6 Women and Moses
Having just come through the Passover season, this year I’ve been thinking much about Moses and the women in his life. The story of the exodus from Egypt has six strong women, unsung heroes, without whom the story could never have happened. These women were all courageous. Some of them actively disobeyed the laws of the time, stood against the status quo, acted bravely, and were instruments of God’s will during a time of slavery and oppression. Two of these six women were not even Jews.
First we have Shifrah and Puah, two Hebrew midwives who defied Pharaoh’s decree to kill the Israelite male children, thereby saving Moses from certain death. Next is Yochabed, Moses’ mother, who saved her son from death by giving him up and trusting God’s providence. Then there’s Miriam, Moses’ sister, who boldly offered her mother’s service to Pharaoh’s daughter so that Moses could be nurtured and raised among his own people. Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses’ adoptive mother, is nameless in the scriptures. However, Rabbinic midrashic tradition names her as Bithiah (bat-yah) which literally means “the daughter of the Lord.” From the Midrash - “Moses was not your son, yet you called him your son; you are not My daughter, but I call you My daughter” (Lev. Rabbah 1:3). Knowing that Moses was a child of the Hebrews, whom her father had decreed should be killed, she saved Moses and provided him with all the advantages of Egyptian court life. The last woman is Moses’ wife Zipporah. In a very strange passage of scripture (Exodus 4:24-26), God was about to kill Moses. Zipporah took the initiative and intervened, took action and saved his life.
Throughout the Passover narrative, women are key to the accomplishment of what was to be a great deliverance of God’s people. They had an integral part in making it happen. These were women who trusted God enough to stand against the oppressive powers of their day, who took action, sometimes defied the rule of law, and were not afraid to take initiative. We don’t know much more about these women than that they were in place and ready to act. They appear only briefly in the narrative but at times of crisis and great need. Their actions preserved the life of one of God’s greatest servants. There is no leader greater or more revered by the Jewish people than Moses. He is truly legendary. Without the women, he would not have lived to even breathe, much less to become the great leader that he was.
I’ve learned much from these women. I’ve learned to be courageous, to boldly take action even if it’s unpopular or risky if it’s for the purposes of God. Shifra and Puah could have complied with the Pharaoh’s decree, Yochabed could have held on to her son and had him discovered and killed, Miriam could have been silent, Pharoah’s daughter could have let the crying child in the bulrushes die in the Nile river and Zipporah could have refused to circumcise her son and let Moses die. But none of these six women took the path of least résistance, nor did they comply with what would have been expected of them. They chose the hard way that ultimately led to the great deliverance of God’s people.
To be compliant in the face of wrongly used power does not accomplish the purposes of God. For me, Passover is a time of remembrance of God’s mighty acts of deliverance and the people he used to accomplish it. These women are some of my heroes of faith.