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Shiphrah (Hebrew: שִׁפְרָהšiᵽrâ) was one of two midwives who helped prevent the genocide of Hebrew children by the Egyptians, according to Exodus 1:15-21. The name is found in a list of slaves in Egypt during the reign of Sobekhotep III. This list is on Brooklyn 35.1446, a papyrus scroll kept in the Brooklyn Museum.

Midrashic Interpretations

Rashi: Jochebed, she is called Shifrah. Rashi sees Shifrah as the mother, and Puah as the daughter. Since the Torah reveals rather than conceals, they must be the mother and daughter mentioned elsewhere in the story, namely, Yochebed and Miriam (Gur Aryeh: Sifrei Chachamim- "Books of the Wise.")

The name Puah is an expression of crying out (Isaiah 42:14).

And YHWH did good to the midwives. Shemot (Exodus) 1:20 The verb is the causitive hiphil. He, (HaKadosh Baruch Hu) did good to them. What was the goodness?

Shemot 1:21 He made houses for them. The houses of kehunah (priesthood), and leviyah (assistants to the Priests), and royalty. Both Kohanim and Levites live in the Beit HaMikdash (the Temple of Jerusalem). Royalty from Miriam: Tractate Sotah 11b; Shemot Rabbah 1:17 (these are portions of the Talmud).

Other Interpretations

If the Shiphrah on the Brooklyn document is the same as the one in the Bible, or a close contemporary, then the Pharaoh of the Exodus must be the one named Dudimose or Tutimaios. However, Shiphrah is described in the Bible and Jewish traditions as not being enslaved, rather hired by Pharaoh, and then was saved from slavery the entire time in Egypt. If this interpretation is correct, then the Shiphrah in the list may be another woman of the same name, but the chronological connection remains in place. Other possibilities are that Shiphrah may have been first a slave, then freed; or that the Jewish traditions may not go back in time far enough to be authentic.

Francine Klagsbrun said that the refusal of Shiphrah and her colleague Puah to follow the Pharaoh's genocidal instructions "may be the first known incident of civil disobedience in history." (Voices of Wisdom, ISBN 0-394-40159-X)

Meaning: 'improved' or 'beautiful' (in modern Hebrew, leshaper means "to improve.")

See also

  • List of artifacts significant to the Bible
  • Ipuwer
  • New Chronology (Rohl)
  • Pharaoh of the Exodus
  • Thrasyllus of Mendes


  • David Rohl M. Pharaohs and Kings. ISBN 0-609-80130-9 (David Rohl identifies Sobekhotep III as the "King who knew not Joseph" in Exodus 1:8).