After the interruption of the genealogy the author retells some of the events that have so far taken place. Perhaps this is to refresh the reader and bring him back into the narrative.
It is important that the relationship between Moses and Aaron be made known. The relationship sheds light upon the Old Testament understanding of the nature of a prophet. Yahweh made Moses “As God to Pharaoh.” Moses was given authority over Pharaoh. As we have seen before Aaron was to speak for Moses to the King of Egypt. The words Aaron spoke had an immediacy confronting Pharaoh and demanding a response from him. This is what a prophet is to do. A prophet is to be God’s spokesman to a historical situation, demanding response from those to whom he spoke.
Again we are told of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart. The difficulties of their task and Pharaoh’s refusal either to hear Moses or heed the divine “signs and wonders” are clearly spelled out again. The promise of ultimate deliverance was also repeated to Moses.
There is a new dimension in the retelling that begins with the statement of the divine purpose, that, “The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” The purpose of God was more than redeeming Israel or keeping His promise. Egypt would learn by experience the sovereign nature of God was another purpose of God. Redemption is always a witness to the nature and power of God.
Moses and Aaron again began to fulfill their divine mission. With this revelation of the purpose of God their strength for the task was renewed. The ages of both, Moses and Aaron, are given to nail down to actual history the events which the author has recorded.
Moses and Aaron were told to return to Pharaoh and perform one of three signs. Probably earlier they had preformed these signs before the Hebrew elders. (Exodus 4:30)
God had warned Moses that Pharaoh would demand to see a demonstration of God’s power as proof of his claims. The word “miracle” here is the same Hebrew word which is translated as “wonders” in Exodus 7:3. This word does not necessarily mean what we might consider a miracle. Not always is it a supernatural event. It can also be an unusual event or a normal event with an unusual meaning. In the Old Testament, a miracle is frequently supernatural. It can also be something quite natural that became a miracle because it happened at the right time and right place and there was someone who could point to the act of God in it.
“Aaron threw his staff down before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent.” We must consider several facts in trying to understand what happened in this miracle. First it sounds supernatural from our stand point. Second, the Egyptian sorcerers were able to duplicate it. Either is was a trick by sleight of hand or else it was not a supernatural event. There is nothing in the Bible that would support that the Egyptians were miracle workers. Third, and most important, the serpent from Moses’ rod “swallowed” those of the Egyptians. It was seen here that the power of Moses’ God was able to overcome the power of the gods of Egypt.
None the less Pharaoh was unimpressed by the initial sign, which the Egyptians had seemingly matched. Neither was Pharaoh impressed that the Egyptian’s serpents had been devoured and his heart remained hardened.
Confrontations That Demand Decision
Exodus 7:14 to 13:22
Some of the most skillfully written narratives of the Old Testament can found in chapters 7 through 13. We find here a fascinating story full of exciting events with a simple basic plot. A series of catastrophic events befell Egypt, which brought about the liberation of the Hebrew people. Carefully woven throughout the basic plot are three subplots, and each must be followed if we are to understand the whole.
The first subplot is the confrontation between Yahweh, the God of Israel, and the gods of Egypt. The plagues which came upon Egypt were not God playing cruelly with the helpless Egyptians or merely demonstrations of the awesome power of Israel’s God. The Plagues were specific confrontations between the God of Israel and the gods of Egypt, and in each time Yahweh was victorious.
The second subplot focuses on the changing reactions of the leaders of Egypt. At first the leadership engaged the entire matter rather lightheartedly. Their attitude slowly began to change, or at least on the part of some of them. As events unfolded the Egyptians began to take Moses and his God more seriously.
The third subplot brings our attention towards Moses. Constantly Moses was faced with the pressure to compromise, to settle for less than what God had demanded. Moses’ loyalty to God, his perseverance to his task, and his concern for ultimate victory shine through the story.
