Exodus 1:18 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Exodus 1:18, NIV: "Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, 'Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?'"

Exodus 1:18, ESV: "So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?”"

Exodus 1:18, KJV: "And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men children alive?"

Exodus 1:18, NASB: "So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, 'Why have you done this thing, and let the boys live?'"

Exodus 1:18, NLT: "So the king of Egypt called for the midwives. 'Why have you done this?' he demanded. 'Why have you allowed the boys to live?'"

Exodus 1:18, CSB: "So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, "Why have you done this and let the boys live?""

What does Exodus 1:18 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

The midwives refused to put newborn males to death. Pharaoh confronted Shiphrah and Puah regarding this issue, asking them, "Why have you done this…?" The next verse shares the response of the midwives, which in the context of the prior verses is clearly a lie. They will answer the Hebrew women had their children before the midwives arrived (Exodus 1:19), yet verse 17 says the midwives refused to kill the children. God, apparently, approved of their difficult and risky decision (Exodus 1:20).

This is one of the rare situations in which deception led to saving innocent lives. A similar situation is found when Rahab protects two Jewish spies visiting Jericho. She lied to the soldiers and helped the two spies escape. God honored Rahab as a result. Her action was considered an act of faith rather than sin (Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25). Though lying is sin (Exodus 20:16; Ephesians 4:25), these two examples reveal times when God honored someone who lied to protect innocent lives. As challenging as they may be, incidents such as these are still part of God's inspired Word and have to be considered when discussing ethical issues.