As we move into these next chapters there will sometimes be a lot of narrative and not so much comment. As the story gets quite exciting some passages are best read without interruptions.

We finished our last study noting that it was with the back-up of the Elders of Israel that Aaron and Moses went to confront Pharaoh. But it was only moral support -

Exodus 5

1 Afterwards Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: “Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.”’

the Lord’, here and twice in the next verse, is actually the proper name for God: ‘Yahweh’

2 Pharaoh said, ‘Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.’

It has been suggested that this Pharaoh may have instituted the cult of ‘Pharaoh-worship’. Whether that is so or not, Yahweh was not a god worshipped by Egyptians, so he was being perfectly reasonable in his reply. But that was not the response that Moses expected, even though God had told Moses that Pharaoh would not let the people go (Exodus 4:21). So Moses and Aaron tried to persuade him.

3 Then they said, ‘The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Now let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God, or he may strike us with plagues or with the sword.’

What aspects of the nature of God did Moses and Aaron use in their argument? Could they have done better?

It was obviously the first time that Pharaoh had heard about God and he wasn’t impressed. He thought that it was just an attempt to give the slaves some sort of holiday.

4 But the king of Egypt said, ‘Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their labour? Get back to your work!’ 5 Then Pharaoh said, ‘Look, the people of the land are now numerous, and you are stopping them from working.’

Perhaps Pharaoh was also beginning to grasp the economic consequences of Moses request. To lose that many man-days was ridiculous. Perhaps they had time on their hands and were spending it dreaming up these ideas.

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; don’t 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?’

15 Then the Israelite overseers went and appealed to Pharaoh: ‘Why have you treated your servants this way? 16 Your servants are given no straw, yet we are told, “Make bricks!” Your servants are being beaten, but the fault is with your own people.’

The new orders were totally unreasonable. There were not enough hours in the day to try to find straw and also make bricks. In desperation they appealed tp Pharaoh.

17 Pharaoh said, ‘Lazy, that’s what you are – lazy! That is why you keep saying, “Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.” 18 Now get to work. You will not be given any straw, yet you must produce your full quota of bricks.’

19 The Israelite overseers realised they were in trouble when they were told, ‘You are not to reduce the number of bricks required of you for each day.’ 20 When they left Pharaoh, they found Moses and Aaron waiting to meet them, 21 and they said, ‘May the Lord look on you and judge you! You have made us obnoxious to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.’

Moses and Aaron were not ignorant. They knew who was responsible for this added trouble. They anxiously waited for the return of the overseers. In Moses mind there was now only one solution:

22 Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? 23 Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.’

Moses was at a loss – and it drove him to prayer.

Do we only really pray when problems get on top of us?

Exodus 6

Here we will encounter some lists of names. In the study on Genesis chapter 10 I said the following:

‘Oh no! All those names! I am bound to get the pronunciation wrong’!

Don’t worry. Spoken Hebrew was lost as a language following the Babylonian exile and was only revived in the last hundred or so years. So no-one can be absolutely sure if one pronunciation is ‘right’ or not. I suggest that you carefully look at the spelling, try a few different pronunciations, settle on one you are comfortable with, and go for it. (There will always be others who will ‘help’ you if they think you are wrong!)

But it is important not to shy away from the names themselves, or from passages in the Bible that seem to contain too many. They are there for a reason and it’s our job to find out what that is.

God needs to raise Moses’ understanding of his nature. And it won’t happen overnight. For now he will remind him of his presence throughout history and the fact that he himself has brought his people to this time and he himself will rescue them. (I have added some emphasis.)

1 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.’

2 God also said to Moses, ‘I am the Lord. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them. 

Pointing out to Moses the importance of the Name he had been given, and the fact that from now on people will know God in a new way: The Lord will make himself known to them in a way they can experience for themselves.

I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they resided as foreigners. 5 Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant.

This is not just a problem time for Moses. This is a very specific momentous time in the whole history of the Jewish nation. Moses must try to see things from God’s perspective.

6 ‘Therefore, say to the Israelites: “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. 7 I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. 8 And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.”’

