Throughout Scripture, God uses the imagery of midwifery to describe himself and his people. Midwives play a vital role in the birth process, helping to bring new life into the world. In the Bible, midwives are presented as wise, skilled, and compassionate caregivers. As we explore the biblical mentions of midwives, we gain insight into the nature of God, the mission of his people, and the transformative power of the gospel.
- God is often depicted as a midwife who births and cares for his people. His interventions bring comfort, deliverance, and new life.
- Midwives in Scripture exhibit skill, courage, and compassion. Their example shows how to honor God through acts of service.
- The redemptive mission of God’s people is compared to midwifery. Believers are called to participate in birthing new creations in Christ.
- Images of midwifery illustrate the nurturing nature of God’s word and Spirit which mature us from spiritual infancy.
- God’s deliverance and healing are pictured as midwifery. Through midwives, God rescues and revives.
- Biblical midwives provide a model of civil disobedience when obeying God conflicts with human authority.
Midwifery as a Metaphor for God’s Work
One of the most prominent metaphors in the Bible is that of God as a midwife birthing and caring for his people Israel. In the Old Testament, God identifies himself as the nation’s midwife.
“As a woman with child and about to give birth writhes and cries out in her pain, so were we in your presence, Lord.” (Isaiah 26:17, NIV)
Here Isaiah compares Israel’s suffering to the writhing pains of labor. God is the attending midwife, looking after his people in distress. He promises that though anguish remains for a time, it will culminate in deliverance and joy.
“We were with child, we writhed in labor, but we gave birth to wind. We have not brought salvation to the earth…But your dead will live, Lord; their bodies will rise–let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy–your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.” (Isaiah 26:18-19, NIV)
This passage reveals God’s commitment to revive and restore his people, like a midwife reviving an asphyxiated infant. The picture of resurrection as birth pangs underscores God’s role as life-giver.
Midwifery also conveys God’s compassion and consolation for his people in distress. As a midwife cares for a woman through the intensity of labor, so God attends to the suffering of his children.
“As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 66:13, NIV)
The maternal tenderness of God toward Israel echoes the steadfast presence of a midwife during birth. This midwifery metaphor emphasizes God’s intimate care and concern for his people in need.
Midwives as Examples of Integrity and Service
In addition to figuratively depicting God’s work, midwives in the Bible also provide examples of righteous living and service. In Exodus 1, the Hebrew midwives Shiphrah and Puah courageously obeyed God rather than human authority by refusing to kill newborn boys. Scripture commends them for their faithfulness:
“The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.” (Exodus 1:17, NIV)
This story establishes midwifery as a God-honoring vocation, requiring wisdom and discernment. Later in Exodus, God makes provision for the skill and labor of midwives:
“If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, for nothing…If she gives birth to a son, he shall serve the master for six years…If she gives birth to a daughter, she shall serve the master for six years.” (Exodus 21:2,4,7, NIV)
This law exempts new mothers from work and provides for midwives to attend them. God’s instructions elevate midwifery as a profession that should be practiced with integrity and supported by the community.
The Old Testament character Rachel provides another positive example of a midwife.
“And so it was, as her soul was departing (for she died), that she called his name Ben-Oni; but his father called him Benjamin.” (Genesis 35:18, NKJV)
As Rachel lay dying in childbirth, her midwife suggested naming the baby Ben-Oni, “son of my sorrow.” But the grieving father instead called him Benjamin, “son of my right hand.” The midwife’s words reflect her compassion for Rachel in that painful moment. Her profession as a childbirth attendant enabled her to minister sensitively and empathetically.
Overall, the accounts of midwives in the Bible provide models of skill, courage, empathy, and faithfulness which brought deliverance to God’s people. Their examples remind believers in every generation how to honor the Lord through wise and compassionate service.
Midwifery as a Metaphor for Spiritual Rebirth
In describing the redemptive work of the gospel, the New Testament uses the metaphor of spiritual midwifery. God’s people participate with him in birthing new creations in Christ through evangelism and discipleship.
The Apostle Paul depicts himself as a spiritual midwife nurturing new believers. Writing to the Galatians, he says:
“My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.” (Galatians 4:19, NIV)
Like a midwife enduring labor alongside an expectant mother, Paul travails in prayer and service to see Christ formed in new Christians. He carries this midwifery imagery further when writing to the Thessalonians:
“We were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8, ESV)
Here pastoral care is compared to a nursing mother. Paul highlights the nurturing relationship between spiritual leaders and new believers. His metaphor implies that mature Christians, like midwives, should provide sustenance, comfort, and guidance to the spiritually young.
