The Wisdom of Protecting Human Life
Focal Teaching Passage: Exodus 1:1-2:10
Today’s lesson passage has been selected as an example of the explicit Scriptural emphasis upon the value and sacredness of human life—life that has been created in the very image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26-27). In the Exodus account of the slaughter of the Hebrew children and the deliverance of Moses, God’s concern for the protection of life is evidenced.
The Faith of the Hebrew Midwives (Exodus 1:1-22)
These verses provide the
setting of the book of Exodus. Here we
find the people of God, or “the sons of
Following Joseph’s death at
the age of 110 years, and the demise of that entire generation, the number of
Israelites began to expand very rapidly.
Verse 7 includes several descriptive phrases that reveal the
dramatic growth of the Jewish nation in
As the Israelite population
continued to grow very rapidly, a “new
king” came into power in
Seeing that the increase in
labor was having no effect on the growth of the nation, the king ordered two
Hebrew midwives to kill every newborn Israelite male. Yet, because the two women, “Shiphrah” and “Puah,” feared
God they refused to obey the king’s direct order. Instead, they deceived the king (v. 19) and
preserved the lives of the male children.
The result of their obedience to God was that they each received their
own household and witnessed the continued expansion of the nation (vv. 20, 21). As Alan Cole notes, “Even if they lied, it is
not for their deceit that they are commended, but for their refusal to take
infant lives, God’s gift. Their reverence for life sprang from their reverence for God, the
life-giver, and for this they were rewarded with families” (Exodus, TOTC, 55). Again meeting with failure, Pharaoh “commanded all his people” to cast every newborn Israelite boy into the
The Determination of a Mother (Exodus 2:1-6)
With the people of God facing severe oppression, forced labor, and a king determined to annihilate the nation, God set in motion a series of events that ultimately led to the deliverance of the Israelites. The rescue plan began with the timely birth of a “son” to “a man from the house of Levi,” Amram, who was married to “a daughter of Levi,” Jochebed. According to Hebrews 11:23 they were a righteous God-fearing couple who were not afraid to violate the command of the Pharaoh. In a tremendous demonstration of faith in God, Jochebed hid Moses for “three months” in order to preserve his life. It is important to note that Amram and Jochebed had other children as well—Miriam, who was about 14, and Aaron who was 3 years of age when Moses was born.
There soon came a time when Moses’ mother could “hide him no longer.” At this point she devised a plan to have him adopted by
the “daughter of Pharaoh” whom she regularly observed
bathing in the
The princess immediately recognized the child as “one of the Hebrew’s children.” Amazingly, she “had pity on him” and devised a plan to spare his life and make him her son. The sister of the child negotiated with the princess to have his mother care for him (v. 7). The princess agreed and pledged to pay Jochebed “wages” for nursing Moses. After about two years, the child was taken back to the daughter of Pharaoh and Moses “became her son” (v. 10). At that point the princess formally named him “Moses,” a name meaning “to draw forth” or “pull out.” That the daughter of Pharaoh gave the child a Hebrew name is quite remarkable. F. B. Huey notes that if she was “strong-willed enough to defy her father’s decree by adopting a Hebrew baby, it is not impossible that she gave him a Hebrew name, knowing he was a Hebrew” (Exodus: A Study Guide Commentary, 23).
Key Themes for Reflection and Application
One: This story chronicles the extraordinary lengths traversed by God-fearing people in order to protect innocent human lives. What would be some twenty-first century examples of such life-preserving actions?
Two: In a similar vein, what are some modern day counterparts to Pharaoh’s decree of death for the infants? In other words, what are some specific ways that modern culture betrays a trivial view of human life? Hint: Try and think of some of the more subtle ways that the sanctity of life is trivialized today.
Three: What should be a Christian’s ultimate motive for the protection and defense of human life?
Four: Imagine what would have happened if the women in this story had not been so determined to save human life.