Exodus 1:16 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Exodus 1:16, NIV: "When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.'"

Exodus 1:16, ESV: "“When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.”"

Exodus 1:16, KJV: "And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live."

Exodus 1:16, NASB: "and he said, 'When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.'"

Exodus 1:16, NLT: "'When you help the Hebrew women as they give birth, watch as they deliver. If the baby is a boy, kill him; if it is a girl, let her live.'"

Exodus 1:16, CSB: ""When you help the Hebrew women give birth, observe them as they deliver. If the child is a son, kill him, but if it's a daughter, she may live.""

What does Exodus 1:16 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Pharaoh assumes that midwives are present when Hebrew women give birth. He commands them to kill the newborn Jewish sons. The mention of a "birthstool" literally means "two stones." In its most primitive form, the birthstool was two bricks or stones placed under the buttocks of a woman in labor. Later, the birthstool was an actual chair with an opening in the center where the baby would come out into the hands of a midwife.

The idea at hand is that the midwife is the first to hold the baby and discover its gender. If the child was a male, the midwife was commanded to end his life immediately. The practice of infanticide was evil in God's sight (Genesis 9:6). Knowing this, the Hebrew midwives feared God and would not follow Pharaoh's command (Exodus 1:17). Whether their response was openly,and immediately defiant, or simply a matter of later disobedience, these Hebrew would be risking their lives to protect children. This passage seems to suggest they followed the latter path—an act of heroism often forgotten when remembering the events of the book of Exodus.

Later, when Pharaoh sees that his orders are not being followed by the Jewish midwives, he will resort to having infant Jewish boys thrown into the Nile River (Exodus 1:22). In this troubling context, Exodus will introduce Moses (Exodus 2:1–2), the main figure God uses to bring the Jewish people out of bondage.