Exodus 1:15-21. “The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, ‘. . . .if it is a boy, kill him, but if it is a girl, let her live.’ The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. . . .’Why have you done this: Why have you let the boys live?’ The midwives answered Pharaoh, ‘Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women, they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.’ So God was kind to the midwives . . . And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.”
Exegesis and Application
This is a key passage in the discussion of the biblical view of truth-telling. Three important exegetical questions need to be answered from this passage: 1) Did the midwives lie to Pharaoh, the civil authority over them? 2) Or, did they tell a partial truth to Pharaoh, the civil authority over them?
Let us assume that some of what the midwives told the civil authority was part of the truth, so it was not a complete fabrication. In a previous blog I discussed if this was a bald face lie and did God approve of this action. Now let’s assume another scenario – a partial truth which was used to conceal the whole truth was spoken with God’s approval. Here is the evidence for the partial truth view: The Hebrew midwives took advantage of Pharaoh’s cultural ignorance (vs. 19) and told him the Hebrew women were stronger than the Egyptian women, which may or may not have been true. But they, in fact, did not tell Pharaoh the complete truth of the situation so they misled him (vs. 17).
The partial truth explanation has other instances in the Bible. 1 Samuel 16 tells the story of David’s anointing by Samuel. Here is divine sanction for concealing the truth from someone. Samuel was tasked by God to anoint David as the new king during a sacrificial rite. When asked by the leaders of Bethlehem if Samuel comes in peace or is there a political purpose for his visit, he replies, “I come in peace to sacrifice to the LORD.” This is true as far as it goes but it doesn’t reveal his true intention for the visit. This anointing of David incident makes clear that it is proper under certain situations to conceal or withhold important and critical parts of the truth. John Murray points out that this passage of scripture is unique because there is the “explicit authorization of the Lord as to the method of concealment.” Another example of partial truth or concealment of the whole truth is in 2 Kings 6 and Elisha’s communication with the Syrian army. Elisha tells the truth, just not the whole truth and his telling is pretty clever, too clever for most of us. Also, this happened during war and the stratagems of war obviate the normal expectations of truthfulness and honesty. But that is for another blog.
1) Christian journalists, in reporting the news there are choices to be made about all aspects of the story. In order to please God, one is not required by the notion of truth-telling to provide all sides of a story. That is, there are stories which the Christian journalist, under the illumination of the Holy Spirit and principles enunciated in the scriptures, is not require to present the sinful side of the issue.
2) Christian journalist, see the following biblical narrative: Creation = birth of Moses, Fall = Pharaoh’s instructions to kill Moses, Redemption = midwives actions to save Moses.