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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 7

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

And the LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet.

The Lord said unto Moses. He is here encouraged to wait again on the king-not, however, as formerly in the attitude of a humble suppliant, but now armed with credentials as God's ambassador, and to make his demand in a tone and manner which no earthly monarch or court ever witnessed.

I have made thee a god - made, i:e., set, appointed; "a god" - i:e., he was to act in this business as God's representative, to act and speak in his name, and to perform things beyond the ordinary course of nature. [ 'ªlohiym (H430) gods, is evidently used only in a figurative sense; and nothing more is meant than that Moses should appear to Pharaoh as possessed of powers more than human-conferring blessings and inflicting plagues, both supernatural, at his own pleasure.]

And Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet, [ nªbiy'ekaa (H5030)] - thy interpreter or spokesman. For this Hebrew word, besides denoting one who, under divine influence, predicted future events, was also used to express the idea of one who spoke not his own thoughts, but what he received of God. [It is properly rendered in the Septuagint by profeetees (G4396), which primarily means a speaker, especially an authoritative speaker, who speaks in the name of another. This is its classic use, as explained by Ernesti ('Graecum Lex. Manuale'), profeetees, vates; proprie ille, qui consultantium interrogationes ad Deum, hujusque responsa oraculo edita ad consultantes referebat, et loco hominum eorumque nomine cum Deo oracula reddente et rursus loco atque nomine Dei cum hominibus agebat. Ho faskoon pro toon anthroopoon kai pro tou Theou.] This is its meaning in the passage before us. Moses was to be the ambassador or representative of God, and Aaron must be considered the speaker throughout all the ensuing scenes, even though his name is not expressly mentioned.

Verse 2

Thou shalt speak all that I command thee: and Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he send the children of Israel out of his land.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 3

And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt. I will harden Pharaoh's heart. This would be the result; but the divine message would be the occasion, not the cause of the king's impenitent obduracy. God did not assuredly harden the heart of the Egyptian monarch by any direct operation upon his mind. But the circumstances into which he was brought by the demands of Moses and Aaron, combined with his own constitutional temper and cherished character, would produce and render certain the bad effect described, without making that evil necessary in the sense of being unavoidable. The goodness and forbearance of God, so far as divine agency was concerned, were the only circumstances which, acting upon an imperious temper and a heart habitually evil, led to increasing and confirmed obduracy. But those circumstances would have been followed by a very different result, had the king's previous character and dispositions been benevolent or virtuous. The true view of this clause is, that while the Divine Being pre-intimated to Moses in words what His providence would permit to take place, it was not God, but Pharaoh himself, who was, properly and strictly speaking, chargeable with the sin. (See further the note at Exodus 11:10).

Verses 4-5

But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you, that I may lay my hand upon Egypt, and bring forth mine armies, and my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments.

Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you, that I may lay my hand upon Egypt. The succession of terrible judgments with which the country was about to be scourged would fully demonstrate the supremacy of Israel's God. It is a very partial and incomplete view of the momentous transactions which were enacted on the field of Zoan to consider them as designed to accomplish the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. That certainly was one part of the plan. But a far higher and more enlarged purpose was contemplated by those miraculous occurances-namely, that of opposing and destroying the power and influence of Egyptian idolatry. The contest was not so much with the monarch himself as with the idols in whom he trusted; and the genuine miracles served, by the repeated humiliations they gave to his pride and self-will, to expose the helplessness and futility of the idols in which he confided. In short, it was a controversy of the true God with false deities in the stronghold of idolatry; and it is necessary for the reader to carry this view along with him in the perusal of the ensuing narrative in order to perceive the special appropriateness and significance of the wonders which, in a continuous series, were done in the land of Ham.

Verse 6

And Moses and Aaron did as the LORD commanded them, so did they.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 7

And Moses was fourscore years old, and Aaron fourscore and three years old, when they spake unto Pharaoh.

Moses was fourscore years old ... The advanced age of the brothers was a pledge that they had not been readily betrayed into a rash or hazardous enterprise, and a proof, at the same time, that, under its attendant infirmities, they could not have carried through the work on which they were entering, had they not been supported by a divine hand.

Verse 8

And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 9

When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Shew a miracle for you: then thou shalt say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent.

