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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Exodus 5

Introduction

CHAP. V.

Moses and Aaron go in to Pharaoh. Pharaoh contemns them; and increases the burdens of the Israelites. The officers of the children of Israel complain to Pharaoh; but in vain: and then expostulate with Moses and Aaron.

Before Christ 1491.

Verse 1

Exodus 5:1. And afterward Moses, &c.— The elders of Israel, being convinced of the Divine commission wherewith Moses was invested, ch. Exo 3:18 accompany him and Aaron to Pharaoh. Pharaoh's answer, in the second verse, shews that the Hebrew name Jehovah should have been retained in our version. Thus saith Jehovah, Exodus 5:2. Who is Jehovah?—I know not Jehovah.

My people, &c.— This may be considered either as the substance of their message, or rather, perhaps, as the concise and peremptory declaration of Jehovah's pleasure. Bishop Warburton observes, that the separation of this people has been arraigned, as inconsistent with the Divine attributes. But it cannot be denied, that it became the goodness of the Deity to preserve the doctrine of the Unity, amidst an idolatrous world. Nor could such a separation be made otherwise, than by bringing a part of mankind under God's peculiar protection. Now, as some people must needs be selected for this purpose, it seems most agreeable to our ideas of Divine Wisdom, to make the blessings, attendant on such a selection, the reward of some exalted piety and virtue in the progenitors of the chosen people: but, therefore, to pretend that they were chosen as favourites, is both unjust and absurd. The separation was made for the sake of mankind in general; though one people became the honoured instrument, in reward of their forefathers' piety and virtues.

That they may hold a feast The verb, here rendered, to hold a feast, חגג chagag, signifies, primarily, to dance; to dance round in circles, says Parkhurst; to celebrate a feast with circular dancing. This made an eminent part of the religious rites of the ancient Heathen, as it does of the modern to this day. It seems to have been expressive of the supposed independent power of the sun and heavens, the first and great objects of idolatry.

Verse 2

Exodus 5:2. Pharaoh said, Who is the Lord? Who is Jehovah? His thoughts were full of the superstitious belief of local or tutelar deities; an opinion which prevailed generally among the Heathens. He does not, therefore, speak as an atheist, who believed not in any God; but as a blind devotee to false gods. He esteemed Jehovah one of these local deities; whom, therefore, he pretends not to know. Moses, in the subsequent verse, informs him, that this Jehovah was the GOD of the Hebrews; and the following train of miracles was to convince Pharaoh and his people, that Jehovah was not only the GOD of the Hebrews, but the Supreme Ruler of all the world, in opposition to their false and idolatrous faith. See note on ch. Exodus 3:13.

REFLECTIONS.—Moses and Aaron make no delay. Observe,

1. They boldly deliver their message. God's people are his peculiar portion, and those who injure or oppress them do it at their peril. They must hold a feast to him, and the sacrifice which points to the atonement is the substance of the feast. Faith in the atoning blood of Jesus makes the sweetest feast for the soul.
2. Pharaoh's impious answer, and flat denial. They who oppress God's people, will despise their God: they neither know him, nor fear him. Note; (1.) The cause of every sin is ignorance of God; for where there is no knowledge, there is no fear of him. (2.) Obstinate sinners go from iniquity to impiety. They first offend, and then defy the God of Israel: but it shall be to their cost.

Verse 3

Exodus 5:3. Let us go—three days—into the desert They do not open their whole purpose at once. It was not necessary, and it would not have been prudent. They urge the strong motive of religious fear, to work upon Pharaoh; Exodus 5:3 lest he fall upon us with the pestilence, or with the sword. Nor was this a mere pretence; for they had just cause to fear the Divine indignation, if they did not offer to Jehovah that worship and honour which he required, and turn from that idolatry into which they had fallen in Egypt, Eze 20:7-8 to which they were afterwards so prone, and for which they were so frequently chastised by the Lord, Ezekiel 17:21. It is usual with the Hebrews to call any great mortality the pestilence: therefore the Greek and the Chaldee translate it, both here and elsewhere, death. In this first application to Pharaoh, we observe that proper, respectful submission, which is due from subjects to their sovereign. They represent to him the danger that they should be in, by disobeying their GOD; but do not so much as hint at any punishment which would follow to Pharaoh.

