Whole Story Resources: Women in the Pentateuch (Part 2)

May 24, 2016 // Articles+Guides

This article is a continuation from Women in the Pentateuch Part 1


In Women in the Pentateuch Part I, we covered two broad roles for women as seen in Genesis 2:

  1. “Helper” —a particular role for married women to support and sustain their husbands
  2. “Mother of all the living”—a universal role for every woman to be life-givers and life-preservers.

If you haven’t already read Part I, takes some time to read it before moving to Part II.


So we know the theoretical roles of women now. But are there any real-life examples in the Scripture of a woman being a “helper” or a “giver and preserver of life?”

Absolutely! While we could explore many Biblical passages the Pentateuch, the “Exodus woman” is one of the clearest examples of helping and preserving life in all of the Pentateuch! Let’s get to know some of these women on a first-name basis.

  1. A. Shiphrah and Puah:

Israel has set up shop in Egypt, but their “shop” isn’t so little anymore; they have been multiplying. Pharaoh is nervous because if the Israelites keep growing, they may get big enough to overthrow him. In efforts to stay in power, he devises a grotesque plan: kill all the Israelite babies who are male so Israel can’t reproduce anymore. He orders the Hebrew midwives—particularly two women named Shiphrah and Puah—to slaughter all the male newborns that come from the women of Israel.

You can imagine how scary this scene must have been. Execute the male newborns of your own people or die by the hand of the mighty and merciless Pharaoh. Amidst the insanity of it all, Shiphrah and Puah did an incredible thing. Exodus 1:17 tells us that “the Hebrew midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live.”

When the King came back and saw that the males were living, he got angry and asked why. They answered with a cleverness that clearly came from the minds of two creative women—these Hebrew women must have incredibly fast births! They are rolling through their births faster than we can even get to them! By the time we show up, everything’s finished! (Sorry not sorry).

Because of Shiphrah and Puah’s great faith, an entire generation of male babies avoided slaughter. Truly these women were heroic preservers of life, and because of their bravery, God showed them favor in their own families (Ex. 1:20-21).

The fate of these male youngsters was still to be revealed, however. As it turns out, they have another threat of murder to avoid, and guess who saves the day again? Women.

If you’d like to continue this article you can download the full PDF here: WOMEN IN THE PENTATEUCH PART 2

Written by Ashley Marivittori Gorman, Author and SJI contributor.