Exodus 7

CHAPTER VII

The dignified mission of Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh-the one to be

as God, the other as a prophet of the Most High, 1, 2.

The prediction that Pharaoh's heart should be hardened, that God

might multiply his signs and wonders in Egypt, that the inhabitants

might know he alone was the true God, 3-4.

The age of Moses and Aaron, 7.

God gives them directions how they should act before Pharaoh, 5, 9.

Moses turns his rod into a serpent, 10.

The magicians imitate this miracle, and Pharaoh's heart is hardened,

11-13.

Moses is commanded to wait upon Pharaoh next morning when he should

come to the river, and threaten to turn the waters into blood if he

did not let the people go, 14-18.

The waters in all the land of Egypt are turned into blood, 19, 20.

The fish die, 21.

The magicians imitate this, and Pharaoh's heart is again hardened,

22, 23.

The Egyptians sorely distressed because of the bloody waters, 24.

This plague endures seven days, 25.

NOTES ON CHAP. VII

Verse 1. I have made thee a god] At thy word every plague

shall come, and at thy command each shall be removed. Thus Moses

must have appeared as a god to Pharaoh.

Shall be thy prophet.] Shall receive the word from thy mouth,

and communicate it to the Egyptian king, Ex 7:2.

Verse 3. I will harden Pharaoh's heart] I will permit his

stubbornness and obstinacy still to remain, that I may have the

greater opportunity to multiply my wonders in the land, that the

Egyptians may know that I only am Jehovah, the self-existent God.

See Clarke on Ex 4:21.

Verse 5. And bring out the children of Israel] Pharaoh's

obstinacy was either caused or permitted in mercy to the

Egyptians, that he and his magicians being suffered to oppose

Moses and Aaron to the uttermost of their power, the Israelites

might be brought out of Egypt in so signal a manner, in spite of

all the opposition of the Egyptians, their king, and their gods,

that Jehovah might appear to be All-mighty and All-sufficient.

Verse 7. Moses was fourscore years old] He was forty years old

when he went to Midian, and he had tarried forty years in Midian;

(see Ex 2:11, and Ac 7:30;) and from this verse it appears that

Aaron was three years older than Moses. We have already seen that

Miriam their sister was older than either, Ex 2:4.

Verse 9. Show a miracle for you] A miracle, mopheth,

signifies an effect produced in nature which is opposed to its

laws, or such as its powers are inadequate to produce. As Moses

and Aaron professed to have a Divine mission, and to come to

Pharaoh on the most extraordinary occasion, making a most singular

and unprecedented demand, it was natural to suppose, if Pharaoh

should even give them an audience, that he would require them to

give him some proof by an extraordinary sign that their

pretensions to such a Divine mission were well founded and

incontestable. For it appears to have ever been the sense of

mankind, that he who has a Divine mission to effect some

extraordinary purpose can give a supernatural proof that he has

got this extraordinary commission.

Take thy rod] This rod, whether a common staff, an ensign of

office, or a shepherd's crook, was now consecrated for the purpose

of working miracles; and is indifferently called the rod of God,

the rod of Moses, and the rod of Aaron. God gave it the miraculous

power, and Moses and Aaron used it indifferently.

Verse 10. It became a serpent.] tannin. What kind of a

serpent is here intended, learned men are not agreed. From the

manner in which the original word is used in

Ps 74:13; Isa 27:1; 51:9; Job 7:12; some very large creature,

either aquatic or amphibious, is probably meant; some have thought

that the crocodile, a well-known Egyptian animal, is here

intended. In Ex 4:3 it is said that this rod was changed into a

serpent, but the original word there is nachash, and here

tannin, the same word which we translate whale, Ge 1:21.

As nachash seems to be a term restricted to no one

particular meaning, as has already been shown on Gen. iii.;

See Clarke on Ge 3:1.

So the words tannin, tanninim, tannim,

and tannoth, are used to signify different kinds of animals

in the Scriptures. The word is supposed to signify the jackal in

Job 30:29; Ps 44:19; Isa 13:22; Isa 34:13; 35:7;

Isa 43:20; Jer 9:11, &c., &c.; and also a

dragon, serpent, or whale, Job 7:12; Ps 91:13;

Isa 27:1; 51:9; Jer 51:34; Eze 29:3; 32:2; and is termed, in

our translation, a sea-monster, La 4:3. As it was a

rod or staff that was changed into the tannim in the cases

mentioned here, it has been supposed that an ordinary serpent is

what is intended by the word, because the size of both might be

then pretty nearly equal: but as a miracle was wrought on the

occasion, this circumstance is of no weight; it was as easy for

God to change the rod into a crocodile, or any other creature, as

to change it into an adder or common snake.

