Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible, by John Wesley, [1754-65], at sacred-texts.com
exo 5:1Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Let my people go - Moses, in treating with the elders of Israel, is directed to call God the God of their fathers; but, in treating with Pharaoh, they call him the God of Israel, and it is the first time we find him called so in scripture. He is called the God of Israel, the person, Gen 33:20, but here it is Israel the people. They are just beginning to be formed into a people when God is called their God. Let my people go - They were God's people, and therefore Pharaoh ought not to detain them in bondage. And he expected services and sacrifices from them, and therefore they must have leave to go where they could freely exercise their religion, without giving offence to, or receiving offence from, the Egyptians.
exo 5:2Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice? - Being summoned to surrender, he thus hangs out the flag of defiance. Who is Jehovah? I neither know him nor care for him; neither value nor fear him. It is a hard name that he never heard of before, but he resolves it shall be no bugbear to him. Israel was now a despised, oppressed people, and by the character they bore he makes his estimate of their God, and concludes that he made no better figure among the gods, than his people did among the nations.
exo 5:3We pray thee, let us go three days journey into the desert - And that on a good errand, and unexceptionable: we will sacrifice to the Lord our God - As other people do to theirs; lest if we quite cast off his worship, he fall upon us - With one judgment or other, and then Pharaoh will lose his vassals.
exo 5:5The people are many - Therefore your injury to me is the greater, in attempting to make them rest from their labours.
exo 5:6The task - masters, were Egyptians, the officers were Israelites employed under them.
exo 5:7Straw - To mix with the clay, or to burn the brick with.
exo 5:8They are idle - The cities they built for Pharaoh, were witnesses for them that they were not idle; yet he thus basely misrepresents them, that he might have a pretence to increase their burdens.
exo 5:9Vain words - Those of Moses and Aaron.
exo 5:14In thy own people - For if they had given us straw, we should have fulfilled our task.
exo 5:21The Lord look upon you, and judge - They should have humbled themselves before God, but instead of that they fly in the face of their best friends. Those that are called to public service for God and their generation, must expect to be tried not only by the threats of proud enemies, but by the unjust and unkind censures of unthinking friends. To put a sword in their hand to slay us - To give them the occasion they have long sought for.
exo 5:22He expostulated with him. He knew not how to reconcile the providence with the promise, and the commission he had received. Is this God's coming down to deliver Israel? Must I who hoped to be a blessing to them become a scourge to them? By this attempt to get them out of the pit, they are but sunk the farther into it. Wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people - Even when God is coming towards his people in ways of mercy, yet sometimes he takes such methods that they may think themselves but ill - treated: when they think so, they should go to God by prayer, and that is the way to have better treatment in God's good time. Why is it that thou hast sent me - Pharaoh has done evil to this people, and not one step seems to be taken towards their deliverance. It cannot but sit very heavy upon the spirits of those whom God employs for him, to see that their labour doth no good, and much more to see that it doth hurt, eventually, though not designedly.