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God declares to Moses that Pharaoh will not believe the miracles: the rod of Moses is changed into a serpent: the magicians perform the like prodigy: the rod of Moses devours their rods: Moses changes the water into blood: the magicians do the same: Pharaoh hardeneth his heart.
Before Christ 1491.
Exodus 7:1. I have made thee a god— See the note on ch. Exodus 4:16.; see also John 10:34.
Exodus 7:2. Thou shalt speak all that I command thee— That is, thou shalt speak it to Aaron, and Aaron shall speak it to Pharaoh. This explains the former verse.
Exodus 7:5. The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord— The great design of this wonderful exhibition of miracles, was to prove to the Egyptians, and so to all the world, that the Jehovah of the Jews, the Almighty Deliverer of his people Israel, was not only superior to theirs, and to all the gods of the nations; but also, that he was the Sovereign Ruler and Controuler, as well as the Maker, of all created things: and if we consider the miracles in this view, we shall find that they all tend to demonstrate the uncontroulable sovereignty of Jehovah over all nature. See ch. Exo 10:2 Exodus 14:4; Exodus 14:18, &c.
Exodus 7:7. Moses was fourscore years old— So long, and indeed much longer, the Israelites had groaned under the severities of persecution and bondage: yet, though thus afflicted, they were not cast off and rejected by their God. The great lesson in trials and afflictions is, to hold fast our integrity; to persevere in faith and patience unto the end. The age and gravity of Moses and Aaron must have given them great weight and authority before Pharaoh.
REFLECTIONS.—We have here,
1. Moses enjoined to proceed, and furnished with power to work wonders in the sight of Pharaoh, and with a spokesman in his brother Aaron. And though Pharaoh will not hearken, he shall feel God's heavy hand, and Israel shall be delivered. Note;
(1.) The contest is very unequal between a worm of earth and the mighty God. (2.) However ministers of Christ may meet with opposition, they shall have success. (3.) They who will not bow before the sceptre of grace, shall break beneath the rod of judgment.
2. The obedience of Moses and Aaron at last, without farther reluctance. It is well if at last, though late, we desire to give ourselves up wholly to the work and will of God.
Exodus 7:9. When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Shew a miracle— Hence it appears evidently, that miracles were judged, by the common sense of mankind, a proper and sufficient proof of a commission from God. Our Saviour constantly made this appeal: believe me for the work's sake:—the works which I do, they witness for me, &c. Grotius has an ingenious conjecture on this place, that the custom of ambassadors bearing a caduceus or rod in their hands, was first derived from this event to the neighbouring nations; and from them to the Greeks and Romans: and it is remarkable, that the caduceus of Mercury, the messenger of the gods, was formed of two serpents twined round a rod.
Exodus 7:11. Then Pharaoh also called the wise-men, &c.— Moses and Aaron performing their commission according to the commandment of the Lord, and working the miracle, which, no doubt, Pharaoh demanded, in proof of their Divine legation; he, desirous to know whether the God of Israel was superior to his gods, sent for the wise-men and the sorcerers to counterwork this miracle of Moses and Aaron; and they also did in like manner, we are told, with their inchantments. The word להטי lahati, the LXX and Theodotion render by φαρμακειαι, inchantments by drugs; and the word, says Parkhurst upon it, properly refers to the burning or heating their magical drugs in incantations, which frequently made a part in those infernal ceremonies, and, no doubt, was originally designed to do honour to, and procure the assistance of their gods, the fire and air. Thus the witch Canidia, in Horace, orders her abominable ingredients, flammis aduri colchicis, to be burnt in magic flames, Epod. 5: and Ovid in his Metamorphoses, lib. 7: describes Medea, "firing the infected wood on the flagrant altars; purging thrice with flames, and thrice with sulphur, while the medicine boils in hollow brass, and, swelling high, labours in foaming bubbles." The same word is used Genesis 3:24. Other derivations are given of the word; but none which appear more satisfactory. That the wise-men and sorcerers are only other appellations for the magicians, is evident from the verse itself. For an explanation of the word magicians, see note on Genesis 41:8. The two chief of these magicians are mentioned by St. Paul, 2 Timothy 3:8. Artapanus, in Eusebius, calls them priests, inhabiting the country above Memphis. The word, rendered sorcerers, is derived from an Arabic original, signifying to disclose or reveal; it is always, in the Hebrew Bible, applied to some species of conjuring; and may therefore have particular reference to the pretended discovery of things hidden or future by magical means. The LXX constantly render it by φαρμακον, a drug, or some of its derivatives, to use pharmaceutic inchantments, or to apply drugs, whether vegetable, mineral, or animal, to magical purposes. The reader may find some account of these abominable processes, as practised by the later heathens, in Archbishop Potter's Antiquities of Greece, b. 2 Chronicles 18:0.; see Parkhurst and Stockius.
