People Ordered to Gather Their Own Straw to Make Bricks

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Part of the work of the Hebrew slaves was to take clay and shape it into bricks. They had to mix finely cut-up straw or reeds with the clay so that it would make strong bricks. After Moses and Aaron had gone to Pharaoh asking him to let the Israelite people go, Pharaoh felt that the people in bondage only dream of freedom when they have excessive free time. Therefore, his remedy was to stop supplying straw and at the same time require them to find their own straw and produce the same amount of bricks each day (vv. 10-11). So the people went all over Egypt looking for straw (v. 12).

The slave bosses continued to be hard on the people and kept saying, “Each day you have to make as many bricks as you did when you were given straw” (v. 13). Since Israel could no longer produce their daily quota the Israelite overseers were beaten (v.14). Finally, these Hebrew foreman went to the king asking why they were being treated like this (vv. 15-16). They said, “It is your own people who are to blame because they will not bring us any straw.

Pharaoh told them they were lazy and to get back to work. He no doubt had anticipated this reaction and planned to use it to turn the people against Moses, whom he considered to be a trouble maker. His plan worked and immediately there was contention within the ranks of Israel and Moses  received the blame for this unjust treatment (vv. 17-21). He then prays and asks why so much trouble has been brought on his people and since he came to speak to Pharoah (vv. 22-23).


Unfortunately, the people of Israel looked to Pharaoh for help and not to the Lord who had promised to deliver them. When I feel like I am not being treated fairly I need to look to the Lord for help and not other people.

Exodus 5:10-23 (English Standard Version)

So the taskmasters and the foremen of the people went out and said to the people, "Thus says Pharaoh, 'I will not give you straw. Go and get your straw yourselves wherever you can find it, but your work will not be reduced in the least.'" So the people were scattered throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw. The taskmasters were urgent, saying, "Complete your work, your daily task each day, as when there was straw." And the foremen of the people of Israel, whom Pharaoh's taskmasters had set over them, were beaten and were asked, "Why have you not done all your task of making bricks today and yesterday, as in the past?" Then the foremen of the people of Israel came and cried to Pharaoh, "Why do you treat your servants like this? No straw is given to your servants, yet they say to us, 'Make bricks!' And behold, your servants are beaten; but the fault is in your own people." But he said, "You are idle, you are idle; that is why you say, 'Let us go and sacrifice to the LORD.' Go now and work. No straw will be given you, but you must still deliver the same number of bricks." The foremen of the people of Israel saw that they were in trouble when they said, "You shall by no means reduce your number of bricks, your daily task each day." They met Moses and Aaron, who were waiting for them, as they came out from Pharaoh; and they said to them, "The LORD look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us." Then Moses turned to the LORD and said, "O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all."

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