Names are very useful, they define objects and subjects. They tell us what things are or what they are not. Exodus is the greek name for this book. The Hebrew title of this book is “Names.”
These are the names….
Shiprah, Puah, Jocheved, Miriam, Aaron, Moses, Pharaoh, Jethro, Zipporah, and YHWH, the LORD. One by one the writer of Exodus introduces us to each succeeding character. In majestic fashion he unfolds the cast, character by character. The remarkable thing about all these names is that Pharaoh alone is the one name that is not personal. It could roughly be translated as “king” (literally “the great house”). He is only his title his very identity is only what he does.
By introducing all the characters the writer wants to immortalize their deeds and identities. The Pharaoh remains unknown, to this day commentators debate as to whether he was Seti I or Ramses II. We will never know, but we know the bravery of Shiprah and Puah.
Shiprah and Puah were two midwives—not the most particularly most glorious profession in the ancient near east. Nearly 3,300 years later we still tell their story and have no idea who Pharaoh is.
Pharaoah, who struggles to build great treasure cities for himself, remains incognito for eternity, whilst the Shiprah and Puah are sung through the ages.
Tucked into this passage is the secret of these faceless and nameless midwives, “because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.”(Ex 1:21) What a telling story. Women who had no name and no future are forever remembered by God and granted families. To not have children was considered the end of your family name. Women who did not have names were relegated to helping other women have children but never have their own.
God miraculously rescues both the children of Israel and the midwives. They get to see their offspring in the land of the living and rejoice. It is the fear of the Lord that assures their name forever. Paul speaks of this fear, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,”(Phil 2:9) when he speaks of Jesus choosing to fear God and obey. It is Christ’s obedience that guarantees we will never be forgotten.
The Psalmist speaks of this One, True Hero:
I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!