Read: Exodus 1
So far in the Exodus story we have a cast of unnamed actors. We are told that Moses’ parents were from the tribe of Levi, but we don’t know their names. Pharaoh is concerned about the great number of Hebrew slaves and the potential for a slave revolt, but we do not know his name. Pharaoh’s daughter, who “drew” Moses from the Nile River is unnamed. And Moses’ kid sister, who watched from afar as her baby brother was rescued is unnamed at this time; later we will learn she is Miriam.
But there are two women who are named: Shiprah and Puah, these two women were Hebrew midwives, and they were ordered by Pharaoh to have killed any boy babies born to the enslaved Hebrew people. What a horrible thing to order, and what an awful thing to be ordered to do by the authorities.
I want to take time to remember Shiprah and Puah, that we may honor them. I’ve never heard of anyone naming their baby daughter, “Shiprah” or “Puah”, and they are not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible, but they are heroes. Faced with an edict issued by Pharaoh to commit murder, they risk their lives with creative non-compliance. I am so glad that the Bible remembers them by name.
Civil disobedience is part of our nation’s spirit: The Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere’s ride, and the Declaration of Independence, all celebrate the bold stance of justice, freedom, and defiance in the face of tyranny from our earliest days. The Abolitionist movement, Women’s suffrage, the labor movement were important for our nation’s growth. In our time the civil rights movement against segregation, and other efforts for equal rights have continued this proud tradition. Civil disobedience in the face of injustice is part of who we are, and the right to peacefully assemble, to protest, to petitioning our government, and to file grievance is guaranteed by our Constitution.
Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his famous letter from the Birmingham Jail: “One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” So, here’s to Shiprah and Puah, and here’s to all the unnamed but courageous souls who have acted to oppose tyranny, injustice, and oppression, sometimes at the cost of their own lives.
Pastor Rob Nystrom