Midwife (מילֶּדֶת, part. in Piel of יָלד, "to bring forth;" Sept. Gala, Vulg. obstetrix; Ge 35:17; Ge 38:28). It must be remarked that חָיוֹת, Ex 1:19, "lively," is also in rabbinical Hebrew "midwives," an explanation which appears to have been had in view by the Vulg., which interprets chayoth by "ipsae obstetricandi habent scientiam." It is also rendered "living creatures," implying that the Hebrew women were, like animals, quick in parturition. Gesenius renders "vividie, robustae" (Thes. page 468). In any case the general sense of the passage Ex 1:19 is the same, viz. that the Hebrew women stood in little or no need of the midwives' assistance. Parturition in the East is usually easy. SEE WOMAN. The office of a midwife is thus, in many Eastern countries, in little use, but is performed, when necessary, by relatives (Chardin, Voy. 7:23; Harmer, Obs. 4:425). SEE CHILD. It may be for this reason that the number of persons employed for this purpose among the Hebrews was so small, as the passage Ex 1:19 seems to show; unless, as Knobel and others suggest, the two named were the principal persons of their class. In the description of the transaction mentioned in Exodus 1, one expression, "Upon the stools," receives remarkable illustration from ancient as well as modern usage. On the walls of the palace of Luxor, in Upper Egypt, there is a grand painting, which is faithfully copied in Lepsius's Denknzaler, representing the birth of the eldest son of Thothmes IV, and very possibly the "first-born" of the Pharaoh who was drowned in the Red Sea. Queen Mautmes is represented as receiving a message through the god Thoth, that she is to give birth to a child. The mother is placed upon a stool, while two midwives chafe her hands, and the babe is held up by a third (Sharpe's History of Egypt, 1:65). Gesenius doubts the existence of any custom such as the direct meaning of the passage implies, and suggests a wooden or stone trough for washing the new-born child. But the modern Egyptian practice, as described by Mr. Lane, exactly answers to that indicated in the book of Exodus. "Two or three days before the expected time of delivery, the Layeh (midwife) conveys to the house the kursi elwiladeh, a chair of a peculiar form, upon which the patient is to be seated during the birth" (Lane, Mod. Egypt. 3:142). SEE STOOL. The moral question arising from the conduct of the midwives does not fall within the scope of the present article. The reader, however, may refer to St. Augustine, Contr. mendacium, 15:32, and Quaest. in Hept. 2:1; also Com. a Lap. Com. on Ex. 1. When it is said, "God dealt well with the midwives, and built them houses," we are probably to understand that their families were blessed either in point of numbers or of substance. Other explanations of inferior value have been offered by Kimchi, Calvin, and others (Calmet, Com. on Ex. 1; Patrick; Corn. a Lap.; Knobel; Schleusner, L.V.T. oirctia; Gesenius, Thesaur. page 193; Crit. Sacr.). It is worth while to notice only to refute on its own ground the Jewish tradition which identified Siphrah and Puah with Jochebed and Miriam, and interpreted the "houses" built for them as the so-called royal and sacerdotal families of Caleb and Moses (Josephus, Ant. 3:2, 4; Corn. a Lap. and Crit. Sacr. 1.c.; Schottgen, Hor. Hebr. 2:450; De Mess. c. 4). SEE BIRTH.

Bible concordance for MIDWIFERY.

Definition of midwife

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

Topical Outlines Nave's Bible Topics International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online King James Bible King James Dictionary

Verse reference tagging and popups powered by VerseClick™.