This analogy also occurs in Jesus’ final dialogue with Peter. After asking him three times, “Do you love me?” Jesus says:
“Feed my lambs…Take care of my sheep…Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17, NIV)
In calling his followers “lambs” and “sheep,” Jesus evokes images of maternal care and shepherding. He commissions Peter for a midwifery role, spiritually nurturing Christ’s flock. This tender metaphor for discipling and pastoring illustrates that mature believers must provide steadfast nurture and wise counsel to new Christians.
Midwifery Imagery for Spiritual Growth and Healing
In addition to new birth, midwifery also represents ongoing spiritual growth and healing. God is depicted as midwife continuously attending to his people, guiding them toward maturity in Christ.
The Apostle John tenderly addresses fellow believers as “little children” in his first epistle:
“I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.” (1 John 2:12, ESV)
His midwifery metaphor implies the need for persistent nurturing care within the church. Like a midwife does not abandon her charges after birth, mature Christians should stick with spiritual children as they grow.
This concept appears again in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Speaking of false teachers who brought confusion, he says:
“I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it.” (1 Corinthians 3:2, ESV)
Here Paul portrays himself as a midwife nurturing the Corinthians in their spiritual infancy. Milk represents basic biblical truth while solid food indicates deeper doctrinal concepts. Like a midwife, church leaders should assess the maturity and needs of believers under their care in order to provide appropriate spiritual nourishment.
The writer of Hebrews also picks up this motif, scolding readers for failing to progress:
“Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!” (Hebrews 5:12, NIV)
The author implies these believers are like obstinate infants, unwilling to grow. They still require the basic sustenance of milk when they should be digesting solid theological food. Through this metaphor, we are reminded that Christians must cooperatively nurture each other toward spiritual maturity.
In Scripture, the salvific work of God is also depicted as midwifery. Just as midwives can miraculously revive seemingly stillborn babies, God resuscitates and redeems those dead in sin. King David exclaims:
“You drew me out of the womb, made me secure at my mother’s breast…You brought me out of the womb to be your servant.” (Psalm 22:9-10, NIV)
David poetically describes his intimate relationship with God beginning from birth. God has acted as his midwife from the earliest moments, bringing him safely through labor and nourishing him through infancy. This evokes the Fatherly tenderness with which God loves each of his children.
This metaphor also occurs in the story of Tabitha, a deceased disciple resurrected through Peter.
“Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, ‘Tabitha, get up.’ She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet.” (Acts 9:40-41, NIV)
Like a midwife reviving an asphyxiated newborn, Peter facilitates Tabitha’s miraculous resuscitation. Through him, God demonstrates power to infuse new life. This account points to resurrection, the ultimate deliverance from death through spiritual midwifery.
Midwives as Models for Contemporary Christians
The biblical depictions of midwives provide valuable models for modern believers in carrying out God’s work. We live in a time when many are separated from the hope of the gospel. As spiritual midwives, we have the privilege to participate with God in rebirth.
Midwives exhibit the knowledge, skills, and character necessary for the sacred task of ushering in new life. Similarly, Christians must remain vigilant in Scripture study and prayer to gain wisdom for guiding others spiritually. Like midwives, we rely on God to impart life while diligently applying ourselves to the means of grace he has given.
Midwifery also provides an example of compassionate care. A midwife bears others’ pain as her own, providing comfort and encouragement through agonizing ordeals. So we must demonstrate Christlike empathy and service on behalf of those suffering under the weight of sin and despair.
Most importantly, midwives follow the Lord’s directions rather than man’s. Though at times persecuted, they obey God faithfully. We too must pursue obedience to Christ above all else, regardless of opposition. God uses his people to accomplish his redemptive purposes, often in spite of human authority.
As midwives cry out to God during difficult deliveries, let us also depend on the Spirit’s intercession in our weakness. Through his power working within us, we can fulfill the high calling of spiritual midwifery. By God’s grace, may we help birth and nourish many new creations until Christ is formed in them.
Throughout Scripture, midwifery provides a rich metaphor for God’s work in delivering, redeeming, and sanctifying his people. It is a high honor to participate with God in this restorative labor. As spiritual midwives, may we cling to the hope and urgency of our vocation. Through faith, may we see many born anew into the family of God.