You shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Straw to make brick.—“The use of crude brick was general in Egypt for dwelling-houses, tombs, and ordinary buildings, the walls of towns, fortresses, and the sacred enclosures of temples, and for all purposes where stone was not required, which last was nearly confined to temples, quays, and reservoirs” (Wilkinson, in Rawlinson’s Herodotus, vol. ii. p. 213). These crude bricks were always made of the mud of the Nile, mixed with chopped straw, which served to bind them together (Rosellini, Monumenti Civili, vol. ii. p. 252).
Let them go and gather straw.—It has been estimated that this requirement would “more than double” the people’s toils (Canon Cook). They would have to disperse themselves over the harvest fields, often lying at a considerable distance from the brick-fields, to detach the straw from the soil, gather it into bundles, and convey it to the scene of their ordinary labours. Having done this they were then required to complete the ordinary “tale.”Exodus 5:7. Straw — To mix with the clay. Shaw tells us in his Travels, (p. 136,) that “the composition of bricks in Egypt was only a mixture of clay, mud, and straw, slightly blended and kneaded together, and afterward baked in the sun. Paleis cohærent lateres, says Philo in his Life of Moses. The straw which keeps these bricks together in Egypt, and still preserves its original colour, seems to be a proof that these bricks were never burned nor made in kilns.” The straw therefore, was not wanted for burning them with it.
let them go and gather straw for themselves—The enraged despot did not issue orders to do an impracticable thing. The Egyptian reapers in the corn harvest were accustomed merely to cut off the ears and leave the stalk standing.
as heretofore it had been done:
let them go and gather straw for themselves; out of the fields where it lay, after the corn had been reaped and gathered in, or in barns, where it had been threshed; to do which must take up a good deal of their time, and especially if the straw lay at any distance, or was hard to be come at.Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Verse 7. - Straw to make brick. Straw was used in Egypt to bind together the clay, or mud, which was, of course, the main material of the bricks. (See Wilkinson, in the author's 'Herodotus,' vol. 2. p. 2130 It is usually chopped into small pieces. Let them go and gather straw. This would involve the leaving of the brickfields, and the scattering of the people over the harvest-grounds, where alone they would be able to find straw in any quantity. There are so many harvests in Egypt, that straw would perhaps be obtainable somewhere during the greater part of the year. Exodus 5:1-5. When the elders of Israel had listened with gladness and gratitude to the communications of Moses and Aaron respecting the revelation which Moses had received from Jehovah, that He was now about to deliver His people out of their bondage in Egypt; Moses and Aaron proceeded to Pharaoh, and requested in the name of the God of Israel, that he would let the people of Israel go and celebrate a festival in the wilderness in honour of their God. When we consider that every nation presented sacrifices to its deities, and celebrated festivals in their honour, and that they had all their own modes of worship, which were supposed to be appointed by the gods themselves, so that a god could not be worshipped acceptably in every place; the demand presented to Pharaoh on the part of the God of the Israelites, that he would let His people go into the wilderness and sacrifice to Him, appears so natural and reasonable, that Pharaoh could not have refused their request, if there had been a single trace of the fear of God in his heart. But what was his answer? "Who is Jehovah, that I should listen to His voice, to let Israel go? I know not Jehovah." There was a certain truth in these last words. The God of Israel had not yet made Himself known to him. But this was no justification. Although as a heathen he might naturally measure the power of the God by the existing condition of His people, and infer from the impotence of the Israelites that their God must be also weak, he would not have dared to refuse the petition of the Israelites, to be allowed to sacrifice to their God or celebrate a sacrificial festival, if he had had any faith in gods at all.
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