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Bible Commentaries

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Exodus 5


Moses and Aaron entreateth Pharaoh to let the people go, Exodus 5:1.

Pharaoh’s blasphemous refusal, Exodus 5:2.

Chides Moses and Aaron for their request, Exodus 5:4.

Pharaoh, seeing the Israelites to be many, Exodus 5:5, commands the task-masters and officers to increase their bondage, Exodus 5:6-9.

The task-masters go and do as Pharaoh commands, Exodus 5:10,Exodus 5:11.

The scattering of the people throughout Egypt, Exodus 5:12.

The task-masters’ cruelty to the officers of the Israelites, Exodus 5:14.

The officers’ complaint to Pharaoh, Exodus 5:15,Exodus 5:16.

He upbraids them with idleness, Exodus 5:17.

His harsh answer, Exodus 5:18.

The officers of the children of Israel meet Moses and Aaron, and blame them, Exodus 5:20,Exodus 5:21.

Moses returns and complains to God, Exodus 5:22,Exodus 5:23.

Verse 1

Moses and Aaron went in, and with them some of the elders of Israel, as may seem from Exodus 3:18, though here only the two chiefs be mentioned. Or, because Moses did not seem to be satisfied with the assistance of the elders before offered him, Exodus 3:18, God was pleased to give him a more acceptable assistant in their stead, even Aaron his brother, Exodus 4:14. Told Pharaoh: either both successively told him; or Aaron did it immediately, and with his tongue, Moses by his interpreter, and by his command. Or, offer a sacrifice, as they express it, Exodus 5:3 and Exodus 10:9. For both went together, and a good part of many sacrifices was spent in feasting before the Lord and unto the honour of the Lord. See Deuteronomy 12:6,Deuteronomy 12:7,Deuteronomy 12:11,Deuteronomy 12:12.

Verse 2

I am the sovereign lord of Egypt, and I own no superior here.

Verse 3

Hath met with us, i.e. hath appeared to us lately, and laid this command upon us. Others, is called upon us, i.e. his name is called upon us, or we are called by his name. But why should Moses so solemnly tell that to Pharaoh which all the people knew, to wit, that the Hebrews did worship the God of the Hebrews? And our translation is confirmed by comparing this with Exodus 3:18, where this very message is prescribed.

Lest he fall upon us; lest he punish, either us, if we disobey his command, or thee, if thou hinderest us from obeying it: but this latter they only imply, as being easily gathered from the former.

Verse 4


1. Ye, the elders of Israel, who are here come with Moses and Aaron: see Exodus 5:1. Or,

2. Ye, Moses and Aaron. So far am I from granting the liberty which you desire for the people, that as a just punishment upon you for your seditious attempt, I command you also to go with the rest, and to take your share in their burdens, and to perform the task which shall be required of you. And that so cruel a tyrant did not proceed further against them, must be ascribed to the mighty power of God, who governs the spirits and restrains the hands of the greatest kings when he pleaseth.

Verse 5

The Israelites in this land are very numerous, and therefore it were a madness in me to permit them all to meet and go together as you desire, which may tend to the ruin of my whole kingdom, and probably it is designed by you to that purpose. Or, therefore your injury to me is the greater, in attempting to rob me of the benefit of their labours. This I prefer, because it suits best with the following words.

Verse 6


task-masters were Egyptians, and the

officers were Israelites, under-officers to them, Exodus 5:14,Exodus 5:15,Exodus 5:19.

Verse 7

The straw was used either to mingle with the clay, that’ it might not be too brittle; or to cover the clay when it was formed into bricks, that the heat of the sun might not dry them too much, which might easily be done in that hot country; or for fuel, either wholly or in part, to burn their bricks with, straw being abundant there, and much used for that purpose.

Verse 9

The words of Moses and Aaron, which are vain or false, i.e. which they falsely pretend to come from God, when it is only an ill design of their own to advance themselves by raising sedition.

Verse 12

All the land of Egypt, i.e. all that part of it; which is a very usual synecdoche.

Verse 16

i.e. The Egyptian task-masters, who, by sending us abroad to gather straw, hinder us from doing the work which they require; and so they are both unjust and unreasonable. They charge the task-masters, not the king, either in civility and duty, casting his fault upon the instruments; or because they did not know, or at best not believe, that this was the king’s act. Others, Thy people, i.e. the Egyptians, make themselves guilty, and will bring the vengeance of God upon them for their cruelty.

Verse 19

Did see that they were in evil case, or, looked upon them with sadness, or with an evil eye, i.e. with a sorrowful and angry countenance, as those that could obtain no relaxation for themselves or for their brethren.

Verse 20

They, i.e. the officers who went to pour out their complaints to Pharaoh, Exodus 5:15

Verse 21

To give them what they have long sought and thirsted after, to wit, an occasion to destroy and root us out.

Verse 22

Moses returned unto the Lord, to expostulate with him, and pray to him. To the people he saith nothing, but meekly passeth by their severe censures, as forced from them by intolerable oppression; and because their minds being now imbittered and exasperated, they were incapable of admonition. Wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people, by giving occasion to their greater bondage? He expostulates the matter with God, not from pride and arrogance, as one that would censure and condemn his actions, but from zeal for God’s glory, and his people’s happiness, as one that would prevail with God to relieve them; though it must be confessed that Moses exceeded his bounds, being transported with grief and passion, which the gracious God was pleased to pass by.

Verse 23

In thy name; not of my own head, but by thy command and commission.

Neither hast thou delivered thy people, according to thy promise and mine, and thy people’s just expectation.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Exodus 5". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.