The various words used to describe the plagues are all significant. They are called “signs and wonders, (Exodus 7:3) as being described by verbs meaning “I will plague, (Exodus 8:2) or “I will strike. “(Exodus 7:17) The word plague is probably not a completely accurate description of all the events, still it has become so much a part of our vocabulary that we shall continue to use it. We must remember that the events were far more than plagues. We must not miss the fact that they were signs and wonders or we will have missed their major significance.
A second feature to consider before turning to the actual content of each plague is the ethical or moral questions involved. Ethical objections have been raised to the way the Egyptians were treated in these plagues. We must remember that the revelation of the Old Testament was progressing toward the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. If this were not so, we would not have needed and New Testament at all. It should also be obvious that for God to deliver Israel He would have to use His power to do it. The acts that God would have to use to free Israel would have to be oppressive to Egypt. In the Old Testament the men were able to see God’s loving, redemptive purpose at work, even in acts of violence. This may not eliminate the moral problem which some have, but it points to the fact that the situation is not a simplistic as some people think.
The Nile River was one of the chief gods that the Egyptians worshiped. The rainfall in Egypt was very light and the agriculture of the land depended upon the Nile River. Each year when the snow would melt at the headwaters of the Nile great amounts of water would flow down the river and deposit a fresh fertile layer of soil on the land. This yearly flooding of the Nile also raised the level of the ground water. As the flood waters receded the water could be easily diverted for into a network of ditches and canals for irrigation. Therefore the Nile River was the source of fertility and water which made life possible in the land of Egypt. This annual cycle of flooding from the Nile held the Egyptian people in awe and also makes it easy to understand the god of the Nile as a major Egyptian god. Without the Nile River there would have been no Egypt. Therefore the first plague was a confrontation between the god of the Nile and the God of the Israelite people.
We should also note here that the plagues came upon the Egyptian people because “Pharaoh’s heart is hardened.” The developing confrontations intensified the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart but form the beginning his heart was hardened.
It may also be significant that Moses and Aaron were to meet Pharaoh at the Nile. It is possible that it was the time of the year for the Nile to begin its life giving flood. Pharaoh and his counselors may have been going to the Nile to check on if that was starting to happen. At the very time when the king of Egypt was expecting the Nile’s life giving flood, it was going to be turned into something foul and useless.
God commanded Moses to tell Pharaoh that the plague was coming because, “But behold, you have not listened until now.” Pharaoh’s failure to let the Israelite people go was an act of rebellion against God’s sovereignty. Admittedly it would have been surprising for a king to recognize the God of an enslaved people but he was going to learn.
Moses and Aaron did as God had commanded and struck the Nile River with the rod of God, “and all the water that was in the Nile was turned to blood.” There are several things to look at here. Not all of the water turned to blood as there was still some water for the magicians of Pharaoh to use later to duplicate what Moses had done. It has been argued that what happened may have been both the thickening and reddening of the river by massive amounts of red clay silt from Ethiopia or the massive growth of some form of red plankton. Both phenomena were not uncommon occurrences. If this is what happened, then the expression “turned to blood” is a figure of speech. Such figures of speech are common in all language, and certainly they occur in the Bible. Whatever happened, the result was clearly something foul and dangerous.
If it was a natural occurrence, this does not eliminate the miracle or wonder; it just transforms its nature, as it occurred precisely when God said it would. Natural events do not happen just because a preacher says they will. The miracle may have been literal blood. It may also been a miracle in the timing of a natural event. Either way God showed his power over one of the chief gods of Egypt.
A fascinating side thought is found in this plague. In the entire ancient Near East, there is a common belief that blood is the source of life. This is also true in the Old Testament, which says, “The life of every creature is the blood of it.” (Leviticus 17:14) The Egyptians considered the Nile to be the source of life; but when it was turned to blood, the real source of life; it caused death on every hand. The two very things that the Egyptians considered to be the source of life had combined to bring death.
Still Pharaoh was not moved, “Pharaoh turned and went into his house with no concern even for this.” Pharaoh refused to consider either what had happened or what it might have meant. Seven days then passed.
Click this link to advance to Exodus Chapter 8