Exodus 1:14
And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigor.
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(14) In morter and in brick.—It has been questioned whether the Egyptians used brick as a material for building. No doubt temples, palaces, and pyramids were ordinarily of stone; but the employment of brick for walls, fortresses, and houses, especially in the Delta, is well attested. (See the Quarterly Statement of the Palestine Exploration Fund for July, 1880, pp. 137, 139, 143, &c.) Pyramids, too, were sometimes of brick (Herod. ii. 136). The manufacture of bricks by foreigners, employed (like the Israelites) as public slaves, is represented by the kings upon their monuments.

All manner of service in the field.—Josephus speaks of their being employed to dig canals (Ant. Jud. ii. 9, § 1), and there is a trace in Deuteronomy 11:10 of other labours connected with irrigation having been devolved on them. Such labours, under the hot sun of Egypt, are exhausting and dangerous to health.

And all their service . . . was with rigour. Rather, besides all their other service, which they made them serve with rigour.

Exodus 1:14. In mortar and brick — It has been supposed by many, that, besides the treasure-cities, mentioned Exodus 1:11, and other similar works, the Israelites were employed in raising those enormous piles, termed pyramids, which remain to this day, and probably will remain to the end of the world; “monuments, not so much of the greatness and wisdom, as of the folly, caprice, exorbitant power, and cruel tyranny of the monarchs who projected them. It cannot indeed be denied, that the skill wherewith they were planned equals the vastness of the labour with which they were completed; but then it is evident they never could be useful in any degree adequate to the toil and expense with which they were erected. The supposition, however, is entirely groundless; for the Israelites were employed in making brick; while it is well known the pyramids were built of hewn stone.” — Scott. “The great pyramid,” says Herodotus, “was covered with polished stones, perfectly well joined, the smallest of which was thirty feet long. It was built in the form of steps, on each of which were placed wooden machines to raise the stones from one to another.” Diodorus adds, that “the stories were of very different workmanship, and of eternal duration. It is preserved to our days (the middle of the Augustan age) without being in the least injured. The marble was brought from the quarries of Arabia.” Pliny bears the same testimony: “It is formed of stone brought from the quarries of Arabia.” — Encycl. Brit. So that, it seems evident, the Israelites, who were employed in brick and mortar, had no hand in erecting the pyramids. All manner of service in the field — In cultivating the ground, and, according to Josephus, in cutting canals and trenches, to convey to different parts of the country the waters of the Nile, to raise up mounds, lest the waters overflowing should stagnate, and in other laborious services.1:8-14 The land of Egypt became to Israel a house of bondage. The place where we have been happy, may soon become the place of our affliction; and that may prove the greatest cross to us, of which we said, This same shall comfort us. Cease from man, and say not of any place on this side heaven, This is my rest. All that knew Joseph, loved him, and were kind to his brethren for his sake; but the best and most useful services a man does to others, are soon forgotten after his death. Our great care should be, to serve God, and to please him who is not unrighteous, whatever men are, to forget our work and labour of love. The offence of Israel is, that he prospers. There is no sight more hateful to a wicked man than the prosperity of the righteous. The Egyptians feared lest the children of Israel should join their enemies, and get them up out of the land. Wickedness is ever cowardly and unjust; it makes a man fear, where no fear is, and flee, when no one pursues him. And human wisdom often is foolishness, and very sinful. God's people had task-masters set over them, not only to burden them, but to afflict them with their burdens. They not only made them serve for Pharaoh's profit, but so that their lives became bitter. The Israelites wonderfully increased. Christianity spread most when it was persecuted: the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church. They that take counsel against the Lord and his Israel, do but imagine a vain thing, and create greater vexation to themselves.The use of brick, at all times common in Egypt, was especially so under the 18th Dynasty. An exact representation of the whole process of brickmaking is given in a small temple at Thebes, erected by Tothmosis III, the fourth in descent from Amosis. Immense masses of brick are found at Belbeis, the modern capital of Sharkiya, i. e. Goshen, and in the adjoining district.

All manner of service in the field - Not merely agricultural labor, but probably the digging of canals and processes of irrigation which are peculiarly onerous and unhealthy.

13, 14. The Egyptians … made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick—Ruins of great brick buildings are found in all parts of Egypt. The use of crude brick, baked in the sun, was universal in upper and lower Egypt, both for public and private buildings; all but the temples themselves were of crude brick. It is worthy of remark that more bricks bearing the name of Thothmes III, who is supposed to have been the king of Egypt at the time of the Exodus, have been discovered than of any other period [Wilkinson]. Parties of these brickmakers are seen depicted on the ancient monuments with "taskmasters," some standing, others in a sitting posture beside the laborers, with their uplifted sticks in their hands. Service in the field was the basest and most laborious of all their services. And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage,.... So that they had no ease of body nor peace of mind; they had no comfort of life, their lives and mercies were embittered to them:

