Exodus 5

Moses and Aaron came and spoke the word of the Lord to Pharaoh, which was simply, “Let my people go.” Pharaoh replied, “Who is the Lord.” Pharaoh may have never heard of the Hebrew God but even if he had not, his statement was meant to be defiant of the Hebrew God. Pharaoh refused to let the Hebrews go a three days’ journey into the wilderness and make sacrifice to their God. Moses and Aaron said of the Lord, if we do not obey his command, “He will fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.” However, to exert his authority Pharaoh commanded that the Hebrew workers maintain the quota of brick making without being given straw. (vv.1-10)

“Straw serves as a bonding agent in the brick as it is heated. Without sufficient straw or with poor-quality stubble, the bricks would not form as easily and a higher proportion would fall apart, thus making the quota harder to achieve.” (IVP BBC OT)  The people had to scavenge for stubble. Stubble made a pour substitute. However, the task masters pressed them to make just as many bricks as when they had straw. This was an impossible task. The formen were beaten by the task masters for the decrease in brick production. (vv.11-14)

The foreman cried to pharaoh. His reply to them was harsh, he called them lazy because of the three day journey to sacrifice to the Lord. I cannot imagine asking my boss for a three day vacation and she call me lazy, then double my assignment. However, Pharaoh was doing this because it was presented to him as a command from the Lord. Pharaoh’s actions were to demonstrate to the Hebrew people that he was more powerful than the Lord. He temporarily accomplished this because the foreman blamed Moses and Aaron for their plight, and Moses blamed the Lord. We tend to blame the Lord when bad things happen but evil is at fault not the Lord. (vv.15-23)