15 Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, of whom the name of one was Shiphrah and the name of the other Puah; 16 and he said, “When you do the duties of a midwife for the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstools, if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.” 17 But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive. 18 So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this thing, and saved the male children alive?”
19 And the midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are lively and give birth before the midwives come to them.”
20 Therefore God dealt well with the midwives, and the people multiplied and grew very mighty. 21 And so it was, because the midwives feared God, that He provided households for them.
Cue the sound of brakes…The midwives LIED and yes they saved lives and it was for a good purpose…but God actually rewards them? But, just a few chapters later God gives the ten commandments to Moses and cough cough “Thou shalt not lie” cough cough…
I had never focused on this tidbit before and I know that there are many ideas that seem contradictory in the Bible. It doesn’t shake my faith in scripture and this isn’t about exposing the Bible as some hoax. I am just wandering through these scriptures that I have read in the past and that every child who attends Sunday school is given as stories, trying to see them with a fresh eye. Forgive me if I ramble because some of this is me working it out for myself on paper.
I did some searching to see what people who are much smarter and versed in scripture then I am say and one idea that made some sense to me was that God did not reward the midwives for lying but for saving the baby boys.
I think that there is another reason for theses little nuggets that pop up and make us question. One purpose is to make us do exactly that – question. Why would we assume that the God who created then entire universe out of nothing would be easy to understand? When I read a verse like this one, I am lead to cross-references and other scripture and commentary. Anything that motivates us to read more, study more, dig deeper, has to be a good thing.
I remember when my youngest was little, we had a garden and she loved the cherry tomatoes. She loved them so much that we had to watch her or she would eat too many and she didn’t seem to care if they were ripe. One day she was playing in the back yard and when she came in the house there were tomato seeds stuck to the front of her pink tee shirt. I asked her if she had been eating tomatoes and she shook her head no, unaware that the evidence was literally all over her. All she saw was that we were keeping her from something she liked. She did not see that we were protecting her from getting sick.
We humans learn very young to lie to avoid punishment. No one likes consequences but logically, maybe having no consequence makes it more difficult for us to admit our sin. Without admitting our sin we have no cognizance of the need for a savior. Without a savior we cannot be reconciled to God so lying to avoid consequence is a big problem for us.
All of us have those sayings that we inherited from our mothers. The ones that used to make us roll our eyes in disbelief at how old fashioned and out of touch our mother’s were. One that sticks with me and as with most of my mom’s sayings, now makes perfect sense to me, is “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” My mouth often gets me into trouble but I try not to add lie to the mix. It is hard enough to remember everything as I get older. I KNOW without a doubt I would not be able to remember lies. Trust is such a delicate thing and so very important. One lost it is almost impossible to get back. I think I am forgiving someone who has lied to me but I am not sure that I am successful because there is always that little doubt in the back of my mind and I am more careful. It crates an us versus them mentality.
Years ago I read about the word Koinonia. Koinonia is being united in worship, in serving, in fellowship.
Philippians 2:1-2 says “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.”
If trust is broken because of lies then Koinonia is impossible, not just with each other as Christians but with Christ.
Have I got a good answer about the midwives? I think they were just humans thrust into an impossible situation and God in His wisdom, knew they looked at their options and did the best they could. Imagine being in their position. You are a poor person who has devoted your life to helping people. Now you stand before a powerful man who rules a country in which you are perceived as a second class citizen at best, a threat to the economy and society and completely at the mercy of a man who has ordered you to commit murder. They took a courageous stand and defied the order but in a way that deflected what could have been further punishment for their people if perceived as out and out defiance and survived along with saving the lives of babies. God had plans for one of those babies and we don’t know, because the story doesn’t give us any more information but it’s possible that some other infants who survived became the ancestors of other important prophets. We do know that there were mothers who would have been heartbroken if not for these midwives and their creative problem solving.
God is not okay with lies but maybe we are supposed to think. To simplistically apply laws is to go back to the time of the Pharisees and takes grace completely out of the equation.
Grace?? Oh yes. I forgot about that. Was grace present as early as Exodus? Well, Adam and Eve ate of the tree of life but God did not kill them. Was there a consequence? Big time! They were banished from the garden and life became a whole new level of difficult. We may think that was harsh but God did not kill them and so the human race went on. That was grace. (And remember that whole debacle had lies at the center of it!)
We tend to think of grace as a new testament thing but God’s grace has been with us from the beginning and thankfully will be until the end.
When my little one lied about eating the tomatoes I didn’t spank her. I did point out that I could see the seeds on her shirt. I reminded her that green tomatoes would give her a belly ache. I knew that she would have many lessons to learn as she grew older and that some of them would be painful. I loved her then and I love her now. Did I still trust her? Well, as much as you can trust a three year old who loves tomatoes.
Everything seems to point back to grace. Amen.