Exodus 1:14
And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.
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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 Exodus 1:14"Let us deal wisely with them," i.e., act craftily towards them. התחכּם, sapiensem se gessit (Ecclesiastes 7:16), is used here of political craftiness, or worldly wisdom combined with craft and cunning (κατασοφισώμεθα, lxx), and therefore is altered into התנכּל in Psalm 105:25 (cf. Genesis 37:18). The reason assigned by the king for the measures he was about to propose, was the fear that in case of war the Israelites might make common cause with his enemies, and then remove from Egypt. It was not the conquest of his kingdom that he was afraid of, but alliance with his enemies and emigration. עלה is used here, as in Genesis 13:1, etc., to denote removal from Egypt to Canaan. He was acquainted with the home of the Israelites therefore, and cannot have been entirely ignorant of the circumstances of their settlement in Egypt. But he regarded them as his subjects, and was unwilling that they should leave the country, and therefore was anxious to prevent the possibility of their emancipating themselves in the event of war. - In the form תּקראנה for תּקרינה, according to the frequent interchange of the forms הל and אל (vid., Genesis 42:4), nh is transferred from the feminine plural to the singular, to distinguish the 3rd pers. fem. from the 2nd pers., as in Judges 5:26; Job 17:16 (vid., Ewald, 191c, and Ges. 47, 3, Anm. 3). Consequently there is no necessity either to understand מלחמה collectively as signifying soldiers, or to regard תּקראנוּ drager ot , the reading adopted by the lxx (συμβῆ ἡμῖν), the Samaritan, Chaldee, Syriac, and Vulgate, as "certainly the original," as Knobel has done.

The first measure adopted (Exodus 1:11) consisted in the appointment of taskmasters over the Israelites, to bend them down by hard labour. מסּים שׂרי bailiffs over the serfs. מסּים from מס signifies, not feudal service, but feudal labourers, serfs (see my Commentary on 1 Kings 4:6). ענּה to bend, to wear out any one's strength (Psalm 102:24). By hard feudal labour (סבלות burdens, burdensome toil) Pharaoh hoped, according to the ordinary maxims of tyrants (Aristot. polit., 5, 9; Liv. hist. i. 56, 59), to break down the physical strength of Israel and lessen its increase-since a population always grows more slowly under oppression than in the midst of prosperous circumstances-and also to crush their spirit so as to banish the very wish for liberty. - ויּבן - .ytrebil r, and so Israel built (was compelled to build) provision or magazine cities vid., 2 Chronicles 32:28, cities for the storing of the harvest), in which the produce of the land was housed, partly for purposes of trade, and partly for provisioning the army in time of war; - not fortresses, πόλεις ὀχυραί, as the lxx have rendered it. Pithom was Πάτουμος; it was situated, according to Herodotus (2, 158), upon the canal which commenced above Bybastus and connected the Nile with the Red Sea. This city is called Thou or Thoum in the Itiner. Anton., the Egyptian article pi being dropped, and according to Jomard (descript. t. 9, p. 368) is to be sought for on the site of the modern Abassieh in the Wady Tumilat. - Raemses (cf. Genesis 47:11) was the ancient Heroopolis, and is not to be looked for on the site of the modern Belbeis. In support of the latter supposition, Stickel, who agrees with Kurtz and Knobel, adduces chiefly the statement of the Egyptian geographer Makrizi, that in the (Jews') book of the law Belbeis is called the land of Goshen, in which Jacob dwelt when he came to his son Joseph, and that the capital of the province was el Sharkiyeh. This place is a day's journey (for as others affirm, 14 hours) to the north-east of Cairo on the Syrian and Egyptian road. It served as a meeting-place in the middle ages for the caravans from Egypt to Syria and Arabia (Ritter, Erdkunde 14, p. 59). It is said to have been in existence before the Mohammedan conquest of Egypt. But the clue cannot be traced any farther back; and it is too far from the Red Sea for the Raemses of the Bible (vid., Exodus 12:37). The authority of Makrizi is quite counterbalanced by the much older statement of the Septuagint, in which Jacob is made to meet his son Joseph in Heroopolis; the words of Genesis 46:29, "and Joseph went up to meet Israel his father to Goshen," being rendered thus: εἰς συϚάϚτησιν Ἰσραὴλ τῷ πατρὶ αὐτοῦκαθ ̓ Ἡρώων πόλιν. Hengstenberg is not correct in saying that the later name Heroopolis is here substituted for the older name Raemses; and Gesenius, Kurtz, and Knobel are equally wrong in affirming that καθ ̓ ἩρώωϚ πόλιν is supplied ex ingenio suo; but the place of meeting, which is given indefinitely as Goshen in the original, is here distinctly named. Now if this more precise definition is not an arbitrary conjecture of the Alexandrian translators, but sprang out of their acquaintance with the country, and is really correct, as Kurtz has no doubt, it follows that Heroopolis belongs to the γῆ Ῥαμεσσῆ (Genesis 46:28, lxx), or was situated within it. But this district formed the centre of the Israelitish settlement in Goshen; for according to Genesis 47:11, Joseph gave his father and brethren "a possession in the best of the land, in the land of Raemses." Following this passage, the lxx have also rendered גּשׁן ארצה in Genesis 46:28 by εἰς γῆν Ῥαμεσσῆ, whereas in other places the land of Goshen is simply called γῆ Γεσέμ (Genesis 45:10; Genesis 46:34; Genesis 47:1, etc.). But if Heroopolis belonged to the γῆ Ῥαμεσσῆ, or the province of Raemses, which formed the centre of the land of Goshen that was assigned to the Israelites, this city must have stood in the immediate neighbourhood of Raemses, or have been identical with it. Now, since the researches of the scientific men attached to the great French expedition, it has been generally admitted that Heroopolis occupied the site of the modern Abu Keisheib in the Wady Tumilat, between Thoum equals Pithom and the Birket Temsah or Crocodile Lake; and according to the Itiner. p. 170, it was only 24 Roman miles to the east of Pithom, - a position that was admirably adapted not only for a magazine, but also for the gathering-place of Israel prior to their departure (Exodus 12:37).

