10 And the taskmasters of the people went out, and their officers, and they spake to the people, saying, Thus saith Pharaoh, I will not give you straw.

11 Go ye, get you straw where ye can find it: yet not ought of your work shall be diminished.

12 So the people were scattered abroad throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble instead of straw.

Pharaoh had commanded that the Israelites would have their burdens increased as a punishment for Moses and Aaron seeking their release. Pharaoh had said that the people would need to gather their own straw, and we see in today’s verses that he didn’t only mean that they had to fetch their own supplies, they even had to find it in the first place! I would imagine that there were already fields of straw dedicated to the cement-mixing process, but the Israelites were not being given access to them. They were expected to scour the entire land, scraping together what bits and pieces they could to fulfill their order.

Thus, Pharaoh was demanding productivity subsistence from a people that didn’t even enjoy basic freedom. This was an impossible burden, and I have to assume it was deliberately so, for the express purpose of breaking the Israelite people. It seems to me that getting the bricks from the Israelites was only a secondary concern to Pharaoh, first and foremost what he sought was to crush whatever life remained in them. It may have been his predecessors who first enslaved the Israelites and murdered their sons, but it seems he was determined to earn God’s wrath for his own sake!

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