He Increases The Israelites' Tasks. part 1
by John Thomas Lowe
Review of the previous lesson (v. 1-5)
Review of the previous lesson, verses 1-5.
1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt with Jacob, each with his family: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah; 3 Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin; 4 Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher. 5 The descendants of Jacob numbered seventy in all; Joseph was already in Egypt.
Exodus 1:1–14 describes the explosive growth of the nation of Israel and the erosion of their relationship with Egypt. Joseph's efforts in the past saved Egypt from ruin, and his family was welcomed into the land. Generations later, the drastic increase in their population is seen as a threat to the Egyptian people. Motivated by a combination of fear and disgust, the king of Egypt brutally enslaved the people of Israel to reduce their numbers. This effort fails, and the following passage shows Pharaoh resorting to infanticide to control the Hebrews.
6 That same day, Pharaoh gave this order to the slave drivers and overseers in charge of the people: 7 You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. 8 But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; do not reduce the quota. They are lazy; that is why they are crying out, 'Let us go and sacrifice to our God.' 9 Make the work harder for the people so that they keep working and pay no attention to lies.'
10 Then the slave drivers and the overseers went out and said to the people, 'This is what Pharaoh says: 'I will not give you any more straw. 11 Go and get your own straw wherever you can find it, but your work will not be reduced at all.'' 12 So the people scattered all over Egypt to gather stubble to use for straw. 13 The slave drivers kept pressing them, saying, 'Complete the work required of you for each day, just as when you had straw.' 14 And Pharaoh's slave drivers beat the Israelite overseers they had appointed, demanding, 'Why haven't you met your quota of bricks yesterday or today, as before?'
Commentary on Exodus 5:6-14
5:6 That same day, Pharaoh gave this order to the slave drivers and overseers in charge of the people:
As Pharaoh possessed neither fear of God nor fear of the gods, but, in the proud security of his might, determined to keep the Israelites as enslaved people and to use them as tools for the glorifying of his kingdom by the erection of magnificent buildings, he suspected that their wish to go into the desert was nothing but an excuse invented by idlers, and prompted by a thirst for freedom, which might become dangerous to his kingdom, on account of the numerical strength of the people. He, therefore, thought that he could best extinguish such desires and attempts by increasing the oppression and adding to their labors. For this reason, he instructed his taskmasters to abstain from delivering straw to the Israelites who were engaged in making bricks and letting them gather it for themselves; but not to make the slightest reduction in the number to be delivered every day. "Those who urged the people on" were the taskmasters selected from the Egyptians and placed over the Israelitish workmen, the general managers of the work. Under them, some taskmasters were chosen from the Israelites and had to distribute the work among the people and hand it over, when finished, to the royal officers. The bricks were not burned, for the bricks used in the ancient monuments of Egypt and many of the pyramids are not burnt in ovens but dried in the sun. The straw used for binding bricks is accomplished by adding chopped straw, made from the stubble that was left standing when the corn was reaped or the straw that lay upon the ground. They chopped up and mixed with the clay to provide further durability to the bricks, which may be seen in bricks found in the oldest monuments.
What is a taskmaster? one that imposes a task or burdens another with labor The Egyptian taskmasters would wake the Hebrews at dawn every morning for their slave labor. To do this, the taskmasters would enter the houses of the Israelites. When one taskmaster entered Shelomith's tent, he was struck by her beauty and desired her.
7 You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw.
You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks. Whether this was given and used to mix with the clay, as is done in some places, that the bricks made thereof might be firmer, or to burn them in the furnaces, or to cover them from the heat of the sun, that they might not dry too soon and crack, is not easy to determine. However, it is said that the unburnt bricks of Egypt formerly were and still are made of clay mixed with straw. The Egyptian pyramids seem to be made of the earth brought by the Nile, being of sandy black earth, with some pebbles and shells in it; it is mixed up with chopped straw to bind the clay together, as they now make unburnt bricks in Egypt, and many other eastern parts, which they use very much in their buildings. He says he found some of these bricks (of the pyramid) thirteen inches and a half long, six inches and a half are broad, and four inches thick; and others fifteen inches long, seven broad, and four inches thick. However, be the straw for what use it will, it had been dealt out to them by proper persons to be used in one way or another, but now it was forbidden to be given them: as heretofore it had been done: let them go and gather straw for themselves; out of the fields where it lay, after the corn had been reaped and gathered in, or in barns, where it had been threshed; to do which must take up a good deal of their time, and especially if the straw lay at any distance, or was hard to come by.
8 But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; do not reduce the quota. They are lazy; they are crying out, 'Let us go and sacrifice to our God.'
Peter knew that John the Baptist—the first prophet of God since Malachi, 400 years before—identified Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah who would rescue the Jews (John 1:35–42). When Jesus felt too crowded on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, Peter willingly took Jesus onto his boat. They were cast off from shore so people could better hear Christ's teaching. Furthermore, when Jesus told Peter and his brother to go into the deeper part of the lake, they did so, despite their night being fruitless and it was the wrong time of day to fish in deep water (Luke 5:1–5).
It is unclear what the fishers expected, but they did not anticipate so many fish that two cooperating boats were at risk of sinking (Luke 5:6–7).
Peter's attitude toward Jesus immediately transitions from respect for a rabbi to fear of a prophet. The fish, the breaking nets, and the sinking ship are forgotten. Peter does not fully understand who Jesus is, and he will not wait until after the resurrection. He calls Jesus "Lord" because of Jesus' relationship to God as an agent of His authority. He is not necessarily recognizing Jesus as the Christ just yet. However, Peter knows that he does not deserve to be in Jesus' presence.
That is precisely what Jesus is looking for in a disciple: someone who knows they do not "deserve" status or power. Later, Jesus will tell the Pharisees, "Those who well do not need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:31–32). This sinful man will be such an essential part of Jesus' mission that He gives him the nickname Peter—the rock (John 1:42).
Peter's humble acknowledgment of his unworthiness in the presence of Jesus is the first of several attributes Luke illuminates as necessary for discipleship. When Jesus heals a man's leprosy, He grants ceremonial cleanness necessary to worship God. When Jesus heals the paralytic, Luke points out the faith of the paralytic and the forgiveness of his sins. Moreover, when Jesus calls Levi, the tax collector, to follow, Luke is sure to focus the story on repentance. Luke concludes that being in the presence of Jesus and experiencing His new way of life is worthy of celebration (Luke 5:12–39).