How God worked through the women of Exodus
A brief scan through the first two chapters of Exodus displays in rapid succession six very different women woven into a story. Women who vary in age, people group, economic situation, and influence. Women who were going about their ordinary lives, but through their actions did extraordinary things to advance the story they were written into. A story with a beginning, middle, and end. A story that makes sense of the world and everyone and everything in the world. What is this story?
First, we must take a look back in history to see where the story begins. It began with Someone and nothing. It began in darkness and emptiness. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1).
God created and His command brought forth light. The oceans, rivers, trees, and mountains—they weren’t, and then they were. The culmination of God’s creation was man and woman. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Gen. 1:26-28).
Fast forward to Genesis 3 and we see how the story takes a turn. Everything good and very good that God created is marred. The woman listens to the pride-stoking lies from the serpent. She engages Satan in conversation and listens to what he tells her. She sees that the tree is good for food, and that it is a delight to the eyes, and that the tree is to be desired to make one wise, so she takes and eats and then gives some to her husband who was with her (Gen 3:6). They want what Satan has to offer.
The one tree in the entire garden, the garden that God had created for their pleasure and flourishing and most of all for their enjoyment of fellowship with God face to face with no fear or shame, was to be off limits. The garden where work, sex, and food was given to the man and woman for total enjoyment because God is good. Their Creator knew it was for their good that they not eat from that tree and He commanded them not to, “for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen 2:17).
As a result of their choosing to disbelieve in God’s goodness and generosity, and disobey His command, they were now naked, ashamed, and, worst of all, banished from the perfect, pure union they had with God in the garden (Gen. 3:23). But, the forever faithful God spoke a promise wrapped in the curse that was placed on the serpent. “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all the beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:14-15). The woman will have offspring. Something is going to happen.
Fast forward again through the chapters of Genesis to Abraham. God made a series of covenant promises to Abraham. The promise of land and offspring. This is a promise of blessing: “for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you” (Gen. 17:5b-7). Abraham was very old; his wife was barren. But that didn’t stop God’s plan. He intervened, and Isaac was born to Abraham and his wife Sarah. Isaac was the son of the promise. God is forever faithful.
Fast forward again to the book of Exodus. The people of Israel are in Egypt. They are slaves. They are under a new king in Egypt. One that didn’t know their ancestor Joseph, who had been second in command to a previous king of Egypt (Gen. 41:40). They are ruthlessly worked as slaves and their lives are made bitter with hard service making bricks and in all kinds of work in the field (Ex 1:13-14). But, the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. “And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel” (Ex.1:12). Brokenness and oppression was what the Israelites were experiencing now—far from what their first parents experienced in the garden before Genesis 3. We see clearly how sin has affected everyone in this story. And it gets worse.
The Women in Exodus
Enter into the story the women of Exodus. The women who most likely didn’t know that they were written into the story of God’s redeeming purpose for humanity. Women who were going out and coming in, doing the normal work that women did in that time and culture. Did these women realize that they were part of the plan, the plan of redemption that was established before the foundation of the world? (Eph. 1:4,7). Did each comprehend that she could be playing a part in the plan that announced that the woman’s offspring would redeem humanity from the serpent’s tyranny? 
Think back to Genesis 3:15. Here are six women who were led, knowingly or unknowingly, by God’s hand of Providence. He is forever faithful to His promises made through Abraham to his descendents, who were indeed multiplying but in no way yet in the promised land. Instead they were in Egypt being oppressed and having their male babies murdered by the Egyptians. The serpent’s tyranny through the hands of the Egyptians, attempting to stop God’s plan for a curse-destroyer who would be born of a woman, was on full display. But God was at work carrying out His plan, and here we see Providence from our forever faithful God through these women:
Shiphrah and Puah The two midwives who tended to the Hebrew women when they were having babies. The king of Egypt said to the midwives “‘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 the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live” (Ex. 1:16-17).
Moses’ mother “Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank” (Ex. 2:1-3).
Moses’ sister “And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him” (Ex. 2:4).
