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An Ark on the NileBeginning of the Book of Exodus$
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Keith Bodner

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198784074

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198784074.001.0001

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Pharaoh’s Midwife Crisis

Pharaoh’s Midwife Crisis

(p.64) 3 Pharaoh’s Midwife Crisis
An Ark on the Nile

Keith Bodner

Oxford University Press

Thwarted in his efforts to reduce the Israelite population, the new king of Egypt adopts a different tactic: he summons the midwives and orders that they kill every male infant born to the Israelites. There is a measure of syntactic uncertainty surrounding the two midwives, Shifrah and Puah: are they Egyptians serving the Israelites, or Israelites serving their own people? Why, moreover, do these two midwives disobey the order of Pharaoh and allow the boys to live, and why does God reward them with “houses”? As it turns out, the midwives’ action is part of a larger narrative pattern of bold female characters subverting the power structures around them, and the examples of Rahab and Jael are raised in this chapter.

Keywords:   midwives, treachery, Rahab of Jericho, Jael the Kenite, houses, dynasty

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