|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
5:1-9 God will own his people, though poor and despised, and will find a time to plead their cause. Pharaoh treated all he had heard with contempt. He had no knowledge of Jehovah, no fear of him, no love to him, and therefore refused to obey him. Thus Pharaoh's pride, ambition, covetousness, and political knowledge, hardened him to his own destruction. What Moses and Aaron ask is very reasonable, only to go three days' journey into the desert, and that on a good errand. We will sacrifice unto the Lord our God. Pharaoh was very unreasonable, in saying that the people were idle, and therefore talked of going to sacrifice. He thus misrepresents them, that he might have a pretence to add to their burdens. To this day we find many who are more disposed to find fault with their neighbours, for spending in the service of God a few hours spared from their wordly business, than to blame others, who give twice the time to sinful pleasures. Pharaoh's command was barbarous. Moses and Aaron themselves must get to the burdens. Persecutors take pleasure in putting contempt and hardship upon ministers. The usual tale of bricks must be made, without the usual allowance of straw to mix with the clay. Thus more work was to be laid upon the men, which, if they performed, they would be broken with labour; and if not, they would be punished.
Verses 6-9. - Rulers are not always content simply to refuse inconvenient demands. Sometimes they set to work with much ingenuity and worldly wisdom to prevent their repetition. This is especially the case where they entertain a fear of their petitioners. The Spartans removed Helots, who had earned their freedom, by the Crypteia. The massacre of St. Bartholomew was caused by the Huguenot demand for freedom of worship and the difficulty of repressing it. The Pharaoh now is not content to let things take their course, but devises a plan by which he hopes to crush altogether the aspirations of the Hebrew people, and secure himself against the recurrence of any such appeal as that which had been made to him by Moses and Aaron. The Israelites had recently been employed chiefly in brickmaking. They had had to dig the clay and temper it, to mix it with straw, and mould it into the form of bricks; but the straw had been supplied to them. The king determined that this should be no longer done; the Israelites should find the straw for themselves. It has been estimated that by this change their labour was "more than doubled." (Canon Cook.) It was a not unreasonable expectation that under this system popular meetings would cease (ver. 9); and that Moses and Aaron, not being backed up by the voice of the people, would discontinue their agitation. Verse 6. - The same day. Pharaoh lost no time. Having conceived his idea, he issued his order at once-on the very day of the interview with the two leaders. It would be well if the children of light were as "wise" and as energetic on all occasions as the children of darkness. Taskmasters and officers. The word translated "taskmaster" here is not the same as the expression similarly rendered in Exodus 1:11; and it is thought not to designate the same class. The sarey massim of the former passage are thought to be general superintendents of works, few in number and of high rank, the nogeshim of the present place to be subordinates, numerous and inferior in position. Both of these classes were probably Egyptians. The "officers" (shoterim) were undoubtedly Hebrews. They were especially employed in keeping the tale of the bricks, and seeing that they reached the proper amount. Literally, the word shoterim means "scribes," and is so rendered in most passages.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And Pharaoh commanded the same day the taskmasters of the people,.... Who were Egyptians, and whom Pharaoh sent for the same day, to give them orders to oppress them yet more and more, so far was he from complying with their request:
and their officers; who were Israelites, and were under the taskmasters, and accountable to them for each man's work that they had the inspection and care of:
saying, as follows.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
6. Pharaoh commanded—It was a natural consequence of the high displeasure created by this interview that he should put additional burdens on the oppressed Israelites.
taskmasters—Egyptian overseers, appointed to exact labor of the Israelites.
officers—Hebrews placed over their brethren, under the taskmasters, precisely analogous to the Arab officers set over the Arab Fellahs, the poor laborers in modern Egypt.
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