Shiphrah & Puah: Resisters of Tyranny (Sept. 9)

Exodus 1:8-10, 15-21


At the time of this story, the Hebrew people are not yet the nation Israel. They are Hebrew slaves, not a nation. After their exodus from slavery in Egypt, as they wander in the wilderness, they begin to form their identity as the nation Israel.

Thus Dorah O’Donnell Setel writes, “From a literary viewpoint, the brief appearance of Shiphrah and Puah witin the larger exodus story is highly suggestive. As those who aid birth, they are the first to assist in the birth of the Israelite nation” (The Women’s Bible Commentary, Exodus, Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992, p. 30).

Reading the Scripture

Here are some ways you might read the scripture or tell the story:

•    Audio:
o    Faith Comes by Hearing: You’ve Got the Time (Dramatized New Testament we used a few years ago during Lent. Available in the church office.)

•    Retelling the Story: The Storyteller’s Companion to the Bible, Vol. 2 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1992) contains a retelling of the story of Shiphrah and Puah (pp. 26-27, available in my office).

Teaching Suggestions

•    Wise Women of LABC: Ramona Sewell and Maggie Green—Cared for our Babies

In our scripture passage for this week, we look at two courageous women, Shiphrah and Puah, Hebrew midwives, who loved children too much to follow Pharoah’s evil plan to kill all newborn Hebrew baby boys. Maybe they didn’t stand up to Tyranny, but Maggie Green and Ramona Sewell did love our babies and took care of them in the nursery for many years. Maybe they changed your diapers or your children’s diapers.

Jo Garnett reflects on these two wise women of LABC:

Maggie Green and Ramona Sewell probably had a hand in raising a goodly number of our children in the church.  It is interesting as I thought about how both of them exhibited so many of the same characteristics.  Maggie and Ramona were devoted to their families and to the little ones they nurtured in the Nursery.  They were quiet ladies who didn't look for people to notice them and when complimented they would just smile and say, “Thank you.” They were committed to caring for our children—never absent without reason, never late and always willing to go the extra mile if needed.  Both were so loving and caring, usually holding someone in their arms. I'm glad my children, Daniel and Joanna, had the model of love and care that Ramona and Maggie exemplified.  I believe their motto would have been, "Let the little children come to us."

o    Questions for discussion:
i.    Does anyone have any stories about Maggie Green or Ramona Sewell or others who have ministered to our children through the years?
ii.    How many of you had children in the nursery cared for by Ramona Sewell or Maggie Green?
iii.    How many of you were in the nursery while Maggie Green or Ramona Sewell served there?
iv.    What can we learn from Ramona Sewell and Maggie Green?
v.    Who are the women of LABC today who nurture our children in the Christian faith, love them, and keep them safe?
vi.    How can we express our appreciation for the women of LABC who care for our children?
vii.    Is there anything else we can do make sure our children are loved, kept safe, and raised up in the faith?

•    Midwife Teaching/Case Study Method: Reflect on the Bible story or your own contemporary case study using these questions for dialogue:
o    “What would you do?”
o    “What do you think is going on here, or what should the person have done?”

•    The Formations Study Guide refers to Corrie Ten Boom and The Hiding Place. I have placed two video clips on the webpage: (1) The movie, The Hiding Place, includes a scene when the Jews, staying with the Ten Booms, go into the secret hiding place and the Ten Booms are taken off to the concentration camps. (2) A clip showing the Ten Boom’s home and a cut away of the secret hiding place with an explanation of how it worked.

•    An article in Harper’s Encyclopedia of Bible Life (pages 90-91, available in the library) describes the birth of a child, including the birthing stool and the role of midwives.


I have set aside a shelf in the library with resources for Sunday School teachers. I will place there resources of general interest and some specifically applicable to current lessons.

•    For additional commentary on the text see these commentaries in our library:
o    Mercer Commentary on the Bible (Mercer University Press, 1995)
o    Harper’s Bible Commentary (Harper & Row, 1988)

•    Also available in the Library
o    Harper’s Encyclopedia of Bible Life, pages 90-91.
o    Women of Scripture: A Dictionary of named and Unnamed Women in the Hebrew Bible, The Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, and the New Testament, edited by Carol Meyers (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2000).
o    The Women’s Bible Commentary, Exodus, Dorah O’Donnell Setel (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992), p. 30.

•    The Storyteller’ s Companion to the Bible, Vol. 2 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1992) contains a retelling of the story of Shiphrah and Puah (pp. 26-27, available in my office)