Exodus 1:19

19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, "Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them."

Exodus 1:19 Meaning and Commentary

Exodus 1:19

And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, because the Hebrew women
are not as the Egyptian women
Not so tender, weak, and feeble, nor so ignorant of midwifery, and needed not the assistance of midwives, as the Egyptian women:

for they [are] lively;
or midwives themselves, as Kimchi F11 says the word signifies; and so F12 Symmachus translates the words, "for they are midwives"; or are skilful in the art of midwifery, as Jarchi interprets it; and so the, Vulgate Latin version is, "for they have knowledge of midwifery"; and so could help themselves; or, "for they are as beasts" F13, as animals which need not, nor have the assistance of any in bringing forth their young; and so Jarchi observes, that their Rabbins F14 explain it, they are like to the beasts of the field, who have no need of a midwife; or they were so lively, hale, and strong, as our version, and others, and their infants also, through a more than common blessing of God upon them at this time, that they brought forth children as soon as they were in travail, with scarce any pain or trouble, without the help of others: nor need this seem strange, if what is reported is true, of women in Illyria, Ireland, Italy F15, and other places F16, where it is said women will go aside from their work, or from the table, and bring forth their offspring, and return to their business or meal again; and especially in the eastern and hotter countries, women generally bring forth without much difficulty, and without the use of a midwife F17:

and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them;
which doubtless was true in some cases, though not in all, because it is before said, they saved the men children alive; and had it been so at all times, there would have been no proof and evidence of their fearing God, and obeying his commands, rather than the king's; and in some cases not only the strength and liveliness of the Hebrew women, and their fears also, occasioned by the orders of the king, might hasten their births before the midwives could get to them; and they might not choose to send for them, but use their own judgment, and the help of their neighbours, and do without them, knowing what the midwives were charged to do.


F11 Sepher Shorash. (hyx) "sie alii", (hnh twyx yk) "quia obstetrices ipsae", Pagninus, Montanus; so the Syriac version.
F12 (maiai gar eisi) , Symmachus apud Drusium.
F13 In T. Bab. Sotah, fol. 11. 1. Chronicon Mosis, fol. 2. 1.
F14 Vid Wagenseil. Sotah, p. 249. & Varro & Gataker in ib.
F15 Posidonius apud Strabo. Geograph. l. 3. p. 114.
F16 See Harte's History of the Life of Gustavus Adelphus, vol. 1. p. 233.
F17 Ludolph. Ethiopic. l. 1. c. 14.

Exodus 1:19 In-Context

17 But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live.
18 So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, "Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?"
19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, "Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them."
20 So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong.
21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.