The Eight Female Biblical Converts

In Midrash Tadsheh we find a listing of eight female converts: Hagar, Tziporah, Shifra, Puah, Pharaoh’s daughter, Rachav, Ruth and Yael.


Out of the eight that were on that list, four appear in Parshat Shmot: Shifra, Puah, Pharaoh’s daughter and Tziporah.


Some of the eight converts above married important members of B’nai Yisrael so it is obvious that they must have converted (although it is not clear in the text in any of the cases): Avraham would not have married Hagar and Moshe would not have married Tziporah if they were still devoted to another religion. In the case of Rachav, it says in Yehoshua 6:25 “Yehoshua allowed (Rachav and her family) to live”. Kli Yakar teaches from this pasuk that Yehoshua converted them to Judaism, giving them a new spiritual life. The Gemara in Megillah 14b teaches that Yehoshua married Rachav which helped give life to her family.


As far as Pharaoh’s daughter Bitya is concerned, in Shmot Raba 18:3 it says that the first born girls were also supposed to die in Egypt. However, because Bitya saved Moshe, God saved her. In Vayikra Raba 1:3 God said to Bitya: Moshe was not your son but you called him your son. You aren’t my daughter but I will call you my daughter…


Ruth is the most well known convert who became the great grandmother of King David and proved that Jewish men can marry Moavite women.


Yael was the woman who lived at the time of Devora the prophetess and killed Sisera the enemy by nailing a tent peg into his head. Sisera did not suspect that Yael would betray him because he thought that she was not part of B’nai Yisrael.


Out of all of the women on the list the most surprising converts seem to be Shifra and Puah (the midwives that Pharaoh ordered to kill the baby boys).


The Imrei Noam states that Shifra and Puah were originally Egyptians who embraced Judaism. Otherwise how could Pharaoh have ordered them to kill Jews? The text observes that “The midwives feared God”- implying that previously when they were not Jewish they had not feared God. Had they not been Egyptians what would have been the point of telling us that they feared God- surely as Jews that would have been taken for granted.


We can see from these examples that the eight female converts who are mentioned above contributed a lot to the Jewish nation and in many of the cases saved Jewish lives. We must continue to appreciate the contributions of both male and female converts throughout the ages.