Exodus 7:12. For they cast down every man his rod— The ancient magicians were a species of profane conjurors, who, claiming Divine assistance, used frequently to contend with each other, in proof of the power of those deities whose assistance they claimed. That they were aided by the craft and subtlety of those diabolic beings, whom they idolized and worshipped, there can be no question, from the history of idolatry. But one would have thought, that the evident superiority of Moses and Aaron, discovered by their rod, (that is, the serpent, into which the rod was turned,) swallowing up the rods, i.e. the serpents of the magicians, would have convinced them, that the power by which these Israelites acted, was really divine. This was an evident prognostic of the event of the ensuing contest, wherein Jehovah vanquished and destroyed all the gods of Egypt in reality, as he did here in symbols. It has been remarked, that a serpent, in the Egyptian Hieroglyphics, denoted the Supreme Deity; see Euseb. Praep. Evang. lib. 1: &c. Some have supposed, and Josephus among the rest, that what the magicians produced, were only the appearances of serpents: but the text knows no such distinction. Nothing can be plainer, than that real serpents were produced by the magicians. "If it be asked," say the Authors of the Universal History, "why God suffered the magicians to act thus, by a power borrowed from the devil, in order, if possible, to invalidate those miracles which his servant wrought by his Divine power; the following reasons may be given for it: First, It was necessary that those magicians should be suffered to exert the utmost of their power against Moses, in order to clear him from the imputation of magic or sorcery: for, as the notion of such an extraordinary art was very rife, (and with good reason,) not only among the Egyptians, but all other nations; if they had not entered into this strenuous competition with him, and been at length overcome by him, both the Hebrews and Egyptians would have been apter to attribute all his miracles to his skill in magic, than to the Divine Power. Secondly, It was necessary, in order to confirm the faith of the wavering and desponding Israelites, by making them know the difference between Moses's acting by the power of GOD, and the sorcerers by that of Satan. And, lastly, in order to preserve them afterwards from being seduced, by any false miracles, from the true worship of God."
Exodus 7:13. And he hardened Pharaoh's heart— And Pharaoh's heart was hardened says Dr. Waterland. The same phrase occurs, Exo 7:22 and ought in ours, as in other versions, to have been rendered the same in both places.
Exodus 7:14. Pharaoh's heart is hardened— In the Hebrew, is made heavy: i.e. What was designed for his conviction, has proved the means only of aggravating his guilt, and rendering his stoney heart more heavy and obdurate.
Exodus 7:15. Lo, he goeth out unto the water— It was most probably Pharaoh's custom to go to wash himself in the Nile, see ch. Exo 2:5 that, after purification, he might pay the proper worship to his gods; see ch. Exodus 8:20. Some have supposed, that he went to pay his devotion to the river Nile itself, which was sacred among the Egyptians. But it is most reasonable to believe, that he went for the purpose of bathing or religious purifications.
Exodus 7:17. In this thou shalt know, &c.— Words and signs had been hitherto unavailing with Pharaoh: Moses therefore is now commanded to stretch the awful rod of punishment over him; and to threaten him with such severe plagues, as should cause him to acknowledge that Jehovah, of whom he had said so tauntingly, who is Jehovah? I know him not, ch. Exodus 5:2.
The waters which are in the river—shall be turned to blood— The Author of the Book of Wisdom, ch. Exo 2:6-7 observes, that this giving the Egyptians bloody water to drink, was for a manifest reproof of that commandment whereby the infants were slain in the water. It is not expressed how far this plague extended: the words of the text would lead one to believe, that all the water of the Nile was thus affected; from which three terrible evils ensued. All their fish, Exo 7:18 which was their common food, died: the waters of the river corrupted and stunk; and thus were rendered unfit for drinking, as well as for all other ordinary uses. Ainsworth observes, that, in allusion to this plague, the contrary happiness of the Holy Land is described by the healing of the waters; so that all creatures shall live, and the fish be multiplied, Ezekiel 47:8-9. It is to be remembered, that none of these plagues affected the Israelites; and this tended still more to prove the power and providence of Jehovah.
