The officers of the children of Israel … as they came out from Pharaoh, met Moses and Aaron who stood there to meet them. And they said to them, “Let the Lord look on you and judge, because you have made us abhorrent in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us.” (Exodus 5:19-21)
Apparently, the Egyptians had set Hebrew foremen over the people to ensure that the work of making bricks was done. The Bible says that when the Hebrews were unable to meet Pharaoh’s demand — make the same number of bricks but fetch your own straw — these the foremen were beaten. When they complained to Pharaoh, he dismissed them with “You are idle so get back to work.” He made certain they understood that their recent hardship was tied to God’s demand they be released. These officers also saw that the mind of Pharaoh and his servants was “set on mischief,” or more literally “evil.”
And so when they emerged from the meeting with Pharaoh, they encountered Moses and Aaron. The message they delivered to the two brothers was simple: “You have made our miserable lives even more miserable. You have give Pharaoh an excuse to kill us.” I think it is fair to say that these men were very angry with Moses and perhaps God as well; they obviously held Moses responsible for what was happening to them. Furthermore, it is reasonable to conclude they feared Pharaoh more than they feared God. At the very least, Pharaoh had planted doubts in their mind regarding their deliverance and had successfully caused many of them to look upon Moses with contempt. In other words, Pharaoh had incited division among God’s people.
Of course, we know that this is what he does the best. He creates situations that breed strife, envy, fear and doubt in order to render division among God’s people. Then when he has done this, he beings to pick off the stragglers, the isolated and the weak. He truly is, as Peter described him, a “roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8) which means he typically avoids attacking the group at large but looks for those who have been divided out of the main body — the mavericks, the loners and the discontented.
That is one of the reasons why we are admonished time and again to continue in the unity of the faith — that we might be one people under one King. Furthermore, Paul encouraged us not to move away, “from the hope of the gospel which you heard” (Colossians 1:23) lest we find ourselves outside of the main body, isolated and cut off. We are called to be one people who dwell together in unity, not numerous factions haphazardly formed because someone got scared or offended. Let us, then, remember the words of King David who sang:
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)
Blessings and Shalom,