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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Exodus 5

Verses 1-3

EXODUS - CHAPTER FIVE

Verses 1-3:

This is the first appearance of Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh. On this occasion, they came with a simple message: a request from Jehovah Elohe of Israel that Pharaoh let Israel go a three day’s journey into the "wilderness" or the deserted region east of Egypt, in order to worship Him.

This request was vital to Israel’s worship of Jehovah. This worship required the offering of animals considered sacred to the Egyptians. This would provoke animosity, and could incite riots.

Pharaoh’s initial response was to reject the knowledge and authority of Jehovah. This rejection led to refusal to acknowledge any claim Jehovah might have to his obedience.

This is vital to the understanding of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. The first step was Pharaoh’s. He made a deliberate choice to reject the knowledge of God. This led to his ultimate fatal decline. Paul outlines this process in Ro 1:19-32.

Moses and Aaron repeated the request, adding that Jehovah would send pestilence or sword upon Israel if it were not granted.

Verses 4-9

Verse 4-9:

Pharaoh did not reply directly to the request. Instead, he charged Moses and Aaron with an offense against the state. The Israelites were slaves of the king, and interference with their labor would in’ effect deprive Pharaoh of the revenues they produced. The great number of the people increased the damage done to Pharaoh’s revenues.

The king curtly dismissed Moses and Aaron with a harsh refusal of their request.

Pharaoh sought to crush any further talk of Israel’s leaving their labors to go into the wilderness and worship Jehovah. The "taskmasters" nagasim were the numerous Egyptian superintendents over the Israelites. The "officers" shatar, "writers," were likely Hebrews who were to keep a record of bricks produced. Pharaoh ordered that the quota of bricks was not to be reduced, but that straw would no longer be provided for their use in manufacturing the bricks. They must go into the fields and gather the straw themselves. The object: that the Hebrews would not have idle time on their hands, to think about leaving their work to worship.

The text implies that Pharaoh regarded Moses and Aaron as trouble makers, who enticed the Hebrews by raising vain and illusive hopes. He was spiritually blind to the real import of their request.

Many today consider the worship of the God of Heaven as vain and meaningless. They are spiritually blind to the importance of this vital activity, 2Co 4:3, 4.

Verses 10-14

Verses 10-14:

Pharaoh’s officers implemented his orders. The Israelites were forced to gather the straw which had formerly been provided for them.

"Straw" teben, denotes chopped straw, gathered from the ground after the harvest.

"Stubble" gasa, denotes long stalks, which then had to be chopped into short bits to make it suitable for use in brick-making.

The Egyptian overseers went among the Israelites as they worked, beating them with rods and whips to speed them up in their work. Then at the end of the day, the Hebrew officers who were over the workers were beaten because the quota of bricks had not been met.

Verses 15-19

Verses 15-19:

The Hebrew officers came to Pharaoh with a complaint of their cruel and unjust treatment. They likely thought that the king was unaware of the unreasonable and unjust demands made upon them. They had done their best, but were unable to meet the new quotas. They charged that the fault was not theirs, but that of the Egyptian officers.

Pharaoh rejected the complaints. He charged them with insincerity; they did not really want to worship, but they wanted a holiday. Then he sent them away "at once," rejecting outright their request for justice, without even so much as inquiring of the validity of their charges.

Pharaoh’s spiritual blindness is further revealed by this conduct.

Verses 20-23

Verses 20-23:

The Hebrew officers left Pharaoh’s court smarting under his refusal to consider their complaint. Moses and Aaron "stood in the way," literally, "waited to meet them." The brothers were anxious to hear the results of their audience with-Pharaoh. The officers did not wait for Moses to ask, but launched into a tirade against him and Aaron. "The Lord look upon you, and judge," or "Jehovah consider your conduct and judge it," or "pass sentence."

The officers charged that Moses and Aaron were the cause of their troubles. Their request had placed a weapon in Pharaoh’s hand to execute them for treason, if they did not die under the beatings inflicted upon them. The officers ignored the fact that they had pleaded with Jehovah for release from slavery, and that they rejoiced at the news that He had sent Moses to free them.

The officers’ conduct reflects a human tendency evident today. Even the people of God complain against their spiritual leaders when things do not go according to their plans.

Moses "returned," literally "turned" to Jehovah, in this time of testing. There is no hint of irreverence in his plea. Moses did not understand the working of Jehovah. Instead of accomplishing the purpose He had promised, Pharaoh was even more adamant in refusing to let Israel go.

Moses’ reaction is typical of that expressed today, when God does not move immediately in response to the prayers of His people. His ways are not always evident to the human mind, even to His own child who seeks to do His will.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Exodus 5". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/exodus-5.html. 1985.