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David Guzik :: Study Guide for Exodus 7

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Miracles and Plagues before Pharaoh

A. God lays out the plan to Moses again.

1. (Exo 7:1-2) The re-affirmation of Aaron's place in the ministry of Moses.

So the LORD said to Moses: "See, I have made you as God to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you. And Aaron your brother shall speak to Pharaoh to send the children of Israel out of his land."

a. So the LORD said to Moses: God showed amazing patience with His servant Moses. After the outburst at the end of the previous chapter, we might expect that God had enough with Moses. Yet God didn't even chastise Moses; He simply told him what to do and set him to do it. God is rich in mercy.

b. I have made you as God to Pharaoh: Pharaoh had rejected having any direct dealing with Yahweh, as he said in Exodus 5:2: Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? Therefore, God would now deal with Pharaoh through Moses. This lets Moses know that when Pharaoh rejects him, he really rejects God - and he wouldn't take it so personally.

i. In the same way, God will make us "as God" to people we encounter who are rejecting God. If they harden their hearts or reject us, we shouldn't take it personally.

c. Aaron your brother shall be your prophet: If Moses was "as God" to Pharaoh, then Aaron was Moses' "prophet" - his spokesman before Pharaoh.

i. Just as Moses was not to act on his own initiative but to wait for God's direction, Aaron was not to act on his own initiative, but to wait for Moses' direction.

d. You shall speak all that I command you: God will not allow Moses to let the seeming failure of his first encounter with Pharaoh to discourage him. Moses is simply commanded to go.

2. (Exo 7:3) God promises to harden Pharaoh's heart.

"And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt."

a. I will harden Pharaoh's heart: We remember that God will not harden Pharaoh's heart against Pharaoh's own desire. It is not as if Pharaoh wished to have a tender heart towards Israel but God would not allow him. God confirmed Pharaoh in his wicked inclination against Israel.

b. Harden Pharaoh's heart: Instead, Pharaoh revealed his heart when he refused the humble request of Moses back in 5:1-4; now, God will merely strengthen Pharaoh in the evil already chose.

i. God can do the same today. In our rebellion, we may reach the place where God will strengthen us in the evil we desire: Therefore God also gave them up to their uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts … and even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting (Romans 1:24, 28).

3. (Exo 7:4-7) Why God will harden Pharaoh's heart.

"But Pharaoh will not heed you, so that I may lay My hand on Egypt and bring My armies and My people, the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the children of Israel from among them." Then Moses and Aaron did so; just as the LORD commanded them, so they did. And Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three years old when they spoke to Pharaoh.

a. But Pharaoh will not heed you: God knew from the beginning that Pharaoh would not agree to Moses' request. It was no surprise to God that Pharaoh did not heed Moses.

b. So that I may lay My hand on Egypt … and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD: This explains why the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart - essentially, to bring righteous judgment upon Egypt: Pharaoh and the Egyptians said they didn't know who the LORD was; God is going to let them know.

i. Pharaoh displayed the evil in his heart by rejecting a humble request. In response God will harden Pharaoh's heart, and Pharaoh will do what he wants to do: sin against Israel and God even more. Then, God will judge that sin.

c. Moses was eighty years old: This is retirement age for many, but Moses knew that God's will was more important than retirement. We also see from this that Aaron was Moses' older brother, so God is going against the conventional customs of that day by making the younger brother more prominent.

B. Moses stands before Pharaoh.

1. (Exo 7:8-10) Moses and Aaron appear before Pharaoh again.

Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, "When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, 'Show a miracle for yourselves,' then you shall say to Aaron, 'Take your rod and cast it before Pharaoh, and let it become a serpent.'" So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh, and they did so, just as the LORD commanded. And Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh and before his servants, and it became a serpent.

a. So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh: The first time Moses and Aaron went before Pharaoh everything seemed to go wrong (Exodus 5:15-19). It took real courage for them to go to Pharaoh again, but Moses is simply being obedient to God.

b. Take your rod and cast it before Pharaoh: When God first gave Moses the sign in Exodus 4:1-9, it seemed those signs were primarily for the leaders of Israel - but now, Moses brings the sign before Pharaoh.

c. Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh and before his servants, and it became a serpent: The first time Moses appeared before Pharaoh we have no record of a sign performed (Exodus 5). Perhaps Moses figured that the absence of a sign was what made him unsuccessful - now with the miracle, surely Pharaoh will be impressed!

2. (Exo 7:11-13) Pharaoh's magicians imitate the miracle of Aaron's rod.

But Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers; so the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. For every man threw down his rod, and they became serpents. But Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods. And Pharaoh's heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the LORD had said.

a. So the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments: In the midst of an unmistakable miracle, Satan provided Pharaoh with a reason to doubt - and Pharaoh seized on the doubt and hardened his heart.

b. For every man threw down his rod, and they became serpents: How did the magicians of Egypt do this with their enchantments? Apparently, this wasn't mere magic - this was demonic power showing itself in truly supernatural miracles.

i. Miracles are part of Satan's arsenal. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they may be saved (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10).

ii. This means that miracles can prove that something is supernatural, but they cannot prove that something is true.

iii. These Egyptian magicians were intelligent, learned men; but they lacked the wisdom of God, as Paul observes concerning them in 2 Timothy 3:7-9: Always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.

c. Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods. And Pharaoh's heart grew hard, and he did not heed them: This was a clear demonstration of God's superior power. Still, Pharaoh hardened his heart and he did it despite the evidence, not because of it.

i. This also shows God has a sense of humor. Imagine the look on the faces of Pharaoh and the magicians when Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods!

