After this presentation to Israel’s leaders, Moses and Aaron went and spoke to Pharaoh. They told him, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Let my people go so they may hold a festival in my honor in the wilderness.”
“Is that so?” retorted Pharaoh. “And who is the LORD ? Why should I listen to him and let Israel go? I don’t know the LORD, and I will not let Israel go.”
But Aaron and Moses persisted. “The God of the Hebrews has met with us,” they declared. “So let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness so we can offer sacrifices to the LORD our God. If we don’t, he will kill us with a plague or with the sword.”
Pharaoh replied, “Moses and Aaron, why are you distracting the people from their tasks? Get back to work!
Look, there are many of your people in the land, and you are stopping them from their work.”
That same day Pharaoh sent this order to the Egyptian slave drivers and the Israelite foremen:
“Do not supply any more straw for making bricks. Make the people get it themselves!
But still require them to make the same number of bricks as before. Don’t reduce the quota. They are lazy. That’s why they are crying out, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifices to our God.’
Load them down with more work. Make them sweat! That will teach them to listen to lies!”
So the slave drivers and foremen went out and told the people: “This is what Pharaoh says: I will not provide any more straw for you.
Go and get it yourselves. Find it wherever you can. But you must produce just as many bricks as before!”
So the people scattered throughout the land of Egypt in search of stubble to use as straw.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian slave drivers continued to push hard. “Meet your daily quota of bricks, just as you did when we provided you with straw!” they demanded.
Then they whipped the Israelite foremen they had put in charge of the work crews. “Why haven’t you met your quotas either yesterday or today?” they demanded.
So the Israelite foremen went to Pharaoh and pleaded with him. “Please don’t treat your servants like this,” they begged.
“We are given no straw, but the slave drivers still demand, ‘Make bricks!’ We are being beaten, but it isn’t our fault! Your own people are to blame!”
But Pharaoh shouted, “You’re just lazy! Lazy! That’s why you’re saying, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifices to the LORD .’
Now get back to work! No straw will be given to you, but you must still produce the full quota of bricks.”
The Israelite foremen could see that they were in serious trouble when they were told, “You must not reduce the number of bricks you make each day.”
As they left Pharaoh’s court, they confronted Moses and Aaron, who were waiting outside for them.
The foremen said to them, “May the LORD judge and punish you for making us stink before Pharaoh and his officials. You have put a sword into their hands, an excuse to kill us!”
Then Moses went back to the LORD and protested, “Why have you brought all this trouble on your own people, Lord? Why did you send me?
Ever since I came to Pharaoh as your spokesman, he has been even more brutal to your people. And you have done nothing to rescue them!”