Why in verse 6 did God use the word ‘redeem’?

9 Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and harsh labour.

I think they had had enough of Moses: he had caused them enough trouble already.

As Moses drew closer to God, people refused to listen. It seems that their response was ‘God is responsible for all the suffering we see around us and we don’t see any sign of him saving us’.

Is that the sort of response we still get today?

Why is that?

10 Then the Lord said to Moses, 11 ‘Go, tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the Israelites go out of his country.’

12 But Moses said to the Lord, ‘If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips?’

We are left with a cliff-hanger!

As Moses compiled this book (like Genesis) he drew from different original writings. Here he decided to insert a document that listed the families, clans, and tribes that left Egypt. Actually, having started well, he didn’t get beyond his own family tree (See Chart003).

It is also very difficult to place people historically. ‘Son of’ and ‘father of’ etc. are often used to describe descendants over long periods of time, e.g. ‘Jesus, son of David’

13 Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron about the Israelites and Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he commanded them to bring the Israelites out of Egypt.

14 These were the heads of their families:

The sons of Reuben the firstborn son of Israel were Hanok and Pallu, Hezron and Karmi. These were the clans of Reuben.

15 The sons of Simeon were Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jakin, Zohar and Shaul the son of a Canaanite woman. These were the clans of Simeon.

16 These were the names of the sons of Levi according to their records: Gershon, Kohath and Merari. Levi lived 137 years.

17 The sons of Gershon, by clans, were Libni and Shimei.

18 The sons of Kohath were Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel. Kohath lived 133 years.

19 The sons of Merari were Mahli and Mushi.

These were the clans of Levi according to their records.

20 Amram married his father’s sister Jochebed, who bore him Aaron and Moses. Amram lived 137 years.

21 The sons of Izhar were Korah, Nepheg and Zikri.

22 The sons of Uzziel were Mishael, Elzaphan and Sithri.

23 Aaron married Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab and sister of Nahshon, and she bore him Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar.

24 The sons of Korah were Assir, Elkanah and Abiasaph. These were the Korahite clans.

25 Eleazar son of Aaron married one of the daughters of Putiel, and she bore him Phinehas.

These were the heads of the Levite families, clan by clan.

Why were the Levites important? Particularly Aaron?

Only the Levites had special responsibilities for the Tabernacle.

The priests were all descendants of Aaron.

26 It was this Aaron and Moses to whom the Lord said, ‘Bring the Israelites out of Egypt by their divisions.’ 27 They were the ones who spoke to Pharaoh king of Egypt about bringing the Israelites out of Egypt – this same Moses and Aaron.

In the light of Genesis 49:5-7 some Biblical scholars believe that the Levites Were destroyed as a tribe, and the new ‘Levites’ must have been a secular tribe, or perhaps a group of Egyptians who left Egypt with Moses!

Perhaps this passage was placed here just for their benefit.

All through the Bible we see that God is never limited by man’s disobedience. On the contrary, he is often seen using people we would never choose, often forgiving where we would condemn, and giving second chances.

Here again, we will go on to see that although Levi had to suffer for his wrongdoing, his tribe was ultimately given the most sacred duties concerning the Tabernacle and the worship of God, with the priests themselves all being descended from Aaron. And perhaps the most important leader, and Prophet, was Moses – the Levite.  

And the ultimate sanction of being denied tribal land within Canaan would turn out not to be a problem at all.

Now a quick recap before we move into chapter 7 (These two verses were possibly separated from the verses that follow when chapter divisions were inserted. So we will include them again in our next study)

28 Now when the Lord spoke to Moses in Egypt, 29 he said to him, ‘I am the Lord. Tell Pharaoh king of Egypt everything I tell you.’

30 But Moses said to the Lord, ‘Since I speak with faltering lips, why would Pharaoh listen to me?’


Exodus 3Exodus 7

Free small group Bible Study guides, commentary, lessons, questions and other material. For the PDF version click   HERE  

Exodus 5:1-23, 6:1-30 Moses & Aaron to Pharaoh. Bricks without straw. Moses’ family tree
(For Exodus 4 see Exodus 3)