105- Exodus Chapter 5
Moses and Aaron immediately went to the task of meeting with Pharaoh. We are not told if they met Pharaoh at his palace or out in the open. Their demand from God was straightforward and flung towards Pharaoh. “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness.” The usage of the word feast indicates a festival and therefore a journey of some distance.
This demand to Pharaoh was thrust at him as coming from “The Lord, the God of Israel.” Israel was a national or tribal identity and to recognize “the God of Israel” would have to acknowledge these slaves with an identity and dignity that Pharaoh would not grant. Pharaoh’s response was expressed with contempt. “I do not know the Lord, and besides, I will not let Israel go.” The words “to know” means to have experienced God. Pharaoh was surely telling the truth here for he had had no experience with God. But that was all about to change.
Following Pharaoh’s rejection Moses and Aaron made a gentler request. Their response was more polite but the nature of the demand was no less. In the second request Moses identified God as the God of the Hebrews. This was equivalent to say the God of your slaves. Moses was not going allow Pharaoh to be able to plead that he had not understood.
Pharaoh’s reaction to the request of Moses was one of total unbelief. Pharaoh, who did not know God, was not able to understand the discussion from those who did. Pharaoh would or could not comprehend the spiritual dimensions of Moses’ experience with God. Pharaoh sought to find a natural, normal reason to explain it. Pharaoh’s immediate assumption was that his slaves did not have enough work to do. Having too much idle time on their hands, or so Pharaoh thought, had given cause to their foolish ideas about going off to serve their God.
Pharaoh confident in his analysis of the situation took steps to increase the labors of the Israelites. The Hebrew’s were slaves used to make bricks for the building projects of Pharaoh. These bricks were sundried and made of clay and straw and much larger than the bricks we are familiar with. Up to this point the chopped straw used to bind the clay together was furnished by the Egyptians but now Pharaoh demanded that the Hebrews furnish their own straw. This increased workload on the Hebrews was the equivalent of working an extra shift. Even so Pharaoh demanded that the amount of bricks produced each day would not decrease.
The Hebrews would have to go out further and further each day to find straw to make the bricks. Eventually they were reduced to using stubble to make the bricks, which was a poor substitute. With all this increased labor the Hebrews were unable to maintain the required amount of bricks produced each day. When this happened the taskmasters, which were Egyptians, would have the foremen, which were Hebrew beaten.
Moses had come demanding that Pharaoh surrender to the will of God. Pharaoh had refused, just as God had said he would do. Both Moses and Israel were unprepared for the manner in which Pharaoh had reacted. Not only had Pharaoh denied the request; he tried to make them forget their need to obey God.
Pharaoh’s response to the demands of God made by Moses had caused greater hardship upon the Hebrew people. Instead of the Hebrews being delivered from the burdens of slavery, its grinding and binding nature, the horror of slavery had been made even worse. The Hebrew foremen had cried out to Pharaoh but he refused to listen to them.
The Hebrews laid the problem before Pharaoh by placing the burden of guilt on their overseers, Pharaoh’s own people. The Hebrews should have expected that they would find no sympathy from Pharaoh. It is indicated that Pharaoh was ranting when he turned the Hebrews back to their labors. Finding no relief from Pharaoh the foremen could not see in any way that Moses and Aaron had helped them. Neither did the Hebrew’s see any help coming for God. Now their labors were increased beyond their ability to produce, and they were beaten for their failure to do so. From the Hebrew standpoint the situation seemed hopeless.
Moses and Aaron were waiting for the return of the foremen from their audience with Pharaoh and met with them. Moses and Aaron wanted to hear the response of Pharaoh from the meeting with the foremen. Since there would be no relief from Pharaoh the foremen turned their hostility towards Moses and Aaron. This is a side effect of Pharaoh’s strategy that his actions would cause a division amongst the leaders of the Israelite nation. The real enemy was Pharaoh and Egypt but the leaders turned on Moses and Aaron.
“May the Lord look upon you and judge you,” said the foremen to Moses and Aaron. This is a typical expression of righteous indignation from one who thinks he is suffering innocently. The statement is an implied accusation against Moses. The risk of leadership is that when things go wrong the fault is always placed on the leader.
The expression “For you have made us odious in Pharaoh’s sight,” literally means “you have made us stink.” The Hebrew people had seen themselves as becoming loathsome in the sight of the Egyptians. Because of this loathing appearance they were convinced that Pharaoh and his people were out to destroy them.
This was a tragic thing for Moses to hear. He was being told that if he had not been trying to do God’s will, there would not have been any problems. Obeying God’s will is never easy and sometimes can be a great struggle. When we obey God’s will the outcome is always best even when it is very costly. The problem for the Hebrew people is they thought obeying God would be easy, but they were wrong.
The reaction of Moses to the rebuff of his people gives us some insight to into his nature. Moses shows humanity even as his faith is faltering. Not only had things become worse as far as Moses could see God had done nothing. Here Moses shows us the quality of his prayer life. In contrast to Israel Moses did not lose his faith, even though he could not see what God was doing. Moses took his questioning doubt to God.
Many of the great men of the Old Testament had doubt. Jeremiah, Job, and Habakkuk all had doubt and the Bible never condemned them for this. Characteristically they all took their doubts to God. Great faith seems to grow on doubts honestly admitted and exposed to God.
Moses also expressed his self-concern and loneliness. “Since I came…thou hast not delivered.” Here Moses is expressing too much attention to his own actions and too little awareness of what God was doing.
The secrete of Moses’ greatness may be found in his prayers. Moses never mouthed pious platitudes but exposed his real feelings and problems to God. We should pay attention to several qualities of Moses’ prayers. One is the quality of honesty. Moses spoke to God in an accusing voice, but he was seeking a real answer.
The response of God may be seen as surprising, as He did not rebuke Moses for his doubt or accusation. Neither did God rebuke Israel for their lack of faith. God’s response was one of encouragement.
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