Exodus 5


‘Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’” Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go.” Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Now let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God, or he may strike us with plagues or with the sword.” But the king of Egypt said, “Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their labour? Get back to your work!” Then Pharaoh said, “Look, the people of the land are now numerous, and you are stopping them from working.” Exodus 5:1-5

Moses and Aaron are now fully equipped for the mission God has set them to deliver His people out of Egypt, Exodus 3:18. When they meet with Pharaoh, they immediately tell him what God demands, ‘let my people go.’

Remembering that the Israelites have now been in Egypt for 400 years, it’s understandable that Pharaoh actually believed the Hebrews belonged to him.

Pharaoh was well acquainted with all the gods of Egypt, but he didn’t have a clue about the God of Israel, 2 Kings 18:35. However, through a series of plagues, he is about to find exactly who the one true living God is. As far as Pharaoh is concerned a request to go and sacrifice to God in the wilderness was just an excuse for the Hebrews to give up their work because of laziness.

Bricks Without Straw

‘That same day Pharaoh gave this order to the slave drivers and overseers in charge of the people: “You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don’t reduce the quota. They are lazy; that is why they are crying out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ Make the work harder for the people so that they keep working and pay no attention to lies.” Exodus 5:6-9

In an attempt to break the will of God’s people, it appears that Pharaoh’s first response to God’s demands was simply to make the Israelites work harder. Also, he implied that Moses and Aaron were liars.

The Bricks

Back in Genesis 11:3, we read that they ‘baked them thoroughly’, in other words, they must have known how to bake bricks in some kind of brick kiln. Now you might say, ‘well of course that is how you have to make bricks’!

But let me ask you to remember how the Israelites made bricks for the Egyptians. They made them of sun-dried mud, into which chopped straw was mixed in order to give them strength, Exodus 5:7.

Exodus 5:6-9 tells how to make it harder for the Israelites in Egypt, Pharaoh refused to give them straw and made them find their own, thus making it harder for them to produce their daily quota. Then, when there was no longer any straw to be found, they had to make bricks without straw and still produce their set quota, even when the dried mud crumbled away it had no binding substance, Exodus 5:10-18.

And this was centuries after the period in Genesis 11. Indeed, it must have been about 200 years before the time of Israel in Egypt. Yet these descendants of Ham know about baking bricks so that they are so much stronger.

‘Then the slave drivers and the overseers went out and said to the people, “This is what Pharaoh says: ‘I will not give you any more straw. Go and get your own straw wherever you can find it, but your work will not be reduced at all.’” So the people scattered all over Egypt to gather stubble to use for straw. The slave drivers kept pressing them, saying, “Complete the work required of you for each day, just as when you had straw.” And Pharaoh’s slave drivers beat the Israelite overseers they had appointed, demanding, “Why haven’t you met your quota of bricks yesterday or today, as before?” Then the Israelite overseers went and appealed to Pharaoh: “Why have you treated your servants this way? Your servants are given no straw, yet we are told, ‘Make bricks!’ Your servants are being beaten, but the fault is with your own people.” Pharaoh said, “Lazy, that’s what you are—lazy! That is why you keep saying, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the LORD.’ Now get to work. You will not be given any straw, yet you must produce your full quota of bricks.” The Israelite overseers realized they were in trouble when they were told, “You are not to reduce the number of bricks required of you for each day.” When they left Pharaoh, they found Moses and Aaron waiting to meet them, and they said, “May the LORD look on you and judge you! You have made us obnoxious to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.” Exodus 5:10-21

We can only imagine what the Israelite’s work was like, especially now since they had to go throughout the land and find any stray for building the bricks.

The slave drivers were Israelite foremen who were chosen by the Egyptians as taskmasters over their fellow Israelites. They didn’t have any choice in the matter because if the quota of bricks wasn’t met, they too were beaten.

The Israelite foremen now go and appeal to Pharaoh and notice that three times they say, ‘your servants’. If they were trying to appeal to Pharaoh on the basis of calling their fellow Israelites servants, they failed miserably.

Earlier Pharaoh said, he wouldn’t let them go and sacrifice because it was just promoting their ‘laziness’ but here, we see that this was only an excuse. He actually hated God’s people and treated them as such.

Notice what the Israelite foremen said to Moses and Aaron, ‘may the Lord look on you and judge you’.

Keil in his commentary says the following concerning these words. ‘What perversity of the natural heart! They call upon God to judge, while by their very complaining they show that they have no confidence in God and his power to save.’

Rawlinson, in his commentary, summarises the following, concerning their words, ‘you have made us obnoxious to Pharaoh’. ‘Ye have made us to stink in the nostrils of Pharaoh!’

God Promises Deliverance

‘Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.” Exodus 5:22-23

It appears that Moses didn’t know all the social struggles his people would have to go through before being delivered. We can almost feel the despair in Moses’ words to the Lord, it appears that not only were the Israelites discouraged by what was happening but so was Moses himself. The good news is that the first thing Moses did in times of despair is to stop and speak to God about it.

It’s important to remember that what was happening was exactly what God said would happen, Exodus 4:21. Even though Moses was made aware of what was to happen, this didn’t stop him from feeling the pain of his people.

Go To Exodus 6


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