5:15 1 The Israelite foremen went and cried out to Pharaoh, “Why are you treating 2 your servants this way? 5:16 No straw is given to your servants, but we are told, 3 ‘Make bricks!’ Your servants are even 4 being beaten, but the fault 5 is with your people.”
5:17 But Pharaoh replied, 6 “You are slackers! Slackers! 7 That is why you are saying, ‘Let us go sacrifice to the Lord.’ 5:18 So now, get back to work! 8 You will not be given straw, but you must still produce 9 your quota 10 of bricks!” 5:19 The Israelite foremen saw 11 that they 12 were in trouble when they were told, 13 “You must not reduce the daily quota of your bricks.”
5:20 When they went out from Pharaoh, they encountered Moses and Aaron standing there to meet them, 14 5:21 and they said to them, “May the Lord look on you and judge, 15 because you have made us stink 16 in the opinion of 17 Pharaoh and his servants, 18 so that you have given them an excuse to kill us!” 19
1 sn The last section of this event tells the effect of the oppression on Israel, first on the people (15-19) and then on Moses and Aaron (20-21). The immediate reaction of Israel was to cry to Pharaoh – something they would learn should be directed to God. When Pharaoh rebuffed them harshly, they turned bitterly against their leaders.
2 tn The imperfect tense should be classified here with the progressive imperfect nuance, because the harsh treatment was a present reality.
3 tn Heb “[they] are saying to us,” the line can be rendered as a passive since there is no expressed subject for the participle.
4 tn הִנֵּה (hinneh) draws attention to the action reflected in the passive participle מֻכִּים (mukkim): “look, your servants are being beaten.”
5 tn The word rendered “fault” is the basic OT verb for “sin” – וְחָטָאת (vÿkhata’t). The problem is that it is pointed as a perfect tense, feminine singular verb. Some other form of the verb would be expected, or a noun. But the basic word-group means “to err, sin, miss the mark, way, goal.” The word in this context seems to indicate that the people of Pharaoh – the slave masters – have failed to provide the straw. Hence: “fault” or “they failed.” But, as indicated, the line has difficult grammar, for it would literally translate: “and you [fem.] sin your people.” Many commentators (so GKC 206 §74.g) wish to emend the text to read with the Greek and the Syriac, thus: “you sin against your own people” (meaning the Israelites are his loyal subjects).
6 tn Heb “And he said.”
7 tn Or “loafers.” The form נִרְפִּים (nirpim) is derived from the verb רָפָה (rafah), meaning “to be weak, to let oneself go.”
8 tn The text has two imperatives: “go, work.” They may be used together to convey one complex idea (so a use of hendiadys): “go back to work.”
9 tn The imperfect תִּתֵּנּוּ (tittennu) is here taken as an obligatory imperfect: “you must give” or “you must produce.”
10 sn B. Jacob is amazed at the wealth of this tyrant’s vocabulary in describing the work of others. Here, תֹכֶן (tokhen) is another word for “quota” of bricks, the fifth word used to describe their duty (Exodus, 137).
11 tn The common Hebrew verb translated “saw,” like the common English verb for seeing, is also used to refer to mental perception and understanding, as in the question “See what I mean?” The foremen understood how difficult things would be under this ruling.
12 tn The text has the sign of the accusative with a suffix and then a prepositional phrase: אֹתָם בְּרָע (’otam bÿra’), meaning something like “[they saw] them in trouble” or “themselves in trouble.” Gesenius shows a few examples where the accusative of the reflexive pronoun is represented by the sign of the accusative with a suffix, and these with marked emphasis (GKC 439 §135.k).
13 tn The clause “when they were told” translates לֵאמֹר (le’mor), which usually simply means “saying.” The thing that was said was clearly the decree that was given to them.
14 sn Moses and Aaron would not have made the appeal to Pharaoh that these Hebrew foremen did, but they were concerned to see what might happen, and so they waited to meet the foremen when they came out.
15 tn The foremen vented their anger on Moses and Aaron. The two jussives express their desire that the evil these two have caused be dealt with. “May Yahweh look on you and may he judge” could mean only that God should decide if Moses and Aaron are at fault, but given the rest of the comments it is clear the foremen want more. The second jussive could be subordinated to the first – “so that he may judge [you].”
16 tn Heb “you have made our aroma stink.”
17 tn Heb “in the eyes of.”
18 tn Heb “in the eyes of his servants.” This phrase is not repeated in the translation for stylistic reasons.
19 tn Heb “to put a sword in their hand to kill us.” The infinitive construct with the lamed (לָתֶת, latet) signifies the result (“so that”) of making the people stink. Their reputation is now so bad that Pharaoh might gladly put them to death. The next infinitive could also be understood as expressing result: “put a sword in their hand so that they can kill us.”