And the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah:…
I. THE COMMAND TO THE MIDWIVES TO DESTROY THE MALES (ver. 16). This was a further stage in the persecution of the Hebrews. Happily the command was not obeyed. There is a limit even to the power of kings. Stronger than kings is -
1. The power of religion. "The midwives feared God" (ver. 17).
2. The force of patriotism. They were "Hebrew midwives" (ver. 15), and would not, even at the king's bidding, be murderers of their race.
3. The instincts of humanity. These came in to thwart both this and the next expedient for destroying the children.
4. The cunning of evasion. It is hopeless to attempt to force laws upon a people determined not to obey them. The midwives had only to stay away, and let the Hebrew women help themselves, to reduce the, king's decree to a dead letter. And this was probably what they did (ver. 19). The result shows how much better it is, even at some risk, to obey God than to obey man. The midwives -
1. Lost nothing.
2. Retained a good conscience.
3. Were signally honoured and rewarded: God made them houses (ver. 21). Kindness shown to God's people never fails of its reward.
II. THE COMMAND TO THE PEOPLE TO CAST THE MALES INTO THE RIVER (ver. 22). He must indeed have been a foolish king, if he thought to secure obedience to so inhuman a decree. Parents would not obey it. The work was of a kind which would soon grow hateful even to those who might at first be willing to do it for reward. The hearts of the most abandoned ere long sicken at murder. Public sympathy does not appear to have gone with the edict, and the number of males at the Exodus makes it certain that it was not long in operation. Its chief fruit was one little contemplated by the tyrant - the salvation and courtly upbringing of Moses. Learn -
1. How one cruelty leads to another, and increasingly hardens the heart. It is told of Robespierre that when judge at Arras, half-a-dozen years before he took his place in the popular mind of France and Europe as one of the bloodiest monsters of myth or history, he resigned his post in a fit of remorse after condemning a criminal to be executed. "He is a criminal, no doubt," he kept groaning to his sister, "a criminal no doubt; but to put a man to death!" (Morley).
2. The impotence of human devices.
3. The certainty of the Church surviving under the worst that man can do against it,. The more Pharaoh persecuted, the more the people multiplied and grew (vers. 12, 20). - J.O.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah: