Afterward Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, "Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Let My people go that they may celebrate a festival for Me in the wilderness." But Pharaoh said, "Who is the Lord that I should heed Him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, nor will I let Israel go." They answered, "The God of the Hebrews has manifested Himself to us. Let us go, we pray, a distance of three days into the wilderness to sacrifice to the Lord our God, lest He strike us with pestilence or sword." But the king of Egypt said to them, "Moses and Aaron, why do you distract the people from their tasks? Get to your labors!" And Pharaoh continued, "The people of the land are already so numerous, and you would have them cease from their labors!"
That same day Pharaoh charged the taskmasters and foremen of the people, saying, "You shall no longer provide the people with straw for making bricks as heretofore; let them go and gather straw for themselves. But impose upon them the same quota of bricks as they have been making heretofore; do not reduce it, for they are shirkers; that is why they cry, 'Let us go and sacrifice to our God!' Let heavier work be laid upon the men; let them keep at it and not pay attention to deceitful promises."
So the taskmasters and foremen of the people went out and said to the people, "Thus says Pharaoh: I will not give you any straw. You must go and get the straw yourselves wherever you can find it; but there shall be no decrease whatever in your work." Then the people scattered throughout the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw. And the taskmasters pressed them, saying, "You must complete the same work assignment each day as when you had straw." And the foremen of the Israelites, whom Pharaoh's taskmasters had set over them, were beaten. "Why," they were asked, "did you not complete the prescribed amount of bricks, either yesterday or today, as you did before?"
Then the foremen of the Israelites came to Pharaoh and cried: "Why do you deal thus with your servants? No straw is issued to your servants, yet they demand of us: Make bricks! Thus your servants are being beaten, when the fault is with your own people." He replied, "You are shirkers, shirkers! That is why you say, 'Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.' Be off now to your work! No straw shall be issued to you, but you must produce your quota of bricks!"
Now the foremen of the Israelites found themselves in trouble because of the order, "You must not reduce your daily quantity of bricks." As they left Pharaoh's presence, they came upon Moses and Aaron standing in their path, and they said to them, "May the Lord look upon you and punish you for making us loathsome to Pharaoh and his courtiers--putting a sword in their hands to slay us." Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, "O Lord, why did You bring harm upon this people? Why did You send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has dealt worse with this people; and still You have not delivered Your people."
Then the Lord said to Moses, "You shall soon see what I will do to Pharaoh: he shall let them go because of a greater might; indeed, because of a greater might he shall drive them from his land."