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Bricks without Straw


Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “Thus says the L ord, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, so that they may celebrate a festival to me in the wilderness.’ ” 2But Pharaoh said, “Who is the L ord, that I should heed him and let Israel go? I do not know the L ord, and I will not let Israel go.” 3Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has revealed himself to us; let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness to sacrifice to the L ord our God, or he will fall upon us with pestilence or sword.” 4But the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their work? Get to your labors!” 5Pharaoh continued, “Now they are more numerous than the people of the land and yet you want them to stop working!” 6That same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people, as well as their supervisors, 7“You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as before; let them go and gather straw for themselves. 8But you shall require of them the same quantity of bricks as they have made previously; do not diminish it, for they are lazy; that is why they cry, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.’ 9Let heavier work be laid on them; then they will labor at it and pay no attention to deceptive words.”

10 So the taskmasters and the supervisors of the people went out and said to the people, “Thus says Pharaoh, ‘I will not give you straw. 11Go and get straw yourselves, wherever you can find it; but your work will not be lessened in the least.’ ” 12So the people scattered throughout the land of Egypt, to gather stubble for straw. 13The taskmasters were urgent, saying, “Complete your work, the same daily assignment as when you were given straw.” 14And the supervisors of the Israelites, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten, and were asked, “Why did you not finish the required quantity of bricks yesterday and today, as you did before?”

15 Then the Israelite supervisors came to Pharaoh and cried, “Why do you treat your servants like this? 16No straw is given to your servants, yet they say to us, ‘Make bricks!’ Look how your servants are beaten! You are unjust to your own people.” 17He said, “You are lazy, lazy; that is why you say, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the L ord.’ 18Go now, and work; for no straw shall be given you, but you shall still deliver the same number of bricks.” 19The Israelite supervisors saw that they were in trouble when they were told, “You shall not lessen your daily number of bricks.” 20As they left Pharaoh, they came upon Moses and Aaron who were waiting to meet them. 21They said to them, “The L ord look upon you and judge! You have brought us into bad odor with Pharaoh and his officials, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.”

22 Then Moses turned again to the L ord and said, “O L ord, why have you mistreated this people? Why did you ever send me? 23Since I first came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has mistreated this people, and you have done nothing at all to deliver your people.”

20. And they met Moses. Some translate it,7171     In saying “some translate,” C. is again adverting to S.M., but has rather chosen, with our A.V., to follow the LXX. and Vulgate. — W. “they met together with Moses,” taking the particle את, eth, for “together with;” but it is more in accordance with the context that the officers and some part of the elders or people encountered Moses and Aaron as they returned from Pharaoh. An accidental meeting is indicated, from whence it arose that their minds were still more exasperated against the Lord’s servants. That blind grief is here described which, with a fury akin to madness, aroused the Israelites to unfounded anger against the innocent, who had deserved nothing of the kind. It is not indeed wonderful that they were so brutalized by the weight of their sorrows as to lose all sense of justice, and were even so completely driven out of their minds, as unreasonably to vent their indignation against the ministers of their deliverance; for this not unfrequently happens; but although it may be too common a fault, yet are not they free from the accusation of ingratitude who are carried away thus inconsiderately by the force of their passions; nay, we should learn from this example how carefully we ought to restrain our grief, which, if indulged, parts company both with reason and with kindness. For what could be more unjust than because Pharaoh is tyrannical and cruel to lay the blame on Moses and Aaron? But; this outbreak arose from want of faith; because they measure the favor of God by their immediate success. They had lately thanked God for their promised redemption; now, as if they had been deceived, they accuse Moses and Aaron. Hence we gather how wavering was their faith, which vanishes at once upon so slight a cause. If the calling of Moses had not been ratified by miracles, they might have taken occasion to be angry from their ill success; but now, when they had experimentally known that God was the author of the whole proceeding, it is an act of perversity and falsehood to accuse Moses of rashness; and thus they do injustice not only to a mortal man, but to God their deliverer — an injustice which is doubled by the blasphemous abuse of His name, when they speak of Him as the promoter of a bad cause. For the expression, “the Lord — judge,” is, as it were, to impose upon Him the law by which He must condemn Himself. On this account intemperate grief is still more to be watched against, which, whilst it bursts out immoderately against men, does not even spare God. They did not indeed think that they were reproaching God and rejecting His loving-kindness; for the excess of their passion had transported them out of themselves. Meantime we must mark the source of the evil, namely, that they were impatient, because God did not immediately complete what He had promised, but deferred it for a time; and again, because they sought to be exempted from every evil. Thus they preferred rotting, as it were, in their miseries, to suffering some little inconvenience for the hope of the favor of God. And this cowardice is natural to almost all of us, that we prefer to be without God’s help rather than to suffer under the cross, whilst He leads us to salvation gradually, and sometimes by a circuitous path. Nothing indeed is sweeter than to hear that our afflictions are regarded by God, and that He will come to our relief in tribulation; but if God’s favor awakens the wrath of the ungodly against us, we shall be prepared to abandon all His promises rather than purchase the hopes they afford at so great a price. In the meantime, we see how kindly God contended with the intemperate and corrupt conduct of His people. For certainly by reproaching Moses and Aaron so rudely, the Israelites rejected (as far as in them lay) that message respecting their deliverance which they at first had greedily received; and yet He ceased not to carry on His work even to the end.

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