So the Israelite foremen went and appealed to Pharaoh: "Why are you treating your servants this way?
I. AN UNJUST CAUSE BETRAYS ITSELF. -
1. By refusal to listen to reason. The Hebrews had reason on their side, and Pharaoh had not. And because he had not, and knew it, he would not hear them, would not enter into any argument with them. This is the sure mark of a weak cause. People are usually willing enough to defend any of their doings which they think defensible. But when causes are indefensible, and they know this, they do not care to have the light let in upon them. "Every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved" (John 3:20).
2. By clutching at flimsy and trumped-up pretexts. "Ye are idle; ye are idle; therefore ye say," etc. (ver. 17). Pharaoh knew as well as any that they were not idle, but it served his purpose to put forward this pretence.
3. By falling back in the end on the right of the strong hand (ver. 16). This is the tyrant's unfailing resort. If he cannot argue, he can compel. If he cannot justify his courses, he can fall back upon his power to enforce submission. His might is his right. Pharaoh had the power, and he meant to use it, so the Israelites might save themselves the trouble of expostulating. This sort of authority, resting on force, without support in righteousness or reason, is necessarily precarious. It can, in the nature of things, only last so long as the power to compel remains with it. No throne is so insecure as that propped up on bayonets.
II. AN UNJUST CAUSE ADHERED TO AND DEFENDED -
1. Reacts injuriously upon the moral nature. The refusal to listen to expostulation was a new stage in Pharaoh's hardening. Besides fortifying his determination to brook no interference in his courses, and strengthening the cruelty of his disposition - anew called into action by the increased oppression of the Hebrews - it necessarily reacted to deprive him of a fresh portion of his moral susceptibility. This is the Nemesis of sin; it leaves the sinner less susceptible with each new appeal that is resisted; it darkens while it indurates; not only strengthens him m evil courses, but increasingly disqualifies him for perceiving the truth and reasonableness of the dissuasives that are addressed to him. Pharaoh's hardening still moves in the region of ordinary morals (see on vers. 1-4). The first step in it was the recoil of his pride and wilfulness against what he knew to be the righteous demand of Moses and Aaron. Another step is the rejection of this righteous appeal.
2. Exposes the tyrant to the just judgment of God. The Hebrews were helpless to resist Pharaoh, but there was Another, whose question, "Wherefore dealest thou thus with thy servants?" he would not be able so easily to set aside. God was keeping the account, and for all these things would yet call him to judgment (Ecclesiastes 11:9; Ecclesiastes 12:14); while the king's temporary success in his ways, building him up in a presumptuous selfconfidence, and confirming him in his boast of superiority to Jehovah, was a further step in his hardening - a ripening for destruction.
3. Is a fresh call for God to interfere on behalf of the oppressed. This new wrong, instead of leading the Israelites to despair, should only have lent fresh vehemence to their prayers, for it gave them a new plea with which to urge their cause. "For shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry to him day and night, though he bear long with them" (Luke 18:7). - J.O.
I. THEY EXPOSTULATE THAT THE MEANS NECESSARY TO THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THEIR DAILY WORK WERE WITHHELD. "There is no straw given to thy servants."
I. THERE ARE TIMES WHEN MEN ARE REQUIRED TO GIVE REASONS FOR THEIR METHOD OF MORAL CONDUCT. Public opinion often calls a man to its tribunal. Sometimes men are the questioners. Sometimes God is the Questioner.
Wherefore dealest thou thus.1. Oppressed souls cannot but complain of cruel and unjust smitings; blows make cries.
2. Addresses for relief are fittest from the afflicted to the highest power oppressing.
3. Access and cries and sad speeches are forced from oppressed to oppressors.
4. The execution by instruments is justly charged upon their lords.
5. True servants may justly expostulate about hard dealings from their rulers.
6. Unreasonable exactions will force afflicted ones to expostulate with powers oppressing them (ver. 15).
7. To give no straw and to command bricks is a most unreasonable exaction.
8. To punish innocent servants when others sin is a most unjust oppression.
9. Such sad dealings make God's servants sometimes to complain to earthly powers (ver. 16).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
II. IT IS HIGHLY IMPORTANT THAT EVERY MAN SHOULD BE ABLE TO ALLEGE HEAVENLY PRINCIPLES AND MOTIVES AS THE BASIS OF HIS CONDUCT. Love to God and man is the only true and loyal principle and motive of human action, and only will sustain the scrutiny of infinite rectitude.
III. THAT A MAN WHO CAN ALLEGE HEAVENLY PRINCIPLES AS THE BASIS OF HIS CONDUCT WILL BE SAFE AT ANY TRIBUNAL TO WHICH HE MAY BE CALLED.
1. He will be safe at the tribunal of his own conscience.
2. He will be safe at the tribunal of God's Book.
3. He will be safe at the tribunal of public opinion.
4. He will be safe at the final tribunal of the universe.
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)
II. THEY EXPOSTULATE THAT THEY WERE BRUTALLY TREATED. "Thy servants are beaten."
III. THEY EXPOSTULATE THAT THEY WERE NOT MORALLY CULPABLE IN THEIR NEGLECT OF WORK. "The fault is in thine own people."
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)
2. Cruel in his resentment.
3. Mistaken in his judgment of guilt.
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)
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