in mortar and in brick, and in all manner of service of the field; if Pelusium was one of the cities they built, that had its name from clay, the soil about it being clayish, and where the Israelites might be employed in making brick for the building of that and other cities: Josephus (d) says, they were ordered to part the river (Nile) into many canals, to build walls about cities, and raise up mounds, lest the water overflowing the banks should stagnate; and to build pyramids, obliging them to learn various arts, and inure themselves to labour: so Philo the Jew says (e), some worked in the clay, forming it into bricks, and others in carrying straw: some were appointed to build private houses, others the walls of cities, and to cut ditches and canals in the river, and obliged day and night to carry burdens, so that they had no rest, nor were they suffered to refresh themselves with sleep; and some say that they were not only employed in the fields in ploughing and sowing and the like, but in carrying of dung thither, and all manner of uncleanness: of their being employed in building of pyramids and canals; see Gill on Genesis 47:11.

all their service wherein they made them serve was with rigour; they not only put them to hard work, but used them in a very churlish and barbarous manner, abusing them with their tongues, and beating them with their hands: Philo in the above place says, the king not only compelled them to servile works, but commanded them heavier things than they could bear, heaping labours one upon another; and if any, through weakness, withdrew himself, it was judged a capital crime, and the most merciless and cruel were set over them as taskmasters.

(d) Antiqu. l. 2. c. 9. sect. 1.((e) De Vita Mosis, l. 1. p. 608.

And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigor.
14. hard service] Exodus 6:9 (P) Heb. (EVV. cruel bondage); also Deuteronomy 26:6 (EVV. hard bondage); 1 Kings 12:4 (= 2 Chronicles 10:4); Isaiah 14:3.

in mortar and in brick] for the Egyptian buildings: cf. Exodus 5:7-8. The ‘mortar’ (lit. clay, Isaiah 29:16 al.), would be the black Nile-mud, which was used in ancient Egypt not only for bricks (see on Exodus 5:6-9; Exodus 5:19), but also (Erman, Anc. Egypt, p. 419) for mortar: in the latter case it was usually mixed with potsherds.

in the field] E.g. in constructing canals and dams for conveying water from the Nile to the fields, and in the actual work of irrigation (Deuteronomy 11:10). This was laborious; for the water had to be brought to the high-lying fields artificially, by a series of shadufs, or buckets attached to long poles, worked on axles, by which it was gradually raised from one elevation to another. ‘It is hard work to be the whole day raising and emptying the pail of the shaduf, in fact nothing is so tiring in the daily work of the Egyptians as this irrigation of the fields’ (Erman, p. 427). In ancient Egypt this and other agricultural operations were carried on by serfs, slaves, and captives taken in war. The shaduf, constructed exactly as in ancient times, is still a familiar sight on the banks of the Nile: see an illustration of both the ancient and the modern type in Erman, p. 426.

all their service, &c.] The sentence is loosely attached to what precedes, and the construction with ’çth (the mark of the accus.) is very anomalous: cf. however, in the later Heb., Ezekiel 37:19, Zechariah 12:10.Verse 14. - They made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter and in brick. While stone was the material chiefly employed by the Egyptians for their grand edifices, temples, palaces, treasuries, and the like, brick was also made use of to a large extent for inferior buildings, for tombs, dwelling-houses, walls of towns, forts, enclosures of temples, etc. There are examples of its employment in pyramids (Herod. 2:136; Vyse, 'Pyramids of Gizeh,' vol. 3. pp. 57-71); but only at a time long anterior to the nineteenth and even to the eighteenth dynasty. If the Pharaoh of the present passage was Seti I., the bricks made may have been destined in the main for that great wall which he commenced, but did not live to complete, between Pelusium and Heliopolis, which was to secure his eastern frontier (Birch, 'Egypt from the Earliest Times,' p. 125). All manner of labour in the field. The Israelitish colony was originally employed to a large extent in tending the royal flocks and herds (Genesis 47:6). At a later date many of them were engaged in agricultural operations (Deuteronomy 11:10). These, in Egypt, are in some respects light, e.g. preparing the land and ploughing, whence the remark of Herodotus (2:14); but in other respects exceedingly heavy. There is no country where care and labour are so constantly needed during the whole of the year. The inundation necessitates extreme watchfulness, to save cattle, to prevent the houses and the farmyards from being inundated, and the embankments from being washed away. The cultivation is continuous throughout the whole of the year; and success depends upon a system of irrigation that requires constant labour and unremitting attention. If the "labour in the field" included, as Josephus supposed (1.s.c.), the cutting of canals, their lives would indeed have been "made bitter." There is no such exhausting toil as that of working under the hot Egyptian sun, with the feet in water, in an open cutting, where there can be no shade, and scarcely a breath of air, from sunrise to sunset, as forced labourers are generally required in do. Me-hemet Ali lost 20,000 labourers out of 150,000 in the construction of the Alexandrian Canal towards the middle of the present century.

