1 ¶ 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. 2 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.
We don’t know how Moses and Aaron got an audience with the Pharaoh so apparently it isn’t important. But, they must have been accepted as representing the Hebrew slaves. Here, Moses does not tell Pharaoh what is to happen if he does not let them go. Pharaoh said he does not know the Lord. Isn’t it interesting that that mankind has degenerated into devil-worship, idolatry, to such an extent that of all the many gods in his pantheon of deities, the true God is not listed. Egypt’s gods justified Egypt and gave authority to its power structure and the sovereignty of its rulers, much as England, America, Russia, and Germany’s God did before World War One. Pharaoh, like many in the aforementioned countries, does not know the God whom Moses represents.
It is odd how even many Christians today do not know the God of the Bible. Their God is simply a personification of their own fears, bigotry, and paranoia. They have made a God in their image who believes what they do politically and morally and justifies their every concern. The 21st century Christian God is often a social God, a mirror of Christians’ expectations and beliefs.
3 ¶ 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. 4 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. 5 And Pharaoh said, Behold, the people of the land now are many, and ye make them rest from their burdens. 6 And Pharaoh commanded the same day the taskmasters of the people, and their officers, saying, 7 Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves. 8 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. 9 Let there more work be laid upon the men, that they may labour therein; and let them not regard vain words.
Moses and Aaron repeat their request for permission to go into the wilderness, supposedly to offer sacrifices to their God. Pharaoh here seems suspicious. He’s now going to make it even harder on the Hebrews. Apparently, he says, the Hebrews have it too easy so they are asking for this little holiday. So, he’s going to make them provide their own straw for bricks and yet not lessen the tally of bricks required.
The bricks the Hebrews made were composed of mud, water, and straw. Apparently, the Egyptians provided the straw before this.
Tale is a word meaning total count or tally, a word we use today.
10 ¶ 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. 11 Go ye, get you straw where ye can find it: yet not ought of your work shall be diminished. 12 So the people were scattered abroad throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble instead of straw. 13 And the taskmasters hasted them, saying, Fulfil your works, your daily tasks, as when there was straw. 14 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?
15 ¶ Then the officers of the children of Israel came and cried unto Pharaoh, saying, Wherefore dealest thou thus with thy servants? 16 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. 17 But he said, Ye are idle, ye are idle: therefore ye say, Let us go and do sacrifice to the LORD. 18 Go therefore now, and work; for there shall no straw be given you, yet shall ye deliver the tale of bricks. 19 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. 20 And they met Moses and Aaron, who stood in the way, as they came forth from Pharaoh: 21 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. 22 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? 23 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.
The Hebrews are being punished severely for Moses’ and Aaron’s request so it appears to have backfired. The Hebrew overseers, beaten by their Egyptian taskmasters, confront Moses and Aaron and accuse them of making the Hebrews’ lives worse by their demands.
Moses’ original doubts are amplified. He, in turn, confronts the Lord. “Why have you done this? Why did you send me? This has caused nothing but trouble and you have not delivered them!”
Imagine thousands, tens of thousands, of slaves in danger of being worked to death, being punished for a request made by their spokesman who claimed to be representing their God who had come to deliver them from bondage.
This reminds me so much of the person who is held in bondage to sin who hears a preacher promise deliverance in Christ, then prays for that deliverance, only to find his or her plight worse than they ever imagined. This has happened to some of you, admit it. You heard the message, maybe repeatedly, then believed, but unlike what some evangelists tell you, when you got off your knees, got up from prayer, you found yourself not freed from the power of sin, but in a worse way than when you walked in the door or came through the tent flap.
For those of you who had that experience, remember how you were made aware of sins you never even knew existed in your heart?! What frightening and discouraging thing that can be. But, God is working and you must follow Him out of your Egypt.