The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Exodus 7

Exo 7:1

"The purpose of these plagues was manifold:
* (1) First, they gave a public manifestation of the mighty power of the Lord God. This, the very magicians were made to acknowledge: 'Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God' (Exo 9:16).
* (2) They were a Divine visitation of wrath, a punishment of Pharaoh and the Egyptians for their cruel treatment of the Hebrews. This the haughty monarch was compelled to admit -- 'Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste; and he said, I have sinned against the Lord your God, and against you' (Exo 10:16).
* (3) They were a judgment from God upon the gods (demons) of Egypt. This is taught in Num 33:4: 'For the Egyptians buried all their firstborn which the Lord had smitten among them; upon their gods also the Lord executed judgments.'
* (4) They demonstrated that Yahweh was high above all gods. This was confessed later by Jethro: 'Blessed be the Lord who hath delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of Pharaoh, who hath delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods; for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly He was above them.'
* (5) They furnished a complete testing of human responsibility [all men had to CHOOSE which way they would go!].
* (6) They were a solemn warning to other nations, that God would curse those who curse the Israelites (Gen 12:3). This was felt by the Philistines: 'Woe unto us! who shall deliver us out of the hand of this mighty God? this is the God that smote the Egyptians with all the plagues' (1Sa 4:8).
* (7) Finally, these miraculous plagues were evidently designed as a series of testings for Israel. This is taught in Deu 4:33,34, where Moses asked Israel, 'Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live? or hath God assayed to go and take Him a nation from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by stretched out arms, and by great terrors, according to all that the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?' (Exo 15:11)!" (Pink).

I HAVE MADE YOU LIKE GOD TO PHARAOH: "Made" is the Heb "nathan" = to give, as a gift. This was an appointment, or commission -- an honor bequeathed by a superior to an inferior.

There is no equivalent for the word "like" in the Hebrew (as in the NIV); nor is there an equivalent for the word "a", or any particular justification for translating the Heb "elohim" as "god" (as in the KJV). Rather: 'I have appointed you... God... to Pharaoh.' This is the doctrine of God-manifestation in full view: as far as Pharaoh is concerned, Moses (although a man) IS God!

God's meaning is clear enough; Moses was God's appointed representative, the mediator between God and Pharaoh. Moses was also the mediator between God and Israel, and God describes it in similar terms. He says of Aaron, 'He shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God.' This in fact sets up two layers of mediatorship: Moses mediated between God and Aaron, and Aaron mediated between Moses and the people. So... 'Moses said to Pharaoh' really means: 'Moses said to Aaron' AND 'Aaron said to Pharaoh'. The words came from Moses. Aaron was simply the middleman. So the writer [Moses himself, or a secretary/scribe?] did not bother to write over and over, 'And Moses said to Aaron, "Say to Pharaoh...", and Aaron said to Pharaoh...' Instead, he just wrote, 'Moses said...' And the same thing occurs in Exo 3:2,4, etc. It was an angel who happened to speak the words, but the angel was just the middleman. The words were God's, and the conversation was between God and Moses despite the fact that God used a messenger as a go-between.

"It seems appropriate to draw a parallel with the work of Jesus. In the NT order of things God speaks to Jesus, and he in turn speaks either directly to us in his words in the Gospels, or else through the apostles, and their words recorded in Scripture. Just as Moses has a prophet in the person of Aaron his brother, so too Jesus sent out apostles into the world to communicate the wonder of him and his Father. We too take on that mantle of Jesus's spokesperson when we speak of God to those people who are in the world. Just as Aaron the prophet was the brother of Moses the mediator, so our Mediator was made like his brethren, and it is our privilege now to speak on his behalf" (MV, Tes 72:289).

Exo 7:3

I WILL HARDEN PHARAOH'S HEART: "Not one of the usual two words for hardening, 'chazaq' or 'kabad'. Here the word is 'qashah', 'severe', 'harsh', 'hard(-pressed)', the only occasion on which it is used in Exo 1--15" (MV, Test 72:291).

Exo 7:4

DIVISIONS: Heb "sabaoth" = "hosts" or armies! Thus Yahweh became Yahweh sabaoth -- the LORD of hosts.

Exo 7:5

AND THE EGYPTIANS WILL KNOW THAT I AM THE LORD...: "Even those who are destined for destruction are to know and understand the significance and the consequence of the path they have chosen. God's Name and character are to be proclaimed even by their destruction, and it is one of the objects of His purpose that even they should know" (MV, Tes 72:290).

Exo 7:7

"The biographical detail -- of the ages of Moses and Aaron -- again serves to demarcate the mission to Pharaoh and the plagues which will follow. All the preliminaries are now in place, and the main narrative may now begin" (MV, Tes 72:291).

Exo 7:9

WHEN PHARAOH SAYS TO YOU, 'PERFORM A MIRACLE'...: "Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, 'Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you' " (Mat 12:38).

