Opposition to the Plan of God
1#sn The enthusiasm of the worshipers in the preceding chapter turns sour in this one when Pharaoh refuses to cooperate. The point is clear that when the people of God attempt to devote their full service and allegiance to God, they encounter opposition from the world. Rather than finding instant blessing and peace, they find conflict. This is the theme that will continue through the plague narratives. But what makes chapter 5 especially interesting is how the people reacted to this opposition. The chapter has three sections: first, the confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh (vv. 1-5); then the report of the stern opposition of the king (vv. 6-14); and finally, the sad account of the effect of this opposition on the people (vv. 15-21). Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “Thus says the Lord,#tn Heb “Yahweh.” the God of Israel, ‘Release#tn The form שַׁלַּח (shallakh), the Piel imperative, has been traditionally translated “let [my people] go.” The Qal would be “send”; so the Piel “send away, release, dismiss, discharge.” B. Jacob observes, “If a person was dismissed through the use of this verb, then he ceased to be within the power or sphere of influence of the individual who had dismissed him. He was completely free and subsequently acted entirely on his own responsibility” (Exodus, 115). my people so that they may hold a pilgrim feast#tn The verb חָגַג (khagag) means to hold a feast or to go on a pilgrim feast. The Arabic cognate of the noun form is haj, best known for the pilgrim flight of Mohammed, the hajira. The form in the text (וְיָחֹגּוּ, vÿyakhoggu) is subordinated to the imperative and thus shows the purpose of the imperative. to me in the desert.’” 2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord#tn Heb “Yahweh.” This is a rhetorical question, expressing doubt or indignation or simply a negative thought that Yahweh is nothing (see erotesis in E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 944-45). Pharaoh is not asking for information (cf. 1 Sam 25:5-10). that#tn The relative pronoun introduces the consecutive clause that depends on the interrogative clause (see GKC 318-19 §107.u). I should obey him#tn The imperfect tense here receives the classification of obligatory imperfect. The verb שָׁמַע (shama’) followed by “in the voice of” is idiomatic; rather than referring to simple audition – “that I should hear his voice” – it conveys the thought of listening that issues in action – “that I should obey him.”sn The construction of these clauses is similar to (ironically) the words of Moses: “Who am I that I should go?” (3:11). by releasing#tn The Piel infinitive construct here has the epexegetical usage with lamed (ל); it explains the verb “obey.” Israel? I do not know the Lord,#sn This absolute statement of Pharaoh is part of a motif that will develop throughout the conflict. For Pharaoh, the Lord (Yahweh) did not exist. So he said “I do not know the Lord [i.e., Yahweh].” The point of the plagues and the exodus will be “that he might know.” Pharaoh will come to know this Yahweh, but not in any pleasant way. and I will not release Israel!” 3 And they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Let us go a three-day journey#tn The word “journey” is an adverbial accusative telling the distance that Moses wanted the people to go. It is qualified by “three days.” It is not saying that they will be gone three days, but that they will go a distance that will take three days to cover (see Gen 31:22-23; Num 10:33; 33:8). into the desert so that we may sacrifice#tn The purpose clause here is formed with a second cohortative joined with a vav (ו): “let us go…and let us sacrifice.” The purpose of the going was to sacrifice.sn Where did Moses get the idea that they should have a pilgrim feast and make sacrifices? God had only said they would serve Him in that mountain. In the OT the pilgrim feasts to the sanctuary three times a year incorporated the ideas of serving the Lord and keeping the commands. So the words here use the more general idea of appearing before their God. They would go to the desert because there was no homeland yet. Moses later spoke of the journey as necessary to avoid offending Egyptian sensibilities (8:25-26). to the Lord our God, so that he does not strike us with plague or the sword.”#sn The last clause of this verse is rather unexpected here: “lest he meet [afflict] us with pestilence or sword.” To fail to comply with the summons of one’s God was to invite such calamities. The Law would later incorporate many such things as the curses for disobedience. Moses is indicating to Pharaoh that there is more reason to fear Yahweh than Pharaoh. 4 The king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why do you cause the people to refrain from their work?#sn The clause is a rhetorical question. Pharaoh is not asking them why they do this, but rather is accusing them of doing it. He suspects their request is an attempt to get people time away from their labor. In Pharaoh’s opinion, Moses and Aaron were “removing the restraint” (פָּרַע, para’) of the people in an effort to give them rest. Ironically, under the Law the people would be expected to cease their labor when they went to appear before God. He would give them the rest that Pharaoh refused to give. It should be noted also that it was not Israel who doubted that Yahweh had sent Moses, as Moses had feared – but rather Pharaoh. Return to your labor!” 5 Pharaoh was thinking,#tn Heb “And Pharaoh said.” This is not the kind of thing that Pharaoh is likely to have said to Moses, and so it probably is what he thought or reasoned within himself. Other passages (like Exod 2:14; 3:3) show that the verb “said” can do this. (See U. Cassuto, Exodus, 67.) “The people of the land are now many, and you are giving them rest from their labor.”
