Puah and Shiprah were midwives in Egypt during the time that the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt. The Pharaoh of Egypt, fearing the growth of the population of the Israelites within his country ordered Puah and Shiprah to destroy the male children of the Israelites as they are born:
"When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live." (Exodus 1:16, NIV)
Some scholars suggest that it possible that Puah and Shiprah were leaders among the nation's midwives, and that orders given to Puah and Shiprah would be passed along and carried out by all midwives.
Puah and Shiprah, however, did not carry out the Pharaoh's order:
The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. (Exodus 1:17, NIV)
Pharaoh summoned them and questioned them about why the male children were not being destroyed, and the midwives replied that the Israelite women were giving birth to their children before midwives could arrive.
The Pharaoh then gave his order to all people, that the male children of Israelites were not be permitted to live:
Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: "Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live." Exodus 1:21, NIV.
The names Puah and Shiprah are Egyptian names, and they are mentioned by name in Exodus 1:15. Puah means "Child bearing" or "joy of parents." Shiprah means "prolific" or "to procreate."
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