Exodus 7:18. The Egyptians shall loathe to drink of the water of the river— There are a few wells in Egypt; but their waters are not drank, being unpleasant and unwholesome: the water of the Nile is what they universally make use of in this country; being looked upon to be extraordinarily wholesome, and at the same time extremely delicious; "so delicious," says the Abbot Mascrier, in his letters, (Leviticus 1:0: p. 15, 16.) "that one would not wish the heat of the country should be less, nor to be delivered from the sensation of thirst. The Turks find it so exquisite, that they excite themselves to drink it, by eating salt. It is a common saying among them, that if Mohammed had drank of it, he would have begged of God not to let him die, that he might always have done so. They add, that whoever has once drank of it, he ought to drink of it a second time. This is what the people of the country told me, when they saw me return after a ten years' absence. When the Egyptians undertake the pilgrimage of Mecca, or go out of their country on any other account, they speak of nothing but the pleasure they shall find at their return in drinking the Nile-water. There is nothing in their esteem to be compared to this satisfaction: it surpasses that of seeing their relations and families again. Agreeably to this, all those who have tasted of this water, allow that they never met with the like in any other place. In truth, when one drinks of it the first time, it seems to be water prepared by art: it has something in it inexpressibly pleasing and agreeable; and we ought to give it, perhaps, the same rank among waters, which Champagne has among wines. I must confess, however, that it has, to my taste, too much sweetness: but its most valuable quality is, that it is wonderfully salutary. Drink it in what quantities you will, it never in the least incommodes you. This is so true, that it is no uncommon thing to see some persons drink three buckets of it in a day, without finding the least inconvenience. When I give these encomiums, it is right to observe, that I speak only of that of the Nile, which, indeed, is the only water there that is drinkable. Well-water is detestable and unwholesome: fountains are so rare, that they are a kind of prodigy; and as for rain-water, it would be in vain to attempt preserving that, since scarcely any falls in Egypt." Perhaps there may be some of the embellishments of a Frenchman in this very remarkable account: the fact, however, in general, is indubitable; and hence, a person who never before heard of this delicacy of the water of the Nile, and of the large quantities which are drank of it on that account, will, we presume, find an energy in the words of the text, which he never observed before. The Egyptians shall loathe to drink of the waters of the river. They will loathe to drink of that water, which they used to prefer to all the waters of the universe: loathe to drink of that, which they had wont eagerly to long for; and will rather choose to drink of well-water, which is, in their country, so detestable.
Exodus 7:19. And the Lord spake, &c.— Pharaoh despising the Divine threatening, the Lord orders Moses to put it into execution: and Aaron is accordingly commanded to stretch out his hand upon the waters of Egypt; that is, not to stretch out his hand over all the waters of Egypt; but to stretch it out in token of the Divine malediction which was immediately to operate upon the waters.
Upon the waters, &c.— Travellers tell us, that it is common for the Nile-water to turn red and become disagreeable in one part of the year; whence, perhaps, some may imagine, that this corruption of the waters was only a natural occurrence: but, besides the event's taking place before the usual time, immediately upon the smiting of the river by Moses and Aaron, and its being followed by other wonders; the universality of the corruption, and the effects it produced, evidently shew the finger of God. Let us consider the universality of it with a little distinctness: a variety of words are made use of to set it forth, nor is that variety made use of without a meaning. The Nile was the only river in Egypt; but it was divided into branches, and entered by several mouths into the sea. Numberless canals were formed by art for better watering the lands; several vast lakes, by the Nile's inundations; and many reservoirs, for retaining the water, in order to the watering the gardens and plantations, or having sweet water when the river corrupts.
