Exodus 5:1
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.
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(1) Went in.—Heb., wenti.e., left their usual residence, and approached the Court, which, according to the Psalms (Psalm 78:12; Psalm 78:43), was held at Zoan (i.e., Tanis). This was the ordinary residence of Rameses II. and his son Menephthah.

Thus saith the Lord God of Israel.—Heb., Thus has said Jehovah, God of Israel. The Pharaohs claimed to hold direct communications with the Egyptian deities, and could not deny the possibility of the Hebrew leaders holding communications with their God. Menepthah himself—the probable “Pharaoh of the Exodus”—gave out that he had received a warning from Phthah in the fifth year of his reign (Brugsch, History of Egypt, vol. ii., p. 119; 1st ed.).

That they may hold a feast unto me.—God’s entire purpose is not at once revealed to Pharaoh. He is tried with a moderate demand, which he might well have granted. By refusing it he showed himself harsh, unkind, and inconsiderate, so tempting God to lay upon him a greater burthen.

In the wilderness—i.e., beyond the frontier, or, at any rate, beyond inhabited Egypt—that the Egyptians might not be driven to fury by seeing animals sacrificed which they regarded as sacred. (See Exodus 8:26, and the comment ad loc.)

Exodus 5:1. Thus saith the Lord God of Israel — Moses, in treating with the elders of Israel, is directed to call God the God of their fathers; but in treating with Pharaoh, he and Aaron call him the God of Israel, and it is the first time we find him called so in Scripture. He is called the God of Israel, the person, (Genesis 33:20,) but here it is Israel, the people. They are just beginning to be formed into a people when God is called their God. Let my people go — They were God’s people, and therefore Pharaoh ought not to detain them in bondage. And he expected services and sacrifices from them, and therefore they must have leave to go where they could freely exercise their religion, without giving offence to, or receiving offence from the Egyptians.

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.Pharaoh - This king, probably Tothmosis II, the great grandson of Aahmes Exodus 1:8, the original persecutor of the Israelites, must have been resident at this time in a city, probably Tanis Exodus 2:5, of Lower Egypt, situated on the Nile.

The Lord God - Yahweh God of Israel demanded the services of His people. The demand, according to the general views of the pagans, was just and natural; the Israelites could not offer the necessary sacrifices in the presence of Egyptians.


Ex 5:1-23. First Interview with Pharaoh.

1. Moses and Aaron went in—As representatives of the Hebrews, they were entitled to ask an audience of the king, and their thorough Egyptian training taught them how and when to seek it.

and told Pharaoh—When introduced, they delivered a message in the name of the God of Israel. This is the first time He is mentioned by that national appellation in Scripture. It seems to have been used by divine direction (Ex 4:2) and designed to put honor on the Hebrews in their depressed condition (Heb 11:16).Moses and Aaron entreateth Pharaoh to let the people go, Exodus 5:1. Pharaoh’s blasphemous refusal, Exodus 5:2. Chides Moses and Aaron for their request, Exodus 5:4. Pharaoh, seeing the Israelites to be many, Exodus 5:5, commands the task-masters and officers to increase their bondage, Exodus 5:6-9. The task-masters go and do as Pharaoh commands, Exodus 5:10,11. The scattering of the people throughout Egypt, Exodus 5:12. The task-masters’ cruelty to the officers of the Israelites, Exodus 5:14. The officers’ complaint to Pharaoh, Exodus 5:15,16. He upbraids them with idleness, Exodus 5:17. His harsh answer, Exodus 5:18. The officers of the children of Israel meet Moses and Aaron, and blame them, Exodus 5:20,21. Moses returns and complains to God, Exodus 5:22,23.

Moses and Aaron went in, and with them some of the elders of Israel, as may seem from Exodus 3:18, though here only the two chiefs be mentioned. Or, because Moses did not seem to be satisfied with the assistance of the elders before offered him, Exodus 3:18, God was pleased to give him a more acceptable assistant in their stead, even Aaron his brother, Exodus 4:14. Told Pharaoh: either both successively told him; or Aaron did it immediately, and with his tongue, Moses by his interpreter, and by his command. Or, offer a sacrifice, as they express it, Exodus 5:3 and Exodus 10:9. For both went together, and a good part of many sacrifices was spent in feasting before the Lord and unto the honour of the Lord. See Deu 12:6,7,11,12.