When Pharaoh shall speak ... Since the king would naturally demand some evidence of their having been sent from God, Moses and Aaron are not only prepared to expect such an inquiry into the credentials of their commission, but instructed in what form the demonstration should be given.

Show a miracle for you, [ mowpeet (H4159)] - a wonder, a great and splendid deed (Gesenius); also a sign or proof of a divine commission (Deuteronomy 13:2-3; 1 Kings 13:3; 1 Kings 13:5). The Septuagint [Dote heemin seemeion ee teras] gives us a sign, or miracle. Both words are used. Deuteronomy 6:22; Nehemiah 9:10; Jeremiah 32:10. [ 'owt (H226), sign strictly refers to the proof of their delegated character, such as Pharaoh demanded, while mowpeet (H4159) applies to the prodigies which followed.]

And it shall become a serpent, [ yªhiy (H1961) lªtaniyn (H8577)] - shall be changed into a huge snake-like animal. It is a general term used for a sea monster (Genesis 1:21; Job 7:12); for a serpent (Deuteronomy 32:33; Psalms 91:13); for a dragon (Jeremiah 51:34); for a crocodile (Ezekiel 29:3). Here it denotes a serpent, as is indicated by the use of the specific term [ naachaash (H5175) (Exodus 7:15; also Exodus 4:3); Septuagint, drakoon (G1404)]. Notice has already been taken of the rod of Moses (Exodus 4:2); but rods were carried also by all nobles and official persons in the court of Pharaoh. It was an Egyptian custom, and the rods were symbols of authority or rank. Hence, God commanded his servants to use a rod, the emblematical use of which was so well known that the word was synonymous with power, commission. The rod was not only an emblem of power, but the immediate means of executing it. It is called Aaron's rod, because, though it was really the rod of Moses, Aaron bore it, and, on a nod or sign from the leader, accompanied every word by an appropriate wave of that staff.

Verse 10

And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the LORD had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent.

Aaron cast down his rod .... It is to be presumed that Pharaoh had demanded a proof of their divine mission.

Verse 11

Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments.

Then Pharaoh ... called the wise men and the sorcerers, [ lachªkaamiym (H2450), the wise men; wªlamªkashªpiym (H3784), and the sorcerers] - those who use magic formulas, incantations, etc. [Septuagint, tous farmakous]; [ charTumiym (H2748)], the magicians, (see the notes at Genesis 41:8). [ bªlahªTeeyhem (H3858), by their secret arts, mystic incantations, from laahaT (H3857), to wrap up, to use magic arts; Septuagint, tais farmakiais autoon.] His object in calling them was to ascertain whether this doing of Aaron's was really a work of divine power or merely a feat of magical art. The magicians of Egypt in modern times have long been celebrated adepts in charming serpents: and particularly by pressing the nape of the neck they throw them into a kind of catalepsy, which renders them stiff and immoveable, thus seeming to change them into a rod. They conceal the serpent about their persons, and by acts of legerdemain produce it from their dress, stiff, and straight as a rod. Just the same trick was played off by their ancient predecessors, the most renowned of whom, Jannes and Jambres (2 Timothy 3:8), were called in on this occasion. They had time after the summons to make suitable preparations; and so it appears they succeeded by their "enchantments" in practicing an illusion on the senses.

Verse 12

For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods.

But Aaron's rod ... This was what they could not be prepared for, and the discomfiture appeared in the loss of their rods, which were probably real serpents.

Verse 13

And he hardened Pharaoh's heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 14

And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh's heart is hardened, he refuseth to let the people go.

Pharaoh's heart is hardened. Whatever might have been his first impressions, they were soon dispelled; and when he found his magicians making similar attempts, he concluded that Aaron's affair was a magical deception, the secret of which was not known to his wise men. The achievements of the magicians may appear surprising to us, who are not accustomed to juggling performances; but in the East it is far from uncommon to witness transformations as marvelous as those which the Egyptian sorcerers effected before Pharaoh by their enchantments.

