Heroines in Egypt

by Lois Tverberg

Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?” The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.” Exodus 1:18-19

Miriam and Moses MotherIn the first few chapters of Exodus, women play a major role. Pharaoh tells the midwives Shiprah and Puah to kill the newborn boys but let the girls live. His assumption was that while men posed a threat, women would be easily assimilated into Egyptian culture and exploited as domestic and sexual slaves. We also see hints of this in Abraham’s time, when he tells Sarah that the Egyptians would kill him and take her. (Genesis 12:12)

Instead, the first stories of Exodus humorously tell us that exactly the opposite occurred — that the women defeated Pharaoh! After the midwives saved the baby boys, Pharaoh confronted them. They responded with a sly insult for an excuse, that Hebrew women were stronger than Egyptian women and simply gave birth on their own, before they could get there!

Moses’ mother and sister were also heroines, saving his life by floating him out into the Nile where Pharaoh’s daughter would hear his cries and ache for his plight. Not only did women save Moses’ life, but Pharaoh’s own family defeated him, and Moses’ mother even got paid to nurse him!

An ancient listener would have laughed at how God had used the weak to defeat the strong, and realized that already, God was the one coming to rescue his people.

Photo: Bible Pictures and What They Teach Us by Charles Foster

Set Free to Serve

by Lois Tverberg

They made their lives bitter with hard labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their hard labor the Egyptians used them ruthlessly. – Ex. 1:14

One of the central themes of the story of Exodus is that of avodah, which is translated work, labor, service, and slavery. In the passage above, the word is used four times in the Hebrew text. When God finally is moved to save his people, it is because of their avodah:

The Israelites groaned in their labors (avodah) and cried out, and their cry for help because of their labor (avodah) went up to God. Ex. 2:23

Crossing the Red SeaWhen God challenged Pharaoh, he challenged him on this very issue. He sends Moses to say, “Let my people go, that they may serve (avad) me in the wilderness” (Ex. 7:16). In this sentence the same word for labor and slavery is being used to describe worshipping God. The reason for this is that the same word, avad, can mean to serve or to worship.

God was challenging Pharaoh who had enslaved his people by saying that he must free them to serve him. Pharaoh was considered a god in ancient Egypt, so this was a direct challenge by the true God of Israel to the false “god” Pharaoh who demanded that they serve him instead.

God later commanded that his people worship no other gods, and this is also translated that they should “serve” no other gods. They were set free from them to serve and worship the true God alone.

Photo Cred: http://www.1st-art-gallery.com/Nicolas-Poussin/The-Crossing-Of-The-Red-Sea,-C.1634.html