Israel’s Labor Increased
1 Afterward Moses and Aaron came and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let My people go, so that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness.’” 2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, nor will I let Israel go.” 3 Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please, let us go on a three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the Lord our God, so that He does not discipline us with pestilence or with the sword.” 4 But the king of Egypt said to Moses and Aaron, “Why do you take the people away from their work? Get back to your burdens!” 5 Pharaoh said, “Look, the people of the land are now many, and you would have them stop their work!” 6 The very same day Pharaoh gave orders to the [Egyptian] taskmasters in charge of the people and their [Hebrew] foremen, saying, 7 “You will no longer give the people (a)straw to make brick as before; let them go and gather straw for themselves. 8 But the number of bricks which they were making before, you shall [still] require of them; you are not to reduce it in the least. For they are idle and lazy; that is why they cry, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ 9 Let labor be heavier on the men, and let them work [hard] at it so that they will pay no attention to [their God’s] lying words.”
10 Then the [Egyptian] taskmasters [in charge] of the people and their [Hebrew] foremen went out and said to the people, “Thus says Pharaoh, ‘I will not give you any straw. 11 Go, get straw for yourselves wherever you can find it, but your work [quota] will not be reduced in the least.’” 12 So the people were scattered throughout the land of Egypt to gather stubble to use for straw. 13 And the taskmasters pressured them, saying, “Finish your work, [fulfill] your daily quotas, just as when there was straw [given to you].” 14 And the Hebrew foremen, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten and were asked, “Why have you not fulfilled your required quota of making bricks yesterday and today, as before?”
15 Then the Hebrew foremen came to Pharaoh and cried, “Why do you deal like this with your servants? 16 No straw is given to your servants, yet they say to us, ‘Make bricks!’ And look, your servants are being beaten, but it is the fault of your own people.” 17 But Pharaoh said, “You are lazy, very lazy and idle! That is why you say, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.’ 18 Get out now and get to work; for no straw will be given to you, yet you are to deliver the same quota of bricks.” 19 The Hebrew foremen saw that they were in a bad situation because they were told, “You must not reduce [in the least] your daily quota of bricks.” 20 When they left Pharaoh’s presence, the foremen met Moses and Aaron, who were waiting for them. 21 And the foremen said to them, “May the Lord look upon you and judge you, because you have made us odious (something hated) in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and you have put a sword in their hand to kill us.”
22 Then Moses turned again to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have You brought harm and oppression to this people? Why did You ever send me? [I cannot understand Your purpose!] 23 Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has harmed and oppressed this people, and You have done nothing at all to rescue Your people.”
a. Exodus 5:7: Straw served as a binding agent with the mud, nearly tripling the strength of the brick.