Snake-charming, as an art, has been practiced in Egypt from the earliest times until now; and the preparatory processes by which the magicians not only render innocuous, but obtain such marvelous command over one species of venomous reptiles, without depriving them of their fangs, have baffled the inquiries of the most acute and scientific observers. It is a secret which has been transmitted from father to son for centuries. One of the principal fears of the Psylli is that of turning snakes into sticks, by making them rigid and apparently dead; and as the magicians whom Pharaoh summoned converted their sticks into snakes, the presumption is that, as they anticipated the work to be required of them, either their sticks were disguised snakes, which, when released from narcotic influences, they produced as living reptiles, or they had concealed about their persons serpents, which, by dexterous legerdemain, they substituted for their sticks. In either case the reptiles would appear as called into existence and activity by their power. It is very probable, therefore, since the work of the magicians in the presence of Pharaoh is expressly said to be the result of their enchantments, that it was analogous to, and perhaps not more remarkable than the wonders still performed by the jugglers of modern Egypt, India, and China.

But the art of those ancient magicians, who were not common jugglers, but educated men, was enlisted in support of the idolatry of Egypt; and while the light of knowledge which has, to some extent, penetrated even modern Egypt, has necessarily circumscribed the range of the magician's practice, by depriving him of many ancient resources, yet it is not difficult to imagine what immense power those professors of occult science must have wielded over the minds of men in an age of darkness, when the superstition of Egypt was in all its glory. Nay, it is the opinion of many influential writers that the magicians of Pharaoh were possessed, in some degree, of supernatural power; because as Satan must, in the course of ages, have acquired, by his superior faculties and vast opportunities for observation, an acquaintance with physical laws and operations far beyond what the most eminent men of science have hitherto attained, or perhaps can attain in this life, he may, by his invisible influence, have imparted to his servants-the priests and abettors of idolatry-a knowledge of many secrets in nature which their own unaided researches could not have furnished. This is the opinion of Augustine, Calvin, Olshausen (not, indeed, in his 'Commentary,' but in a later work on 'II. Thessalonians, ch.

ii.'), Kurtz, Delitzsch, Gerlach, Hengstenberg, Trench ('On Miracles'), etc., that the magicians in Egypt stood in relation to a spiritual kingdom as really as did Moses and Aaron.

The feats they performed, though not entitled to the name of miracles-for it cannot be supposed that God would confer upon any creature, however great or exalted, the irresponsiblc power of suspending the laws of nature for evil purposes-were mirabilia, "lying wonders" (2 Thessalonians 2:9), intended to support a Pantheism-a religion of nature-which, in its indiscriminate adoration, rendered homage to evil spirits, serpent-worship being a principal part of the system; and their power over serpents was that by which the magi principally supported the dignity of their order as a guild. An assault upon it formed an appropriate commencement of the religions contest; and though, during the continuance of it, appearances were equal, the victory proved decidedly on Aaron's side, by the remarkable phenomenon of his rod swallowing up their rods, thus destroying their badge of office, and symbolically putting an end to their order altogether.

Thus, Moses and Aaron made their demand for the release of their enslaved countrymen on an entirely new ground. When they came as petitioners, Pharaoh could reject their request, and when they appeared turbulent demagogues, he could by material force or aggravating the severity of his exactions, crush the suspected sedition. But they claimed to be agents of a Divine Being who took an interest in the Hebrews, and showed their credentials by the exhibition of a miraculous sign. The case assumed a new aspect; and in order to give it due and deliberate consideration he summoned the magi, to ascertain through them whether this was a Power which he ought to obey. It is probable that, as "they also did in like manner with their enchantments, Pharaoh was persuaded that the Hebrew commissioners belonged to the same class of wonder-workers as his own magicians; or if supernatural agency was secretly felt and acknowledged, he concluded that in this miraculous power their God surpassed the gods of Egypt, without, however, indicating either a difference of nature or a complete supremacy. By either of these processes of thought Pharaoh's heart was hardened.

Verse 15

Get thee unto Pharaoh in the morning; lo, he goeth out unto the water; and thou shalt stand by the river's brink against he come; and the rod which was turned to a serpent shalt thou take in thine hand.

Get thee unto Pharaoh. Now therefore began those appalling miracles of judgment by which the God of Israel, through His ambassadors, proved His sole and unchallengeable supremacy over all the gods of Egypt, and which were the natural phenomena of Egypt in an unusual form, and in a miraculous degree of intensity. Rameses, Memphis, and Tanis (Isaiah 30:4) were three royal residences, connected with three principal cities; and it is probable that the court was at the time, when the next scene opens, held in the palace of the last mentioned place (Psalms 78:12). [Tanis, in Coptic, low; Septuagint, tanis.]

Zoan was one of the capitals in Lower Egypt, a very ancient city (Numbers 13:22), as its sculptured monuments also attest (Wilkinson's 'Ancient Egypt,' 1:, pp. 5, 6). Its exact situation was long a subject of dispute; but it is now generally allowed to have lain on the east of the Tanitic branch of the Nile, on the northwest of Tahpanhes, and not far from the Sea of Menzaleb. Extensive ruins indicate the spot. It was in a field in the neighbourhood of that city that the miracles were performed. 'The field of Zoan' is now a barren waste; a canal passes through it, without being able to fertilize it, owing to the quantity of nitre (Ezekiel 30:14). It is now inhabited by fishermen, is the resort of wild beasts, and is infested with reptiles and malignant fevers. But no one can look upon this field without a feeling of intense interest-the field where Moses performed those wonders that ended in the liberation of the Israelites from the oppression of the Egyptians.

Tanis, now Zan or San, stands at latitude 31 degrees 0' 10". Its mounds are very high, and of great extent, being upwards of a mile from north to south, and nearly three-fourths of a mile from east to west (Wilkinson's 'Egypt and Modern Thebes'). Moses must have resided in the immediate neighbourhood during that terrible period.

Lo, he goeth out unto the water - either for the purpose of ablutions or perhaps of devotions; because the Nile was an object of superstitious reverence-the patron deity of the country. It was most probably on occasion of a solemn religious ceremony; and assuming the harvest to have been past (see the notes at Exodus 5:11), this occasion would be on the commencement of the annual rise of the river called the Red Nile in June, when certain rites were performed, in presence of the king, to the river god, who was supposed to be Nu or Noah, and was hieroglyphically represented as a man with water issuing from his mouth, indicating the unknown source of the stream. It was called the Niloa, one of the principal festivals of Egypt: and Libanius pretends that the rites were thought of so much importance that, unless performed properly, the river would not rise to its proper height. It was celebrated by men and women in the capital of each nome, which seems to argue, like the statement of Herodotus, that the god Nilus had a temple in every large city; and a wooden statue of the river-god was carried in procession through the villages on that occasion (Wilkinson, in Rawlinson's 'Herod.,' b. 2:, ch. 90). This statement is verified by the monumental paintings, one of which at Jebel Selseleh, represents Rameses II. in the act of pouring out a libation to the Nile divinity, who, in the hieroglyphic inscription, is called Hapi Moon, the life-giving father of all existences (Champollion, quoted by Hengstenberg, 'Egypt and Books of Moses,' p. 110).

It might be that Moses had been denied admission into the palace; but be that as it may, the river was to be the subject of the first plague, and therefore he was ordered to repair to its banks with the miracle-working rod, now to be raised, not in demonstration, but in judgment, if the refractory spirit of the king should still refuse consent to Israel's departure for their sacred rites.

Verses 16-18

And thou shalt say unto him, The LORD God of the Hebrews hath sent me unto thee, saying, Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness: and, behold, hitherto thou wouldest not hear.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 19

And the LORD spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt, upon their streams, upon their rivers, and upon their ponds, and upon all their pools of water, that they may become blood; and that there may be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood, and in vessels of stone.

Say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt. Since Egypt never had but one river, and it is spoken of in the following verse under its ordinary name, Yª`or, in the singular (Genesis 15:18; Isaiah 19:5), the waters enumerated here must have been derivatives from the parent stream. [Wachªrªtaam the natural branches of the Nile in the Delta; yª'oreeyhem (H2975) the canals; 'agmeeyhem (H98), now Birket, ponds, stagnant pools, caused by the superfluous waters in the subsidence of the inundation, in marshy places, where reeds grew; miqweey (H4723) meeymeeyhem (H4325), a gathering of waters, artificial reservoirs, of which a noted specimen was lake Moeris; uwbaa`eetsiym (H6086) uwbaa'ªbaaniym (H68), in vessels of wood and stone.] This was pre-eminently an Egyptian custom. The Nile water, which is the only potable water in the country, is kept for domestic purposes in vessels of wood, more frequently of earthenware or stone, to filter. This is accomplished in a few days; but when necessity requires a more rapid filtration, the process is accelerated by an infusion of bruised almonds. Besides the vessels used for keeping water in private houses, there were stone resevoirs built up at the corners of the streets and in other place, where fresh water was stored for the poor (OEdmann, quoted in Keil and Delitzsch's 'Commentary,' p. 479).