6 That same day Pharaoh commanded#tn Heb “and Pharaoh commanded on that day.” the slave masters and foremen#tn The Greek has “scribes” for this word, perhaps thinking of those lesser officials as keeping records of the slaves and the bricks. who were#tn The phrase “who were” is supplied for clarity. over the people:#sn In vv. 6-14 the second section of the chapter describes the severe measures by the king to increase the labor by decreasing the material. The emphasis in this section must be on the harsh treatment of the people and Pharaoh’s reason for it – he accuses them of idleness because they want to go and worship. The real reason, of course, is that he wants to discredit Moses (v. 9) and keep the people as slaves. 7 “You must no longer#tn The construction is a verbal hendiadys: לֹא תֹאסִפוּן לָתֵת (lo’ to’sifun latet, “you must not add to give”). The imperfect tense acts adverbially, and the infinitive becomes the main verb of the clause: “you must no longer give.” give straw to the people for making bricks#tn The expression “for making bricks” is made of the infinitive construct followed by its cognate accusative: לִלְבֹּן הַלְּבֵנִים (lilbon hallÿvenim). as before.#tn Heb “as yesterday and three days ago” or “as yesterday and before that.” This is idiomatic for “as previously” or “as in the past.” Let them go#tn The jussive יֵלְכוּ (yelÿkhu) and its following sequential verb would have the force of decree and not permission or advice. He is telling them to go and find straw or stubble for the bricks. and collect straw for themselves. 8 But you must require#tn The verb is the Qal imperfect of שִׂים (sim, “place, put”). The form could be an imperfect of instruction: “You will place upon them the quota.” Or, as here, it may be an obligatory imperfect: “You must place.” of them the same quota of bricks that they were making before.#tn Heb “yesterday and three days ago” or “yesterday and before that” is idiomatic for “previously” or “in the past.” Do not reduce it, for they are slackers.#tn Or “loafers.” The form נִרְפִּים (nirpim) is derived from the verb רָפָה (rafah), meaning “to be weak, to let oneself go.” They had been letting the work go, Pharaoh reasoned, and being idle is why they had time to think about going to worship. That is why they are crying, ‘Let us go sacrifice to our God.’ 9 Make the work harder#tn Heb “let the work be heavy.” for the men so they will keep at it#tn The text has וְיַעֲשׂוּ־בָהּ (vÿya’asu-vah, “and let them work in it”) or the like. The jussive forms part of the king’s decree that the men not only be required to work harder but be doing it: “Let them be occupied in it.”sn For a discussion of this whole section, see K. A. Kitchen, “From the Brickfields of Egypt,” TynBul 27 (1976): 137-47. and pay no attention to lying words!”#sn The words of Moses are here called “lying words” (דִבְרֵי־שָׁקֶר, divre-shaqer). Here is the main reason, then, for Pharaoh’s new policy. He wanted to discredit Moses. So the words that Moses spoke Pharaoh calls false and lying words. The world was saying that God’s words were vain and deceptive because they were calling people to a higher order. In a short time God would reveal that they were true words.
