The midwives [Shiphrah & Puah] feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. – Exodus 1:17 (NRSV)
What was wrong with the Hebrew babies?
Why would the tyrant, Pharaoh, want them gone?
Oppressors have a predictable playbook: Servitude. Forced labor. Imprisonment. Genocide. Mass genocide.
It’s also the story of the Exodus. Where an oppressor feared a race of people, literally immigrants, who were strong and numerous. Rather than welcoming them, the tyrant turned on them. Pharaoh wanted the baby boys dead. Ancient Israel was patrilineal. Killing the boys would wipe out the Israelites over time.
So the tyrant called on the women to exact his nefarious plan. With the full expectation that they would execute it as he had ordered. This happens in empire. Oppressors are accustomed to accomplices. Pharaoh expected the same from Shiphrah and Puah.
But they were not the ones.
People will go to great lengths. To the ends of the earth. To borders. To desert wilderness. To Egypt. To Texas. To survive. To preserve life.
And Mammon will do all he can to stop them.
But look to the women.
We don’t know Pharaoh’s name. Exodus doesn’t name him. Maybe because it doesn’t need to. We know Pharaoh. Or if we don’t, we should.
And we must know his playbook. And we must see our place in resisting it.
Because you do know that the resistance has a playbook; it’s called the Bible.
It’s time to summon courage in ways we may never have imagined. It’s time to show that strength the tyrant so deeply fears. We must fear God more than Pharaoh. We must trust God more than empire. We must never be collaborators in oppression, because God has already taken sides in the struggles of the oppressed.
Now it’s our turn.
Thanks be to God for the Shiphrahs and the Puahs, the Sojourners, the Tubmans. Now? We rise. And resist. Amen.
Kaji Douša is the Senior Pastor of The Park Avenue Christian Church, a congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, in New York City.