“When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?” The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. —Exodus 1:16–20 (ESV)
Israel’s slavery in Egypt is a major part of the nation’s early history in Scripture. Today’s passage contains the account of the king of Egypt’s command to the Hebrew midwives to kill all the male babies at birth. Infanticide was more common in the ancient world than today, but that does not diminish the cold, evil command of Pharaoh.
The Hebrew midwives did not listen. Why? ‘…the midwives feared God’ and ‘let the male children live’. Their desire to please the Lord and live by His commands led them to disobey the command of an earthly ruler. They knew it was wrong to kill these babies and they risked their lives to protect them. As a result, ‘God dealt well with the midwives’. God blessed their faithfulness, and he also blessed the nation which continued to multiply and grow strong.
The ‘fear of man’ is powerful and should not be underestimated. As Christians, it is not a matter of if but when we are asked—or told—to compromise our principles. It might be a small matter or something as big as life or death. It might be in the workplace, home, school, or elsewhere. Take courage, however, like the Hebrew midwives. Fear God, not man. Live to please the Lord who will bless your obedience.