Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens. They built storage cities for Pharaoh: Pithom and Raamses. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out. They were grieved because of the children of Israel. The Egyptians ruthlessly made the children of Israel serve, and they made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and in brick, and in all kinds of service in the field, all their service, in which they ruthlessly made them serve.
When it says that the taskmasters afflicted them, it actually is saying that they were trying to crush them with the labor. The Egyptian leadership thought that by overworking the children of Israel, they would break them, but it didn’t work at all. In fact, they had even more children and continued to spread out.
Some people claim that this happened during the time of the Raamses dynasty because of the name of the storage cities that the Hebrews were building. The Bible’s chronology makes it clear that this could not have been the case. The Raamses kingdom would happen much later. Remember from Genesis that the word Raamses was used to describe a section of the land Egypt. It makes sense for them to name a city after the land. Names of people and places can exist before popular leaders. There are streets in Portland, Oregon named “Clinton,” but they were made long before President Clinton took office. I know this because I have lived during this time and have witnessed it. At the same time, there are high schools in Portland named after people like Jefferson and Franklin, and streets named after Washington. This is not an isolated case. There is also a Bush street that pre-existed
both President’s Bush!
It’s also good to know that it is not likely that the Hebrews built the pyramids. Evidence suggests that they are too old and the Bible doesn’t say that. The Bible does tell us that the children of Israel were building cities but it also mentions that they were field workers. In fact, there is historical evidence that suggests that they were involved in digging irrigation. It is clear that the work that they were doing was very difficult and they were being treated “ruthlessly.”
In all of this difficult labor, they continued to become a force to contend with. Trying to overwork them didn’t work at all.