Exodus 5:8
And the tale of the bricks, which they did make heretofore, you shall lay on them; you shall not diminish ought thereof: for they be idle; therefore they cry, saying, Let us go and sacrifice to our God.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Exodus 5:8. They are idle — The cities they built for Pharaoh were witnesses for them that they were not idle; yet he thus basely misrepresents them, that he might have a pretence to increase their burdens.5:1-9 God will own his people, though poor and despised, and will find a time to plead their cause. Pharaoh treated all he had heard with contempt. He had no knowledge of Jehovah, no fear of him, no love to him, and therefore refused to obey him. Thus Pharaoh's pride, ambition, covetousness, and political knowledge, hardened him to his own destruction. What Moses and Aaron ask is very reasonable, only to go three days' journey into the desert, and that on a good errand. We will sacrifice unto the Lord our God. Pharaoh was very unreasonable, in saying that the people were idle, and therefore talked of going to sacrifice. He thus misrepresents them, that he might have a pretence to add to their burdens. To this day we find many who are more disposed to find fault with their neighbours, for spending in the service of God a few hours spared from their wordly business, than to blame others, who give twice the time to sinful pleasures. Pharaoh's command was barbarous. Moses and Aaron themselves must get to the burdens. Persecutors take pleasure in putting contempt and hardship upon ministers. The usual tale of bricks must be made, without the usual allowance of straw to mix with the clay. Thus more work was to be laid upon the men, which, if they performed, they would be broken with labour; and if not, they would be punished.Some of the most ancient buildings in Egypt were constructed of bricks not burned, but dried in the sun; they were made of clay, or more commonly of mud, mixed with straw chopped into small pieces. An immense quantity of straw must have been wanted for the works on which the Israelites were engaged, and their labors must have been more than doubled by this requisition. 8. tale—an appointed number of bricks. The materials of their labor were to be no longer supplied, and yet, as the same amount of produce was exacted daily, it is impossible to imagine more aggravated cruelty—a perfect specimen of Oriental despotism. No text from Poole on this verse. And the tale of the bricks, which they did make heretofore, you shall lay upon them,.... Oblige them to make and bring in the same number of bricks they used to do, when straw was brought to them and given them; by which it appears, that their daily task was such a number of bricks:

you shall not diminish ought thereof; not make any abatement of the number of bricks, in consideration of their loss of time and their labour in going to fetch straw from other places:

for they be idle; and want to be indulged in a lazy disposition, which ought by no means to be connived at:

therefore they cry, let us go and sacrifice to our God; suggesting, that this request and cry of theirs did not proceed from a religious principle, or the great veneration they had for their God, but from the sloth and idleness they were addicted to.

And 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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
8. tale] that which is told or counted: an archaism for ‘number’ (= Germ. Zahl). So v. 18, 1 Samuel 18:27, 1 Chronicles 9:28. Cf. Milton, L’Allegro, 67 f., ‘And every shepherd tells [i.e. counts: Psalm 48:12; Psalm 147:4] his tale [viz. of sheep] Under the hawthorn in the dale.’ The Heb. here means properly a rightly regulated amount.

therefore they cry, &c.] Their request to be allowed to make a pilgrimage to their God is merely a pretext for idleness.Verse 8. - The tale of the bricks - i.e., the number of the bricks. Exactly as many were to be required of each batch of workmen under the new regulation as previously. The demand was one with which, as the king well know, it would be impossible to comply. For they be idle. There was so much ground for the charge as this - that hitherto, their forced labours had not occupied the whole of their time. They had been able, apparently, to cultivate their own plots of ground (Deuteronomy 11:10), to raise crops of cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic (Numbers 11:5), to catch fish (ibid.), and attend public meetings (Exodus 4:30, 31). They had, in fact, had time which they could call their own. Now this was to be so no more. The Pharaoh, however, misrepresents and exaggerates, speaking as if their forced labours had been a mere nothing, and mere want of occupation had led them to raise the cry - "Let us go and sacrifice." It would have been far nearer the truth to say, that the severity and continuousness of their labours had made the notion of festival time, during which they would cease from their toils, generally popular. Pharaoh's Answer to the Request of Moses and Aaron. - 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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