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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.

9. Let there more work be laid upon the men. Although Pharaoh knew that he was cruelly entreating the unhappy Israelites, who ought, as strangers, to be hospitably and kindly received, yet he says that they were abusing their idleness, and were revolting because he indulged them too much. Thus, when tyranny has lost all regard for justice, there are no bounds to its harshness; and so far from being moved to pity by complaints, they only aggravate its cruelty. And these are the means by which its flatterers inflame it more, viz., that its subjects will never be quiet unless they faint under the weight of their burdens; that this is the best receipt for governing them, so to oppress them that they dare not open their mouths; if they cry, or murmur, that they should be oppressed the more,6969     The original here is, “ut obdurescant ad servitutem, quasi contracto collo;” which the French translates “pour l’endurcir a servitude, comme si on le trainoit par le col.” The Geneva edition of 1617, as well as that of Amsterdam of 1671, however, have substituted “callo,” which certainly seems to make the sense clearer. till they grow hardened, and, as it were, callous to their bondage. They, therefore, relax not their contumelies and cruelties until the wretched people have altogether succumbed. Pharaoh insults them still more wantonly, when he says that he imposes heavier burdens upon them, that “they may not regard vain words.” But what are these, except that they ask permission to worship God? His impiety, therefore, bursts forth in the midst of his tyrannical insolence; nor does he only mean to utter a blasphemy against God, but he is instigated by the wiles of Satan to undermine the faith of the Church. By a similar impulse, Rabshakeh proclaimed that Hezekiah deceived the people by “vain words,” when he bade them trust in the living God. (Isaiah 36:5, 7.) Nor does Satan cease to employ the same machination against the faithful, as if all that God promises was deceit and vanity.


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