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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 5

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

Verses 1-23

Exodus 5:1 to Exodus 6:1 ( Exodus 5:1 f. and Exodus 5:4 E, the rest J). Pharaoh’ s first refusal to let Israel go, and his increase of their burdens.— The bulk of the story is taken from J, but part of the opening shows that E told it too. One spoke of “ the God of Israel,” the other of “ the God of the Hebrews” : both related the demand for leave of absence in order to worship. Observe in J the primitive dread of an approach of the Divine Being unless an acceptable offering be at hand ( Exodus 5:3, cf. Numbers 23:3, “ met him,” as here; and Judges 13:15 f.).

Exodus 5:1-5 . In Exodus 5:1, “ hold a feast” (Heb. hag) is, more exactly, “ make a pilgrimage” to a sanctuary, as pious Mohammedans make the haj to Mecca ( cf. Exodus 23:14 ff. and p. 103). The Pharaoh, who by the custom of the time was often approached by suitors with private grievances, professes blank ignorance of Yahweh, and treats the request as a mere pretext for a holiday.

Exodus 5:6-19 . Increase of Burdens.— The brickmaking was organised by Egyptian “ taskmasters” working under Pharaoh, very much as a “ clerk of the works” superintends a building in progress to watch the interests of the owner and to see the instructions of the architect fulfilled. These in turn chose Hebrew “ officers” or foremen who were responsible for the work of their gangs. At Pithom ( Exodus 1:11) some of the bricks that have been dug up contained chopped straw and some did not. But elsewhere such use of straw is unusual. Perhaps it was needed, Petrie suggests, to separate the soft bricks. In any case the refusal to provide a necessary imposed more work. Driver (CB, p. 39) reproduces illustrations from the monuments of the processes of brickmaking and building by Asiatic captives under supervision, and quotes an inscription (p. 31), “ The taskmaster says to his labourers, ‘ The stick is in my hand, be not idle.’” The Nile mud had to be dug, carried in baskets, kneaded with water, moulded, dried, carried to the site, and built into the walls. Numbers 11:5 warns us that, for slaves, “ the Hebrews were on the whole well treated” (M‘ Neile).

Exodus 5:8 . tale: i.e. set amount. To “ tell” used to mean to “ count” ( Genesis 15:5 *).

Exodus 5:9 . Read (with LXX, Sam., Pesh.) “ that they may attend to it (their work), and not attend to lying words.”

Exodus 5:14 . task: in this verse should be “ prescribed portion.”

Exodus 5:16. Read (with LXX, Pesh.) “ and thou shalt sin against thy people.” The Heb. is corrupt, and the EV is false to the facts.

Exodus 5:20 to Exodus 6:1 . Moses, reproached for the failure of the appeal to Pharaoh, casts himself on God, and wins promise of effectual aid. Dawn follows the darkest hour.

Exodus 5:21 . “ Ye have brought us into ill odour with Pharaoh” would be a more modern rendering.

Exodus 5:22 . evil entreated: i.e. ill-treated.

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Exodus 5". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/exodus-5.html. 1919.
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