After that, Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, «Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Let my people go, that they may celebrate a feast to me in the desert.»
Pharaoh answered, «Who is the LORD, that I should heed his plea to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD; even if I did, I would not let Israel go.»
They replied, «The God of the Hebrews has sent us word. Let us go a three days’ journey in the desert, that we may offer sacrifice to the LORD, our God; otherwise he will punish us with pestilence or the sword.»
The king of Egypt answered them, «What do you mean, Moses and Aaron, by taking the people away from their work? Off to your labor!
Look how numerous the people of the land are already,» continued Pharaoh, «and yet you would give them rest from their labor!»
1 That very day Pharaoh gave the taskmasters and foremen of the people this order:
2 «You shall no longer supply the people with straw for their brickmaking as you have previously done. Let them go and gather straw themselves!
Yet you shall levy upon them the same quota of bricks as they have previously made. Do not reduce it. They are lazy; that is why they are crying, ‘Let us go to offer sacrifice to our God.’
Increase the work for the men, so that they keep their mind on it and pay no attention to lying words.»
So the taskmasters and foremen of the people went out and told them, «Thus says Pharaoh: I will not provide you with straw.
Go and gather the straw yourselves, wherever you can find it. Yet there must not be the slightest reduction in your work.»
The people, then, scattered throughout the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw,
while the taskmasters kept driving them on, saying, «Finish your work, the same daily amount as when your straw was supplied.»
The foremen of the Israelites, whom the taskmasters of Pharaoh had placed over them, were beaten, and were asked, «Why have you not completed your prescribed amount of bricks yesterday and today, as before?»
Then the Israelite foremen came and made this appeal to Pharaoh: «Why do you treat your servants in this manner?
No straw is supplied to your servants, and still we are told to make bricks. Look how your servants are beaten! It is you who are at fault.»
Pharaoh answered, «It is just because you are lazy that you keep saying, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifice to the LORD.’
Off to work, then! Straw shall not be provided for you, but you must still deliver your quota of bricks.»
The Israelite foremen knew they were in a sorry plight, having been told not to reduce the daily amount of bricks.
When, therefore, they left Pharaoh and came upon Moses and Aaron, who were waiting to meet them,
they said to them, «The LORD look upon you and judge! You have brought us into bad odor with Pharaoh and his servants and have put a sword in their hands to slay us.»
Moses again had recourse to the LORD and said, «Lord, why do you treat this people so badly? And why did you send me on such a mission?
Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has maltreated this people of yours, and you have done nothing to rescue them.»
1  The taskmasters and foremen: the former were higher officials and probably Egyptians; the latter were lower officials, chosen from the Israelites themselves. Cf ⇒ Exodus 5:14.
2  Straw was mixed with the clay to give the sun-dried bricks greater consistency.