And the officers of the children of Israel, which Pharaoh's taskmasters had set over them, were beaten, and demanded, Why have you not fulfilled your task in making brick both yesterday and to day, as heretofore?
EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(14) The officers . . . were beaten.
—This is the usual practice in the East. When any requisition is made on a town or a village, or any body of persons, the procuring of it is left to the “head men,” who are alone responsible to the Government, and are punished in case they fail to exact the full amount.
And demanded.—Rather, and asked, or (as Kalisch renders it) “with the words.”
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
13-19. And the taskmasters hasted them … officers … beaten—As the nearest fields were bared and the people had to go farther for stubble, it was impossible for them to meet the demand by the usual tale of bricks. "The beating of the officers is just what might have been expected from an Eastern tyrant, especially in the valley of the Nile, as it appears from the monuments, that ancient Egypt, like modern China, was principally governed by the stick" [Taylor]. "The mode of beating was by the offender being laid flat on the ground and generally held by the hands and feet while the chastisement was administered" [Wilkinson]. (De 25:2). A picture representing the Hebrews on a brick field, exactly as described in this chapter, was found in an Egyptian tomb at Thebes.
No text from Poole on this verse.
And the officers of the children of Israel, which Pharaoh's taskmasters had set over them,.... This makes it clear, not only that the taskmasters and officers were different persons, but that the one were Egyptians appointed by Pharaoh, and the other were Israelites, of the better sort of them, who were set over the poorer sort by the taskmasters, to look after them, and take an account of their work, and the tale of their bricks, and give it in to the taskmasters; now these
were beaten by the taskmasters, either with a cane, stick, or cudgel, or with whips and scourges, because there was a deficiency in their accounts, and the full tale of bricks was not given in:
and demanded, wherefore have ye not fulfilled your task in making brick, both yesterday and today, as heretofore? the first day they were deficient they took no notice of it, did not call them to an account for it, but this being the case the second day, they not only expostulated with them about it, but beat them for it, which was hard usage. They had no need to ask them the reason of it, which they knew very well, and must be sensible that the men could not do the same work, and be obliged to spend part of their time in going about for straw or stubble; or the same number of men make the same tale of bricks, when some of them were employed to get straw for the rest, and to beat those officers for a deficiency through such means was cruel. And the officers of the children of Israel, which Pharaoh's taskmasters had set over them, were beaten, and demanded, Wherefore have ye not fulfilled your task in making brick both yesterday and to day, as heretofore?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)14
] prescribed portion
): cf. Proverbs 30:8
(RVm.), Exodus 31:15
. Not as in v.
13, or as in ‘task
yesterday and to-day
] i.e., by Heb. idiom, recently
. So heretofore
is lit. ‘yesterday and the third day’; cf., in the Hebrews , vv7, 8.
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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