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Scripture reading: Exodus 5

Our study in the Book of Exodus continues after Moses and Aaron met with the “elders of the children of Israel” (4:30). Aaron spoke to the leaders on Moses’ behalf, as the LORD promised he would (4:15-16), and Moses “did the signs in the sight of the people” (4:30; note 4:2-3, 6-7, 9). Convinced by Aaron’s report and the miracles performed by Moses, the people “believed” God had heard their cry and sent Moses to be their deliverer (4:31).

Exodus 5 – Confrontation with Pharaoh

Confident of the Lord’s presence, Moses and Aaron sought their first audience with Pharaoh. Standing before the king of Egypt, they boldly declared, “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness” (5:1).

Defiantly, Pharaoh answered, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go” (5:2)

Moses and Aaron answered, “The God of the Hebrews hath met with us: let us go, we pray thee, three days’ journey into the desert, and sacrifice unto the Lord our God; lest he fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword” (5:3).

Pharaoh’s Obstinance (5:2-21)

Pharaoh asked, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice?” (5:2) The answer he was given was, “The God of the Hebrews” (5:3a). Surely, Pharaoh wondered, “The God of slaves? The God who appeared to have forsaken Israel for the past four hundred years? That is the God you fear will ‘fall upon [you] with pestilence, or with the sword?’” (5:3b)

Proud and obstinate, Pharaoh alleged Moses and Aaron were attempting to lighten the burden of the children of Israel. He then doubled down on the slaves (5:4-5). Rather than lighten their duties, the king commanded his Egyptian taskmasters to oppress the Hebrews and increase their workload (5:6-9). The Egyptian taskmasters cruelly beat “the officers of the children of Israel” who supervised their people (5:10-14).

Beaten and discouraged, the officers of Israel cried out to Pharaoh. The king, however, blamed their hardships on Moses and Aaron’s request for the people to be allowed to “go and do sacrifice to the LORD” (5:17). The officers of Israel then went out from Pharaoh. They met Moses and Aaron along the way and accused them of adding to their troubles (5:20-21b). Rather than humble themselves and turn to the LORD, they reproached His servants (5:21b).

Closing thoughts – The criticisms of the people pierced the heart of Moses. He cried, “Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? why is it that thou hast sent me? 23For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all” (5:22-23).

Moses neither wanted nor expected his commission to deliver Israel from bondage would require the people to suffer more afflictions. He prayed and asked why God allowed His people to be so ill-treated (5:22). Discouraged, Moses could not rationalize his calling with God’s promises to deliver the people from bondage.

Closing questions:

1) Rather than success, Moses came to realize his effort to free his people from slavery only increased their sorrows and afflictions. How did Moses respond? (Exodus 5:22-23)

2) How do you respond to criticisms and discouragement?

3) Where do you turn when you find yourself the object of unjust criticism?

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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