We read from first chapter of the book of Exodus this weekend. It is painful prose.
A nation of people are forced into hard labor. The treatment of these new slaves is horrible. When some of them are in labor, the resultant boys are to be killed.
The subjugation of a whole people and the mandated infanticide is a result of fear. The king is afraid of all these people who are different than he is. The king is afraid of losing power, of losing land, of losing everything.
And so he lashes out.
I was reading the story thinking about what happens when people in power are afraid. They react, we react, the way that everyone who is afraid reacts: by doing anything possible to preserve what power there is.
As we read about Pharaoh, we read about a person who has the power to destroy lives, to change everything. Because he was treated as a god, what he said was done.
But really, all of us can, in fear, destroy lives, to change everything. Perhaps not on the scale of Pharaoh, but we can lash out with words regardless of the cost. We can micromanage. We can tear ourselves and others to shreds.
There were, in the story, a couple of women who stood up to power. Shiphrah and Puah. We know their names. They could have feared losing their lives. They, however, respected the authority of God more than the authority of Pharaoh.
And they saved lives.
They were midwives, nurses who helped in the delivery process. And these two women, and perhaps a whole system of midwives, decided that they wouldn’t carry out his orders.
I know. This is an odd way to start the week. I should be saying something cheery. something upbeat, something to make us smile. But as I think about it, lots of us spend a lot of time in fear. It’s killing us.
But these women. One by one, individual choices, faith rather than fear.
Maybe there’s hope.
I first published this at Levite.wordpress.com nine years ago. The text was in our reading for yesterday. The post seemed timeless.