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“one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other was named Puah”

January 24, 2009

Shiphrah and Puah were born into slave families. They were simple slave women, plying a simple but useful trade. They certainly had no expectation of becoming household words; and indeed, they have not. But the names of these two women are immortalized because of some particular circumstances the politics of their day thrust upon them.

Shiphrah and Puah had an audience with the king of the nation that held their people captive. They lied to the king. And they defied the king’s command to kill every male infant born to the women of their own ethnic cohort.

Shiphrah and Puah were Hebrew midwives when the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt. Pharaoh was afraid the Hebrews would outnumber and overpower his nation. So he hit on the scheme of having every male child murdered at birth. “But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live.” (Exodus 1:17)

The midwives were not martyred; in fact, God rewarded them. “So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty. Because the midwives feared God, He established households for them.” (Exodus 1:20-21)

My country, like Egypt in Moses’ day, has a pragmatic, not to say horrific, view of the earliest stage of human life. Very predictably, each of our two political parties will elect a new president every so many years, and each new president will likely re-enact or repeal the so-called global gag-rule.   When the policy gets a yea from the new president, non-governmental organizations that receive federal funding must refrain from performing or promoting abortions in other countries. When a new president repeals the policy, we impose no funding restrictions on abortion, anywhere we fund anything at all. The newly elected president has repealed the policy.

The new president is not out of touch with his time or his people. I suppose that I and my small cohort are the ones who are. The policy permitting the funding of abortion is not the same thing as Pharaoh’s edict. The policy condones and arguably facilitates infanticide, but does not compel it. I am no one the president will call, and I cannot think I would lie to him if he did, because I cannot think that such a thing would be necessary to preserve life. I live in a republic that has elected its leader and I have nothing more to say on the subject for a few years.

But, speaking of the republic, I do have to wonder something. If our morality is confiscated by laws that sanction and facilitate murder, are we left with the moral capacity to govern ourselves responsibly and participate in a competent republic?

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