Exodus 1:13

ESV So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves
NIV and worked them ruthlessly.
NASB The Egyptians used violence to compel the sons of Israel to labor;
CSB They worked the Israelites ruthlessly
NLT So the Egyptians worked the people of Israel without mercy.
KJV And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigor:
NKJV So the Egyptians made the children of Israel serve with rigor.

What does Exodus 1:13 mean?

The first phase of Pharaoh's oppression of the Israelites had been ineffective in stopping population growth (Exodus 1:12). Therefore, he started a second phase of oppression. The "ruthless" increase in enslavement goes beyond servitude to a new level of mistreatment. This is a crucial point when interpreting the Bible's stance on slavery. The terms "slave" and "slavery" as used in Scripture can include a wide variety of arrangements. The type of slavery described here: racial, permanent, hereditary, and inhuman, is sometimes referred to as "chattel slavery." This type of bondage, as will be made clear later in the story, is something abhorred by God.

Specific aspects of this forced labor are noted in verse 14 as the drudgery of making mortar and bricks, and field labor. The Jews who moved into Egypt formerly served as shepherds, watching sheep and likely other livestock in the land of Goshen during Joseph's lifetime. Now the Jews were kept from caring for their own livestock and fields to build store cities and work the fields of the Egyptians. This work arrangement would have resulted in women and children caring for herds and housing. Education and health care would suffer, as long hours would result in no time for learning and more sickness and injury. Pharaoh hoped to control population growth through harsh physical treatment. Though brutal, his efforts would soon move toward even more violent actions in the following verses.
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