Verse 11. Pharaoh-called the wise men] chacamim, the

men of learning. Sorcerers, cashshephim, those who

reveal hidden things; probably from the Arabic root [Arabic] kashafa,

to reveal, uncover, &c., signifying diviners, or those who

pretended to reveal what was in futurity, to discover things lost,

to find hidden treasures, &c. Magicians, chartummey,

decypherers of abstruse writings. See Clarke on Ge 41:8.

They also did in like manner with their enchantments.] The word

lahatim, comes from lahat, to burn, to set

on fire; and probably signifies such incantations as required

lustral fires, sacrifices, fumigations, burning of incense,

aromatic and odoriferous drugs, &c., as the means of evoking

departed spirits or assistant demons, by whose ministry, it is

probable, the magicians in question wrought some of their

deceptive miracles: for as the term miracle signifies properly

something which exceeds the powers of nature or art to produce,

(see Ex 7:9,) hence there could be no miracle in this case but

those wrought, through the power of God, by the ministry of Moses

and Aaron. There can be no doubt that real serpents were produced

by the magicians. On this subject there are two opinions: 1st,

That the serpents were such as they, either by juggling or sleight

of hand, had brought to the place, and had secreted till the time

of exhibition, as our common conjurers do in the public fairs, &c.

2dly, That the serpents were brought by the ministry of a familiar

spirit, which, by the magic flames already referred to, they had

evoked for the purpose. Both these opinions admit the serpents to

be real, and no illusion of the sight, as some have supposed. The

first opinion appears to me insufficient to account for the

phenomena of the case referred to. If the magicians threw down

their rods, and they became serpents after they were thrown

down, as the text expressly says, Ex 7:12,

juggling or sleight of hand had nothing farther to do in the

business, as the rods were then out of their hands. If Aaron's

rod swallowed up their rods, their sleight of hand was no longer

concerned. A man, by dexterity of hand, may so far impose on his

spectators as to appear to eat a rod; but for rods lying on the

ground to become serpents, and one of these to devour all the rest

so that it alone remained, required something more than juggling.

How much more rational at once to allow that these magicians had

familiar spirits who could assume all shapes, change the

appearances of the subjects on which they operated, or suddenly

convey one thing away and substitute another in its place! Nature

has no such power, and art no such influence as to produce the

effects attributed here and in the succeeding chapters to the

Egyptian magicians.

Verse 12. Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods.] As Egypt was

remarkably addicted to magic, sorcery, &c., it was necessary that

God should permit Pharaoh's wise men to act to the utmost of their

skill in order to imitate the work of God, that his superiority

might be clearly seen, and his powerful working incontestably

ascertained; and this was fully done when Aaron's rod swallowed up

their rods. We have already seen that the names of two of the

chief of these magicians were Jannes and Jambres;

See Clarke on Ex 2:10,

and 2Ti 3:8. Many traditions and fables concerning these may be

seen in the eastern writers.

Verse 13. And he hardened Pharaoh's heart]

vaiyechezah leb Paroh, "And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened,"

the identical words which in Ex 7:22 are thus translated, and

which should have been rendered in the same way here, lest the

hardening, which was evidently the effect of his own obstinate

shutting of his eyes against the truth, should be attributed to

God. See Clarke on Ex 4:21.

Verse 14. Pharaoh's heart is hardened] cabed, is become

heavy or stupid; he receives no conviction, notwithstanding the

clearness of the light which shines upon him. We well know the

power of prejudice: where persons are determined to think and act

after a predetermined plan, arguments, demonstrations, and even

miracles themselves, are lost on them, as in the case of Pharaoh

here, and that of the obstinate Jews in the days of our Lord and

his apostles.

Verse 15. Lo, he goeth out unto the water] Probably for the

purpose of bathing, or of performing some religious ablution.

Some suppose he went out to pay adoration to the river Nile, which

was an object of religious worship among the ancient Egyptians.

"For," says Plutarch, De Iside., ουδενουτωτιμηαιγυπτιοιςωςο

νειλος. "nothing is in greater honour among the Egyptians than the

river Nile." Some of the ancient Jews supposed that Pharaoh

himself was a magician, and that he walked by the river early each

morning for the purpose of preparing magical rites, &c.

Verse 17. Behold, I will smite] Here commences the account of

the TEN plagues which were inflicted on the Egyptians by Moses and

Aaron, by the command and through the power of God. According to

Archbishop Usher these ten plagues took place in the course of one

month, and in the following order:-

The first, the WATERS turned into BLOOD, took place, he

supposes, the 18th day of the sixth month; Ex 7:20.

The second, the plague of FROGS, on the 25th day of the sixth

month; Ex 8:2.

The third, the plague of LICE, on the 27th day of the sixth

month; Ex 8:16.

The fourth, grievous SWARMS of FLIES, on the 29th day of the

sixth month; Ex 8:24.

The fifth, the grievous MURRAIN, on the 2d day of the seventh

month; Ex 9:3.

