Moses was one of Israel’s greatest and most revered leaders. However, there were several occasions when he would have perished if it had not been for the courage, wisdom, and enterprise of women. Here is a brief look at the six brave Bible women who God used to achieve his purposes.
1 & 2. Shiphrah and Puah—Exodus 1:15–21
The Hebrew midwives Shiphrah and Puah courageously defied the authority of Pharaoh by disobeying his wicked edict to kill the newborn Hebrew boys. These midwives jeopardised their own safety to protect and save the life of Moses and the other baby boys. Shiphrah and Puah feared God more than they feared Pharaoh, and God blessed them because of their righteous actions—actions that were motivated by their reverence for God (Exod. 1:15–21).
3. Jochebed—Exodus 2:1–3
Moses’ mother Jochebed discerned that there was something special about her infant son, and she protected him by hiding him for three months from Egyptian authorities. When she could no longer hide him at home, Jochebed made a waterproof basket and placed her baby in it. She placed the basket in the Nile among the reeds and entrusted her son into God’s care. Jochebed was fearless in her efforts to keep her baby boy safe (Exod. 21:1–3; cf. Heb. 11:23).
4. Pharaoh’s Daughter—Exodus 2:5–10
Pharaoh’s daughter found the baby in the Nile and felt sorry for him. Even though she realised he was a Hebrew, she rescued him, offered protection, and later adopted him. We can assume that the princess would have encountered considerable difficulties in persuading other members of the Egyptian royal family to accept the Hebrew child as her adopted son. She was successful, however; and Moses was raised in the Egyptian royal palace where he received an excellent education as a student prince (Acts 7:21–22). His palace education, training, and experience would be useful when Moses had the difficult task of leading the Israelites (Exod. 2:5–10).
5. Miriam—Exodus 2:4–8
Moses’ older sister Miriam had been standing on the banks of the Nile, watching over her baby brother in the basket, to make sure he was safe. When she saw that he was being rescued, young Miriam bravely approached Pharaoh’s daughter and persuaded her to have the baby nursed by his own mother, Jochebed. This arrangement meant that Moses received optimum love and nurture within his own family for a few years before being surrendered to Pharaoh’s daughter when he was still a little boy. Miriam later became a prophetess and she was recognised as a leader alongside her brothers Moses and Aaron (Exod. 2:4–8 cf. Micah 6:4; Leviticus Rabbah 27.6). (I have more about Miriam here.)
6. Zipporah—Exodus 4:24–26
In this mystifying passage of scripture, we read that God was about to kill Moses. Moses’ first wife Zipporah astutely recognised the cause of God’s wrath. She took the initiative and appeased God’s anger, even though she found it all very distasteful. Zipporah, like the others mentioned above, protected Moses and saved him from death (Exod. 4:24–26). (Read more about Zipporah on The Junia Project, here.)
Brave Bible Women
The Bible has many examples of women who were willing to put themselves in harm’s way in order to help others. Brave Bible women include Jael (Judg. 4:21; 5:24–27), the woman of Thebes who killed Abimelech (Judg. 9:53), Rahab (Josh. 2:1–6); Abigail (1 Sam. 2:1ff), Michal who protected her husband David (1 Sam. 19:11–18), the servant girl who was given a dangerous task (2 Sam. 17:17–18), the woman of Bahurim (2 Sam. 17:19–20), Rizpah who defended the honour of her slain sons (2 Sam. 21), Esther (Esth. 4:11, 16), and Priscilla who risked her life for Paul’s sake, as did her husband Aquila (Rom. 16:3–5).
One sense of the Hebrew word for “helper” (ezer)—used in Genesis 2 to describe the woman in Eden—is “rescuer.” (I have a discussion on the meaning of ezer in my article, A Suitable Helper.)
Christian Women Today
Christians who narrowly define femininity, and rigidly prescribe certain attributes and roles for women, are doing women and the church a great disservice. Men and women are different and, generally speaking, they have different strengths and abilities. However, we need to look beyond gender and discern the spiritual gifts, abilities, and calling of the individual person. We need to be cautious that we do not underestimate the abilities or curtail the activities of the brave and courageous women who God wishes to use today.
 Moses’ mother Jochebed is named in Exodus 6:20 and Numbers 26:59.
 The Name of Pharaoh’s Daughter: We do not know the name of Pharaoh’s daughter, but in Jewish Midrash she has been the name of Bithiah (bat-yah) which means “the daughter of the LORD.”
