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THE FIRST APPEAL TO PHARAOH AND THE RESULTS
Moses and Aaron then gain an audience with Pharaoh, and simply tell him the message that the Lord God of Israel has for him, "Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness." But Pharaoh's response was both contemptuous and defiant: "Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, nor will I let Israel go." In spite of this decisive refusal, Moses and Aaron plead with Pharaoh, telling him that the God of the Hebrews had met with them, and it was He whom they represented in asking that Israel might go three days' journey into the desert, to sacrifice to Him. His Word was authoritative, and He could bring serious repercussions upon them if they did not go.
This only irritated Pharaoh, however, who told them they were hindering the Israelites from the work of slaving for Pharaoh, and told them to get back to their work. Not content with this, however, he commanded his servants to increase the labor put on the shoulders of the Israelites, requiring them to not only make brick, but to gather the straw to put into the bricks. They must not reduce the quota of bricks required, but gather the straw for them also (vs.8-11). There is a spiritual lesson here too. The world's building is like bricks of Nile mud with no straw, no cohesion. Now Israel is to be forced to supply the cohesion. What bondage it is to a child of God to have to labor for the unity of a world that rejects his Lord!
As well as this increasing their labor, it resulted in the Israelites being scattered throughout the land to find straw (v.12). This was a cunning way of destroying unity among Israelites and to keep them weak. The officers of the children of Israel appealed to Pharaoh because of the increased pressure on them making their work intolerable, and because they were beaten when they failed to produce as much as when they were given straw (vs.15-16). But Pharaoh was adamant, telling them they were idle and that for this reason they were talking about going to sacrifice to the Lord (v.17).
The wisdom of God was behind all this in a way that Israel was not prepared to understand. God would not deliver them until it came to a point that they felt the oppression so deeply as to cry out to God for deliverance, rather than to look at second causes. So it is for us today too. It is always man's way to look for someone to blame for the misery that his own sins have caused him. God has to therefore deepen such exercise in our hearts that we realize that it is only our pride that blames others for our sins, so that when deliverance comes, we are the more deeply thankful, and delivered from a state of complaining.
Feeling the situation to be intolerable, the officers of Israel were ready to blame Moses and Aaron for it as they came out from Pharaoh's presence, telling them it was they who made Israel abhorrent in the sight of Pharaoh, simply because they had given the Word of God to Pharaoh. They said "the Lord look on you and judge" (v.21). Did they expect the Lord to pass judgment on Moses and Aaron because they had obeyed the Lord? But this is only one of the tribulations a servant of the Lord is often called upon to bear. Thus they are in the middle, having to suffer both from Pharaoh and from Israel. But by such afflictions the Lord sees fit to educate His own, to develop spiritual strength.
Moses therefore could appeal only to the Lord (v.22), but not as pleading for help, rather in complaining and questioning as to why the Lord had brought further trouble to Israel, and why He had sent Moses. Did he not remember that God had forewarned him of Pharaoh's refusal to listen, and that Israel's sorrows would be increased before their deliverance? But he complains that since he had spoken to Pharaoh, God had not delivered the people, but that Pharaoh had only harmed them. Thus, though God had sought faithfully to prepare Moses for what would happen, Moses has not been prepared. How like our own perplexity when hard things happen that God has before warned us of in His Word!
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Exodus 5". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany