Exodus 5:12
So the people were scattered abroad throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble instead of straw.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) Stubble instead of straw.—Heb., stubble for the straw. Reaping in Egypt was effected by cutting off the ears only from the stalks, and thus a very tall stubble was left in the fields. This appears not to have been valued by the cultivators, and whoever wished was allowed to collect it. After collecting it, and bringing it to the brick-fields in bundles, they would have to chop it small before it would be fit for use.

5:10-23 The Egyptian task-masters were very severe. See what need we have to pray that we may be delivered from wicked men. The head-workmen justly complained to Pharaoh: but he taunted them. The malice of Satan has often represented the service and worship of God, as fit employment only for those who have nothing else to do, and the business only of the idle; whereas, it is the duty of those who are most busy in the world. Those who are diligent in doing sacrifice to the Lord, will, before God, escape the doom of the slothful servant, though with men they do not. The Israelites should have humbled themselves before God, and have taken to themselves the shame of their sin; but instead of that, they quarrel with those who were to be their deliverers. Moses returned to the Lord. He knew that what he had said and done, was by God's direction; and therefore appeals to him. When we find ourselves at any time perplexed in the way of our duty, we ought to go to God, and lay open our case before him by fervent prayer. Disappointments in our work must not drive us from our God, but still we must ponder why they are sent.Stubble instead of straw - Rather, for the straw: i. e. to be prepared as straw. This marks the season of the year, namely, early spring, after the barley or wheat harvest, toward the end of April. Their suffering must have been severe: at that season the pestilential sand-wind blows over Egypt some 50 days, hence, its name - Chamsin. (compare Genesis 41:6 note). 12. So the people were scattered—It was an immense grievance to the laborers individually, but there would be no hindrance from the husbandmen whose fields they entered, as almost all the lands of Egypt were in the possession of the crown (Ge 47:20). All the land of Egypt, i.e. all that part of it; which is a very usual synecdoche. So the people were scattered abroad throughout all the land of Egypt,.... That part of it where they dwelt:

to gather stubble instead of straw; straw not being easy to come at, they were obliged to gather stubble that was left in the fields, after the corn was gathered in. Ben Melech observes, that the word signifies small straw, or small sticks of wood, and Kimchi (m), and if so, this must be to burn the bricks with in the furnaces.

(m) Sepher Shorash, rad.

So the people were scattered abroad throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble instead of straw.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
12. to gather stubble] which might be difficult to find, except immediately after the harvest.Verse 12. - The people were mattered abroad throughout all the land of Egypt. The expression used is hyperbolical, and not to be understood literally. A tolerably wide dispersion over the central and eastern portions of the Delta is probably intended. Stubble instead of straw. Rather, "stubble for the straw." Teben, the word translated straw, seems to he properly "chopped straw" (stramenta minutim concisa, Cook). The Israelites, who had been accustomed to have this provided for them, gathered now long stalks of stubble in the fields, which they had subsequently to make into teben by chopping it into short bits. As Pharaoh possessed neither fear of God (εὐσέβεια) nor fear of the gods, but, in the proud security of his might, determined to keep the Israelites as slaves, and to use them as tools for the glorifying of his kingdom by the erection of magnificent buildings, he suspected that their wish to go into the desert was nothing but an excuse invented by idlers, and prompted by a thirst for freedom, which might become dangerous to his kingdom, on account of the numerical strength of the people. He therefore thought that he could best extinguish such desires and attempts by increasing the oppression and adding to their labours. For this reason he instructed his bailiffs to abstain from delivering straw to the Israelites who were engaged in making bricks, and to let them gather it for themselves; but yet not to make the least abatement in the number (מתכּנת) to be delivered every day. בּעם הנּגשׂים, "those who urged the people on," were the bailiffs selected from the Egyptians and placed over the Israelitish workmen, the general managers of the work. Under them there were the שׁטרים (lit., writers, γραμματεῖς lxx, from שׁטר to write), who were chosen from the Israelites (vid., Exodus 5:14), and had to distribute the work among the people, and hand it over, when finished, to the royal officers. לבנים לבן: to make bricks, not to burn them; for the bricks in the ancient monuments of Egypt, and in many of the pyramids, are not burnt but dried in the sun (Herod. ii. 136; Hengst. Egypt and Books of Moses, pp. 2 and 79ff.). קשׁשׁ: a denom. verb from קשׁ, to gather stubble, then to stubble, to gather (Numbers 15:32-33). תּבן, of uncertain etymology, is chopped straw; here, the stubble that was left standing when the corn was reaped, or the straw that lay upon the ground. This they chopped up and mixed with the clay, to give greater durability to the bricks, as may be seen in bricks found in the oldest monuments (cf. Hgst. p. 79).
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