The sixth, the plague of BOILS and BLAINS, on the 3d day of the

seventh month; Ex 9:10.

The seventh, the grievous HAIL, on the 5th day of the seventh

month; Ex 9:18.

The eighth, the plague of LOCUSTS, on the 8th day of the seventh

month; Ex 10:12.

The ninth, the THICK DARKNESS, on the 10th day of Abib, (April

30,) now become the first month of the Jewish year; Ex 10:22.

See Clarke on Ex 12:2.

The tenth, the SLAYING the FIRST-BORN, on the 15th of Abib;

Ex 12:29. But most of these dates are destitute of proof.

Verse 18. The Egyptians shall loathe to drink of the water] The

force of this expression cannot be well felt without taking into

consideration the peculiar pleasantness and great salubrity of the

waters of the Nile. "The water of Egypt," says the Abbe Mascrier,

"is so delicious, that one would not wish the heat to be less, or

to be delivered from the sensation of thirst. The Turks find it

so exquisite that they excite themselves to drink of it by eating

salt. It is a common saying among them, that if Mohammed had

drank of it he would have besought God that he might never die, in

order to have had this continual gratification. 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 have at their return in drinking of the waters

of the Nile. There is no gratification to be compared to this; it

surpasses, in their esteem, that of seeing their relations and

families. All those who have tasted of this water allow that they

never met with the like in any other place. When a person drinks

of it for the first time he can scarcely be persuaded that it is

not a water prepared by art; for it has something in it

inexpressibly agreeable and pleasing to the taste; and it should

have the same rank among waters that champaign has among wines.

But its most valuable quality is, that it is exceedingly salutary.

It never incommodes, let it be drank in what quantity it may:

this is so true that it is no uncommon thing to see some persons

drink three buckets of it in a day without the least

inconvenience! When I pass such encomiums on the water of Egypt

it is right to observe that I speak only of that of the Nile,

which indeed is the only water drinkable, for their well water is

detestable and unwholesome. Fountains are so rare that they are a

kind of prodigy in that country; and as to rain water, that is out

of the question, as scarcely any falls in Egypt."

"A person," says Mr. Harmer, "who never before heard of the

deliciousness of the Nile water, and of the large quantities which

on that account are drank of it, will, I am sure, find an energy

in those words of Moses to Pharaoh, The Egyptians shall loathe to

drink of the water of the river, which he never observed before.

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 for

which they had been accustomed to long, and will rather choose to

drink of well water, which in their country is detestable!"

-Observations, vol. iii., p. 564.

Verse 19. That there may be blood-both in vessels of wood, and

in vessels of stone.] Not only the Nile itself was to be thus

changed into blood in all its branches, and the canals issuing

from it, but all the water of lakes, ponds, and reservoirs, was to

undergo a similar change. And this was to extend even to the water

already brought into their houses for culinary and other domestic

purposes. As the water of the Nile is known to be very thick and

muddy, and the Egyptians are obliged to filter it through pots of

a kind of white earth, and sometimes through a paste made of

almonds, Mr. Harmer supposes that the vessels of wood and stone

mentioned above may refer to the process of filtration, which no

doubt has been practised among them from the remotest period. The

meaning given above I think to be more natural.

The FIRST plague. The WATERS turned into BLOOD

Verse 20. All the waters-were turned to blood.] Not merely in

appearance, but in reality; for these changed waters became

corrupt and insalubrious, so that even the fish that were in the

river died; and the smell became highly offensive, so that the

waters could not be drank; Ex 7:21.

Verse 22. And the magicians-did so] But if all the water in

Egypt was turned into blood by Moses, where did the magicians get

the water which they changed into blood? This question is

answered in Ex 7:24. The Egyptians digged round about the river

for water to drink, and it seems that the water obtained by this

means was not bloody like that in the river: on this water

therefore the magicians might operate. Again, though a general

commission was given to Moses, not only to turn the waters of the

river (Nile) into blood, but also those of their streams, rivers,

ponds, and pools; yet it seems pretty clear from Ex 7:20 that he

did not proceed thus far, at least in the first instance; for it

is there stated that only the waters of the river were turned into

blood. Afterwards the plague doubtless became general. At the

commencement therefore of this plague, the magicians might obtain

other water to imitate the miracle; and it would not be difficult

for them, by juggling tricks or the assistance of a familiar

spirit, (for we must not abandon the possibility of this use,)

to give it a bloody appearance, a fetid smell, and a bad taste.

On either of these grounds there is no contradiction in the Mosaic

account, though some have been very studious to find one.

