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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 7

The Church Pulpit CommentaryChurch Pulpit Commentary

Verse 6

AUTHORITY AND OBEDIENCE

‘As the Lord commanded them, so did they.’

Exodus 7:6

Note the two outstanding facts of this Lesson—( a) the absolute obedience of Moses and Aaron; ( b) the Divine credentials that attested their message. They spoke their weak words as God bade them, and He made those words authoritative by the miracles that followed.

I. The absolute obedience.—The R.V. carefully emphasises this: ‘And Moses and Aaron did so; as the Lord commanded them, so did they.’ While Jehovah was everything to them, He was nothing to Pharaoh; less, indeed, than the very least of Egypt’s gods. To the natural man how futile it would seem to summon a monarch so great and proud to a humbling and distasteful task, and that only in a name he despised! Every Gospel preacher probably feels this, especially in heathen lands. How often are we tempted to alter our message; for Paul’s saying, ‘to the Greeks foolishness,’ is still true. But no! Moses and Aaron spoke their feeble words boldly, and God attested them by miracles.

II. Authority.—It is for God, not us, to establish the authority of His own message, and He will whenever we speak it in the full obedience of faith. The bold utterance of weak words, at His command and in quiet faith, commits Him to supporting acts of power; and when, as in this case, the opposition intensifies unexpectedly, the magician’s rod also turning into serpents, His power increases in proportion. ‘ Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods.’ The brave preaching of the seemingly feeble Gospel is God’s way of power.

Illustration

(1) ‘God’s warnings will not continue for ever. To me, as to Pharaoh, will come a final message. How do I know when it will come? How did Pharaoh know? He did not know, nor do I. He was gratified, like a fool, by the removal of each plague, and went on in his folly. Let me not scorn him till I am sure I am not doing the same.’

(2) ‘One of the prime objects of the plagues was to establish the superiority and supremacy of the God of the Hebrews, so that Pharaoh might be led to acquiesce in them, and to obey his behests. To a certain extent Satan may by his messengers mimic the Divine working, but Aaron’s rod swallows up their rods. Who can stand when He appeareth? The Nile was one of their chief deities, and seemed all necessary, but our dearest idols must be smitten to bring us to God.’

Verse 14

THE HARDENED TYRANT

‘Pharaoh’s heart is hardened.’

Exodus 7:14

I. It is necessary to recognise a change which the R.V. makes. The A.V. renders, ‘I will harden Pharaoh’s heart’ (ver. 3); the R.V., simply that his ‘heart was stubborn’ (ver. 14). In the first stages of this terrible conflict, such was the case. There was no Divine intention in the hardening of the tyrant’s heart. On the contrary, everything that could be devised was done to show him who Jehovah was, and to turn him from his purpose. That God’s dealings really issued in hardening was not the end of those dealings, but incidental to them.

II. Speaking after the manner of men, what God meant for good, Pharaoh’s nature transmuted into evil. God sent sunshine to soften, but in Pharaoh’s condition of mind it only hardened. God sent rain to fertilise, but when it touched the surface of his heart it turned to ice. God’s love showered flowers, but as in Dante’s poem, when they entered the atmosphere of his soul, they were changed to hot ashes, like those that cover the top of Vesuvius.

III. There were three processes in Pharaoh’s case, clearly indicated by the words used. First, his heart was hardened; this was the natural and automatic result of hearing and not doing. Next, he hardened his heart, by deliberately setting his will against his conscience. And, lastly, God hardened his heart, by leaving him to follow his own evil ways.

Illustrations

(1) ‘The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is predicted in Exodus 4, but nothing of the kind takes place, until a solemn demand has been made upon him and contumeliously refused. From the beginning of chapter 5 down to chapter Exodus 9:34 we have two forms of statement intermixed; the one, that the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and the other that he hardened his own heart. From this stage onward, Pharaoh seems to have fallen into an incurable obstinacy; and we are told in another place only that God hardened his heart. And so it is that would not ever passes into could not; that under the stern law of mental habits grounded in nature, the evil we have chosen takes deeper and deeper root, and at last passes beyond our power to recall. There are gradations of impenitence marked; an opportunity of free pardon is offered, and lighter punishments foreshadow the greater. When it is said that Pharaoh hardened his heart, we are viewing the voluntary and human side; when it is said that God hardened his heart, we see the judicial and penal.’

—W. E. Gladstone.

(2) ‘The Almighty made him a monument of judgment. In that passage of Romans 9:17, the Divine side only appears, whilst the history of Pharaoh in the book of Exodus shows the double picture of human action arousing Divine condemnation. Men are “raised up” to different elevations; some, like David and Daniel, use their positions for God’s glory; others, like Pharaoh and Saul, use them for their own selfish ends, and falling from their high estate, exhibit the justice of God, after despising and rejecting his long continued goodness and mercy.’

(3) ‘It is an awful thing when the human will comes into collision with the Divine. If it will not bend it must break. For once Pharaoh, the child of an imperial race, had met his superior, and had to learn that it were better for a potsherd to strive with potsherds than for a mortal to enter the lists with his Maker. At the same time God is not unreasonable. He sets Himself to show us who He is, who demands our homage.’

Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Exodus 7". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/exodus-7.html. 1876.
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