Therefore they did set taskmasters over them, to afflict
them with their burdens
This was the first scheme proposed and agreed on, and was carried into execution, to appoint taskmasters over them; or "princes", or "masters of tribute" F18, commissioners of taxes, who had power to lay heavy taxes upon them, and oblige them to pay them, which were very burdensome, and so afflictive to their minds, and tended to diminish their wealth and riches, and obliged them to harder labour in order to pay them, and so every way contributed to distress them:
and they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses;
these might be built with the money they collected from them by way of tribute, and so said to be built by them, since it was chiefly in husbandry, and in keeping flocks and herds, that the Israelites were employed; or they might be concerned in building these cities, some of them understanding architecture, or however the poorer or meaner sort might be made use of in the more laborious and servile part of the work; those two cities are, in the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem, called Tanis and Pelusium; but Tanis was the same with Zoan, and that was built but seven years after Hebron, an ancient city, in being long before this time, see ( Numbers 13:22 ) . Pelusium indeed may be one of them, but then it is not that which is here called Raamses, but Pithom, as Sir John Marsham F19 and others think: Pithom is by Junius thought to be the same with the Pathumus of Herodotus F20, a town in Arabia Petraes, upon the borders of Egypt, where a ditch was dug from the Nile to the Red sea, and supposed to be the work of the Israelites: Raamses is a place different from Ramesses, ( Genesis 47:11 ) and had its name from the then reigning Pharaoh, Ramesses Miamun, as Pithom is thought by some to be so called from his queen: Pliny F21 makes mention of some people called Ramisi and Patami, who probably were the inhabitants of these cities, whom he joins to the Arabians as bordering on Egypt: the Septuagint version adds a third city, "On", which is Hellopolls: and a learned writer F23 is of opinion that Raamses and Heliopolis are the same, and observes, that Raamses, in the Egyptian tongue, signifies the field of the sun, being consecrated to it, as Heliopolis is the city of the sun, the same with Bethshemesh, the house of the sun, ( Jeremiah 43:13 ) and he thinks these cities were not properly built by the Israelites, but repaired, ornamented, and fortified, being by them banked up against the force of the Nile, that the granaries might be safe from it, as Strabo F24 writes, particularly of Heliopolis; and the Septuagint version here calls them fortified cities; and with this agrees what Benjamin of Tudela says F25, that he came to the fountain of "Al-shemesh", or the sun, which is Raamses; and there are remains of the building of our fathers (the Jew says) even towers built of bricks, and Fium, he says F26, (which was in Goshen, (See Gill on Genesis 47:11)) is the same with Pithom; and there, he says, are to be seen some of the buildings of our fathers. Here these cities are said to be built for treasure cities, either to lay up the riches of the kings of Egypt in, or as granaries and storehouses for corn, or magazines for warlike stores, or for all of these: some think the "pyramids" were built by the Israelites, and there is a passage in Herodotus F1 which seems to favour it; he says, the kings that built them, the Egyptians, through hatred, name them not, but call them the pyramids of the shepherd Philitis, who at that time kept sheep in those parts; which seems to point at the Israelites, the beloved people of God, who were shepherds.
F18 (Myom yrv) "principes tributorum", Pagninus, Montanus, Fagius, Drusius, Cartwright; so Tigurine version.
F19 Ut supra. (Canon Chron. Sec. 8. p. 107.)
F20 Euterpe, sive, l. 2. c. 158.
F21 Nat. Hist. l. 6. c. 28.
F23 Jablonski de Terra Goshen, dissert. 4. sect. 8.
F24 Geograph. l. 17. p. 553.
F25 Itinerar. p. 120.
F26 Ib. p. 114.
F1 Ut supra, (F20) c. 128.