Chapter 7

  1. Moses and Aaron Before Pharaoh

    • When the Lord spoke to Moses in Egypt, He told him to tell Pharaoh everything He had told Moses.

    • But Moses said, “Why would Pharaoh listen to such an unworthy, poor speaker like me?”

    • The Lord answered, “I will make you seem like God to Pharaoh and Aaron will be your prophet. You tell Aaron what I command you to say and Aaron will declare to Pharaoh that he must release the Israelites. However, I will harden Pharaoh’s heart so that I can show My miraculous signs to all of Egypt. Pharaoh won’t listen, but I’ll inflict judgment upon the land and bring My people out of Egypt. After all of this, the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.”

      • What does God mean when He says He will make Moses like God to Pharaoh?

      • Morgan puts it like this, “He should stand before Pharaoh in the place of God, not only delivering His messages, but accompanying them with such actions of power as should demonstrate the authority of those messages.”

      • Guzik explains, “Pharaoh had rejected any direct dealing with Yahweh, as he said in Exodus 5:2: Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? Therefore, God would then deal with Pharaoh through Moses…This idea carries over into the New Testament, especially when Paul wrote that believers are like letters written by Jesus that the whole world reads (2 Corinthians 3:2-3). People that won’t look to God look at us; those who won’t read the Bible read our life.”

    • Did God harden Pharaoh’s heart or was Pharaoh responsible for hardening his own heart? For a refresher on this topic refer to the notes for Exodus Chapter 4, where we covered it in depth.

      • Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?

        • God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in order to reveal Himself to those who had rejected Him by bringing judgment upon Egypt. Basically, the Egyptians (like ALL human beings) were stubborn and had to learn the hard way.

        • Sometimes we get the impression that God’s revelation to the Egyptians was futile- that they all rejected Him anyway. But this is not the case, as Kaiser points out, individuals other than the Israelites left Egypt in the mass exodus, “These miracles would also be an invitation for the Egyptians to personally believe in the Lord. Thus the invitation was pressed repeatedly…and some apparently did believe, for there was a ‘mixed multitude’ (Exodus 12:38) that left Egypt with Israel.”

    • Moses was 80 and Aaron was 83 when they went to speak to Pharaoh.

      • Not so old when your ancestors live to be in their 130’s and 140’s.

    • The Lord told Moses and Aaron, “When the Pharaoh tells you to perform a miracle, have Aaron throw down his staff in front of him, and it will turn into a snake.”

      • We are all accustomed to the translation of “snake” in reference to what the staff turned into. However, Kaiser explains the Hebrew word our translations come from, “When cast down it became a tannin (‘great serpent,’ ‘dragon,’ or ‘crocodile’)….The connection of the name tannin with the symbol of Egypt is clear from Psalm 74:13 and Ezekiel 29:3.”

        • For this reason, you may come across Bible art depicting the scene like the image below rather than the snake images we are used to seeing:

    • Moses and Aaron did as they were told. In response, Pharaoh called in the magicians of Egypt and these sorcerers were also able to perform the same miracle using occult practices.

      • As an interesting side note, in II Timothy 3:8, Paul identifies these two magicians as Jannes and Jambres. Extra-biblical sources such as the Book of Jasher, and the Talmud (a book of Jewish civil and ceremonial law, and legends) both mention and give more detail about Jannes and Jambres. Does the fact that Paul mentions Jannes and Jambres mean that all of the information found in these extra-biblical works is dependably accurate and divinely inspired? No. It merely means that the particular information regarding the names of Pharaoh’s magicians is indeed correct. There are assuredly numerous secular works that contain truth along with untruth. If you’re interested in reading what the Book of Jasher says about Jannes and Jambres, it is recorded in Jasher 79:20-30. Of course, if you choose to read it, keep in mind that this work is in no way divinely inspired and could therefore be in error. For more information about extra-biblical sources such as the Apocryphal works, you can check out my blog post, “Why Do Catholic Bibles Have More Books Than Protestant Bibles?”

      • Were the Egyptian magicians really able to make their staffs turn into snakes? There is debate, and a case can be made for either option.

        • The NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “…it is also possible that some sleight of hand was being practiced. When they could not reproduce the plague of gnats, they declared that it was ‘the finger of God’ (8:19), indicating that their own actions were not a manifestation of divine power.”

      • It is also a very real possibility, however, that these magicians were indeed able to replicate this miracle.

        • Cole notes, “Magic was very prevalent in Egypt, and a number of papyri deal with the subject.”

        • Guzik points out that demonic arts are fully capable of demonstrating “miracles” and indeed in the last days the Antichrist will be deceiving many with his miraculous capabilities, “Apparently, this wasn’t mere magic; the enchantments of the Egyptian magicians were examples of dark, demonic power showing itself in what at least appeared to be miracles…Miracles – or at least apparent miracles – are part of Satan’s arsenal. Paul later wrote on this theme: The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they may be saved (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10).”

    • Aaron’s staff swallowed the magicians staffs, but Pharaoh didn’t listen.

      • Guzik notes, “By showing God’s superior power regarding a symbol of Egypt (the crocodile or similar creature) was a clear message to Pharaoh and everyone else.”

  1. The First Plague: Water Turned to Blood

    • Then the Lord told Moses, “Pharaoh still refuses to let the people go. He goes down to the Nile River every morning. Tomorrow morning wait for him on the bank of the river with your staff that turned into a snake and tell him this: ‘The God of the Hebrews sent me to tell you to let His people go so that they can worship Him, but you haven’t listened, so I will perform a sign so that you’ll know I am the Lord. I’ll strike the water of the Nile with this staff and it will turn into blood. The fish will die, the river will stink, and the water will be undrinkable.”

    • The Lord then instructed Moses to tell Aaron to hold out his staff over the all the water in Egypt- the rivers, canals, ponds, and reservoirs- and turn them all to blood; even water standing in bowls and pots.

    • Moses and Aaron did exactly as the Lord instructed them.

      • These passages inspire a few questions.

1. Did the water in the Nile literally turn to blood?

        • The HCSB notes, “The Old Testament uses the Hebrew word translated ‘blood’ in two different senses- in the literal sense, to refer to the life giving fluid in the circulatory system of human beings and animals, and in the figurative sense, to refer to the color of blood. Either interpretation is possible here: the Nile could have become literal blood, or it could have turned the color of blood due to the presence of some toxin within it. In either case, the Bible is describing a true miracle. God produced the results He said He would, and He did it when He said would.”

            1. Could the ten plagues have been natural occurrences? For example, in the case of the Nile turning to blood, it is true that when the Nile reaches a high flood stage, it picks up powdered red dirt that carries organisms, resulting in the water turning red and the death of fish.

          • Again, I’ll turn to the HCSB response, “Miracles are acts of God, but God can make them happen in various ways. As Creator of the universe He can work miracles through nature, or outside of the natural order when it suits His purpose. The events of Joshua 3:16 may be an example of a miracle occurring when God worked through natural forces. But God is not bound by nature; He is Spirit (John 4:24) and exists outside the material order. Thus, He can act in ways that differ from the patterns we call ‘scientific laws.’ Christ’s resurrection from the dead is the greatest miracle of this type. The biblical description of the events associated with the ten plagues allows for the possibility that God used natural processes to bring judgments on Egypt’s gods (Exodus 12:12) and set His people free from Egyptian captivity. If God chose to work outside the natural order, it is reasonable to assume that the waters of the Nile were transformed for a time into actual blood…Which of these methods did God employ to create the ten plagues? Since both account for all the biblical facts, either is a viable possibility.”

              1. Why did God judge the Egyptians with such cruelty when He could have rescued His people without bringing such horrors upon an entire nation of people?

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible gives the best explanation I’ve seen to date, “Rescuing the Hebrew people from oppression by the Egyptians was not the main purpose of the plagues. If that had been the case, one climactic miracle would have been sufficient. The real purpose of the plagues was to communicate who God is- to Israel, to Egypt, and to the surrounding nations. The Israelites did not know who the Lord was. They had lived for hundreds of years in Egypt, one of the most polytheistic cultures the world has ever known. Whatever the Israelites may have believed about God when they arrived in Egypt, they were certainly infected with the prevailing pagan views during their sojourn there (see Exodus 32). The plagues revealed the Lord’s absolute superiority over everything in creation. These cataclysmic events were specifically aimed at the elements Egyptians particularly revered and worshiped- the Nile River (7:14-25), amphibians (8:1-15), insects (8:16-32), animals (9:1-12), plants (9:13-10:20), the sun (10:21-29), and life itself (ch 11; 12:29-32). Thus Yahweh demonstrated to both the Egyptians and the Israelites that He alone is God. The gods of Egypt supposedly had power over fertility, animals, death, and other aspects of life, but God showed that they had no power to thwart Him. The plagues are often referred to as ‘signs,’ just as Jesus’ miracles were (eg 7:3, 10:1-2, John 2:23, 4:48, 12:37). The plagues show that worshiping created things brings God’s judgment. Jesus’ miracles, on the other hand, show all that is deadly in creation- illness, the demonic, and even death itself- can be overcome by God’s gift of life.”

      • Guzik gives some helpful information regarding the organization and inflicting of the plagues, “There are nine in total (the tenth is the slaying of the firstborn, which is in a class by itself), and they are grouped together in threes. In this structure of threes, the first two plagues only come after warning and a call to repentance; the third plague in each set comes without warning.”

      • Guzik gives amazing insight into the significance of the first plague from an Egyptian perspective:

          • “Specifically, this first plague was directed against the numerous Egyptian river deities. The Nile itself was virtually worshiped as a god by the Egyptians, and the Lord God shows that He has complete power over the Nile, not some river god.”

          • “’The “plagues” are described by cognate Hebrew words, all meaning “blow” or “stroke”.’ (Cole) Each plague was as if God were to strike or beat a deity worshiped by the Egyptians…The Egyptian god Khnum was said to be the guardian of the Nile, and this showed he was unable to protect his territory. The god Hapi was said to be the spirit of the Nile, and was brought low by this plague. The great god Osiris was thought to have the Nile as his bloodstream; in this plague he truly bled. The Nile itself was worshiped as a god, and there are papyri recording hymns sung in praise of the river.”

The Egyptian god Khnum
Egyptian god Hapi
Egyptian god Osiris with his wife, goddess Isis
          • “There is a significant mention of something like this in a papyrus from this general period known as the Ipuwer Papyrus. It actually says (Ipuwer 2.10) that the Nile was blood and undrinkable. The same papyrus repeatedly mentions that servants left their masters.”

Ipuwer papyrus, National Archaeological Museum, Leiden, Netherlands.

* Read more about the Ipuwer Papyrus at: http://biblicalarchaeologygraves.blogspot.com/2014/12/bonus-29-ipuwer-papyrus.html

    • However, the magicians were able to duplicate this miracle using occult practices, so Pharaoh didn’t listen. The Egyptians had to dig along the riverbank to find drinkable water.

      • “Digging in wells, the magicians of Egypt found fresh water to replicate the Lord’s plague upon the Nile. The magicians turned fresh well water into blood…Bible scholars warmly debate if this was a magician’s trick or if these enchantments were miracles from Satan’s hand. The evidence seems to lean in favor of them being miracles from Satan’s hand.” (Guzik)

      • Guzik makes the brilliant observation in his commentary that if the magicians had really wanted to do something impressive they should have made the bloody water clean again. He follows with this, “They didn’t because it seems that Satan cannot perform a constructive, cleansing miracle. He can bring supernatural destruction, but not goodness.”

        • Meyer states the same, “Alleviation of human suffering is no part of the programme of the devil or his agents. That can only come from Jehovah, through the believing cry of his servants.”