1 And the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. 2 You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, 4 Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. 5 The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.”
-Again, God is saying he give Moses the ability to do miracles like God Himself and at the same time He is saying that it will fail! Why would he have Moses do this if it will not work? God answers this, “The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord”. More then just them, we will know too. The whole world will know and Egypt will not attack Israel for a very long time. Not until 1 Kings 14:25 is Israel attacked by their neighbor to the south. It likely takes that long not only to rebuild into a superpower again but also long enough that these historical accounts become more like legends and they become doubted. God’s goal is to fulfill His promise and establish the nation of Israel for all of time, even yet into the future today, and to make a very clear statement of who He is and whatever He says, happens. Always, even if hail has to rain down, water turned to blood, and everyone’s firstborn has to die. God’s will is always going to be done and nothing can stop it.
-There is a controversy surrounding the interpretation of “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart”. This statement seems to be claiming that God was forcing Pharaoh not to give into Moses. In other words, God was making Pharaoh be evil. This cannot be since God cannot sin against Himself. Since we know this, let’s solve this mystery rationally. There are those who believe in something called “double-predestination” who believe not only is God the only one who can make you believe and there is no free will when it comes to salvation but also it can make you never believe. I do not agree with this interpretation because it would mean God can do evil against Himself and there would be no point to this life if there isn’t some kind of choice taking place. If we were only robots, we could be programmed whichever way God wants and why would He program us with the ability to turn against Him? So it can’t be that God literally is making Pharaoh evil. Instead through these chapters we are given three different phrasings for what is going on. In Exodus 7:3, as we just read, it says, “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart”. In Exodus 7:13 in a few verses it reads, ”Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened…as the Lord had said”, which seems to be indicating God simply is saying what will happen and didn’t necessarily “make” Pharaoh’s heart hard directly. In Exodus 8:15, it reads, “he hardened his heart”, which implies Pharaoh is hardening his own heart. In Exodus 9:7 is says, “But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened”, implying that something or someone hardened it already. Then again in Exodus 10:20 it reads, “But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart”. So now thinking logically assuming that everything that is said in the bible is true, then we have to assume all these statements are 100% true. But how can God harden Pharaoh’s heart and Pharaoh hardened his own heart at the same time? Did God simply nudge it in that direction and Pharaoh took it from there? What happened was what happens throughout time which is God is in complete control of all events in the world. He knows exactly what will happen and what choices we will make. God knew that by sending Moses and Aaron as He did, it would only upset Pharaoh and Pharaoh would decide to make things harder for Israel and be more stubborn. So in a sense, God did harden Pharaoh’s heart because He orchestrated events that would frustrate Pharaoh and bring out his stubbornness. But Pharaoh hardened his own heart because he was still choosing to be stubborn and resist the obvious signs from the heavens that something supernatural was going on and he ought to listen. It may be more accurately said that God “allowed” Pharaoh’s heart to become hardened for the purpose of making a grand display and statement that He is the God of the Israelites and His will shall be done. This situation could have been handled in a way where Pharaoh would have been more cooperative. Recall in Genesis 12 when Abraham passed off Sarah as his sister and the Pharaoh and the whole house were infected with “great plagues” most likely STD’s. It only took one miracle to convince Pharaoh and he let them go peacefully and with a great amount of possessions. God could have done the same but instead did things to play on this Pharaoh’s stubbornness so that there can be a grander display made to glorify Himself.
6 Moses and Aaron did so; they did just as the Lord commanded them. 7 Now Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh. 8 Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 9 “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Prove yourselves by working a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’” 10 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. 11 Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. 12 For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. 13 Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said.
