In parashat shemote, Pharaoh explicitly commands the midwives to allow the females to live (וְאִם-בַּת הִוא וָחָיָה). What are the traditional commentaries explaining the order to allow the girls to survive?
Commentaries available here:
Rashi (verse 16) - Pharaoh's stargazers had told him that a boy who would lead the Jews out of Egypt was being born.
Chizkuni (verse 16) - men were generally those involved in warfare, and Pharaoh was worried about the Jews joining in a war against Egypt. Note that in verse 22, he adopts the "Rashi approach", based on the context of killing all males, even Egyptians.
Ralbag (verse 22) - they assumed they could just marry the women and assimilate them (See Netziv)
Rashi to Exodus (1:16) quotes a Midrash that the Pharaoh decreed to specifically kill males since his astrologers predicted that a male would save the Jews. This Midrash is pretty old, and is present in Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews (2:9:2).
Hizkuni (1:16) and Hadar Z'kenim (1:22) suggest that Pharaoh was worried that males in particular would do battle against him.
The Midrash Exodus Rabba (1:18) explains that the Egyptians wanted to keep the girls to marry, since they were lustful.
Why did Pharoah order the killing of only the Hebrew boys? It apparently was to be an act of genocide with multiple purpose:
- Of terminating all Hebrew all lineages, both by nullify and interbreeding its genetic heritage, and
- In the latter aspect, of usurping and taking inheritance of whatever Godly endowment of which the Hebrews had been observed, rumored, or purported to have been bestowed; a kidnapping by one almighty of a feared and yet admired, alien god, so to speak.