Did God Reward the Midwives for Lying?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

Shiphrah and Puah did indeed lie to Pharaoh about the Hebrew women giving birth quicker than the Egyptian women. Doesn’t the Bible expressly condemn lying? Yes, it does in several places. So what are we to make of these verses in Exodus 1? How is it that God rewarded the midwives for lying to Pharaoh?

One approach is to say that God rewarded the midwives for not killing the Hebrew boys, but that he did not approve of their lying to Pharaoh about it. In this way, God did not reward them for a lie and there is no longer a problem.

This solution, however, does not seem to take the text seriously. The lie to Pharaoh appears to be integral to the saving of the boys’ lives. There would be no reason for the author to include the lie if it wasn’t necessary to save those newborns. Nowhere in the following verses does God disapprove of the lie. In fact, the text clearly states that the midwives were rewarded by God.

The conclusion seems to be that God rewarded the midwives for disobeying Pharaoh and lying to Pharaoh. But, the disobedience and lying were only approved because they were saving innocent human lives. That is the key. Lying is wrong in most circumstances, but when innocent human lives were at stake, the midwives chose the higher good and God approved. God always wants us to choose the higher good when moral commands conflict.