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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.”

4. And the king of Egypt said unto them. It is surprising that the king, in the excess of his arrogance, did not more cruelly entreat these servants of God, whom he accounted the ringleaders of sedition. But he was undoubtedly restrained by God from proceeding at once to destroy them. By his pertinacity in resisting their departure, he will more clearly shew by and bye how important to his interests he considered it that the people should remain in Egypt; how comes it then that he is contented with verbal reproof, and refrains from shedding their blood, if it were not that God protected his servants under the shield of His defense? He harshly reproves them, indeed, and condemns them to the same labors, by which the rest of the people were oppressed; but since it is notorious that moderate rigor never satisfies tyrants, we conclude that they were preserved under the guardianship of God, and would otherwise have died a hundred times over. But let us learn from his accusation against them, as the promoters of rebellion, to bear patiently, after their example, calumnies and false imputations; only, in reliance on God’s command, let us be fully conscious that we are unjustly accused. The next verse, wherein he says, that “the people of the land are now many,” is intended to aggravate their guilt; both because they would inflict a deeper injury on the public, than as if they had withheld a few from their work; and also, because, by inflaming a large number of people, they would bring greater danger on the country.

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