5:16 No straw is given to your servants, but we are told, 1 ‘Make bricks!’ Your servants are even 2 being beaten, but the fault 3 is with your people.”
5:17 But Pharaoh replied, 4 “You are slackers! Slackers! 5 That is why you are saying, ‘Let us go sacrifice to the Lord.’ 5:18 So now, get back to work! 6 You will not be given straw, but you must still produce 7 your quota 8 of bricks!” 5:19 The Israelite foremen saw 9 that they 10 were in trouble when they were told, 11 “You must not reduce the daily quota of your bricks.”
1 tn Heb “[they] are saying to us,” the line can be rendered as a passive since there is no expressed subject for the participle.
2 tn הִנֵּה (hinneh) draws attention to the action reflected in the passive participle מֻכִּים (mukkim): “look, your servants are being beaten.”
3 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).
4 tn Heb “And he said.”
5 tn Or “loafers.” The form נִרְפִּים (nirpim) is derived from the verb רָפָה (rafah), meaning “to be weak, to let oneself go.”
6 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.”
7 tn The imperfect תִּתֵּנּוּ (tittennu) is here taken as an obligatory imperfect: “you must give” or “you must produce.”
8 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).
9 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.
10 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).
11 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.