Pharaoh’s daughter “Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, ‘This is one of the Hebrew’s children’” (Ex. 2:5-6).
Enter Moses’ sister again as she watched this take place and then said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you’” (Ex. 2:7).
And the girl went and called the child’s mother. So Moses was returned to his mother to be nursed, and when the child grew up she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son (Ex. 2:8-10).
Zipporah. After Moses had grown up, he fled Egypt after killing an Egyptian. He stayed in the land of Midian. “Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came and drew water and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. The shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and saved them, and watered their flock” (Ex. 2:16-17). One of these seven daughters was Zipporah who became the wife of Moses. We find out later in Exodus that she takes part in an act of obedience that spares her husband, Moses, from being killed by the LORD on his way back to Egypt as he was going back to bring the Israelites out of the house of slavery.
All these women, through their actions, were part of God’s unfolding story of redemption. Part of God’s future plan, fulfilled in Christ. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,” so that we might receive adoption as sons (Gal. 4:4). These women, who were going about their days, some who were a part of Israel, one Midianite woman, and one Egyptian woman, were carried along by God’s hand of Providence as He unfolded His plan in time and space, using them to be guardians of the lives of boy babies and to speed Moses ahead with the work that the LORD called him to.
Now fast forward to our time in history. The redemptive work on the cross is past history for us. But it was still a future promise for the women in Exodus. I didn’t mention all of the rest of the story of Exodus where the LORD led the people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and how He went before them by day in a pillar of cloud and by night in a pillar of fire (Ex.13:21-22). How the LORD came down to Mt. Sinai to the people, how He gave them the 10 commandments and gave Moses instructions for the preparations for building the tabernacle. How the women were obedient in the LORD’s instruction when they were slaves in Egypt to ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing (Ex. 3:22) which would be used in the construction of the tabernacle and how the women and men would craft beautiful art “and every skillful woman spun with her hands, and they all brought what they had spun in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen” (Ex. 35:25). Exodus ends in the last chapter with the tabernacle completed, according to all that the LORD commanded. All the furnishings were placed in it and “the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” (Ex.40:34).
We are woven into His redemption story as well. We are in the time of the already, not yet. The time of God’s grace to the nations where Jesus is calling His sheep to His fold, “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (Jn 10:16). These are the children of Abraham according to the promise that was given at the beginning of the Book. The offspring of Abraham who will stand before the throne “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples, and languages” (Rev. 7:9).
We as adopted daughters have a role to play in this story. “We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us” (2 Cor. 5:20). Like the women of Exodus we are called to nurture human life and share the hope that we have in Christ. Our obedience matters. We bring the Truth to the world, that God did something about our hopeless situation and He grants forgiveness and life to all who will believe and turn from their sin towards the Son. He is the offspring of the woman in Genesis 3:15. Jesus is the curse breaker. He became a curse so that we could be set free from the curse of sin that is over every human “so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith” (Gal. 3:13-14). Jesus is coming back to right every wrong and will gather His sheep “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (Jn. 10:28).
The very end of the story in Exodus is the shadow of heaven that we see on earth. The people in Exodus were given instructions to build a tabernacle where God would dwell, but it was a copy of the reality of what will be one day (Heb. 8:5). Here is the end of the story, which is actually the beginning of the real story. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away’” (Rev. 21:1-4).
Dear sisters, let us not grow weary in doing the good that God has called us to (Gal. 6:9 & Eph 2:10) even if it seems that it doesn’t matter—it does. Our faithful service, whatever it might look like in this season of life, matters. We have been given new life, new affections toward God and His people, and are spurred on toward love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, “but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb. 10:24-25). You have been created on purpose for a purpose and have been given time, treasure, and gifts empowered by the Holy Spirit to build up your brothers and sisters in Christ, so that the body of Christ can function fully and flourish, and so that we can love a world of people who are in desperate need of hope. They need to hear and see the story of our God who is Forever Faithful. Because our God is Forever Faithful, we can be faithful.