SynopsisMoses and Aaron have come back to Egypt, talked to the Hebrew leaders, and told them what God has promised: He is going to deliver them from their slavery in Egypt, into the Promised Land. Everyone is happy about this, and feels reassured that God has heard their cries.
In this passage, Moses takes the first step: he goes to the Pharaoh, and asks permission for the Hebrews to go into the desert, to hold a festival. Pharaoh’s answer, however, is less than encouraging:
Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go.” (verse 2)
They tell Pharaoh that God himself has met with them, and asked them to have this festival, but Pharaoh can only think about the fact that Moses and Aaron are taking the people away from their work.
In fact, the Egyptians decide that the Hebrews are making all of this fuss about a festival because they’ve gotten lazy. They don’t have enough work to do, so they’re coming up with this festival nonsense. The solution? Well, the Hebrews have been making bricks, for the Egyptians, so the Egyptians decide that they’ll no longer supply the straw that the Hebrews need to make the bricks. Make them get it themselves! But they have to produce the same number of bricks that they’ve always produced. That’ll learn ’em!
Or course, once the Egyptians stop providing straw, the Hebrews stop meeting their brick quotas. So the slave drivers start beating the Hebrew foremen, and the foremen go to appeal to Pharaoh. And that doesn’t go so well, either:
Then the Israelite foremen went and appealed to Pharaoh: “Why have you treated your servants this way? Your servants are given no straw, yet we are told, ‘Make bricks!’ Your servants are being beaten, but the fault is with your own people.”
Pharaoh said, “Lazy, that’s what you are—lazy! That is why you keep saying, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the LORD.’ Now get to work. You will not be given any straw, yet you must produce your full quota of bricks.”
At this point, the Israelites are much more concerned about their troubles with Pharaoh than any promises the LORD might have made to them, through Moses.
When they left Pharaoh, they found Moses and Aaron waiting to meet them, and they said, “May the LORD look upon you and judge you! You have made us a stench to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.” (verses 20–21)
I find it interesting that they say “May the LORD … judge you”, since He is the one they claim sent them in the first place.
ThoughtsWhen Moses and Aaron went before Pharaoh, and asked him to let the Hebrews go, I wonder if they were disappointed with his answer. (“God? Who’s this God person? I don’t know any God.”) True, God had already warned them that Pharaoh would not let them go, but, at the same time, if God comes to you and personally asks you to do something, and you try to do it, and it doesn’t work, I imagine it would mess with your faith a bit.
Aside from Moses’ and Aaron’s faith, the Israelite leaders immediately lose any faith they might have had, and get angry with Moses and Aaron. They were happy, when they thought they would get out of Egypt, but now they’re not so sure; ever since this Moses guy showed up, it’s been trouble. I’m not sure, though, if it’s God they’ve lost faith in, or just Moses and Aaron. Since they’re calling on the LORD to judge Moses and Aaron, I’m thinking that they’ve decided that God didn’t really send Moses and Aaron; they probably consider them to be false prophets, or just plain crazy. (I guess the miracles Moses and Aaron performed have lost their lustre.)
So I’m not being too hard on the Israelites, at this point. Later on I might be harder on them, because as we continue through Exodus, they’ll definitely lose faith in God Himself to help them—but that’s for later on. (Of course, even then, I won’t be blaming them any more than I blame myself for my occasional lacks of faith.)