and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel; in a way of grace and mercy, by raising such a redeemer and deliverer in the midst of them:
and that he had looked upon their affliction; with an eye of pity and compassion:
then they bowed their heads, and worshipped; adoring the goodness of God, and expressing their thankfulness for the notice he took of them, and signifying their readiness to obey all instructions and directions that should be given them.
INTRODUCTION TO Exodus 5
Moses and Aaron go in to Pharaoh, and desire leave for the children of Israel to go into the wilderness three days' journey, to sacrifice to the Lord, and are answered in a very churlish and atheistical manner, and are charged with making the people idle, the consequence of which was, the taskmasters had orders, to make their work more heavy and toilsome, Exodus 5:1 which orders were executed with severity by them, Exodus 5:10, upon which the officers of the children of Israel complained to Pharaoh, but to no purpose, Exodus 5:14, and meeting with Moses and Aaron, lay the blame upon them, Exodus 5:20, which sends Moses to the Lord to expostulate with him about it, Exodus 5:22.
thus saith the Lord God of Israel: as ambassadors of him, who is King of kings, and Lord of lords; and so Artapanus (i), the Heathen, says that the Egyptian king, hearing that Moses was come, sent for him to know wherefore he was come, who told him, that the Lord of the world commanded him to let the Jews go, as it follows here:
let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness; in the wilderness of Sinai or Arabia, at Horeb there, where they might keep it more freely and safely, without being disturbed by the Egyptians, and without giving any offence to them; and the demand is just; they were the people of God, and therefore he claims them, and service from them was due to him; and Pharaoh had no right to detain them, and what is required was but their reasonable service they owed to their God. This feast was to be held, not for themselves, but to God, which chiefly consisted in offering sacrifice, as is after explained; the entire dismission of them is not at once demanded, only to go a little while into the wilderness, and keep a feast there to the Lord; though it was not intended they should return, but it was put in this form to try Pharaoh, and that he might be the more inexcusable in refusing to grant what was so reasonable.
(h) Apud Joseph. contr. Apion. l. 1. c. 26. 32. (i) Apud Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 27. p. 434.
that I should obey his voice, to let Israel go? he knew of no superior monarch to him, whose orders he was obliged to obey in any respect, and particularly in this, the dismission of the people of Israel out of his land, though it was but for a short time:
I know not the Lord; who this Jehovah is, that made this demand, and required Israel's dismission. The Targum of Jonathan paraphrases it,"I have not found the name of Jehovah written in the book of angels, I am not afraid of him.''An Egyptian book, in which, the paraphrast supposes, were written the names of gods and of angels; and no such name being there, he was the more bold and insolent:
neither will I let Israel go; determining he would pay no regard to such an unknown Deity, or King, be he who he would.
let us go, we pray thee, three days' journey into the desert: a request which was made in a very humble and modest manner, and not at all extravagant, nor anything dangerous and disadvantageous to him; for now they speak as of themselves, and therefore humbly entreat him; they do not ask to be wholly and for ever set free, only to go for three days; they do not propose to meet and have their rendezvous in any part of his country, much less in his metropolis, where he night fear they would rise in a body, and seize upon his person and treasure, only to go into the wilderness, to Mount Sinai there. And hence it appears, that the distance between Egypt and Mount Sinai was three days' journey, to go the straightest way, as Aben Ezra observes:
and sacrifice unto the Lord our God: which is what was meant by keeping a feast; some sacrifices the people, as well as the priests, feasted on; this was not a civil, but a religious concern:
lest he fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword: this they urge as a reason to have their request granted, taken from the danger they should be exposed unto, should they not be allowed to go and offer sacrifice to God; though by this they might suggest both loss and danger to Pharaoh, in order to stir him up the more to listen to their request; for should they be smitten with pestilence, or the sword, he would lose the benefit of their bond service, which would be a considerable decline in his revenues; and besides, if God would be so displeased with the Israelites for not going, and not sacrificing, when they were detained, how much more displeased would he be with Pharaoh and the Egyptians for hindering them?