-Two difficult interpretations in one chapter? Yikes. So what sort of “secret arts” gave the Egyptians the power to do the same miracle of turning a staff into a snake? The short answer is, we don’t know because it is not explained. But many have interpreted this as merely the Egyptians being able to do tricks that made it appear a staff turned into a snake and it did not. However, the wording of the passage does not say it was a trick or it only appeared to be a snake or a staff first. Instead, it says, “also did the same” which implies that the Egyptian were indeed literally able to duplicate the miracle. But the question of course is how? Another interpretation claims God helped the Egyptians here to as part of hardening them against letting Israel go but I doubt this because of what was explained above and it is implied the Egyptians already knew how to do this and have done it before. There is something going on here that has not been explained in the bible yet but is revealed later is that God is not the only being with power. There are no other gods but there are fallen angels and demons as well as satan himself. These beings do have some kind of power and so there is no reason in the world to believe that magic and occult practices aren’t possible. We see in the bible that in 1 Samuel 28, King Saul seeks advice and goes to a medium to summon the spirit of Samuel. The medium is scarred of being punished since sorcery is obviously outlawed in Israel and Saul swears that he will not. She does become startled when Samuel is summoned but this is because she realizes that she is summoning a ghost for the King of Israel. She does not seem startled that this action worked and it seems she was known for doing this and it has worked in the past enough to give her a reputation for it. We know sorcerers today are almost entirely fake but that does not mean that even today, real one’s aren’t possible. The bible speaks often of spiritual warfare and we know demon possession is entirely possible and there’s no reason to believe it is not possible today. You cannot have a spiritual warfare if there were not two sides at war so we know evil with some kind of power exists. So we must assume that the Egyptians, even though they worshiped their own Egyptian gods, were unknowingly working with demons or satan to achieve such power. If God were all there is and there was no evil side trying to manipulate man as satan did in the garden, then we would all come to God and there would be no other religions. Make no mistake, that there is a spiritual battle with powers we can’t comprehend. Just make sure you are on the right side!
-One other note to make here is the word translated to snake in Hebrew is “tanniym” which could also mean serpent, dragon, dinosaur, or simply a “beast”. We assume snake since it does work here and a staff is narrow shaped like a snake but it could be possible and would explain how Aaron’s staff could swallow the others if his staff became a great beast where as theres became little beasts.
The First Plague: Water Turned to Blood
14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is hardened; he refuses to let the people go. 15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning, as he is going out to the water. Stand on the bank of the Nile to meet him, and take in your hand the staff that turned into a serpent. 16 And you shall say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you, saying, “Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness.” But so far, you have not obeyed. 17 Thus says the Lord, “By this you shall know that I am the Lord: behold, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall turn into blood. 18 The fish in the Nile shall die, and the Nile will stink, and the Egyptians will grow weary of drinking water from the Nile.”’” 19 And the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, their canals, and their ponds, and all their pools of water, so that they may become blood, and there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, even in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.’” 20 Moses and Aaron did as the Lord commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood. 21 And the fish in the Nile died, and the Nile stank, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. There was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. 22 But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts. So Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said. 23 Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart. 24 And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the Nile. 25 Seven full days passed after the Lord had struck the Nile.
-What we are going to see in these plagues is that each one is an attack by God directly at the religion and believes of the people of Egypt. Their greatest believe is that the Nile is the source of all life for Egypt and it is the means to which “the gods” communicate and send blessing from. So it makes sense that God should attack the Nile first. Again we see that the magicians of Egypt are somehow able to turn water into blood and the phrasing again is “did the same” which implies it was not a trick. If you think about the magnitude of what is taking place, does it not make sense that satan would be fighting with everything he has to prevent God establishing a kingdom of Israel? This isn’t just God rescuing some people, this is God establishing the roots of what eventually will become the New Earth in the end, one without sin, without death, and without satan. Think about the consequences if satan were able to stop God from making an Israel. 1) he would prove God a liar because God had promised to create a nation of Israel and this would mean that God is not actually God. 2) The promised messiah that had already been prophesied in Genesis 3:15 would not be born of Israel of the house of David. 3) God’s plan for the Israelites to be like the Levites to the whole world could not happen. 4) God would not have a nation He can work through to show the world He is God. Just like when satan deceived Judas to betray Jesus thinking he was winning by having him killed, Pharaoh’s resistance was all part of God’s plan to begin with. satan must have thought he was winning by keeping Pharaoh from letting the Israelites go. I imagine a spiritual tug of war taking place but God being God who truly can do all was only tugging enough to keep things interesting between the two sides but He could have tugged completely and won at any time but the delayed victory and the closeness of the match just makes God seem all the more magnificent and powerful.