All these seem to be distinctly pointed out in the text: the words of which, however, in our versions are not so well chosen as might be wished, nor so happily selected as those of the translation of Pagninus and Arius Montanus, which runs thus: super flumina—rivos—paludes—omnem congregationem aquarum: upon their rivers, (or branches of their river,) their canals—their lakes, or large standing waters—and all reservoirs of water of a smaller kind. Now, had it been a natural event, the lakes and reservoirs, which had then no communication with the river, on account of the lowness of the water at that time of the year, could not have been infected; which yet they were, according to the Mosaic history; and they were forced to dig wells, instead of resorting to their wonted reservoirs. The effects which the corruption produced, prove the same thing in the second place. Had it been a sort of corruption which happened not unfrequently, would the Egyptians have been surprised at it? or would their magicians have attempted to imitate it? would they not rather have shewn it to be a natural and common event? and is the common corruption such as kills the fish in the Nile? That in the time of Moses did; but nothing of that sort appears in modern travels. We see then, that a variety of evident circumstances concur to determine it a miracle.
Both in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone— "To what purpose," says the Author of the Observations, "is this minuteness? this corrupting the waters which had been taken up into vessels before the stretching out the fatal rod? and, if vessels are mentioned at all, why are those of wood and stone distinguished from each other?—But perhaps these words do not signify, that the water, which had been taken up into their vessels, was changed into blood. The water of the Nile is known to be very thick and muddy; and they purify it either by a paste made of almonds, or by filtrating it through certain pots made of white earth, which, it seems, is the preferable way; and therefore the possession of one of these pots is thought a great happiness; see Le Bruyn, tom. 2: p. 103 and Thevenot, part 1: p. 245 and 260. Now, may not the meaning of this passage be, that the water of the Nile should not only look red and nauseous like blood, in the river, but in their vessels too, when taken up in small quantities; and that no method whatever of purifying it should take place; but whether drank out of vessels of wood, or out of vessels of stone, (by means of which they were wont to purge the Nile-water) it should be the same, and should appear like blood? There is no doubt but they were accustomed, even in early days, to clarify the water of the Nile; and the merely letting it stand to settle, was hardly sufficient for the early elegance which obtained in Egypt. So simple a method then, as filtrating vessels, may easily be supposed to be as ancient as the times of Moses; and therefore it seems natural to suppose, that partly to them the threatening in the text refers."
Exodus 7:22. And the magicians—did so with their inchantments— There was perhaps no great difficulty for the magicians to imitate this miracle; and, when all the water of the land was turned into blood, to make a change in some small quantity, sufficient to mock the credulity of Pharaoh's hardened heart. The true test of their power, and of that of their gods, would have been, to have purified by a word these waters, which the Omnipotence of Jehovah had thus terribly corrupted. But God, as an expositor observes, by permitting these deluded men thus far to succeed in their opposition, took occasion to render their impious folly more conspicuous; since, by permitting them to change the waters into blood, and putting it out of their power to restore them to their former purity; and by permitting them to produce frogs which they were not able to remove; he only put it in their power to increase those plagues upon themselves and their countrymen, at the same time that they demonstrated their own inability. See Bishop Kidder. If we consider that the Nile was not only the prime source of great plenty, but the great object of Egyptian honour and adoration; that their country was watered wholly by it; and that they gloried particularly in it; we shall see the striking propriety of this miracle, as well as the extreme severity of the punishment. See Plutarch de Isid. & Osir. There is nothing, says Plutarch, which the Egyptians have in greater veneration than the Nile. It is also to be observed, that the Egyptians, in ancient times, used to sacrifice annually, at the opening of the canals, a girl to the Nile, as a tribute paid to that river, for all the benefits received from it; and, therefore, "this turning its waters into blood," as Owen on Miracles remarks, "was a just and suitable punishment for such bloody cruelties." See Univ. Hist. vol. 1: p. 413.
Exodus 7:25. And seven days were fulfilled— It seems to follow from these words, compared with the beginning of the next chapter, that, after this plague had continued one whole week, God removed it, in order to introduce another display of his power.
REFLECTIONS.—God gives warning before he strikes. Vengeance is his strange work; but when admonition is vain, then he draws the glittering sword. The judgment is heavy: all the water turned into blood, their fish destroyed, their land thus threatened with dearth, and themselves to die with thirst. The waters of the Nile were the cause of Egypt's fruitfulness, but now they are its plague; so easily can God turn our comforts into curses. They had stained its streams with the blood of Hebrew children, and now they shall in return have blood to drink. Thus God will repay in kind; and this done openly for their greater conviction. Truth never needs or seeks the covert. Learn hence, (1.) How ill we can do without the most common blessings: the want of water only would destroy us. (2.) That we must blame our sins as the cause of all our sufferings.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Exodus 7". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent