Troubling Verse


I’m looking to the church for answers on this one. I hope some of you might know of any holy persons who have spoken or written on this matter. In the first chapter of Exodus, there is a situation in which it appears God condones lying. The scene occurs after Pharaoh commands the Egyptian midwives to murder the Israelite children:

“But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. So the king of Egypt called the midwives, and said to them, ‘Why have you done this and let the male children live?’ The midwives said to Pharaoh, ‘Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and are delivered before the midwife comes to them.’ So God dealt well with the midwives…” (Exodus 1:17-20, emphasis added.)

Are there any authorities who have anything to say about this particular verse because I’m not sure how to take it. It appears to be a lie. If that’s the case, then is it justified? What’s the sitch?


Haydock’s commentary on the following verse (v. 21) seems to offer some insight: “The midwives were rewarded, not for their lie, which was a venial sin; but for their fear of God, and their humanity…”


Here is part of Matthew Henry’s commentaries. Hope it helps.

Pharaoh’s project was secretly to engage the midwives to stifle the men-children as soon as they were born, and then to lay it upon the difficulty of the birth, or some mischance common in that case, Job 3:11. The two midwives he tampered with in order hereunto are here named; and perhaps, at this time, which was above eighty years before their going out of Egypt, those two might suffice for all the Hebrew women, at least so many of them as lay near the court, as it is plain by ch. 2:5, 6, many of them did, and of them he was most jealous. They are called Hebrew midwives, probably not because they were themselves Hebrews (for surely Pharaoh could never expect they should be so barbarous to those of their own nation), but because they were generally made use of by the Hebrews; and, being Egyptians, he hoped to prevail with them. 2. Their pious disobedience to this impious command, v. 17. They feared God, regarded his law, and dreaded his wrath more than Pharaoh’s and therefore saved the men-children alive. Note, If men’s commands be any way contrary to the commands of God, we must obey God and not man, Acts 4:19; v. 29. No power on earth can warrant us, much less oblige us, to sin against God, our chief Lord. Again, Where the fear of God rules in the heart, it will preserve it from the snare which the inordinate fear of man brings. 3. Their justifying themselves in this disobedience, when they were charged with it as a crime, v. 18. They gave a reason for it, which, it seems, God’s gracious promise furnished them with-that they came too late to do it, for generally the children were born before they came, v. 19. I see no reason we have to doubt the truth of this; it is plain that the Hebrews were now under an extraordinary blessing of increase, which may well be supposed to have this effect, that the women had very quick and easy labour, and, the mothers and children being both lively, they seldom needed the help of midwives: this these midwives took notice of, and, concluding it to the finger of God, were thereby emboldened to disobey the king, in favour of those whom Heaven thus favoured, and with this justified themselves before Pharaoh, when he called them to an account for it. Some of the ancient Jews expound it thus, Ere the midwife comes to them they pray to their Father in heaven, and he answereth them, and they do bring forth. Note, God is a readier help to his people in distress than any other helpers are, and often anticipates them with the blessings of his goodness; such deliverances lay them under peculiarly strong obligations. 4. The recompence God gave them for their tenderness towards his people: He dealt well with them, v. 20. Note, God will be behind-hand with none for any kindness done to his people, taking it as done to himself. In particular, he made them houses (v. 21), built them up into families, blessed their children, and prospered them in all they did. Note, The services done for God’s Israel are often repaid in kind. The midwives kept up the Israelites’ houses, and, in recompence for it, God made them houses. Observe, The recompence has relation to the principle upon which they went: Because they feared God, he made them houses. Note, Religion and piety are good friends to outward prosperity: the fear of God in a house will help to build it up and establish it. Dr. Lightfoot’s notion of it is, That, for their piety, they were married to Israelites, and Hebrew families were built up by them.


It could simply have been true. The Hebrew women were slaves and forced to do hard labour. They could well have, in general, been more vigorous than the Egyptian women. It may have been an accepted fact that stronger, more vigorous women do or did deliver faster than less healthy ones, since delivery does depend on the woman’s ability to “push” the baby out. Now merely because this was proposed as the reason the midwives couldn’t do Pharaoh’s bidding does not make it a lie, more like a convenient truth.


Is lying to the devil a sin?


I don’t think you can lie to the devil since he’s the father of lies.


Say you are living in Germany in 1938 when a SS soldier comes to your door and asks if there are any Jews in your house. You say “no” even though you are hiding a 5-year-old Jewish girl. You have just lied to the devil. Is it a sin?


When will the insanity stop?


If a lie is something that is factual not true, then why couldn’t one lie to the devil?


Excellent question. I believe that you will be amazed at the viewpoints to this scenario.


The text is simply stating what they did. They were clearly rewarded for saving the lives of the newborns, not the lie.
I don’t understand how someone could so confuse such a clear passage.


One day during the Roe v. Wade case, I read a letter to the editor that claimed abortion was OK according to the Bible ! Now , stay with me on this … Genesis 2:7 says, “the LORD God formed the man out of the dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

The writer of the letter concluded that since a fetus is not breathing, he is not alive. I kid you not.


Yup, I should have said ? I just don’t understand how someone could honestly confuse such a clear passage".


Just consider the human’s capacity to rationalize.


The whole of the Mosaic Law, which was not given yet, so all they had was Egyptian law created by Pharaoh and natural law.

But, the Law from God is based upon two things once you know God - Loving God with your whole heart (whole will), and loving your neighbor as yourself.

The midwives feared (revered) God, so they did not kill the children, which was breaking Pharaoh’s decree.

The midwives feared (afraid for their lives) Pharaoh, so they lied, yet there was no law from God to them about misleading Pharaoh (they were not yet recipients of God’s 10 commandments, and therefore not bound to any guilt for not knowing what is displeasing to God versus what is pleasing to God and desirable).

But it was pleasing to God, that in their ignorance of him, they did something to love their neighbor as themselves and that they revered him. So, in a prophecy of the last day, when the Son of Man will say, “Come sit at my banquet table, for when I was a baby you hid me from the sword of the king”, God prophesied this by blessing the midwives for something they did for his coming salvation.


Well, for one that would be a man doing evil not devil himself. For another I’d “put on some drama”… Why would you think I have one of those people in my house? Do I look Jewish?

I think it’s ethical to give a non-answer answer.


It’s a pointless exercise; to lie to the being who is credited as being the father of lies. It’d be like “singing to the choir”. Also, it is possible to lie while being factually correct. I’m referring to a lie of omission.



As far as the nazies knocking on doors, they didn’t believe anyone anyway. The question they asked was a mere formality before they came in and searched.


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