(Exo 5:1 NASB) And afterward Moses and Aaron came and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness.’”
(Exo 5:2 NASB) But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and besides, I will not let Israel go.”
Exo 5:2: After Moses and Aaron met with the elders of Israel, they went in to Pharaoh. They stated the command from Yahweh to Pharaoh. Pharaoh’s response is very interesting. He says, “Who is Yahweh?” Elohim says that He places the plagues on Egypt for the sole purpose of answering that question (Ex. 7:4-5). He sent the plagues upon Egypt and spared Israel in order to proclaim His Name in all the earth (Ex. 9:14-16).
Keep in mind that Pharaoh considered himself a god. He wants to know how this Elohim will measure up to him. He will soon find out.
(Exo 5:3 NASB) Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please, let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God, lest He fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.”
Exo 5:3: Moses is asking for exactly what Elohim told him to ask for. Israel will see that Pharaoh is against any worship of Yahweh. Pharaoh considers himself god and does not welcome this request. Pharaoh thinks that giving in to them would be a sign of weakness.
(Exo 5:4 NASB) But the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why do you draw the people away from their work? Get back to your labors!”
(Exo 5:5 NASB) Again Pharaoh said, “Look, the people of the land are now many, and you would have them cease from their labors!”
Exo 5:5: Pharaoh sees this request to worship as a ploy to get out of work. Considering the number of Israelites in slavery, the loss of the workforce would be considerable. Also, that huge population might be too much to reckon with once they stopped working, gathered together, and reasoned among themselves.
(Exo 5:6 NASB) So the same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters over the people and their foremen, saying,
(Exo 5:7 NASB) “You are no longer to give the people straw to make brick as previously; let them go and gather straw for themselves.
Exo 5:7: The straw was mixed with clay, in order to make the bricks. This is expressly affirmed by Philo, who was himself a native of Alexandria, in Egypt. He says, describing the oppression of the Israelites, that some were obliged to work in clay, and others to gather straw for the formation of bricks, because straw is the binding of the brick. Philo’s account is confirmed by Dr. Shaw, who says that “some of the Egyptian pyramids are made of brick, the composition whereof is only a mixture of clay, mud, and straw, slightly blended and kneaded together, and afterwards baked in the sun. The straw, which keeps the bricks together, and still preserves its original color, seems to be a proof that these bricks were never burnt or made in kilns.” The same materials are now used for buildings in Egypt. Mr. Baumgarten says, “The houses are for the most part of bricks that are only hardened by the heat of the sun, and mixed with straw to make them firm.”
Also, the acid released by the decaying of the vegetative material would have added to the plastic and cohesive properties of the brick.
(Exo 5:8 NASB) “But the quota of bricks which they were making previously, you shall impose on them; you are not to reduce any of it. Because they are lazy, therefore they cry out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’
(Exo 5:9 NASB) “Let the labor be heavier on the men, and let them work at it that they may pay no attention to false words.”
Exo 5:9: They were to make the same number of bricks and their burden was added in that they would also have to gather their own straw. This was previously supplied by the government.
(Exo 5:10 NASB) So the taskmasters of the people and their foremen went out and spoke to the people, saying, “Thus says Pharaoh, ‘I am not going to give you any straw.
(Exo 5:11 NASB) ‘You go and get straw for yourselves wherever you can find it; but none of your labor will be reduced.’”
(Exo 5:12 NASB) So the people scattered through all the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw.
Exo 5:12: The taskmasters were Egyptians and the foremen were Israelites. In verse 10, Pharaoh mocks the commands of Elohim by having the taskmasters say “Thus says Pharaoh..”
(Exo 5:13 NASB) And the taskmasters pressed them, saying, “Complete your work quota, your daily amount, just as when you had straw.”
(Exo 5:14 NASB) Moreover, the foremen of the sons of Israel, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten and were asked, “Why have you not completed your required amount either yesterday or today in making brick as previously?”
Exo 5:14: The foremen were beaten because the quota was not made. Israel was apparently almost to the brink of their physical capabilities before this additional task was given.
(Exo 5:15 NASB) Then the foremen of the sons of Israel came and cried out to Pharaoh, saying, “Why do you deal this way with your servants?
(Exo 5:16 NASB) “There is no straw given to your servants, yet they keep saying to us, ‘Make bricks!’ And behold, your servants are being beaten; but it is the fault of your own people.”
Exo 5:16: The quota is down and it is the fault of the Egyptians. Pharaoh wants to punish Israel for desiring to worship Yahweh.
(Exo 5:17 NASB) But he said, “You are lazy, very lazy; therefore you say, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the LORD.’
(Exo 5:18 NASB) “So go now and work; for you shall be given no straw, yet you must deliver the quota of bricks.”
(Exo 5:19 NASB) And the foremen of the sons of Israel saw that they were in trouble because they were told, “You must not reduce your daily amount of bricks.”
Exo 5:19: The foremen were chastised and told that things will not change. They will continue to be beaten until they meet their previous quotas.
(Exo 5:20 NASB) When they left Pharaoh’s presence, they met Moses and Aaron as they were waiting for them.
(Exo 5:21 NASB) And they said to them, “May the LORD look upon you and judge you, for you have made us odious in Pharaoh’s sight and in the sight of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us.”
Exo 5:21: The people blamed Moses and Aaron for their plight. They felt as though Pharaoh was going to kill them.
(Exo 5:22 NASB) Then Moses returned to the LORD and said, “O Lord, why hast Thou brought harm to this people? Why didst Thou ever send me?
(Exo 5:23 NASB) “Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Thy name, he has done harm to this people; and Thou hast not delivered Thy people at all.”
Exo 5:23: Moses’ disappointment in his failure shows that he had unrealistic expectations of initial success. He is reverting back to his original reluctance to accept his mission from Elohim.
Patrick McGuireCopyright 2014 Patrick McGuire and Beit Yeshua Torah Assembly All rights reserved, no portion of this Lesson may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations in articles and reviews. Beit Yeshua Torah Assembly Fort Smith, Arkansas