Monday, December 16, 2019

Exodus 5 – Pharaoh’s Refusal

body of water during golden hour

It continues to be a wonderful task to exposit the Old Testament. I preached through the book of Exodus in the second half of 2018 verse by verse and paragraph by paragraph. We left no word unread and did not skip the exposition of any section. It is a wonderful exercise for myself to go back now, chapter by chapter, and review the wonderful truth of this book. I pray that it is as beneficial for you, the reader, as it has been for me. More resources can be found at

God commissioned Moses to deliver the people of Israel from Egypt. It would not be a simple matter of simply asking the Pharaoh to release the people and him doing it. The LORD told Moses that Pharaoh would refuse and harden his heart. Pharaoh would not recognize the LORD’s sovereignty and dominion until God caused all His wonders to occur. The people of Israel had met with Moses and believed that He and Aaron had been sent to free them.

1 And afterward Moses and Aaron came and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let My people go 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, and besides, I will not let Israel go.”

Pharaoh did not recognize the LORD as authoritative. So Moses and Aaron’s prophetic announcement to Pharaoh from the LORD carried no weight. He refused to release Israel to give them three days to worship the LORD.

3 Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please, let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God, otherwise He will fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.” 4 But the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why do you draw the people away from their work? Get back to your labors!”

He was even unwilling to let them go when they expected doom from disobedience. Pharaoh saw this only as a ploy for the people to slack off from their work. So he made their work harder.

5 Again Pharaoh said, “Look, the people of the land are now many, and you would have them cease from their labors!” 6 So the same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters over the people and their foremen, saying, 7 “You are no longer to give the people straw to make brick as previously; let them go and gather straw for themselves. 8 But the quota of bricks which they were making previously, you shall impose on them; you are not to reduce any of it. Because they are lazy, therefore they cry out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ 9 Let the labor be heavier on the men, and let them work at it so that they will pay no attention to false words.”

These restrictions were irrational. They were meant to deliver a pointed message to the Israelite people: there was to be no more talk of the LORD. Pharaoh wanted the people to work and be deaf to what Moses and Aaron were saying.

10 So the taskmasters of the people and their foremen went out and spoke to the people, saying, “Thus says Pharaoh, ‘I am not going to give you any straw. 11 You go and get straw for yourselves wherever you can find it, but none of your labor will be reduced.’” 12 So the people scattered through all the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw. 13 The taskmasters pressed them, saying, “Complete your work quota, your daily amount, just as when you had straw.” 14 Moreover, the foremen of the sons of Israel, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten and were asked, “Why have you not completed your required amount either yesterday or today in making brick as previously?”

15 Then the foremen of the sons of Israel came and cried out to Pharaoh, saying, “Why do you deal this way with your servants? 16 There is no straw given to your servants, yet they keep saying to us, ‘Make bricks!’ And behold, your servants are being beaten; but it is the fault of your own people.” 17 But he said, “You are lazy, very lazy; therefore you say, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the LORD.’ 18 So go now and work; for you will be given no straw, yet you must deliver the quota of bricks.” 19 The foremen of the sons of Israel saw that they were in trouble because they were told, “You must not reduce your daily amount of bricks.” 20 When they left Pharaoh’s presence, they met Moses and Aaron as they were waiting for them. 21 They said to them, “May the LORD look upon you and judge you, for you have made us odious in Pharaoh’s sight and in the sight of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us.”

Pharaoh’s plan worked. The people of Israel turned against Moses and Aaron because of the consequences that their preaching had brought upon them.

22 Then Moses returned to the LORD and said, “O LORD, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me? 23 Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and You have not delivered Your people at all.”

Moses lamented that he had listened to the LORD to speak in His name. He blamed the LORD for sending him to bring harm on the people, failing to deliver them a single bit. But he should have remembered that the LORD had said that it would not be easy.


Through Pharaoh’s persistent refusal to release the people, God would perform several wonders. These wonders would show the Israelites, the Egyptians, and all the nations of the earth that Yahweh alone is God. The LORD was about to take on the most powerful nation of the ancient world. He would show Himself superior to their gods and to their Pharaoh.

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