10 So the slave masters of the people and their foremen went to the Israelites and said,#tn Heb “went out and spoke to the people saying.” Here “the people” has been specified as “the Israelites” for clarity. “Thus says Pharaoh: ‘I am not giving#tn The construction uses the negative particle combined with a subject suffix before the participle: אֵינֶנִּי נֹתֵן (’enenni noten, “there is not I – giving”). you straw. 11 You#tn The independent personal pronoun emphasizes that the people were to get their own straw, and it heightens the contrast with the king. “You – go get.” go get straw for yourselves wherever you can#tn The tense in this section could be translated as having the nuance of possibility: “wherever you may find it,” or the nuance of potential imperfect: “wherever you are able to find any.” find it, because there will be no reduction at all in your workload.’” 12 So the people spread out#tn The verb וַיָּפֶץ (vayyafets) is from the hollow root פּוּץ (puts) and means “scatter, spread abroad.” through all the land of Egypt to collect stubble for straw. 13 The slave masters were pressuring#tn Or “pressed.” them, saying, “Complete#tn כַּלּוּ (kallu) is the Piel imperative; the verb means “to finish, complete” in the sense of filling up the quota. your work for each day, just like when there was straw!” 14 The Israelite foremen whom Pharaoh’s slave masters had set over them were beaten and were asked,#tn The quotation is introduced with the common word לֵאמֹר (le’mor, “saying”) and no mention of who said the question. “Why did you not complete your requirement for brickmaking as in the past – both yesterday and today?”#sn The idioms for time here are found also in 3:10 and 5:7-8. This question no doubt represents many accusations shouted at Israelites during the period when it was becoming obvious that, despite all their efforts, they were unable to meet their quotas as before.
15#sn The last section of this event tells the effect of the oppression on Israel, first on the people (15-19) and then on Moses and Aaron (20-21). The immediate reaction of Israel was to cry to Pharaoh – something they would learn should be directed to God. When Pharaoh rebuffed them harshly, they turned bitterly against their leaders. The Israelite foremen went and cried out to Pharaoh, “Why are you treating#tn The imperfect tense should be classified here with the progressive imperfect nuance, because the harsh treatment was a present reality. your servants this way? 16 No straw is given to your servants, but we are told,#tn Heb “[they] are saying to us,” the line can be rendered as a passive since there is no expressed subject for the participle. ‘Make bricks!’ Your servants are even#tn הִנֵּה (hinneh) draws attention to the action reflected in the passive participle מֻכִּים (mukkim): “look, your servants are being beaten.” being beaten, but the fault#tn The word rendered “fault” is the basic OT verb for “sin” – וְחָטָאת (vÿkhata’t). The problem is that it is pointed as a perfect tense, feminine singular verb. Some other form of the verb would be expected, or a noun. But the basic word-group means “to err, sin, miss the mark, way, goal.” The word in this context seems to indicate that the people of Pharaoh – the slave masters – have failed to provide the straw. Hence: “fault” or “they failed.” But, as indicated, the line has difficult grammar, for it would literally translate: “and you [fem.] sin your people.” Many commentators (so GKC 206 §74.g) wish to emend the text to read with the Greek and the Syriac, thus: “you sin against your own people” (meaning the Israelites are his loyal subjects). is with your people.”
17 But Pharaoh replied,#tn Heb “And he said.” “You are slackers! Slackers!#tn Or “loafers.” The form נִרְפִּים (nirpim) is derived from the verb רָפָה (rafah), meaning “to be weak, to let oneself go.” That is why you are saying, ‘Let us go sacrifice to the Lord.’ 18 So now, get back to work!#tn The text has two imperatives: “go, work.” They may be used together to convey one complex idea (so a use of hendiadys): “go back to work.” You will not be given straw, but you must still produce#tn The imperfect תִּתֵּנּוּ (tittennu) is here taken as an obligatory imperfect: “you must give” or “you must produce.” your quota#sn B. Jacob is amazed at the wealth of this tyrant’s vocabulary in describing the work of others. Here, תֹכֶן (tokhen) is another word for “quota” of bricks, the fifth word used to describe their duty (Exodus, 137). of bricks!” 19 The Israelite foremen saw#tn The common Hebrew verb translated “saw,” like the common English verb for seeing, is also used to refer to mental perception and understanding, as in the question “See what I mean?” The foremen understood how difficult things would be under this ruling. that they#tn The text has the sign of the accusative with a suffix and then a prepositional phrase: אֹתָם בְּרָע (’otam bÿra’), meaning something like “[they saw] them in trouble” or “themselves in trouble.” Gesenius shows a few examples where the accusative of the reflexive pronoun is represented by the sign of the accusative with a suffix, and these with marked emphasis (GKC 439 §135.k). were in trouble when they were told,#tn The clause “when they were told” translates לֵאמֹר (le’mor), which usually simply means “saying.” The thing that was said was clearly the decree that was given to them. “You must not reduce the daily quota of your bricks.”