(f) "est invocatus super nos", Montanus. So some in Vatablus, Drusius.
wherefore do ye, Moses and Aaron, let the people from their works? as they did when they gathered them together, and wrought signs before them; which Pharaoh it seems had heard of, and had got their names very readily:
get you unto your burdens; meaning not Moses and Aaron, ordering them to go about their private and family business, but the people they represented, and on whose account they came; and it is highly probable the elders of the people, at least some of them, were with them, to whom these words might be more particularly directed. See Exodus 3:18.
(g) Ut supra. (Apud Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 27. p. 434.)
and you make them rest from their burdens; which was the way to make them more numerous still, and to frustrate the design of laying burdens upon them, which was originally intended to hinder the multiplication of them, Exodus 1:9.
and their officers; who were Israelites, and were under the taskmasters, and accountable to them for each man's work that they had the inspection and care of:
saying, as follows.
as heretofore it had been done:
let them go and gather straw for themselves; out of the fields where it lay, after the corn had been reaped and gathered in, or in barns, where it had been threshed; to do which must take up a good deal of their time, and especially if the straw lay at any distance, or was hard to be come at.
(h) Vide Vitruvium de Architectura, l. 2. c. 3. p. 46. & Philander in ib. (i) Observations on Egypt, p. 53.
you shall not diminish ought thereof; not make any abatement of the number of bricks, in consideration of their loss of time and their labour in going to fetch straw from other places:
for they be idle; and want to be indulged in a lazy disposition, which ought by no means to be connived at:
therefore they cry, let us go and sacrifice to our God; suggesting, that this request and cry of theirs did not proceed from a religious principle, or the great veneration they had for their God, but from the sloth and idleness they were addicted to.
that they may labour therein; and have no leisure time to spend in idleness and sloth:
and let them not regard vain words; or "words of falsehood" (l) and lies, such as were spoken by Moses and Aaron, promising them liberty and deliverance from their bondage, which he was determined never to grant, and so eventually make such words to appear to be vain and empty, falsehood and lies.
(k) "aggravetur", Pagninus, Montanus, &c. (l) "in verbis mendacii", Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus. "Verbis falsis", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.
and their officers; the officers of the Israelites, who were under the taskmasters, and answerable to them for the work of the people, and their tale of bricks:
and they spake to the people, saying, thus saith Pharaoh, I will not give you straw; that is, any longer, as he had used to do.
yet not ought of your work shall be diminished; they were to do the same work, and make the same number of bricks, as when straw was brought and given them; and no allowance made for waste of time in seeking, or expenses in procuring straw, which was very hard upon them.
to gather stubble instead of straw; straw not being easy to come at, they were obliged to gather stubble that was left in the fields, after the corn was gathered in. Ben Melech observes, that the word signifies small straw, or small sticks of wood, and Kimchi (m), and if so, this must be to burn the bricks with in the furnaces.
(m) Sepher Shorash, rad.
saying, fulfil your works, your daily tasks, as when there was straw; they insisted upon it, that they did the same business at the brickkilns, made the same number of bricks every day, as they used to do when they had straw at hand. See Exodus 5:11.
were beaten by the taskmasters, either with a cane, stick, or cudgel, or with whips and scourges, because there was a deficiency in their accounts, and the full tale of bricks was not given in:
and demanded, wherefore have ye not fulfilled your task in making brick, both yesterday and today, as heretofore? the first day they were deficient they took no notice of it, did not call them to an account for it, but this being the case the second day, they not only expostulated with them about it, but beat them for it, which was hard usage. They had no need to ask them the reason of it, which they knew very well, and must be sensible that the men could not do the same work, and be obliged to spend part of their time in going about for straw or stubble; or the same number of men make the same tale of bricks, when some of them were employed to get straw for the rest, and to beat those officers for a deficiency through such means was cruel.