Rabbi Joshua of Siknin said in the name of Rabbi Levi, “The Holy One, blessed is he, said to Bithiah the daughter of Pharaoh, ‘Moses was not your son, yet you called him your son; you are not My daughter, but I call you My daughter …” (Leviticus Rabbah 1:3 (page 6) cf. 1 Chron. 4:18).
Josephus, however, gives her name as Thermuthis (Jewish Antiquities 2.9.5–7).
 Six or Seven Women?: Some include the princess’s slave girl, who is mentioned in the second half of Exodus 2:5 CSB, as another female character who rescued Moses. This would bring the number of women who rescued Moses up to seven, a significant number in the Hebrew scriptures. It is possible the slave girl was a Hebrew, and perhaps she was aware that Moses had been placed in the Nile by his mother Jochebed. What the text actually tells us, however, is that Pharaoh’s daughter sent her slave girl to retrieve the basket from among the reeds of the Nile. This girl was a participant in the rescue of Moses, but not a protagonist. There is no indication she used her own initiative, so I have not included her in the main list.
 While Miriam may have been too young to be called a “woman” at the time Moses was a baby, I have included her because she is female and played a valuable role in ensuring the safety and well-being of her younger brother.
 It would have been no mean feat to confront David and four hundred of his men who had been insulted and were intent on revenge with their swords at the ready. Yet Abigail approached David and humbly presented to him a “peace offering.” Her quick actions saved her household from disaster and she kept David and his men from unnecessary bloodshed. I have more on Abigail, here.
 Moses’s Two Wives: Zipporah, one of seven daughters of the priest of Midian, was Moses’s first wife unless he had married an unknown Egyptian woman before he fled to Midian. (See Exodus 2.) Zipporah is mentioned in Exodus 2 and again in Exodus 4:18–26 which is where she circumcises the boys and saves Moses’s life. Moses later sends his wife and sons home. Perhaps because he understood the hardships he and the Israelites were about to face. (See Exodus 18.) Moses’s wife is consistently referred to as the daughter of the Jethro (or Reuel) priest of Midian in Exodus.
In Numbers 12 we have the story of Aaron and Miriam complaining that Moses had married a Kushite wife. This marriage seems to happen much later than his marriage to Zipporah, more than 40 years later. This unnamed woman seems to be Moses’s second wife. Craig Keener suggests she was from the royal family of Kush and possibly a Kandake. Josephus identified Moses’ second wife as Tharbis, the daughter of the king of the Ethiopians (i.e. Kushites). Josephus’ account of the marriage (and treaty) between Tharbis and Moses in Antiquities 2.10.2, however, does not fit the sequence of time in the biblical record. You can read his account here.
 Other Bible women also showed commendable initiative, shrewdness and courage: women such as Tamar (Gen. 38, esp. Gen. 38:26), Naaman’s wife’s servant (2 Kings 5:3), Ruth (especially Ruth 1:15–18; 2:2), the wise woman of Abel Beth Maacah (2 Sam. 20:15–22), etc.
The “Proverbs 31 woman” is described as andreia (“courageous”) in the Septuagint (cf. eshet chayil). Esther and Judith are described as andreia (“courageous”) in 1 Clement 55:3–6. (I mention more andreia women in my article Revisiting Eshet Chayil: Woman of Valour.)
 Complementarians are Christians who have narrow ideas about the roles of women. Complementarians believe it is the man’s role to protect women, and not vice versa, yet there are very few Biblical examples of men protecting women. One clear biblical account of a man rescuing and protecting women also involves Moses. In Exodus 2:16–19, Moses rescued and helped shepherdesses who were being harassed. One of these shepherdesses would become his first wife Zipporah.
© Margaret Mowczko 2010
All Rights Reserved
Various articles on brave Bible women are here.
25+ Biblical Roles for Biblical Women
Bible Women with Spiritual Authority
Did Miriam the prophetess only minister to women?
3 Formidable Bible Women with Strange Stories (Rahab, Tamar, Rizpah)
3 Old Testament Women with Clout (Serach, Aksah, Sheerah)
A Suitable Helper
Being an Ezer is not a Gender Role
Revisiting Eshet Chayil: (Woman of Valour)
Gender Roles and Gendered Activities in the Old Testament
Old Testament Priests and New Covenant Ministers
An article by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks on these six women is here.