|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
7:8-13 What men dislike, because it opposes their pride and lusts, they will not be convinced of; but it is easy to cause them to believe things they wish to be true. God always sends with his word full proofs of its Divine authority; but when men are bent to disobey, and willing to object, he often permits a snare to be laid wherein they are entangled. The magicians were cheats, trying to copy the real miracles of Moses by secret sleights or jugglings, which to a small extent they succeeded in doing, so as to deceive the bystanders, but they were at length obliged to confess they could not any longer imitate the effects of Divine power. None assist more in the destruction of sinners, than such as resist the truth by amusing men with a counterfeit resemblance of it. Satan is most to be dreaded when transformed into an angel of light.
Verse 11. - Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers. That magic was an object of much attention and study in Egypt is abundantly evident from "The tale of Setnau" ('Records of the Past,' vol. 4. pp. 133-148), "The Magic Papyrus" (ibid. vol. 10. pp. 137-158), and many other writings. It consisted, to a large extent, in charms, which were thought to have power over men and beasts, especially over reptiles. What amount of skill and power the Egyptian magicians possessed may perhaps be doubted. Many commentators believe them to have been in actual communication With the unseen world, and to have worked their wonders by the assistance of evil spirits. Others, who reject this explanation, believe that they themselves were in possession of certain supernatural gifts. But the commonest view at the present day regards them as simply persons who had a knowledge of many secrets of nature which were generally unknown, and who used this knowledge to impress men with a belief in their supernatural power. The words used to express "magicians" and "enchantments" support this view. The magicians are called khakamim, "wise men," "men educated in human and divine wisdom" (Keil and Delitzsch); mekashshephim, "charmers," "mutterers of magic words" (Gesenius); and khartummim, which is thought to mean either "sacred scribes" or "bearers of sacred words" (Cook). The word translated "enchantments" is lehatim, which means "secret" or "hidden arts" (Gesenius). On the whole, we regard it as most probable that the Egyptian "magicians" of this time were jugglers of a high class, well skilled in serpent-charming and other kindred arts, but not possessed of any supernatural powers. The magicians of Egypt did in like manner with their enchantments. The magicians, aware of the wonder which would probably be wrought, had prepared themselves; they had brought serpents, charmed and stiffened so as to look like rods (a common trick in Egypt: 'Description de l'Egypte,' vol. 1. p. 159) in their hands; and when Aaron's rod became a serpent, they threw their stiffened snakes upon the ground, and disenchanted them, so that they were seen to be what they were - shakos, and not really rods.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers,.... The cunning men and wizards, a sort of jugglers and deceivers, who pretended to great knowledge of things, to discover secrets, tell fortunes, and predict things to come, and by legerdemain tricks, and casting a mist before people's eyes, pretended to do very wonderful and amazing things; and therefore Pharaoh sent for these, to exercise their art and cunning, and see if they could not vie with Moses and Aaron:
now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments; or by their secret wiles and juggles, making things seem to appear to the sight when they did not really, but by dazzling the eyes of men by their wicked and diabolical art, they fancied they saw things which they did not; for the word has the signification of flames of fire, or of a flaming sword, or lance, which being brandished to and fro dazzles the sight. The Targum of Jonathan gives the names of two of these magicians, whom he calls Jannes and Jambres, as does the apostle; see Gill on 2 Timothy 3:8. