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5. Bricks Without Straw

And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness. 2And Pharaoh said, Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go. 3And they said, The God of the Hebrews hath met with us: let us go, we pray thee, three days’ journey into the desert, and sacrifice unto the Lord our God; lest he fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword. 4And the king of Egypt said unto them, Wherefore do ye, Moses and Aaron, let the people from their works? get you unto your burdens. 5And Pharaoh said, Behold, the people of the land now are many, and ye make them rest from their burdens. 6And Pharaoh commanded the same day the taskmasters of the people, and their officers, saying, 7Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves. 8And the tale of the bricks, which they did make heretofore, ye shall lay upon them; ye shall not diminish ought thereof: for they be idle; therefore they cry, saying, Let us go and sacrifice to our God. 9Let there more work be laid upon the men, that they may labour therein; and let them not regard vain words.

10And the taskmasters of the people went out, and their officers, and they spake to the people, saying, Thus saith Pharaoh, I will not give you straw. 11Go ye, get you straw where ye can find it: yet not ought of your work shall be diminished. 12So the people were scattered abroad throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble instead of straw. 13And the taskmasters hasted them, saying, Fulfil your works, your daily tasks, as when there was straw. 14And the officers of the children of Israel, which Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten, and demanded, Wherefore have ye not fulfilled your task in making brick both yesterday and to day, as heretofore?

15Then the officers of the children of Israel came and cried unto Pharaoh, saying, Wherefore dealest thou thus with thy servants? 16There is no straw given unto thy servants, and they say to us, Make brick: and, behold, thy servants are beaten; but the fault is in thine own people. 17But he said, Ye are idle, ye are idle: therefore ye say, Let us go and do sacrifice to the Lord. 18Go therefore now, and work; for there shall no straw be given you, yet shall ye deliver the tale of bricks. 19And the officers of the children of Israel did see that they were in evil case, after it was said, Ye shall not minish ought from your bricks of your daily task.

20And they met Moses and Aaron, who stood in the way, as they came forth from Pharaoh: 21And they said unto them, The Lord look upon you, and judge; because ye have made our savour to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to slay us. 22And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? why is it that thou hast sent me? 23For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all.

6. And Pharaoh commanded. We shall more clearly perceive, as the narrative proceeds, that these taskmasters and officers were taken from amongst the children of Israel, although we have before read that some were Egyptians. But, as tyrants are ingenious in securing their own interests, Pharaoh in his subtlety wished to provide that none should escape, but that all alike should be brought in turn to the labor. For some, in such a multitude, might have evaded the Egyptians; but, when the charge was given to the Israelites, their familiar knowledge would prevent any from escaping. Besides, it is probable that with these taskmasters was deposited the straw, which they distributed either to parties of ten, or to individuals; he therefore doubles the work in this way, by commanding them to gather the straw with which the bricks were made. But, according to the proverb, that “the edicts of kings are monosyllables,” Moses shews the vehemence of the tyranny by the brevity of the command. But this passage teaches us, that when God has begun to regard us for the purpose of relieving our troubles, He sometimes takes occasion to increase the pressure of our burdens. Thus, when God had engaged to be the deliverer of the Israelites, their trouble became greater, by the tyrant adding to their ordinary tasks that of gathering the straw for themselves. For thus it pleases God to prove the faith of His people; and thus is it expedient to lift up to Him their minds, which are too much set on earth, whilst they do not immediately perceive the fruit of the grace promised to them, nay, whilst they feel that nothing else is brought them by God’s favour, except that their condition becomes worse. It is very useful for us to ponder this, that we may more patiently and calmly bear to be excited to the love and desire of heavenly blessings, by crosses and adversities. Now-a-days the Gospel procures hatred for many, deprives others of their pleasures, degrades others from their honours, brings to others the loss of their goods, sentences others to prison, others to exile, and endangers the life of some; in a word, the more God exerts His power, the more is Satan’s rage excited on the other side, and the wicked become more fiercely cruel. This offense would greatly shake us, unless we knew, from the admonition of this example, that the inestimable grace, which is offered us in Christ, ought to be so valued by us, that in comparison with it, riches, honours, and all that men seek after, should be accounted nothing; and that we should find no difficulty in despising inconveniences of whatever kind.


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