CHAPTER 1:15-22 The promised blessing was manifested chiefly in the fact, that all the measures adopted by the cunning of Pharaoh to weaken and diminish the Israelites, instead of checking, served rather to promote their continuous increase.

Exodus 1:8-9

"There arose a new king over Egypt, who knew not Joseph." ויּקם signifies he came to the throne, קוּם denoting his appearance in history, as in Deuteronomy 34:10. A "new king" (lxx: βασιλεὺς ἕτερος; the other ancient versions, rex novus) is a king who follows different principles of government from his predecessors. Cf. חדשׁים אלהים, "new gods," in distinction from the God that their fathers had worshipped, Judges 5:8; Deuteronomy 32:17. That this king belonged to a new dynasty, as the majority of commentators follow Josephus

(Note: Ant. ii. 9, 1. Τῆς βασιλέιας εἰς ἄλλον οἶκον μεταληλυθυΐ́ας.)

in assuming, cannot be inferred with certainty from the predicate new; but it is very probable, as furnishing the readiest explanation of the change in the principles of government. The question itself, however, is of no direct importance in relation to theology, though it has considerable interest in connection with Egyptological researches.

(Note: The want of trustworthy accounts of the history of ancient Egypt and its rulers precludes the possibility of bringing this question to a decision. It is true that attempts have been made to mix it up in various ways with the statements which Josephus has transmitted from Manetho with regard to the rule of the Hyksos in Egypt (c. Ap. i. 14 and 26), and the rising up of the "new king" has been identified sometimes with the commencement of the Hyksos rule, and at other times with the return of the native dynasty on the expulsion of the Hyksos. But just as the accounts of the ancients with regard to the Hyksos bear throughout the stamp of very distorted legends and exaggerations, so the attempts of modern inquirers to clear up the confusion of these legends, and to bring out the historical truth that lies at the foundation of them all, have led to nothing but confused and contradictory hypotheses; so that the greatest Egyptologists of our own days, - viz., Lepsius, Bunsen, and Brugsch - differ throughout, and are even diametrically opposed to one another in their views respecting the dynasties of Egypt. Not a single trace of the Hyksos dynasty is to be found either in or upon the ancient monuments. The documental proofs of the existence of a dynasty of foreign kings, which the Vicomte de Roug thought that he had discovered in the Papyrus Sallier No. 1 of the British Museum, and which Brugsch pronounced "an Egyptian document concerning the Hyksos period," have since then been declared untenable both by Brugsch and Lepsius, and therefore given up again. Neither Herodotus nor Diodorus Siculus heard anything at all about the Hyksos though the former made very minute inquiry of the Egyptian priests of Memphis and Heliopolis. And lastly, the notices of Egypt and its kings, which we meet with in Genesis and Exodus, do not contain the slightest intimation that there were foreign kings ruling there either in Joseph's or Moses' days, or that the genuine Egyptian spirit which pervades these notices was nothing more than the "outward adoption" of Egyptian customs and modes of thought. If we add to this the unquestionably legendary character of the Manetho accounts, there is always the greatest probability in the views of those inquirers who regard the two accounts given by Manetho concerning the Hyksos as two different forms of one and the same legend, and the historical fact upon which this legend was founded as being the 430 years' sojourn of the Israelites, which had been thoroughly distorted in the national interests of Egypt. - For a further expansion and defence of this view see Hvernick's Einleitung in d. A. T. i. 2, pp. 338ff., Ed. 2((Introduction to the Pentateuch, pp. 235ff. English translation).)

The new king did not acknowledge Joseph, i.e., his great merits in relation to Egypt. ידע לא signifies here, not to perceive, or acknowledge, in the sense of not wanting to know anything about him, as in 1 Samuel 2:12, etc. In the natural course of things, the merits of Joseph might very well have been forgotten long before; for the multiplication of the Israelites into a numerous people, which had taken place in the meantime, is a sufficient proof that a very long time had elapsed since Joseph's death. At the same time such forgetfulness does not usually take place all at once, unless the account handed down has been intentionally obscured or suppressed. If the new king, therefore, did not know Joseph, the reason must simply have been, that he did not trouble himself about the past, and did not want to know anything about the measures of his predecessors and the events of their reigns. The passage is correctly paraphrased by Jonathan thus: non agnovit (חכּים) Josephum nec ambulavit in statutis ejus. Forgetfulness of Joseph brought the favour shown to the Israelites by the kings of Egypt to a close. As they still continued foreigners both in religion and customs, their rapid increase excited distrust in the mind of the king, and induced him to take steps for staying their increase and reducing their strength. The statement that "the people of the children of Israel" (ישׂראל בּני עם lit., "nation, viz., the sons of Israel;" for עם with the dist. accent is not the construct state, and ישראל בני is in apposition, cf. Ges. 113) were "more and mightier" than the Egyptians, is no doubt an exaggeration.

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