here to the vagina out of which the child twists itself, as it were like the vessel about to be formed out of the potter's discs. Knobel has at length decided in favour of this explanation, at which the Targumists hint with their מתברא. When the midwives were called in to assist at a birth, they were to look carefully at the vagina; and if the child were a boy, they were to destroy it as it came out of the womb. וחיה for חייה rof ו from חיי, see Genesis 3:22. The w takes kametz before the major pause, as in Genesis 44:9 (cf. Ewald, 243a).
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