20 When they went out from Pharaoh, they encountered Moses and Aaron standing there to meet them,#sn Moses and Aaron would not have made the appeal to Pharaoh that these Hebrew foremen did, but they were concerned to see what might happen, and so they waited to meet the foremen when they came out. 21 and they said to them, “May the Lord look on you and judge,#tn The foremen vented their anger on Moses and Aaron. The two jussives express their desire that the evil these two have caused be dealt with. “May Yahweh look on you and may he judge” could mean only that God should decide if Moses and Aaron are at fault, but given the rest of the comments it is clear the foremen want more. The second jussive could be subordinated to the first – “so that he may judge [you].” because you have made us stink#tn Heb “you have made our aroma stink.” in the opinion of#tn Heb “in the eyes of.” Pharaoh and his servants,#tn Heb “in the eyes of his servants.” This phrase is not repeated in the translation for stylistic reasons. so that you have given them an excuse to kill us!”#tn Heb “to put a sword in their hand to kill us.” The infinitive construct with the lamed (לָתֶת, latet) signifies the result (“so that”) of making the people stink. Their reputation is now so bad that Pharaoh might gladly put them to death. The next infinitive could also be understood as expressing result: “put a sword in their hand so that they can kill us.”
The Assurance of Deliverance
22#sn In view of the apparent failure of the mission, Moses seeks Yahweh for assurance. The answer from Yahweh not only assures him that all is well, but that there will be a great deliverance. The passage can be divided into three parts: the complaint of Moses (5:22-23), the promise of Yahweh (6:1-9), and the instructions for Moses (6:10-13). Moses complains because God has not delivered his people as he had said he would, and God answers that he will because he is the sovereign covenant God who keeps his word. Therefore, Moses must keep his commission to speak God’s word. See further, E. A. Martens, “Tackling Old Testament Theology,” JETS 20 (1977): 123-32. The message is very similar to that found in the NT, “Where is the promise of his coming?” (2 Pet 3:4). The complaint of Moses (5:22-23) can be worded with Peter’s “Where is the promise of his coming?” theme; the assurance from Yahweh (6:1-9) can be worded with Peter’s “The Lord is not slack in keeping his promises” (2 Pet 3:9); and the third part, the instructions for Moses (6:10-13) can be worded with Peter’s “Prepare for the day of God and speed its coming” (2 Pet 3:12). The people who speak for God must do so in the sure confidence of the coming deliverance – Moses with the deliverance from the bondage of Egypt, and Christians with the deliverance from this sinful world. Moses returned#tn Heb “and Moses returned.” to the Lord, and said, “Lord,#tn The designation in Moses’ address is “Lord” (אֲדֹנָי, ’adonay) – the term for “lord” or “master” but pointed as it would be when it represents the tetragrammaton. why have you caused trouble for this people?#tn The verb is הֲרֵעֹתָה (hare’otah), the Hiphil perfect of רָעַע (ra’a’). The word itself means “to do evil,” and in this stem “to cause evil” – but evil in the sense of pain, calamity, trouble, or affliction, and not always in the sense of sin. Certainly not here. That God had allowed Pharaoh to oppose them had brought greater pain to the Israelites.sn Moses’ question is rhetorical; the point is more of a complaint or accusation to God, although there is in it the desire to know why. B. Jacob (Exodus, 139) comments that such frank words were a sign of the man’s closeness to God. God never has objected to such bold complaints by the devout. He then notes how God was angered by his defenders in the book of Job rather than by Job’s heated accusations. Why did you ever#tn The demonstrative pronoun serves for emphasis in the question (see R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 24, §118). This second question continues Moses’ bold approach to God, more chiding than praying. He is implying that if this was the result of the call, then God had no purpose calling him (compare Jeremiah’s similar complaint in Jer 20). send me? 23 From the time I went to speak to Pharaoh in your name, he has caused trouble#sn Now the verb (הֵרַע, hera’) has a different subject – Pharaoh. The ultimate cause of the trouble was God, but the immediate cause was Pharaoh and the way he increased the work. Meanwhile, the Israelite foremen have pinned most of the blame on Moses and Aaron. Moses knows all about the sovereignty of God, and as he speaks in God’s name, he sees the effect it has on pagans like Pharaoh. So the rhetorical questions are designed to prod God to act differently. for this people, and you have certainly not rescued#tn The Hebrew construction is emphatic: וְהַצֵּל לֹא־הִצַּלְתָּ (vÿhatsel lo’-hitsalta). The verb נָצַל (natsal) means “to deliver, rescue” in the sense of plucking out, even plundering. The infinitive absolute strengthens both the idea of the verb and the negative. God had not delivered this people at all. them!”#tn Heb “your people.” The pronoun (“them”) has been used in the translation for stylistic reasons here, to avoid redundancy.