Matthew Poole's Commentary
And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness.Moses and Aaron entreateth Pharaoh to let the people go, Exodus 5:1. Pharaoh’s blasphemous refusal, Exodus 5:2. Chides Moses and Aaron for their request, Exodus 5:4. Pharaoh, seeing the Israelites to be many, Exodus 5:5, commands the task-masters and officers to increase their bondage, Exodus 5:6-9. The task-masters go and do as Pharaoh commands, Exodus 5:10,11. The scattering of the people throughout Egypt, Exodus 5:12. The task-masters’ cruelty to the officers of the Israelites, Exodus 5:14. The officers’ complaint to Pharaoh, Exodus 5:15,16. He upbraids them with idleness, Exodus 5:17. His harsh answer, Exodus 5:18. The officers of the children of Israel meet Moses and Aaron, and blame them, Exodus 5:20,21. Moses returns and complains to God, Exodus 5:22,23.
Moses and Aaron went in, and with them some of the elders of Israel, as may seem from Exodus 3:18, though here only the two chiefs be mentioned. Or, because Moses did not seem to be satisfied with the assistance of the elders before offered him, Exodus 3:18, God was pleased to give him a more acceptable assistant in their stead, even Aaron his brother, Exodus 4:14. Told Pharaoh: either both successively told him; or Aaron did it immediately, and with his tongue, Moses by his interpreter, and by his command. Or, offer a sacrifice, as they express it, Exodus 5:3 and Exodus 10:9. For both went together, and a good part of many sacrifices was spent in feasting before the Lord and unto the honour of the Lord. See Deu 12:6,7,11,12.
And Pharaoh said, Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go.I am the sovereign lord of Egypt, and I own no superior here.
And they said, The God of the Hebrews hath met with us: let us go, we pray thee, three days' journey into the desert, and sacrifice unto the LORD our God; lest he fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword.Hath met with us, i.e. hath appeared to us lately, and laid this command upon us. Others, is called upon us, i.e. his name is called upon us, or we are called by his name. But why should Moses so solemnly tell that to Pharaoh which all the people knew, to wit, that the Hebrews did worship the God of the Hebrews? And our translation is confirmed by comparing this with Exodus 3:18, where this very message is prescribed.
Lest he fall upon us; lest he punish, either us, if we disobey his command, or thee, if thou hinderest us from obeying it: but this latter they only imply, as being easily gathered from the former.
And the king of Egypt said unto them, Wherefore do ye, Moses and Aaron, let the people from their works? get you unto your burdens.Either,
1. Ye, the elders of Israel, who are here come with Moses and Aaron: see Exodus 5:1. Or,
2. Ye, Moses and Aaron. So far am I from granting the liberty which you desire for the people, that as a just punishment upon you for your seditious attempt, I command you also to go with the rest, and to take your share in their burdens, and to perform the task which shall be required of you. And that so cruel a tyrant did not proceed further against them, must be ascribed to the mighty power of God, who governs the spirits and restrains the hands of the greatest kings when he pleaseth.
And Pharaoh said, Behold, the people of the land now are many, and ye make them rest from their burdens.Ver. 5. The Israelites in this land are very numerous, and therefore it were a madness in me to permit them all to meet and go together as you desire, which may tend to the ruin of my whole kingdom, and probably it is designed by you to that purpose. Or, therefore your injury to me is the greater, in attempting to rob me of the benefit of their labours. This I prefer, because it suits best with the following words.
And Pharaoh commanded the same day the taskmasters of the people, and their officers, saying,The
task-masters were Egyptians, and the
officers were Israelites, under-officers to them, Exodus 5:14,15,19.
Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves.The straw was used either to mingle with the clay, that’ it might not be too brittle; or to cover the clay when it was formed into bricks, that the heat of the sun might not dry them too much, which might easily be done in that hot country; or for fuel, either wholly or in part, to burn their bricks with, straw being abundant there, and much used for that purpose.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
Let there more work be laid upon the men, that they may labour therein; and let them not regard vain words.The words of Moses and Aaron, which are vain or false, i.e. which they falsely pretend to come from God, when it is only an ill design of their own to advance themselves by raising sedition.
And the taskmasters of the people went out, and their officers, and they spake to the people, saying, Thus saith Pharaoh, I will not give you straw.No text from Poole on this verse.
Go ye, get you straw where ye can find it: yet not ought of your work shall be diminished.No text from Poole on this verse.
So the people were scattered abroad throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble instead of straw.All the land of Egypt, i.e. all that part of it; which is a very usual synecdoche.
And the taskmasters hasted them, saying, Fulfil your works, your daily tasks, as when there was straw.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the officers of the children of Israel, which Pharaoh's taskmasters had set over them, were beaten, and demanded, Wherefore have ye not fulfilled your task in making brick both yesterday and to day, as heretofore?No text from Poole on this verse.
Then the officers of the children of Israel came and cried unto Pharaoh, saying, Wherefore dealest thou thus with thy servants?No text from Poole on this verse.
There is no straw given unto thy servants, and they say to us, Make brick: and, behold, thy servants are beaten; but the fault is in thine own people.i.e. The Egyptian task-masters, who, by sending us abroad to gather straw, hinder us from doing the work which they require; and so they are both unjust and unreasonable. They charge the task-masters, not the king, either in civility and duty, casting his fault upon the instruments; or because they did not know, or at best not believe, that this was the king’s act. Others, Thy people, i.e. the Egyptians, make themselves guilty, and will bring the vengeance of God upon them for their cruelty.
But he said, Ye are idle, ye are idle: therefore ye say, Let us go and do sacrifice to the LORD.No text from Poole on this verse.
Go therefore now, and work; for there shall no straw be given you, yet shall ye deliver the tale of bricks.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the officers of the children of Israel did see that they were in evil case, after it was said, Ye shall not minish ought from your bricks of your daily task.Did see that they were in evil case, or, looked upon them with sadness, or with an evil eye, i.e. with a sorrowful and angry countenance, as those that could obtain no relaxation for themselves or for their brethren.
And they met Moses and Aaron, who stood in the way, as they came forth from Pharaoh:They, i.e. the officers who went to pour out their complaints to Pharaoh, Exodus 5:15
And they said unto them, The LORD look upon you, and judge; because ye have made our savour to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to slay us.To give them what they have long sought and thirsted after, to wit, an occasion to destroy and root us out.
And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? why is it that thou hast sent me?Moses returned unto the Lord, to expostulate with him, and pray to him. To the people he saith nothing, but meekly passeth by their severe censures, as forced from them by intolerable oppression; and because their minds being now imbittered and exasperated, they were incapable of admonition. Wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people, by giving occasion to their greater bondage? He expostulates the matter with God, not from pride and arrogance, as one that would censure and condemn his actions, but from zeal for God’s glory, and his people’s happiness, as one that would prevail with God to relieve them; though it must be confessed that Moses exceeded his bounds, being transported with grief and passion, which the gracious God was pleased to pass by.
For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all.In thy name; not of my own head, but by thy command and commission.
Neither hast thou delivered thy people, according to thy promise and mine, and thy people’s just expectation.