[b-hebrew] Midwives & the Egyptians Fears
B. M. Rocine
brocine at twcny.rr.com
Fri Nov 11 17:21:30 EST 2005
I like the priority you give to *reading* the entire story.
I brought up the question of the midwive's nationality because I
suspected it might turn out to be a good study of tradition vs. context.
It seems like the idea that the midwives are Hebrews is supported
mostly by tradition from the pointing of _lamyalldot_ to translation
traditions. Outside of the pointing, there doesn't seem to be anything
very strong in the context that recommends the midwives are Hebrew. On
the other hand, all the reasons for thinking that the midwives are
Egyptians (or non-Hebrews) come from context, your latest comments included.
I don't mean to disrespect any of our fellow list members by
pigeonholing them, but I think two of our members have consistently
portrayed themselves in a certain way, and I don't think they will mind
if I mention them. The reason I mention them is because I think they
both have the greatest of respect for the biblical text, but I also
think they come at the text differently. I will try to speak of them
positively and diplomatically. ;-)
Harold Holmyard has consistently supported tradition and honored
traditional authorities. It does not surprise me that he feels strongly
that the midwives are Hebrews. Karl Randolf, on the other hand,
consistently prefers to think a matter through independently without
being swayed by traditions. It also does not surprise me that he is
confident that the midwives are not Hebrews. I find an exchange between
these two men, but even more so these two approaches, to be interesting.
Where do I come down myself? All the traditions we hold dear hang from
one tradition, that of respect for the Holy Scriptures. I can think of
no way to participate in that respect than to *read* the Scriptures (in
the fullest possible sense). I mean, figuratively, to eat them, chew
them, digest them. So to me, context is king! I am leaning toward
non-Hebrew midwives like you.
tladatsi at charter.net wrote:
> Hello Brian,
> I will not get into the *historicity* of Ex 1:1-17 but I
> will comment on what I think the author intended to reader/
> listener to understand about the story. I would argue that
> we need to look at the entire story as whole before you can
> look at how the midwives might be interpreted. The key
> element of the story is the fear that all Egyptians, and
> their king in particular, have for the Israelites. They
> fear the growing number of these *resident aliens* and that
> they might support a foreign invasion. The Egyptians hit
> upon the idea of enslaving the Israelites. This will at a
> minimum prevent them from supporting an invasion and
> perhaps also prevent their numbers from increasing.
> However, although no invasion occurs, the more the
> Egyptians oppress the Israelites, the more they increase in
> number spread across the land (Ex1:12). Now, the Egyptians
> fear not an external invasion but an internal uprising and
> revolution by the Israelites. Plan A has backfired with
> more than a bit of literary irony.
> Some new king hits upon Plan B. He will get these two
> midwives to kill the male newborns of the Hebrews. Why use
> midwives and not the army? Because the king is afraid of
> the Hebrews. He does not wish to move openly against them
> unless he absolutely has to. This is to be a *covert*
> operation. The midwives are to kill the newborn and make
> it look like the males died by accident or were stillborn.
> Midwives were skilled professionals and would know how to
> make a murder look like a stillbirth. When this plan also
> fails, the King demands to know why. Their excuse sounds
> like the observations of neutral medical professionals. *
> Your Highness, we tried our best, but those darned Hebrew
> women were just too much for us.* The Kings had relied
> upon the midwives special skills to carry out Plan B but
> the midwives used their special skills to thwart the kings
> plan (a bit more of that literary irony here). He does not
> punish them, they did their honest best to carry out his
> orders, he believes. For him to believe this, they would
> have to be Egyptian women.
> This precipitates Plan C. Here the king orders ALL OF HIS
> PEOPLE (LVL ?MW, not just the Hebrews) to throw their
> newborn sons into the Nile. Once more he does not openly
> attack the Hebrews because he fears rebellion. His order
> applies to *all of his people*. So with no small irony,
> the Egyptians suffer as much as the Hebrews from Plan C.
> The King was not careful in wording his order. He of
> course does not actually order their death, just that they
> be thrown into the river. This is exactly what Moses mother
> does, following the kings orders to the letter, if not the
> spirit. The net effect is (ironically) to put Moses, a
> Hebrew, into the kings own household as a son which allows
> him to effect a Hebrew rebellion which releases the Hebrews
> from slavery. Of course it is not the rebellion the King
> expected, rather than an armed uprising, it is Yahweh who
> raises up.
> Each of the Egyptian kings plans has the exact opposite
> effect of its intent, working in favor of Yahweh and the
> Since Plan B is a secret operation against the feared
> Hebrews, it would make no sense that his secret agents
> would be Hebrews. Had the author conceived of the
> midwives as Hebrews, the King would have suspected their
> cover story of the lively Hebrew women as being false. But
> coming from an Egyptian woman, that the King would believe
> this cover story makes sense.
> Jack Tladatsi
B. M. Rocine
Living Word Church
6101 Court St. Rd.
Syracuse, NY 13026
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