But Pharaoh's first plan did not accomplish his purpose (Exodus 1:12). The multiplication of Israel went on just in proportion to the amount of the oppression (כּן equals כּאשׁר prout, ita; פּרץ as in Genesis 30:30; Genesis 28:14), so that the Egyptians were dismayed at the Israelites (קוּץ to feel dismay, or fear, Numbers 22:3). In this increase of their numbers, which surpassed all expectation, there was the manifestation of a higher, supernatural, and to them awful power. But instead of bowing before it, they still endeavoured to enslave Israel through hard servile labour. In Exodus 1:13, Exodus 1:14 we have not an account of any fresh oppression; but "the crushing by hard labour" is represented as enslaving the Israelites and embittering their lives. פּרך hard oppression, from the Chaldee פּרך to break or crush in pieces. "They embittered their life with hard labour in clay and bricks (making clay into bricks, and working with the bricks when made), and in all kinds of labour in the field (this was very severe in Egypt on account of the laborious process by which the ground was watered, Deuteronomy 11:10), כּל־עבדתם את with regard to all their labour, which they worked (i.e., performed) through them (viz., the Israelites) with severe oppression." כל־ע את is also dependent upon ימררו, as a second accusative (Ewald, 277d). Bricks of clay were the building materials most commonly used in Egypt. The employment of foreigners in this kind of labour is to be seen represented in a painting, discovered in the ruins of Thebes, and given in the Egyptological works of Rosellini and Wilkinson, in which workmen who are evidently not Egyptians are occupied in making bricks, whilst two Egyptians with sticks are standing as overlookers; - even if the labourers are not intended for the Israelites, as the Jewish physiognomies would lead us to suppose. (For fuller details, see Hengstenberg's Egypt and the Books of Moses, p. 80ff. English translation).

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