saying, wherefore dealest thou thus with thy servants? so they call themselves, they living in his country, and being under his jurisdiction, though not properly his subjects; however, he had made them his slaves, and so indeed even bondservants.
and they say to us, make brick, though they had no straw to make or burn it with:
and, behold, thy servants are beaten; because the same number of bricks is not made as heretofore, but the fault is in thine own people; the taskmasters, who sent the people abroad to get straw or stubble themselves, and therefore could not make the same bricks as before; or "thy people sin" (n), the guilt is theirs: or by thy people are meant the Israelites, whom they call Pharaoh's people to gain favour with him; and then the sense is, either "sin" is imputed "to thy people" (o), the blame is laid upon them, or punishment is inflicted on them without cause, sin being often put for punishment; they are wrongfully charged with a fault, and wrongfully punished.
(n) "et peccat populus tuns", Montanus, Drusius, Cartwright. (o) So Vatablus, Piscator, and some in Munster, Pagninus.
therefore ye say, let us go and do sacrifice to the Lord; suggesting that it was not so much the service and honour of God they regarded, as that they might have a leisure day from work and labour.
for there shall no straw be given you, yet shall ye deliver the tale of bricks; the usual number of bricks, as the Vulgate Latin version has it; though in Exodus 5:8, it is rendered in that version the measure of bricks, and so another word is translated by them, Exodus 5:14, and perhaps both may be intended, both number and measure; that is, that it was expected and insisted on that they delivered the full number of bricks they used to make, and these of full measure; for bricks were made of different measures, as Vitruvius (p) observes; some among the bricks were of two hands' breadth, others of four, and a third sort of five. See Gill on Exodus 5:7.
(p) Ut supra. (Vide Vitruvium de Architectura, l. 2. c. 3. p. 46)
after it was said, ye shall not minish ought from your bricks of your daily task; after this had been said and confirmed by Pharaoh, they had no hope of things being better with them, but looked upon their unhappy lot as irretrievable.
who stood in the way as they came forth from Pharaoh; they, had placed themselves in a proper situation, that they might meet them when they came out, and know what success they had, and which they were extremely desirous of hearing; by which they might judge in what temper Pharaoh was, and what they might for the future expect from him in consequence of their embassy.
because you have made our savour to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh; or to "stink" (r); they were become vile, abominable, and hateful to him, he could not bear the sight of them, and treated them as the filth and offscouring of all things; they had lost their good name, credit, and reputation with him; for leave being asked for them to go three days' journey into the wilderness, to offer sacrifice, and keep a feast, they were looked upon as a parcel of idle slothful fellows:
and in the eyes of his servants; not the taskmasters only, but his nobles, counsellors, and courtiers:
to put a sword in their hands to slay us; a proverbial expression, signifying that they by their conduct had exposed them to the utmost danger, and had given their enemies an occasion against them, and an opportunity of destroying their whole nation, under a pretence of disobedience and disloyalty.
(q) "videbit" "et judicabit", Rivet. (r) "fecisti foetere", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus, Tigurine version, Drusius.
and said, Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? or afflicted them, and suffered them to be thus afflicted; which to ascribe to God was right, whatever were the means or instruments; for all afflictions are of him, and who has always wise reasons for what he does, as he now had; to try the faith and patience of his people; to make the Egyptians more odious to them, and so take them off from following their manners, customs, rites, and superstitions, and make them more desirous of departing from thence to the land of Canaan, nor seek a return to Egypt again; and that his vengeance on the Egyptians for such cruelty and inhumanity might appear the more just, and his power might be seen in the plagues he inflicted on them, and in the deliverance of his people when reduced to the utmost extremity:
why is it that thou hast sent me? he seems to wish he had never been sent, and could be glad to be recalled, something of the same disposition still remaining in him as when first called; since no end was answered by his mission, no deliverance wrought, yea, the people were more afflicted and oppressed than before; and therefore he was at a loss how to account for it that he should be sent at all, seeing nothing came of it to the good of the people.