John Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

11 (Exodus 1:11)

Verse 11

11.Therefore they did set over them. The Egyptians devised this remedy for gradually diminishing the children of Israel. Since they are subjects, they may afflict them with burdens, to depress them; and this slavery will weaken and decrease them. But their power over them as subjects should not have been carried so far as to impose upon inoffensive persons, to whom they had granted free permission to reside among them, these new tributes; for they ought first to have considered upon what conditions they had been admitted. The exaction, then, by which Pharaoh broke faith with them, was in itself unjust; but the crime to which he proceeded was still greater, because he did not simply seek for pecuniary advantage, but desired to afflict the wretched people by the heaviness of their burdens. For the Israelites were not only compelled to pay tribute, but were put to servile labor, as Moses immediately adds. As to the two cities, it is doubtful in what sense they were called miscenoth (15) This word is sometimes taken for cellars and granaries, or repositories of all things necessary as provision; but, as it sometimes signifies “fortresses,” it will not be an unsuitable meaning, that they were commanded to build with their own hands the prisons, which might prevent them from departing. For it is clear from many passages (Genesis 47:11; Exodus 12:37; Numbers 33:3) that Rhameses was situated in that part of the country, and we shall presently see that the children of Israel went out from Rhameses.

- John Calvin's Commentary on the Bible