Study Guide

Book of Exodus Stubbornness

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That same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people, as well as their supervisors, 'You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as before; let them go and gather straw for themselves. But you shall require of them the same quantity of bricks as they have made previously; do not diminish it, for they are lazy; that is why they cry, "Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God." Let heavier work be laid on them; then they will labor at it and pay no attention to deceptive words.' (NRSV 5:6-9)

And Pharaoh commanded the same day the taskmasters of the people, and their officers, saying, Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves. And the tale of the bricks, which they did make heretofore, ye shall lay upon them; ye shall not diminish ought thereof: for they be idle; therefore they cry, saying, Let us go and sacrifice to our God. Let there more work be laid upon the men, that they may labour therein; and let them not regard vain words. (KJV 5:6-9)

What a meanie. Why is Pharaoh doing this? It seems pretty nonsensical to make life harder for your own workers, especially when all they did was ask for time off for a religious holiday. This is unreasonable stubbornness, folks, and it's designed to make you, the reader, feel sympathetic towards the Israelites. Pretty sneaky.

Moses told this to the Israelites; but they would not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and their cruel slavery. (NRSV 6:9)

And Moses spake so unto the children of Israel: but they hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage. (KJV 6:9)

The text goes out of its way to explain why these people are being stubborn. Wouldn't you be a little annoyed about the extra work Pharaoh assigned? So is it okay to be stubborn in certain situations?

But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and I will multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. (NRSV 7:3)

And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt. (KJV 7:3)

By making Pharaoh stubborn about letting the Israelites go, God gives himself an opportunity to show off his miracles. God's out for himself here folks—the Israelites are helping him just as much as he's helping them.

On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, and they found none. The Lord said to Moses, "How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and instructions? See! The Lord has given you the sabbath, therefore on the sixth day he gives you food for two days; each of you stay where you are; do not leave your place on the seventh day." (NRSV 16:27-29)

And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none. And the Lord said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? See, for that the Lord hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. (KJV 16:27-29)

Doesn't it seem perfectly human to go out and gather food in the desert? Why is God so cranky? Poor Moses gets it from all sides here. The people complain to him about God, and God complains to him about the people.

The people quarreled with Moses, and said, "Give us water to drink." Moses said to them, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?" (NRSV 17:2)

Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why chide ye with me? wherefore do ye tempt the Lord? (KJV 17:2)

Stubbornness comes in all shapes and sizes. The people are demanding water; Moses is a staunch defender of God against the people's shaky faith; and God seems to want to continually prove himself.

Do the rock trick, Moses, and see what they say. That ought to make these people shut up for at least a few verses.

And Aaron said, "Do not let the anger of my lord burn hot; you know the people, that they are bent on evil." (NRSV 32:22)

And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief. (KJV 32:22)

Oh, those Israelites. It's kind of funny, right? The text is so self-aware. We are told by everyone—God, Moses, the writers—that the Israelites are a stubborn people. Aaron even uses it as an excuse for letting the Israelites worship the calf.

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