I was reading this article and in the first sentence it references a Yalkut Shimoni that states that "Jael, Hagar, Asenath, Zipporah, Shiphrah, Puah, the daughter of Pharaoh, Rahab and Ruth were among the devout women converts". This medrash makes absolutely no sense to me because how would Hagar be considered a convert since Yaakov wasn't even born yet and seemingly even before Sinai someone who "joined" the bnei yisroel would be a convert on some level but before yaakov there was no Jewish tribe and the Gemara in Sotah 11b tells us that Shifra and Puah, were Yocheved and either Miriam or Elisheva. This could be one of those medrashim but I was trying to seek some help if anyone can help me get some more info on this.

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    "... how would Hagar be considered a convert since Yaakov wasn't even born yet ..." It could be Hagar was a convert in the same sense that it is said "Abraham would convert the men, and Sarah would convert the women" in Rashi on Bereishit 12:5 s.v. "אשר עשו בחרן" (based on Bereishit Rabbah 39:14).
    – Tamir Evan
    May 14, 2020 at 10:34
  • What does Hagar have to with Yaakov? I don't understand your question with her.
    – robev
    May 14, 2020 at 13:16
  • As Rashi said there, conversions were taking place even in Avraham's time. You need to explain what Yaakov has to do with this, when there clearly were conversions before his time.
    – MichoelR
    May 14, 2020 at 14:34
  • What @TamirEvan states in his comment is correct. Avraham and Sarah were teaching people the true faith that was given to Adam HaRishon. This teaching was lost gradually from the generation of Enosh onward as recounted in the Torah and elsewhere. This idea is also expressed in Mishnah Torah, Laws of Foreign Worship and the Customs of the Nations, Chapter 1, Law 1 and 2. The conversion was from idol worship to the true, correct, original faith. May 14, 2020 at 15:51

2 Answers 2


The Yalkut is here.

Hagar might be considered "convert", either before Yaakov was born or afterwards - especially if you take the Midrash that says that Ktura is Hagar as a simple fact.

About Shifra anf Puah, sometimes Midrashim have conflicts, so it's not much of a big deal. I agree, assuming that they were converts raises questions, since they have Hebrew names, and the verse says clearly that they were "Hebrew"

שמות א פס טו

וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ מֶ֣לֶךְ מִצְרַ֔יִם לַֽמְיַלְּדֹ֖ת הָֽעִבְרִיֹּ֑ת אֲשֶׁ֨ר שֵׁ֤ם הָֽאַחַת֙ שִׁפְרָ֔ה וְשֵׁ֥ם הַשֵּׁנִ֖ית פּוּעָֽה׃

Shmot 1:15

The king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah;

My guess, that this a Midrashic answer to hidden question - "Why Pharaoh didn't punished the midwives for their failure?". Answer: because they were actually Egyptian citizens, secretly converted.


In the Midrash Tadshe, chapter 21 authored by the Tanna, Pinchas ben Yair, he brings this quote and the Eishel Avraham commentary helps explain each convert.

The Eishel Avraham in note 20 says:

הגר היתה בת פרעה שהיה בימי אברהם כדאיתא בב"ר פ' מ"ה

Hagar was the daughter of Paroah who was in the days of Avraham, like it says in Bereishis Rabbah 45

The Midrash over there relates that when Paroah took Sarah and found out the truth of her identity, he gave his daughter to them as he reasoned it is better that she be a servant in this house (i.e. in the house of Avraham and Sarah) rather than a lady (i.e. a well-respected noble) in another house. Seeing that she (Sarah) could not conceive, the midrash goes on to say (45:3) that Sarah gave Hagar to Avraham as a wife saying "Fortunate are you to be united with this holy man!".

As was discussed already in the comments by @Tamirevan - Rashi explains that they were actively involved in converting the masses. Based on this, it would be fair to deduce that Avraham would not have married Hagar without first ensuring that she was converted.

As far as Shifrah and Puah, the Eishel Avraham on the following page writes that the author of the Midrash Tadshe does not hold like the Gemara in Sotah and Shemos Rabbah 1 that says that Shifrah and Puah were really Yocheved and Miriam. Rather he wants to say that they were indeed converts. It writes there:

פליג על מה דאיתא בסוטא י"א ובשמ"ר פ"א ששפרה ופועה שפרה זו יוכבד ופועה זו מרים כי לדעת רפנ"י גוירות מן הגוים היו

He argues on that which is brought in Sotah 11 and Shemos Rabbah 1, that Shifrah and Puah - that Shifrah, this is Yocheved, and Puah - this is Miriam, because according to the opinion of Rav Pinchas ben Yair they were converts from the non-Jews.

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