Exodus 5:21
And they said to them, The LORD look on you, and judge; because you have made our smell to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to slay us.
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(21) Ye have made our savour to be abhorred.—Heb., to stink. An idiom common to the Hebrews with the Egyptians (Comp. Genesis 34:30; 1Samuel 13:4; 2Samuel 10:6, &c, with Papyr. Anastas. 1:27, 7), and very expressive. The English idiom, “to be in bad odour with a person,” is similar, but lacks the force of the Hebrew phrase.

In the eyes.—Mixed metaphors occur in all languages, and may generally be accounted for by the literal meaning of some familiar expression having come to be forgotten. In Heb., liphney, “in the face of,” and be’eyney, “in the eyes of,” were mere prepositions, having the force of “before,” “with,” “in regard to.”

A sword . . . to slay us.—This was not, perhaps, mere Oriental hyperbole. The officers may have feared that their inability to enforce the Pharaoh’s impracticable demands would ultimately lead to their execution.

Exodus 5:21. The Lord look upon you and judge — They should have humbled themselves before God, but instead of that they fly in the face of their best friends. Those that are called to public service for God and their generation, must expect to be tried not only by the threats of proud enemies, but by the unjust and unkind censures of unthinking friends. To put a sword in their hand to slay us — To give them the occasion they have long sought for.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.Ye are idle - The old Egyptian language abounds in epithets which show contempt for idleness. The charge was equally offensive and ingenious; one which would be readily believed by Egyptians who knew how much public and private labors were impeded by festivals and other religious ceremonies. Among the great sins which, according to Egyptian belief, involved condemnation in the final judgment, idleness is twice mentioned. 20, 21. they met Moses … The Lord look upon you, and judge—Thus the deliverer of Israel found that this patriotic interference did, in the first instance, only aggravate the evil he wished to remove, and that instead of receiving the gratitude, he was loaded with the reproaches of his countrymen. But as the greatest darkness is immediately before the dawn, so the people of God are often plunged into the deepest affliction when on the eve of their deliverance; and so it was in this case. To give them what they have long sought and thirsted after, to wit, an occasion to destroy and root us out. And they said unto them, the Lord look upon you and judge,.... Or, "will look upon you and judge" (q); and so it is either a prediction of what would be done to them, or an imprecation on them that God would take notice of their conduct, and punish them, or at least chastise them for acting the part they had, if not wickedly, yet imprudently:

because you have made our savour to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh; or to "stink" (r); they were become vile, abominable, and hateful to him, he could not bear the sight of them, and treated them as the filth and offscouring of all things; they had lost their good name, credit, and reputation with him; for leave being asked for them to go three days' journey into the wilderness, to offer sacrifice, and keep a feast, they were looked upon as a parcel of idle slothful fellows:

and in the eyes of his servants; not the taskmasters only, but his nobles, counsellors, and courtiers:

to put a sword in their hands to slay us; a proverbial expression, signifying that they by their conduct had exposed them to the utmost danger, and had given their enemies an occasion against them, and an opportunity of destroying their whole nation, under a pretence of disobedience and disloyalty.

(q) "videbit" "et judicabit", Rivet. (r) "fecisti foetere", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus, Tigurine version, Drusius.

And they said unto them, The LORD look upon you, and judge; because ye have made our savour to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of his servants, to {g} put a sword in their hand to slay us.

(g) It is a grievous things for the servants of God to be accused of evil, especially by their brethren, when they do what their duty requires.

21. Jehovah look upon you, and judge] not leave you unheeded and unpunished, for the evil you have brought upon the people.

made our savour to be abhorred, &c.] lit. made our savour to stink; as we should say, brought us into ill odour with: cf. Genesis 34:30; also, in the Heb., 1 Samuel 13:4, 2 Samuel 10:6 al.

to put
, &c.] They have simply, by asking permission for the pilgrimage, given the Pharaoh an opportunity to ruin us.Verse 21. - They said unto them. The officers were too full of their wrongs to wait until questioned. They took the word, and, without relating the result of their interview, implied it. The Lord look upon you, and judge, they said, meaning "the Lord (Jehovah) consider your conduct, and judge it" not exactly, "condemn it and punish it" (Keil and Delitzsch) - but "pass sentence on it," "judge whether it has been right or not." We make this appeal because ye have at any rate done us a great injury - ye have made our savour to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh. (Note the mixed metaphor, which shows- perhaps rather that "in the eyes" had lost its original meaning, and come to signify no more than "with" or "in respect of," than that the literal meaning of making a person's savour to "stink" did not occur to the writer.) Nay, ye have done more - ye have put a sword in the hand of his servants to slay us. That is to say, "ye have armed them with a weapon wherewith we expect that they will take our lives." Either they will beat us to death - and death is a not infrequent result of a repeated employment of the bastinado - or when they find that punishment unavailing they will execute us as traitors. On the use of the bastinado as a punishment in Egypt, see Chabas, 'Melanges Egyptologiques,' 3me serie, vol. 1. pp. 100-6.

CHAPTER 5:22, 23 As the Israelites could not do the work appointed them, their overlookers were beaten by the Egyptian bailiffs; and when they complained to the king of this treatment, they were repulsed with harshness, and told "Ye are idle, idle; therefore ye say, Let us go and sacrifice to Jehovah." עמּך וחטאת: "and thy people sin;" i.e., not "thy people (the Israelites) must be sinners," which might be the meaning of חטא according to Genesis 43:9, but "thy (Egyptian) people sin." "Thy people" must be understood as applying to the Egyptians, on account of the antithesis to "thy servants," which not only refers to the Israelitish overlookers, but includes all the Israelites, especially in the first clause. חטאת is an unusual feminine form, for חטאה (vid., Genesis 33:11); and עם is construed as a feminine, as in Judges 18:7 and Jeremiah 8:5.
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