Civil Disobedience In Obedience to God

Exodus 1:17 (ESV) … “But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live.”


RESCUE Because the midwives fear God, they disobey Pharaoh and save the male babies. They tell Pharaoh that the Hebrew women give birth too quickly for them[1]


Killing the Jewish boys at birth (vv. 15–21). If this plan had succeeded, Pharaoh would have wiped out the Hebrew people. The future generation of men would be dead and the girls would eventually be married to Egyptian slaves and absorbed into the Egyptian race. But Genesis 3:15 and 12:1–3 said that God would not permit such a thing to happen, and He used two Jewish midwives to outwit Pharaoh.


This is the first instance in Scripture of what today we call “civil disobedience,” refusing to obey an evil law because of a higher good. Scriptures like Matthew 20:21–25; Romans 13; and 1 Peter 2:11 admonish Christians to obey human authorities; but Romans 13:5 reminds us that our obedience must not violate our conscience. When the laws of God are contrary to the laws of man, then “[w]e ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). You see this exemplified not only in the midwives but also in Daniel and his friends (Dan. 1; 3; 6) and the apostles (Acts 4–5).


Were the midwives lying to Pharaoh? Probably not. The babies were born before the midwives arrived because Shiphrah and Puah had told their assistants to be late! God blessed the two leading midwives for putting their own lives on the line in order to save the Jewish nation from extinction. However, He honored these two women in a strange way: He gave them children at a time when it was dangerous to have children! Perhaps all their children were daughters, or perhaps God protected their sons as He protected Moses. However, this blessing from God shows how precious children are to the Lord: He wanted to give these two women His very best reward, so He sent them children (Ps. 127:3).[2]




[1] Chrispin, G. (2005). The Bible Panorama: Enjoying the Whole Bible with a Chapter-by-Chapter Guide (p. 48). Leominster, UK: Day One Publications. [2] Wiersbe, W. W. (1998). Be delivered (pp. 11–12). Colorado Springs, CO: Chariot Victor Pub.

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