Today’s Chocolate: Alter Eco Deep Dark Blackout Organic Chocolate
Today’s Passage: Exodus 1
Here’s a passage that used to agitate me. To set the stage, Jacob and his twelve sons have long since died, and the current Pharaoh is struggling to control the numerous Hebrews in his kingdom. He forces them into hard labor, but they still prosper. So he tries to enlist the Hebrew midwives to kill all the Hebrew sons as they’re born. The Hebrew midwives don’t comply. But they lie in order to save the newborns, and therein lies the complication.
See, the midwives refuse to comply with the Pharaoh’s command out of reverence for God. The text states: “But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live” (17). They respect God’s authority rather than Pharaoh’s, and so they refuse to kill newborn babies. I don’t need to argue that God is against killing babies, do I? That God, the inventor of human beings, opposes killing them when they are at their weakest and most fragile life stage? If, like me, you recalled Psalm 137:9, “How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock,” GotQuestions.org has an answer for that.
And God puts his stamp of approval on the midwives’ non-compliance. We read: “So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty” (20). But when Pharaoh calls them to account for letting the Hebrew sons live, they give him the explanation: “Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife can get to them” (19). This is, of course, a lie. The midwives didn’t fail to obey Pharaoh’s orders on accident; they were quite deliberate in their disobedience. So, is the God of truth supporting them in their lie?
That’s the question that concerned me upon reading this passage several years ago. I remember discussions in high school about whether you should lie in order to save a person’s life, and from those conversations I concluded that it’s due to our human limitations that we see those situations as either/or. If we are sufficiently clever, shouldn’t we be able to figure out a way of saving lives without saying false things? But God, being sufficiently clever, shouldn’t be constrained to choose between a moral rock and a hard place. God doesn’t need to endorse a lie in order to save his people.
And, ultimately, I concluded that his role in the Hebrew people’s prosperity here doesn’t constitute an endorsement of the midwives’ lie. God works through fallible people, people with shortcomings and less-than-perfect plans, people who don’t see a way of saving sons without lying. He doesn’t stand behind it when we act like an insufferable braggart just because we had some dreams about wheat or stars, or when we sell our bratty little brother into slavery to some passing Ishmaelites. But he offers us forgiveness for our evils and inadequacies. He doesn’t hang us out to dry. And if he’s powerful enough to make something good come out of our most selfish actions, he can certainly do some good when the Hebrew midwives lie to the king of Egypt because they want to save some kids.
Stick with the passage; don’t bail on it just because it gets thorny. Make no mistake, there are still passages that give me trouble, but this isn’t one of them.