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Monday, January 25, 2010

The Exodus: Brought to You by Women

As I was reading Exodus the other day, one of the study notes in my ESV Study Bible brought an interesting fact to my attention. I've heard it said that the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, is an anti-female book. It was written for a patriarchal society, and parts of it have been used over the centuries to oppress women (or at least to try and make them shut up!) But in the first few chapters of Exodus, women play a crucial role. In fact, without the actions of these women, we would have never heard the name "Moses."

The action begins in chapter 1; the new king of Egypt is suspicious of the people of Israel, enslaving them and instructing their midwives to kill any male babies born to Israelites. The midwives do not kill the babies, however; because of their faith in God, they tell Pharaoh that the babies were born before the midwives were able to get there. These two midwives are even honored by having their names, Shiphrah and Puah, appear in the narrative! If those faithful women had obeyed Pharaoh's orders, Moses would have been killed at birth. No Moses.

In chapter 2 we find some more faithful women. A woman has a baby boy, and hides him from Pharaoh's kill squad for the first three months of his life. Then the mother, knowing she can't hide the baby any longer, puts him into a little boat she makes for him out of a basket and floats him out on the river (presumably hoping someone who can help him will find him). Who should find him but the most unexpected of the heroines in the story... the daughter of Pharaoh! She takes pity on the baby, and in the most stunning case of "he followed me home, Daddy, can I keep him?" in history, decides to take the baby in. She knew he was a Hebrew child, and surely she knew that boy Israelites were supposed to be killed. If she had allowed him to be murdered, the story would have taken a turn for the worse right there... No Moses.

What about the most insanely gutsy female in the whole story, the baby's sister? Since when does a slave girl run up to the princess of the whole nation and give her advice? Because she did, though, Moses was nursed by his own mother. The baby's mother got paid to raise him! Surely she taught him as much about the true God as she could as he was growing up. Because of the audacious actions of his sister, Moses had the opportunity to be exposed to Godly influences that certainly were not present in the palace of Pharaoh. There may have been a Moses, but he might not have turned into the man he did.

So in the first two chapters of Exodus, we find that the whole story hinged on the actions of four women and one little girl. The only males in the whole account, Exodus 1:8-2:10, are the murderous Pharaoh and the helpless baby. Everyone else, all the Godly players, are women! Without them, the Exodus from Egypt would not have happened like it happened. The Bible, anti-female? I'd say not!

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