And afterwards Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh,.... Whose name, some say, was Cenchres, others Amenophis, according to Manetho and Chaeremon (h); See Gill on Exodus 3:10 went into Pharaoh's palace, and being introduced by the proper officer at court for that purpose, addressed him in the following manner:

thus saith the Lord God of Israel: as ambassadors of him, who is King of kings, and Lord of lords; and so Artapanus (i), the Heathen, says that the Egyptian king, hearing that Moses was come, sent for him to know wherefore he was come, who told him, that the Lord of the world commanded him to let the Jews go, as it follows here:

let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness; in the wilderness of Sinai or Arabia, at Horeb there, where they might keep it more freely and safely, without being disturbed by the Egyptians, and without giving any offence to them; and the demand is just; they were the people of God, and therefore he claims them, and service from them was due to him; and Pharaoh had no right to detain them, and what is required was but their reasonable service they owed to their God. This feast was to be held, not for themselves, but to God, which chiefly consisted in offering sacrifice, as is after explained; the entire dismission of them is not at once demanded, only to go a little while into the wilderness, and keep a feast there to the Lord; though it was not intended they should return, but it was put in this form to try Pharaoh, and that he might be the more inexcusable in refusing to grant what was so reasonable.

(h) Apud Joseph. contr. Apion. l. 1. c. 26. 32. (i) Apud Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 27. p. 434.

And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told {a} Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may {b} hold a feast unto me in the wilderness.

(a) Faith overcomes fear, and makes men bold in their calling. {b} And offer sacrifice.

1. Jehovah, the God of Israel] elsewhere in the Pent. only Exodus 32:27 (E), also with Thus saith; cf. on Exodus 4:22.

make a pilgrimage] The Heb. ḥag means not simply a religious ‘feast’ like our Easter or Christmas, for instance, but a feast accompanied by a pilgrimage to a sanctuary: such as, for instance, were the three ‘ḥaggim,’ at which every male Israelite was to appear before Jehovah (Exodus 23:14-17). The corresponding word in Arabic, ḥaj, denotes the pilgrimage to Mecca, which every faithful Mohammedan endeavours to make at least once in his life.

1–5. Moses and Aaron ask permission of the Pharaoh for the Israelites to keep a three days’ feast in the wilderness. The request is refused.

Verse 1. - And afterward. The interposition of some not inconsiderable space of time seems to be implied. Menephthah resided partly at Memphis, partly at Zoan (Tanis). Moses and Aaron may have had to wait until he returned from his southern to his northern capital. Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh. Aaron was, no doubt, the sole spokesman, but as he spoke for both, the plural is used. Thus saith the Lord God of Israel. Literally, "Thus saith Jehovah, God of Israel." Pharaoh would understand Jehovah to be a proper name, parallel to his own Phthah, Ra, Ammon, etc. Let my people go. The rationale of the demand is given in ch. 8:26. The Israelites could not offer their proper sacrificial animals in the presence of the Egyptians without the risk of provoking a burst of religious animosity, since among the animals would necessarily be some which all, or many, of the Egyptians regarded as sacred, and under no circumstances to be killed. The fanaticism of the Egyptians on such occasions led to wars, tumults, and massacres. (See Plutarch, 'De Isid. et Osir.,' § 44.) To avoid this danger the "feast" must be held beyond the bounds of Egypt - in the adjacent "wilderness." Exodus 5:1Pharaoh's Answer to the Request of Moses and Aaron. - Exodus 5:1-5. When the elders of Israel had listened with gladness and gratitude to the communications of Moses and Aaron respecting the revelation which Moses had received from Jehovah, that He was now about to deliver His people out of their bondage in Egypt; Moses and Aaron proceeded to Pharaoh, and requested in the name of the God of Israel, that he would let the people of Israel go and celebrate a festival in the wilderness in honour of their God. When we consider that every nation presented sacrifices to its deities, and celebrated festivals in their honour, and that they had all their own modes of worship, which were supposed to be appointed by the gods themselves, so that a god could not be worshipped acceptably in every place; the demand presented to Pharaoh on the part of the God of the Israelites, that he would let His people go into the wilderness and sacrifice to Him, appears so natural and reasonable, that Pharaoh could not have refused their request, if there had been a single trace of the fear of God in his heart. But what was his answer? "Who is Jehovah, that I should listen to His voice, to let Israel go? I know not Jehovah." There was a certain truth in these last words. The God of Israel had not yet made Himself known to him. But this was no justification. Although as a heathen he might naturally measure the power of the God by the existing condition of His people, and infer from the impotence of the Israelites that their God must be also weak, he would not have dared to refuse the petition of the Israelites, to be allowed to sacrifice to their God or celebrate a sacrificial festival, if he had had any faith in gods at all.
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