1:17 But 1 the midwives feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them; they let the boys live. 2
1:18 Then the king of Egypt summoned 3 the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this and let the boys live?” 4 1:19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew 5 women are not like the Egyptian women – for the Hebrew women 6 are vigorous; they give birth before the midwife gets to them!” 7 1:20 So God treated the midwives well, 8 and the people multiplied and became very strong. 1:21 And because the midwives feared God, he made 9 households 10 for them.
1 tn Heb “and they [fem. pl.] feared”; the referent (the midwives) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
2 tn The verb is the Piel preterite of חָיָה (khaya, “to live”). The Piel often indicates a factitive nuance with stative verbs, showing the cause of the action. Here it means “let live, cause to live.” The verb is the exact opposite of Pharaoh’s command for them to kill the boys.
3 tn The verb קָרָא (qara’) followed by the lamed (ל) preposition has here the nuance of “summon.” The same construction is used later when Pharaoh summons Moses.
4 tn The second verb in Pharaoh’s speech is a preterite with a vav (ו) consecutive. It may indicate a simple sequence: “Why have you done…and (so that you) let live?” It could also indicate that this is a second question, “Why have you done …[why] have you let live?”
5 sn See further N. Lemche, “‘Hebrew’ as a National Name for Israel,” ST 33 (1979): 1-23.
6 tn Heb “they”; the referent (the Hebrew women) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
7 tn Heb “before the midwife comes to them (and) they give birth.” The perfect tense with the vav consecutive serves as the apodosis to the preceding temporal clause; it has the frequentative nuance (see GKC 337-38 §112.oo).
sn The point of this brief section is that the midwives respected God above the king. They simply followed a higher authority that prohibited killing. Fearing God is a basic part of the true faith that leads to an obedient course of action and is not terrified by worldly threats. There probably was enough truth in what they were saying to be believable, but they clearly had no intention of honoring the king by participating in murder, and they saw no reason to give him a straightforward answer. God honored their actions.
8 tn The verb וַיֵּיטֶב (vayyetev) is the Hiphil preterite of יָטַב (yatav). In this stem the word means “to cause good, treat well, treat favorably.” The vav (ו) consecutive shows that this favor from God was a result of their fearing and obeying him.
9 tn The temporal indicator וַיְהִי (vayÿhi) focuses attention on the causal clause and lays the foundation for the main clause, namely, “God made households for them.” This is the second time the text affirms the reason for their defiance, their fear of God.
10 tn Or “families”; Heb “houses.”