The plague of the bloody waters may be considered as a display

of retributive justice against the Egyptians, for the murderous

decree which enacted that all the male children of the Israelites

should be drowned in that river, the waters of which, so necessary

to their support and life, were now rendered not only insalubrious

but deadly, by being turned into blood. As it is well known that

the Nile was a chief object of Egyptian idolatry,

(See Clarke on Ex 7:15,) and that annually they sacrificed

a girl, or as others say, both a boy and a girl, to this river,

in gratitude for the benefits received from it, (Universal Hist.,

vol. i., p. 178, fol. edit.,) God might have designed this plague

as a punishment for such cruelty: and the contempt poured upon

this object of their adoration, by turning its waters into blood,

and rendering them fetid and corrupt, must have had a direct

tendency to correct their idolatrous notions, and lead them to

acknowledge the power and authority of the true God.

Verse 25. And seven days were fulfilled] So we learn that this

plague continued at least a whole week.

THE contention between Moses and Aaron and the magicians of

Egypt has become famous throughout the world. Tradition in

various countries has preserved not only the account, but also the

names of the chief persons concerned in the opposition made by the

Egyptians to these messengers of God. Though their names are not

mentioned in the sacred text, yet tradition had preserved them in

the Jewish records, from which St. Paul undoubtedly quotes

2Ti 3:8, where, speaking of the enemies of the Gospel, he

compares them to Jannes and Jambres, who withstood Moses. That

these names existed in the ancient Jewish records, their own

writings show. In the Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel on this place

they are called Janis and Jambris; and in the

Babylonian Talmud they are named Joanne and Mambre, and are

represented as chiefs of the sorcerers of Egypt, and as having

ridiculed Moses and Aaron for pretending to equal them in magical

arts. And Rab. Tanchum, in his Commentary, names them Jonos and

Jombrus. If we allow the readings of the ancient editions of

Pliny to be correct, he refers, in Hist. Nat., l. xxx., c. 2, to

the same persons, the names being a little changed: Est et alia

magices factio, a Mose et Jamne et Jotape Judaeis pendens, sed

multis millibus annorum post Zoroastrem; "There is also another

faction of magicians which took its origin from the Jews, Moses,

Jamnes, and Jotapes, many thousands of years after Zoroaster;"

where he confounds Moses with the Egyptian magicians; for the

heathens, having no just notion of the power of God, attributed

all miracles to the influence of magic. Pliny also calls the

Egyptian magicians Jews; but this is not the only mistake in his

history; and as he adds, sed multis millibus annorum post

Zoroastrem, he is supposed by some to refer to the Christians, and

particularly the apostles, who wrought many miracles, and whom he

considers to be a magical sect derived from Moses and the Jews,

because they were Jews by nation, and quoted Moses and the

prophets in proof of the truth of the doctrines of Christianity,

and of the Divine mission of Christ.

Numenius, a Pythagorean philosopher, mentioned by Eusebius,

names these magicians, Jamnes and Jambres, and mentions their

opposition to Moses; and we have already seen that there was a

tradition among the Asiatics that Pharaoh's daughter had Moses

instructed by the wise men Jannes and Jambres; see Abul Faraje,

edit. Pococ., p. 26. Here then is a very remarkable fact, the

principal circumstances of which, and the chief actors in them,

have been preserved by a sort of universal tradition. See

Ainsworth.

When all the circumstances of the preceding case are considered,

it seems strange that God should enter into any contest with such

persons as the Egyptian magicians; but a little reflection will

show the absolute necessity of this. Mr. Psalmanazar, who wrote

the Account of the Jews in the first volume of the Universal

History, gives the following judicious reasons for this: "If it be

asked," says he, "why God did suffer the Egyptian magicians to

borrow power from the devil to invalidate, if possible, those

miracles which his servant wrought by his Divine power, the

following reasons may be given for it: 1. It was necessary that

these 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, 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

the Egyptians would have been apter to have attributed all his

miracles to his skill in magic, than to the Divine power.

"2. It was necessary, in order to confirm the faith of the

wavering and desponding Israelites, by making them see the

difference between Moses acting by the power of God, and the

sorcerers by that of Satan.

"3. It was necessary, in order to preserve them afterwards from

being seduced by any false miracles from the true worship of God."

To these a fourth reason may be added: God permitted this in

mercy to the Egyptians, that they might see that the gods in whom

they trusted were utterly incapable of saving them; that they

could not undo or counteract one of the plagues sent on them by

the power of Jehovah; the whole of their influence extending only

to some superficial imitations of the genuine miracles wrought by

Moses in the name of the true God. By these means it is natural

to conclude that many of the Egyptians, and perhaps several of the

servants of Pharaoh, were cured of their idolatry; though the king

himself hardened his heart against the evidences which God brought

before his eyes. Thus God is known by his judgments: for in every

operation of his hand his design is to enlighten the minds of men,

to bring them from false dependences to trust in himself alone;

that, being saved from error and sin, they may become wise, holy,

and happy. When his judgments are abroad in the earth, the

inhabitants learn righteousness. (See Clarke on Ex 4:21,)

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