Verse 4

Exodus 5:4. Wherefore do ye, Moses and Aaron Though the elders of Israel were with them, Pharaoh addresses and considers Moses and Aaron as the principals: and so far from attending to, or granting their petition, he treats them as ringleaders of a seditious multitude; and, with haughty insolence, remands them to those labours which he had so severely enjoined, and which he seems to think his just tribute. It is evident that the cruel edict for destroying the infants had been long abolished; as, otherwise, the people could not well have been many, as Pharaoh asserts they were, Exo 5:5 nor could their resting from their burdens, i.e. their ceasing from their labours, have been of any material consequence.

Verse 6

Exodus 5:6. Their officers See verses 14, 15, 19.

Verse 7

Exodus 5:7. Straw to make brick The straw was mixed with clay and mud: "The composition of bricks in Egypt," Dr. Shaw tells us, "was only a mixture of clay, mud, and straw, slightly blended and kneaded together, and afterwards baked in the sun. Paleis cohaerent lateres, (the sides of the bricks cohere to the straw,) says Philo, in his life of Moses. The straw which keeps these bricks together, in Egypt, and still preserves its original colour, seems to be a proof, that these bricks were never burnt, or made in kilns." Travels, p. 136.

REFLECTIONS.—They who have no fear of God, will have little compassion for man. Observe, 1. Moses and Aaron entreat Pharaoh for three days' respite, lest God be angry for the neglect of his service. Note; We have need to fear the visitations of the Lord, when we are found disusing his ordinances. 2. Pharaoh will not part with them for an hour; nay, reproaches them as idle, and adds to their burdens: nor shall Moses and Aaron fare better than the rest. Learn, (1.)That faithful ministers must expect, in dangerous times, to be the first to suffer. (2.) The service of God often bears, from the enemies of it, the reproach of idleness. (3.) When we have to deal with men of perverse minds, like Pharaoh, we must expect such unreasonable demands.

Verse 13

Exodus 5:13. The taskmasters hasted them, &c.— Bad men will usually find bad instruments to serve them. The taskmasters severely urge the people: and though, without straw, it was impossible to fulfil their tale of bricks, they are beaten. What a blessing is liberty ! How highly should we value it?

Verse 15

Exodus 5:15. The officers—came and cried unto Pharaoh Theirs was an evil case, no doubt. The remonstrance they made was as just and humble, as the answer they receive is tyrannical and severe. For, 1. They are his servants, willing to labour, and are beaten, when the fault is in Pharaoh's people. It is ever the lot of God's people to suffer unjustly. 2. They are received with taunts and reproaches. How could they, who were dying under hard servitude, be reproached with idleness? and was their desire to sacrifice to God, such a crime? Note; The world's reproaches are usually as groundless as Pharaoh's; and whatever pretence they may make, the real cause is, the inbred enmity of their hearts against our God and his holy ways.

Verse 21

Exodus 5:21. The Lord look upon you, and judge See Gen 16:5 and, for the latter clause of the verse, Genesis 34:30.

Have made our savour to be abhorred Or, have made us odious. The last clause of the verse, to put a sword in their hands to slay us, is proverbial; importing, "to give them a handle to destroy us."

Verse 22

Exodus 5:22. And Moses returned unto the Lord This either implies, that there was some particular place, where the Lord condescended to meet with, and reveal himself to Moses; or else we must understand the words in the sense which the LXX give them; he turned to the Lord, επεστρεψε προς κυριον ; he addressed himself to God in prayer. Houbigant renders it, then Moses, turning to the Lord, said thus unto him.

REFLECTIONS. We have here,

1. The people's displeasure at Moses and Aaron. How unjust and ill-timed? Are they who put their lives in their hands to save them, to be reproached as destroyers? The best actions will, if not immediately successful, expose us often to the censures of those whom we meant to serve.
2. Moses's application to God. He presented a remonstrance to Pharaoh in vain; but he shall not do so with God. He expostulates, complains, and begs help in this needful time of trouble. Note; (1.) Our sufferings may increase, when God is working most for our deliverance. (2.) It is a heavy grief to ministers, to see their labours of love, instead of being successful, exasperating the enmity, and stirring up the corruptions of their hearers. (3.) The way to be eased, is to go and complain to our God.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Exodus 5". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/exodus-5.html. 1801-1803.