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Exodus 5:6-21

Context

5:6 That same day Pharaoh commanded 1  the slave masters and foremen 2  who were 3  over the people: 4  5:7 “You must no longer 5  give straw to the people for making bricks 6  as before. 7  Let them go 8  and collect straw for themselves. 5:8 But you must require 9  of them the same quota of bricks that they were making before. 10  Do not reduce it, for they are slackers. 11  That is why they are crying, ‘Let us go sacrifice to our God.’ 5:9 Make the work harder 12  for the men so they will keep at it 13  and pay no attention to lying words!” 14 

5:10 So the slave masters of the people and their foremen went to the Israelites and said, 15  “Thus says Pharaoh: ‘I am not giving 16  you straw. 5:11 You 17  go get straw for yourselves wherever you can 18  find it, because there will be no reduction at all in your workload.’” 5:12 So the people spread out 19  through all the land of Egypt to collect stubble for straw. 5:13 The slave masters were pressuring 20  them, saying, “Complete 21  your work for each day, just like when there was straw!” 5:14 The Israelite foremen whom Pharaoh’s slave masters had set over them were beaten and were asked, 22  “Why did you not complete your requirement for brickmaking as in the past – both yesterday and today?” 23 

5:15 24 The Israelite foremen went and cried out to Pharaoh, “Why are you treating 25  your servants this way? 5:16 No straw is given to your servants, but we are told, 26  ‘Make bricks!’ Your servants are even 27  being beaten, but the fault 28  is with your people.”

5:17 But Pharaoh replied, 29  “You are slackers! Slackers! 30  That is why you are saying, ‘Let us go sacrifice to the Lord.’ 5:18 So now, get back to work! 31  You will not be given straw, but you must still produce 32  your quota 33  of bricks!” 5:19 The Israelite foremen saw 34  that they 35  were in trouble when they were told, 36  “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, 37  5:21 and they said to them, “May the Lord look on you and judge, 38  because you have made us stink 39  in the opinion of 40  Pharaoh and his servants, 41  so that you have given them an excuse to kill us!” 42 

1 tn Heb “and Pharaoh commanded on that day.”

2 tn The Greek has “scribes” for this word, perhaps thinking of those lesser officials as keeping records of the slaves and the bricks.

3 tn The phrase “who were” is supplied for clarity.

4 sn In vv. 6-14 the second section of the chapter describes the severe measures by the king to increase the labor by decreasing the material. The emphasis in this section must be on the harsh treatment of the people and Pharaoh’s reason for it – he accuses them of idleness because they want to go and worship. The real reason, of course, is that he wants to discredit Moses (v. 9) and keep the people as slaves.

5 tn The construction is a verbal hendiadys: לֹא תֹאסִפוּן לָתֵת (lotosifun latet, “you must not add to give”). The imperfect tense acts adverbially, and the infinitive becomes the main verb of the clause: “you must no longer give.”

6 tn The expression “for making bricks” is made of the infinitive construct followed by its cognate accusative: לִלְבֹּן הַלְּבֵנִים (lilbon hallÿvenim).

7 tn Heb “as yesterday and three days ago” or “as yesterday and before that.” This is idiomatic for “as previously” or “as in the past.”

8 tn The jussive יֵלְכוּ (yelÿkhu) and its following sequential verb would have the force of decree and not permission or advice. He is telling them to go and find straw or stubble for the bricks.

9 tn The verb is the Qal imperfect of שִׂים (sim, “place, put”). The form could be an imperfect of instruction: “You will place upon them the quota.” Or, as here, it may be an obligatory imperfect: “You must place.”

10 tn Heb “yesterday and three days ago” or “yesterday and before that” is idiomatic for “previously” or “in the past.”

11 tn Or “loafers.” The form נִרְפִּים (nirpim) is derived from the verb רָפָה (rafah), meaning “to be weak, to let oneself go.” They had been letting the work go, Pharaoh reasoned, and being idle is why they had time to think about going to worship.

12 tn Heb “let the work be heavy.”

13 tn The text has וְיַעֲשׂוּ־בָהּ (vÿyaasu-vah, “and let them work in it”) or the like. The jussive forms part of the king’s decree that the men not only be required to work harder but be doing it: “Let them be occupied in it.”

sn For a discussion of this whole section, see K. A. Kitchen, “From the Brickfields of Egypt,” TynBul 27 (1976): 137-47.

14 sn The words of Moses are here called “lying words” (דִבְרֵי־שָׁקֶר, divre-shaqer). Here is the main reason, then, for Pharaoh’s new policy. He wanted to discredit Moses. So the words that Moses spoke Pharaoh calls false and lying words. The world was saying that God’s words were vain and deceptive because they were calling people to a higher order. In a short time God would reveal that they were true words.

15 tn Heb “went out and spoke to the people saying.” Here “the people” has been specified as “the Israelites” for clarity.

16 tn The construction uses the negative particle combined with a subject suffix before the participle: אֵינֶנִּי נֹתֵן (’enenni noten, “there is not I – giving”).

17 tn The independent personal pronoun emphasizes that the people were to get their own straw, and it heightens the contrast with the king. “You – go get.”

18 tn The tense in this section could be translated as having the nuance of possibility: “wherever you may find it,” or the nuance of potential imperfect: “wherever you are able to find any.”

19 tn The verb וַיָּפֶץ (vayyafets) is from the hollow root פּוּץ (puts) and means “scatter, spread abroad.”

20 tn Or “pressed.”

21 tn כַּלּוּ (kallu) is the Piel imperative; the verb means “to finish, complete” in the sense of filling up the quota.

22 tn The quotation is introduced with the common word לֵאמֹר (lemor, “saying”) and no mention of who said the question.

23 sn The idioms for time here are found also in 3:10 and 5:7-8. This question no doubt represents many accusations shouted at Israelites during the period when it was becoming obvious that, despite all their efforts, they were unable to meet their quotas as before.

24 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.

25 tn The imperfect tense should be classified here with the progressive imperfect nuance, because the harsh treatment was a present reality.

26 tn Heb “[they] are saying to us,” the line can be rendered as a passive since there is no expressed subject for the participle.

27 tn הִנֵּה (hinneh) draws attention to the action reflected in the passive participle מֻכִּים (mukkim): “look, your servants are being beaten.”

28 tn The word rendered “fault” is the basic OT verb for “sin” – וְחָטָאת (vÿkhatat). 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).

29 tn Heb “And he said.”

30 tn Or “loafers.” The form נִרְפִּים (nirpim) is derived from the verb רָפָה (rafah), meaning “to be weak, to let oneself go.”

31 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.”

32 tn The imperfect תִּתֵּנּוּ (tittennu) is here taken as an obligatory imperfect: “you must give” or “you must produce.”

33 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).

34 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.

35 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).

36 tn The clause “when they were told” translates לֵאמֹר (lemor), which usually simply means “saying.” The thing that was said was clearly the decree that was given to them.

37 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.

38 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].”

39 tn Heb “you have made our aroma stink.”

40 tn Heb “in the eyes of.”

41 tn Heb “in the eyes of his servants.” This phrase is not repeated in the translation for stylistic reasons.

42 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.”



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