After this, Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, 'This is what Yahweh, God of Israel, says, "Let my people go, so that they can hold a feast in my honour in the desert." '
'Who is Yahweh,' Pharaoh replied, 'for me to obey what he says and let Israel go? I know nothing of Yahweh, and I will not let Israel go.'
'The God of the Hebrews has encountered us,' they replied. 'Give us leave to make a three -days' journey into the desert and sacrifice to Yahweh our God, or he will strike us with a plague or with the sword.'
The king of Egypt said to them, 'Moses and Aaron, what do you mean by distracting the people from their work? Get back to your forced labour.'
And Pharaoh said, 'Now that the people have grown to such numbers in the country, what do you mean by interrupting their forced labour?'
That very day, Pharaoh gave the order to the people's taskmasters and their scribes,
'Do not go on providing the people with straw for brickmaking as before; let them go and gather straw for themselves.
But you will exact the same quantity of bricks from them as before, not reducing it at all, since they are lazy, and that is why their cry is, "Let us go and sacrifice to our God."
Give these people more work to do, and see they do it instead of listening to lying speeches.'
The people's taskmasters and scribes went out to speak to the people and said, 'Pharaoh says this, "I shall not provide you with any more straw.
Go and collect straw for yourselves where you can find it. But your output is not to be any less." '
So the people scattered all over Egypt to gather stubble for their straw.
The taskmasters harassed them. 'You must complete your daily quota,' they said, 'just as when the straw was there.'
And the Israelites' foremen whom Pharaoh's taskmasters had put in charge of them, were flogged and asked, 'Why have you not fulfilled your quota of bricks made today as before?'
The Israelites' foremen went and appealed to Pharaoh. 'Why do you treat your servants like this?' they said.
'No straw is provided for your servants, yet still the cry is, "Make bricks!" And now your servants are being flogged! . .'
'You are lazy, lazy,' he retorted. 'That is why you say, "Let us go and sacrifice to Yahweh."
Get back to your work at once. You will not be provided with straw; all the same, you will deliver the quota of bricks.'
The Israelites' foremen saw they were in a difficult position on being told, 'You will not reduce your daily production of bricks.'
As they left Pharaoh's presence, they met Moses and Aaron who were standing in their way.
'May Yahweh look down at you and judge!' they said to them. 'You have brought us into bad odour with Pharaoh and his officials; you have put a sword into their hand to kill us.'
Moses went back to Yahweh and said, 'Lord, why do you treat this people so harshly? Why did you send me?
Ever since I came to Pharaoh and spoke to him in your name, he has ill-treated this people, and you have done nothing at all about rescuing your people.'