Exodus 5:17
But he said, Ye are idle, ye are idle: therefore ye say, Let us go and do sacrifice to the LORD.
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(17) Ye are idle.—Idleness was regarded by the Egyptians as one of the worst sins. It had to be specially disclaimed in the final judgment before Osiris (Birch, in Bunsen’s Egypt, vol. v. p. 254). Men sometimes disclaimed it in the epitaphs which they placed upon their tombs (Records of the Past, vol. vi. p. 137). Pharaoh had already made the charge, by implication, against Moses and Aaron (Exodus 5:4). No doubt, among the Egyptians themselves, a good deal of idleness resulted from the frequent attendance upon religious festivals (Herod. ii. 59-64). Hence the charge might seem plausible.

5:10-23 The Egyptian task-masters were very severe. See what need we have to pray that we may be delivered from wicked men. The head-workmen justly complained to Pharaoh: but he taunted them. The malice of Satan has often represented the service and worship of God, as fit employment only for those who have nothing else to do, and the business only of the idle; whereas, it is the duty of those who are most busy in the world. Those who are diligent in doing sacrifice to the Lord, will, before God, escape the doom of the slothful servant, though with men they do not. The Israelites should have humbled themselves before God, and have taken to themselves the shame of their sin; but instead of that, they quarrel with those who were to be their deliverers. Moses returned to the Lord. He knew that what he had said and done, was by God's direction; and therefore appeals to him. When we find ourselves at any time perplexed in the way of our duty, we ought to go to God, and lay open our case before him by fervent prayer. Disappointments in our work must not drive us from our God, but still we must ponder why they are sent.Ye are idle - The old Egyptian language abounds in epithets which show contempt for idleness. The charge was equally offensive and ingenious; one which would be readily believed by Egyptians who knew how much public and private labors were impeded by festivals and other religious ceremonies. Among the great sins which, according to Egyptian belief, involved condemnation in the final judgment, idleness is twice mentioned. 13-19. And the taskmasters hasted them … officers … beaten—As the nearest fields were bared and the people had to go farther for stubble, it was impossible for them to meet the demand by the usual tale of bricks. "The beating of the officers is just what might have been expected from an Eastern tyrant, especially in the valley of the Nile, as it appears from the monuments, that ancient Egypt, like modern China, was principally governed by the stick" [Taylor]. "The mode of beating was by the offender being laid flat on the ground and generally held by the hands and feet while the chastisement was administered" [Wilkinson]. (De 25:2). A picture representing the Hebrews on a brick field, exactly as described in this chapter, was found in an Egyptian tomb at Thebes. No text from Poole on this verse.

But he said, ye are idle, ye are idle,.... Instead of expressing indignation at the taskmasters, and relieving the officers and the people, he insults them in a flouting sarcastic way, charging them with sloth and idleness; and which, for the certainty of it, or, however, to show how strongly persuaded and fully assured he was of the truth of it, repeats it, and gives the following as a proof of it:

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.

But he said, Ye are idle, ye are idle: therefore ye say, Let us go and do sacrifice to the LORD.
17, 18. The king impatiently turns them away, repeating the charge of idleness which he had made before (v. 8), and insisting again that they must produce the same amount of bricks as before.

Verse 17. - Ye are idle, etc. Compare ver. 8. Pharaoh is evidently pleased with his "happy thought." It seems to him clever, witty, humorous, to tax overworked people with idleness; and equally clever to say to religious people - "Your religion is a mere pretence. You do not want to worship. You want a holiday." We may remark further that idleness and hypocrisy were two sins of the deepest dye, according to Egyptian notions. Exodus 5:17As the Israelites could not do the work appointed them, their overlookers were beaten by the Egyptian bailiffs; and when they complained to the king of this treatment, they were repulsed with harshness, and told "Ye are idle, idle; therefore ye say, Let us go and sacrifice to Jehovah." עמּך וחטאת: "and thy people sin;" i.e., not "thy people (the Israelites) must be sinners," which might be the meaning of חטא according to Genesis 43:9, but "thy (Egyptian) people sin." "Thy people" must be understood as applying to the Egyptians, on account of the antithesis to "thy servants," which not only refers to the Israelitish overlookers, but includes all the Israelites, especially in the first clause. חטאת is an unusual feminine form, for חטאה (vid., Genesis 33:11); and עם is construed as a feminine, as in Judges 18:7 and Jeremiah 8:5.
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