After this presentation to Israel's leaders, Moses and Aaron went to see Pharaoh. They told him, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'Let my people go, for they must go out into the wilderness to hold a religious festival in my honor.'"
"Is that so?" retorted Pharaoh. "And who is the LORD that I should 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. "Let us take a three-day trip into the wilderness so we can offer sacrifices to the LORD our God. If we don't, we will surely die by disease or the sword."
"Who do you think you are," Pharaoh shouted, "distracting the people from their tasks? Get back to work!
Look, there are many people here in Egypt, and you are stopping them from doing their work."
That same day Pharaoh sent this order to the slave drivers and foremen he had set over the people of Israel:
"Do not supply the people with any more straw for making bricks. Let them get it themselves!
But don't reduce their production quotas by a single brick. They obviously don't have enough to do. If they did, they wouldn't be talking about going into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to their God.
Load them down with more work. Make them sweat! That will teach them to listen to these liars!"
So the slave drivers and foremen informed the people: "Pharaoh has ordered us not to provide 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 in search of straw.
The slave drivers were brutal. "Meet your daily quota of bricks, just as you did before!" they demanded.
Then they whipped the Israelite foremen 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 us like this," they begged.
"We are given no straw, but we are still told to make as many bricks as before. We are beaten for something that isn't our fault! It is the fault of your slave drivers for making such unreasonable demands."
But Pharaoh replied, "You're just lazy! You obviously don't have enough to do. If you did, you wouldn't be saying, 'Let us go, so we can offer sacrifices to the LORD.'
Now, get back to work! No straw will be given to you, but you must still deliver the regular quota of bricks."
Since Pharaoh would not let up on his demands, the Israelite foremen could see that they were in serious trouble.
As they left Pharaoh's court, they met Moses and Aaron, who were waiting outside for them.
The foremen said to them, "May the LORD judge you for getting us into this terrible situation with Pharaoh a and his officials. You have given them an excuse to kill us!"
So Moses went back to the LORD and protested, "Why have you mistreated your own people like this, Lord? Why did you send me?
Since I gave Pharaoh your message, he has been even more brutal to your people. You have not even begun to rescue them!"
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. (New Living Translation - The Bible Online)