Chapter 5

  1. Moses Confronts Pharaoh

    • After Moses and Aaron had spoken and performed the miracles for the elders of Israel, they went to Pharaoh and said, “The God of Israel says, ‘Let My people go so that they may hold a festival for Me in the wilderness.’”

      • In his commentary, Guzik describes the societal context surrounding the office of Pharaoh and the courage it would have taken for Aaron and Moses to confront him, “Pharaoh was nothing like a public servant; the entire public lived to serve the Pharaoh. His power and authority were supreme and there was no constitution or law or legislature higher or even remotely equal to him…The Pharaohs were said to be the children of the sun; they were friends to the greatest gods of Egypt and sat with them in their own temples to receive worship alongside them…The Pharaoh was more than a man; he considered himself a god, and the Egyptians agreed… Having grown up in the royal courts of Egypt, Moses knew this well; but he also knew that Pharaoh was just a man. With the authority of the living God, Moses confronted Pharaoh.”

    • Pharaoh responded, “I don’t know this God of Israel. Who is He that I should listen to Him? No. I will not let Israel go.”

      • “Pharaoh knew of many gods, but did not recognize the Lord or His ownership of Israel. Therefore he refused the request.” (Guzik)

    • Moses and Aaron answered, “We have met with the God of the Hebrews. Please let us go to the wilderness to worship Him for 3 days. If we don’t He might kill us by the sword or by inflicting us with plagues.”

    • Pharaoh responded by telling Moses and Aaron to get back to work and stop distracting the people from their work.

2. Further Oppression of Israel

    • Later that day Pharaoh instructed the overseers and foremen to increase the Israelites workload, saying that they must not be working hard enough if they had time to listen to Moses and Aaron, and to ask to go worship their God. He told the overseers to stop supplying straw for the Israelite’s bricks so that they would have to gather it themselves, but to require the same number of bricks to be produced as before.

      • HCSB notes, “Archaeology reveals that bricks made with straw were a common building material in Egypt during the Old Testament era. Such evidence from archaeology gives the biblical narrative greater credibility.”

Remains of mud bricks at Tell el Retabeh (Pithom) pictured above

    • The Israelites went out to gather straw to make bricks. When the Israelites were unable to keep up the quota of bricks because of the extra time spend gathering straw, the overseers beat the Israelite foremen and asked why they couldn’t keep their production up.

    • The Israelite foremen went and asked Pharaoh why he was treating them so badly. They asked why they were being beaten when it was the overseers who had stopped providing the materials for the bricks.

    • Pharaoh answered, “If you have time to ask to go make sacrifices to your Lord, you have plenty of time to make more bricks. You are slackers! You won’t have straw provided to you anymore, but your quota will stay the same. Get back to work.”

    • The Israelite foremen knew they were in trouble when the Pharaoh wouldn’t reduce their quota. After leaving Pharaoh, they confronted Moses and Aaron saying, “May the Lord judge and punish you for making Pharaoh and his officials hate us even more, you have given them an excuse to kill us.”

    • Moses asked the Lord, “Why have You caused Your people so much trouble? Why did You send me? Your people are worse off now than they were before, and You haven’t done anything to rescue them.”

      • Was Moses out of line by asking God this question? To the contrary:

      • “It was a good question, and Moses did well to so boldly speak his heart to God. Yet Moses had already forgotten what God told him at the burning bush, that Pharaoh would not easily let go of Israel.” (Guzik)

      • “Happy is the man who when he cannot understand the divine movement and, indeed, doubts it has yet faith enough in God Himself to tell Him all his doubt. Those who face men, having the right to say to them, ‘Thus saith Jehovah’ have also the right to return to Jehovah and state the difficulties, and expose openly their own doubts and fears.” (Morgan)

      • Guzik goes a step further, giving this insight, “If God were to give Moses an extended explanation to answer the question, it might go like this: “Moses, I brought trouble because I am interested in more than simply freeing Israel from slavery; I want to transform them from a slave people into a people fit for My promised land. This doesn’t happen quickly or easily, and it involves countless expressions of both trust and surrender. Trust Me in this trouble, and I will use it for Israel’s good and My glory.”