The Second Book of Moses, Called Exodus

Chapter 5

Pharaoh chides Moses and Aaron for their message, 1-5. He increases the Israelites' task, 6-14. He checks their complaints, 15-18. They cry out upon Moses and Aaron, 19-21. Moses complains to God, 22, 23.

1 And afterward Moses and Aaron went in and told Pharaoh, "Thus says the LORD God of Israel: 'Let my people go so that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.'" 2 And Pharaoh said, "Who is the LORD that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, neither will I let Israel go." 3 And they said, "The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Let us go, we pray you, three days' journey into the desert and sacrifice to the LORD our God, lest he fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword." 4 And the king of Egypt said to them, "Why do you, Moses and Aaron, hinder the people from their works? Go to your burdens." 5 And Pharaoh said, "Behold, the people of the land are now many, and you make them rest from their burdens." 6 And Pharaoh commanded the same day the task-masters of the people and their officers, saying, 7 "You shall no longer give the people straw to make brick as before. Let them go and gather straw for themselves. 8 And the number of the bricks which they made before, you shall lay upon them. You shall not diminish anything thereof. Because they are idle, therefore they cry, saying, 'Let us go and sacrifice to our God.' 9 Let more work be laid upon the men so that they may labor therein, and do not let them regard vain words."

10 And the task-masters of the people went out, along with their officers, and they spoke to the people, saying, "Thus says Pharaoh: 'I will not give you straw. 11 Go, get yourselves straw where you can find it, yet not anything of your work shall be diminished.'" 12 So the people were scattered abroad throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble instead of straw. 13 And the task-masters hastened them, saying, "Fulfill your works, your daily tasks, as when there was straw." 14 And the officers of the children of Israel, which Pharaoh's task-masters had set over them, were beaten and demanded, "Why have you not fulfilled your task in making brick, both yesterday and today, as before?"

15 Then the officers of the children of Israel came and cried to Pharaoh, saying, "Why do you deal thus with your servants? 16 There is no straw given to your servants, and they say to us, 'Make brick.' And behold, your servants are beaten, but the fault is in your own people." 17 But he said, "You are idle, you are idle. Therefore, you say, 'Let us go and do sacrifice to the LORD.' 18 Therefore, go now and work. For no straw shall be given to you, yet you shall deliver the number of bricks." 19 And the officers of the children of Israel saw that they were in evil case after it was said, "You shall not diminish anything from your bricks of your daily task." 20 And they met Moses and Aaron, who stood in the way, as they came forth from Pharaoh, 21 And they said to them, "May the LORD look upon you and judge, because you have made our savor to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of his servants, to put a sword in their hands to slay us."

22 And Moses returned to the LORD and said, "Lord, why have you so ill treated this people? Why is it that you have sent me? 23 For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, neither have you delivered your people at all."


Matthew Henry Commentary - Exodus, Chapter 5


[v.2] - Reference, Job 21:14-15.

[v.4-5] - Pharaoh's accusation is that Moses and Aaron are keeping the Israelites from doing their work; moreover, he demands Moses and Aaron to go join their fellow Israelites in doing work. Since Pharaoh did not regard God (verse 2), he certainly would not regard the task God had given to Moses and Aaron. Instead, he counts them among the other Israelites and sees them only as slaves, and idle and seditious ones at that.

[v.6-14] - Pharaoh's response to Moses and Aaron is simply to increase the burden of the Israelites. To do so, Pharaoh decides to withhold straw from the Israelites, while demanding that they produce the same amount of bricks. The increase of labor is that they must now go about and gather their own straw, whereas before, they were given straw. While gathering straw, the task-masters further pressed the Israelites to move faster and continue producing bricks at their former rate. Since maintaining that rate was not possible, the task-masters beat the officers of the Israelites, who were in charge of maintaining order among the slaves. The affliction upon the Israelites was severe and the conditions were truly pitiful. This image of affliction is an illustration of the bondage of sin. Jesus said in John 8:33 that, "whoever commits sin, is the servant of sin." The Apostle Paul shows us that no one is exempt from that quote from Jesus by saying, "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Furthermore, Paul said that, "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). The point of this is to show us our need of the Savior. Following his telling of the wages of sin being death, Paul shows the way to the Savior in the same verse by saying, "but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord." Moses, as a type and shadow of Christ, was sent to the Israelites as a deliverer from the bondage of slavery to the Egyptians. Likewise, Christ, as the true Redeemer, was sent by God to His elect to redeem them from the bondage of slavery to sin (see Galatians 4:3-7).

[v.20-21] - The Israelites had no reason to accuse Moses and Aaron in this manner when God did not instantly execute his plan of deliverance, even though they believed Moses and Aaron when they were given the message of deliverance (Exodus 4:30-31). God often delays in answering our prayers. We can see in Isaiah 30:18 that, "the LORD will wait, so that he may be gracious to you." Charles Spurgeon said, "Our Father has reasons peculiar to Himself for thus keeping us waiting. Sometimes it is to show His power and His sovereignty, that men may know that [Yahweh] has a right to give or to withhold. More frequently the delay is for our profit."

[v.22-23] - Notice here that Moses complains to God, not about or against God. Moses does the right thing here in turning to God and bringing his supplication before Him, even in questioning God out of worry or anxiety. Take this as an example of faith by Moses that we may cast our cares upon God, for He cares for us (1st Peter 5:7). We are to know that His word does not return void (Isaiah 55:11). When we are in distress, God has provided this encouragement: "Count it all joy when you fall into diverse temptations. Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. But let patience have her perfect work, so that you may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing" (James 1:2-4). "Fight the good fight of faith, take hold of eternal life" (1st Timothy 6:12), and, "lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily besets us, and let us run, with patience, the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:1-2).