on Exodus 1 :11
Set over them task-masters - שרי מסים sarey missim, chiefs or princes of burdens, works, or tribute; επιστατας των εργων, Sept. overseers of the works. The persons who appointed them their work, and exacted the performance of it. The work itself being oppressive, and the manner in which it was exacted still more so, there is some room to think that they not only worked them unmercifully, but also obliged them to pay an exorbitant tribute at the same time.
Treasure cities - ערי מסכנות arey miscenoth, store cities - public granaries. Calmet supposes this to be the name of a city, and translates the verse thus: "They built cities, viz., Miscenoth, Pithom, and Rameses." Pithom is supposed to be that which Herodotus calls Patumos. Raamses, or rather Rameses, (for it is the same Hebrew word as in Genesis 47:11, and should be written the same way here as there), is supposed to have been the capital of the land of Goshen, mentioned in the book of Genesis by anticipation; for it was probably not erected till after the days of Joseph, when the Israelites were brought under that severe oppression described in the book of Exodus. The Septuagint add here, και Ων, ἡ εστιν Ἡλιουπολις· and On, which is Heliopolis; i.e., the city of the Sun. The same reading is found also in the Coptic version.
Some writers suppose that beside these cities the Israelites built the pyramids. If this conjecture be well founded, perhaps they are intended in the word מסכנות miscenoth, which, from סכן sachan, to lay up in store, might be intended to signify places where Pharaoh laid up his treasures; and from their structure they appear to have been designed for something of this kind. If the history of the pyramids be not found in the book of Exodus, it is nowhere else extant; their origin, if not alluded to here, being lost in their very remote antiquity. Diodorus Siculus, who has given the best traditions he could find relative to them, says that there was no agreement either among the inhabitants or the historians concerning the building of the pyramids - Bib. Hist., lib. 1., cap. lxiv.
Josephus expressly says that one part of the oppression suffered by the Israelites in Egypt was occasioned by building pyramids. See Clarke's note on Exodus 1:14.
In the book of Genesis, and in this book, the word Pharaoh frequently occurs, which, though many suppose it to be a proper name peculiar to one person, and by this supposition confound the acts of several Egyptian kings, yet is to be understood only as a name of office.
It may be necessary to observe that all the Egyptian kings, whatever their own name was, took the surname of Pharaoh when they came to the throne; a name which, in its general acceptation, signified the same as king or monarch, but in its literal meaning, as Bochart has amply proved, it signifies a crocodile, which being a sacred animal among the Egyptians, the word might be added to their kings in order to procure them the greater reverence and respect.
on Exodus 1 :11
Taskmasters - The Egyptian "Chiefs of tributes." They were men of rank, superintendents of the public works, such as are often represented on Egyptian monuments, and carefully distinguished from the subordinate overseers. The Israelites were employed in forced labor, probably in detachments, but they were not reduced to slavery, properly speaking, nor treated as captives of war. Amosis had special need of such laborers, as proved by the inscriptions.
Treasure cities - "Magazines," depots of ammunition and provisions 1 Kings 9:19; 2 Chronicles 8:4; 2 Chronicles 32:28.
Pithom and Raamses - Both cities were situated on the canal which was dug or enlarged in the 12th Dynasty. The former is known to have existed under the 18th Dynasty. Both were in existence at the beginning of the reign of Rameses II, by whom they were fortified and enlarged. The name "Pithom" means "House or temple of Tum," the Sun God of Heliopolis (see Exodus 13:20). The name of Raamses, or Rameses, is generally assumed to have been derived from Rameses II, the Sesostris of the Greeks, but it was previously known as the name of the district. See Genesis 45:10; Genesis 47:11.
on Exodus 1 :11