Recently I was reading the text of Exodus 5 which tells of Pharaoh’s initial reaction to Moses’ request that Israel be permitted to journey into the wilderness to worship Yahweh:
That same day Pharaoh commanded the slave masters and foremen who were over the people: 7 “You must no longer give straw to the people for making bricks as before. Let them go and collect straw for themselves. 8 But you must require of them the same quota of bricks that they were making before. Do not reduce it, for they are slackers. That is why they are crying, ‘Let us go sacrifice to our God.’ 9 Make the work harder for the men so they will keep at it and pay no attention to lying words!” (Ex. 5:6-9).
That put me in mind of some bricks I saw in Egypt at Luxor. In these mud bricks you could clearly see light-colored bits of straw.
W. C. Kaiser writes, “Chopped straw was mixed in with the clay to make the bricks more pliable and stronger by first binding the clay together and then by decaying and releasing a humic acid similar to glutamic or gallotanic acid” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 2, p. 337).
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