3. (Exo 7:14-18) God sends Moses to warn Pharaoh about the coming of the first plague.

So the LORD said to Moses: "Pharaoh's heart is hard; he refuses to let the people go. Go to Pharaoh in the morning, when he goes out to the water, and you shall stand by the river's bank to meet him; and the rod which was turned to a serpent you shall take in your hand. And you shall say to him, 'The LORD God of the Hebrews has sent me to you, saying, "Let My people go, that they may serve Me in the wilderness"; but indeed, until now you would not hear! Thus says the LORD: "By this you shall know that I am the LORD. Behold, I will strike the waters which are in the river with the rod that is in my hand, and they shall be turned to blood. And the fish that are in the river shall die, the river shall stink, and the Egyptians will loathe to drink the water of the river."' "

a. Pharaoh's heart is hard; he refuses to let the people go: The first plague - as all the plagues - will come because Pharaoh has hardened his heart against God and His people. In mercy, God warned Pharaoh, but Pharaoh in his hardness of heart disregarded the warning.

b. By this you shall know that I am the LORD: Precisely, God did not plague Egypt because Pharaoh would not let the children of Israel go; but because Pharaoh refused to recognize and honor God.

i. Pharaoh sinned against Israel because he sinned against the LORD. If he really recognized and honored the God of Israel, he would have freed the children of Israel. Often our relationships with people are bad because our relationship with God is bad.

4. (Exo 7:19-21) The first plague comes upon Egypt: The Nile turns to blood.

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, "Say to Aaron, 'Take your rod and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their streams, over their rivers, over their ponds, and over all their pools of water, that they may become blood. And there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in buckets of wood and pitchers of stone.'" And Moses and Aaron did so, just as the LORD commanded. So he lifted up the rod and struck the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants. And all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood. The fish that were in the river died, the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink the water of the river. So there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.

a. That they may become blood: This is the first of the plagues. There are nine in total (the tenth is the slaying of the firstborn, which is in a class by itself), and they are grouped together in threes. In this structure of threes, the first two plagues only come after warning and a call to repentance; the third plague in each set comes without warning.

b. All the waters that were in the river were turned to blood: Many say the plagues each have a naturalistic explanation. In the case of this first plague, some point out that when the Nile reaches an extremely high flood stage, it collects finely powdered red earth, and this red earth carries organisms that color the water and kill fish. But if this were the cause, how possibly could Pharaoh be impressed?

i. God may or may not have used natural mechanisms to accomplish these plagues; even if He did, the timing and character of the plagues come from God's hand alone.

ii. It is important to understand that these plagues were all literal; there is nothing "symbolic" about them. They really happened. This guides our understanding about the plagues in the Book of Revelation; there is no reason to see them as "symbolic" either.

iii. The plagues God brought against Egypt had a definite strategy and purpose. Each of them confronts and attacks a prized Egyptian deity. Not only did they bring punishment against Egypt, the plagues also answered Pharaoh's original question: Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? (Exodus 5:2) The plagues show the LORD God to be greater than any of the deities of Egypt.

c. All the waters that were in the river were turned to blood: Specifically, this first plague was directed against the numerous Egyptian river deities. The Nile itself was virtually worshipped as a god by the Egyptians, and the LORD God shows that He has complete power over the Nile, not some river god.

i. The Egyptian god Khnum was said to be the guardian of the Nile, and this showed he was unable to protected his territory. The god Hapi was said to be the spirit of the Nile, and was dealt a defeat. The great god Osiris was thought to have the Nile as his bloodstream - now, he is truly bleeding!

ii. In fact, the Nile itself was worshipped as a god, and we have papyri recording hymns sung in praise of the river.

5. (Exo 7:22-25) The magicians of Egypt copy the miracle.

Then the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments; and Pharaoh's heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the LORD had said. And Pharaoh turned and went into his house. Neither was his heart moved by this. So all the Egyptians dug all around the river for water to drink, because they could not drink the water of the river. And seven days passed after the LORD had struck the river.

a. The magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: How could the magicians of Egypt find fresh water to make as blood, if all the water had been turned to blood? Seemingly, all the waters directly associated with the Nile had been turned to blood (including its pools and tributaries, and water in vessels drawn from the Nile). Yet water obtained by wells was not plagued: So all the Egyptians dug all around the river for water to drink, because they could not drink the water of the river. The magicians turned fresh well water into blood.

b. The magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: Bible scholars warmly debate if this is a parlor trick or if these enchantments are miracles from Satan's hand. The evidence seems to lean in favor of them being miracles from Satan's hand.

i. If the magicians of Egypt really wanted to do a miracle, why didn't they turn the bloody river clean again? Because it seems that Satan cannot perform a constructive, cleansing miracle. He can bring supernatural destruction, but not goodness. All they did was make more bloody water!

ii. "Alleviation of human suffering is no part of the programme of the devil or his agents. That can only come from Jehovah, through the believing cry of his servants." (Meyer)

c. Pharaoh's heart grew hard … Neither was his heart moved by this: One way or another, the result in the heart of Pharaoh was the same - he seized upon another opportunity to reject and dishonor the LORD God.

©2004 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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