SNAKE: Heb "tannin", normally a word for a large reptile, and not the usual "nachash", serpent, which is found in the other rod-snake passage (Exo 4:3). Interestingly, a Pharaoh is addressed by the same word in Eze 29:3 (cp Isa 51:9).

Exo 7:10

AARON THREW HIS STAFF DOWN... AND IT BECAME A SNAKE: There was apparently a particular variety of snake in Egypt which under certain circumstances would become rigid and sticklike, so that when Aaron's rod becomes a serpent Pharaoh might well be lulled into unconcern. Perhaps he recognized this as a standard part of an Egyptian magician's repertoire (rather like a bunny pulled out of a hat). And so he calls his magicians to repeat the feat, and they oblige (v 11).

Exo 7:12

Christ (Aaron's snake-rod) swallowed up other "snakes" of sin. Christ was of our nature, to destroy our nature (Heb 2:14,15). "A mighty passion in the breast, like Aaron's rod, swallows up the rest" (Alexander Pope).

Exo 7:13

Pharaoh's heart being hardened: (1) by himself: Exo 7:13,14,22; 8:15,19,32; 9:7,34,35; and (2) by God: Exo 9:12; 10:1,20,27; 11:10; 14:4,8,17. (Although there is one, perhaps, "out of place", all others follow a pattern: first, Pharaoh hardens his own heart, and then -- later -- God hardens Pharaoh's heart.)

Two different words used: (a) "chazaq" (to be strong): Exo 7:13,22; 8:19; 9:12,35; 10:20,27; 11:10; 14:4,8,17; and (b) "kabad" (to be heavy): Exo 7:14; 8:15,32; 9:7,34; 10:1.

Exo 7:14

THEN THE LORD SAID TO MOSES: The ten plagues are all introduced by these words. In like manner, there are 10 sets of creative words, in Gen 1:1--2:3: "And God said..." Both creation and destruction proceed at the word of the LORD! His words are readily translated into actions. What we are witnessing here is the "uncreation" of Egypt, and the "re-creation" of Israel.

Finally, there are also the 10 commandments: the means by which every man "destroys" the old man, and "creates" the new man in himself.

The "uncreation" of Egypt is exemplified by the bringing of darkness (first plague, and the contrast of "Let there be light" in Gen 1), and the death of the firstborn (last plague, and the contrast of the creation of Adam, God's "firstborn"). In all the other plagues, God uses those things which He created in the beginning to bring destruction upon Egypt... or to "uncreate" Egypt!

Exo 7:15

GO TO PHARAOH IN THE MORNING AS HE GOES OUT TO THE WATER: Pharaoh comes to the river's edge early in the morning on a regular basis, most probably to officiate in some ceremonial rites. If the time referred to is that of the Nile inundation in Sept/Oct, then it may be that he was going to worship the god of the Nile -- Hapi. The flooding of the Nile was also regarded as a manifestation of the god Osiris.

Exo 7:17

BY THIS YOU WILL KNOW: This picks up Pharaoh's earlier arrogance: "I do not know the Lord" (Exo 5:2). He may not KNOW at this point, but he soon will!

WITH THE STAFF THAT IS IN MY HAND I WILL STRIKE THE WATER OF THE NILE, AND IT WILL BE CHANGED INTO BLOOD: That water, to Pharaoh a symbol of life, can at God's choice become a river of blood, a river that spells certain death to all in Egypt should it remain in such a state. Pharaoh is standing at the interface between death and life. Ultimately a large portion of his army would be destroyed in the Red Sea -- and the waters would be filled with literal blood!

Is this literal blood (plasma, red cells, white cells, etc)? The repetitive language would suggest so (vv 17,19,20,21). Or was this a particular intense and sudden example of what is called "algae bloom" -- which could lead to an intense reddening of the whole Nile River? By itself, this could kill the fish, and make the water unpalatable. There are other examples of something "become blood", which are probably to be interpreted symbolically: ie, Joel 2:31 (moon into blood); John 6:54 (blood = wine). If this were not a literal turning of water into blood, it would still be no less a miracle.

THE STAFF THAT IS IN MY HAND: Notice that these words, though spoken by Moses (or Aaron) to Pharaoh, are the quoted words of God. Therefore the staff in Moses' hand is in effect a staff in the hand of God Himself.

Exo 7:19

STREAMS: 7 streams of Nile delta. The river Nile was worshiped as a god: "father of life" and "father of gods". Osiris was the Egyptian god of the inundation. There was also a god of the Nile, by the name of Hapi. But God shows His power to be greater than both of these gods by His control over the waters of the Nile.

STREAMS AND CANALS... PONDS... RESERVOIRS: A number of words for different types of bodies of water are used in this verse to emphasize the universality of the experience Egypt will have to endure.

BLOOD WILL BE EVERYWHERE: The Egyptians abhorred blood.

Exo 7:20

The first 3 plagues were apparently upon Jews as well: ct Exo 8:22; Amos 4:10.

Exo 7:22

THE EGYPTIAN MAGICIANS DID THE SAME THINGS: Nothing new here. They just took credit for the deeds of Moses and Aaron.

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