Verse 20

And Moses and Aaron did so, as the LORD commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood.

Moses and Aaron did so, as the Lord commanded - i:e., they inflicted this first plague at the moment (Exodus 7:15) when the Nile god was receiving, or about to receive, the devoted homage of the Egyptian monarch. It was a blow to the system of that national worship, in which the Egyptians chiefly gloried.

Smote the waters. The act was symbolical: it was as if, by the energetic movement of the arm, Moses inflicted a wound upon the waters, and they were forthwith turned into blood (see the notes at Genesis 41:13). The colour of the water, which (previous to the rise of the river) is green, becomes at the commencement of that period red, from the immense quantity of slime which the impetuous tide rolls down from Sennaar, and yet, after it is filtered and the sediment is deposited, it is fit for use. But the red hue was supernaturally intensified, as appears from the universal destruction of the fish-an unprecedented occurrence, as well as by the loathsome state of the water.

There is no absolute neccessity for supposing that there was a chemical change of the water into a different fluid-in other words, that the water of the river was actually converted into blood; because the sanguineous hue was sufficient to symbolize the destruction of the enemies of Israel, and that was the design at once to remind them of the blood of the innocents shed in it, and to forewarn them of the retribution to be extracted (cf. 2 Kings 3:22; Joel 3:4). The miraculous character of this plague is manifested not only by the sudden alteration of the quality and colour of the river water, but by its occurrence consequent on the prediction, and the lifting of the rod of Moses.

Verse 21

And the fish that was in the river died; and the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river; and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 22

And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, neither did he hearken unto them; as the LORD had said.

The magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments. Little or no pure water could be got, and therefore their imitation must have been on a small scale, probably on some water that had been drawn, before the uplifting of the wonder-working rod of Aaron; for that the word "all" is not to be taken as denoting a literal universality, may be inferred from the analogous instance (Exodus 9:6). This is the true solution of the difficulty, and not that the experiment of the magicians was deferred until the river had been restored to its natural condition, when they took samples of the water, and, probably by the infusion of some colouring matter, showed Pharaoh that they could do, by their enchantments, something similar to the change produced by Moses and Aaron. It is evident that the attempt of the magicians was made shortly after the other, for the king waited until he had witnessed it, and then, satisfied that the result in both cases was effected by artificial means, he, with an air of reckless indifference, "turned and went into his house."

Verse 23

And Pharaoh turned and went into his house, neither did he set his heart to this also.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 24

And all the Egyptians digged round about the river for water to drink; for they could not drink of the water of the river.

All the Egyptians digged round about the river for water to drink. The polluted state of their river was a severe calamity, as the want of their favourite beverage, the Nile water, was a grievous privation. The only drinkable water that could be obtained during the continuance of the plague was dug out from subterranean springs among the sands.

Verse 25

And seven days were fulfilled, after that the LORD had smitten the river.

Seven days were fulfilled, after the Lord had smitten the river. The natural impression conveyed by these words is, that the plague continued for the space of a week; and Osburn ('Mon. Hist.,' 2:, p. 578) tries to explain it by saying, that in the flat plains of Lower Egypt, where the current in the various Nile branches is slow and sluggish, this is about the time the contents of the river would require to flow from the crown of the Delta to the sea. Others, as Hengstenberg, connect these words with the following section, as intimating that in seven days after the beginning of the first plague, without any reference to its close, the second plague was threatened. The words stand in this connection in our Hebrew Bibles, which continue until the close of Exodus 7:4 of the next chapter in our version. The first view is preferable, not only because the length of the interval between the plagues is nowhere specified, and the formula with which each successive plague is introduced is not connected in any other instance with the preceding.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Exodus 7". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/exodus-7.html. 1871-8.
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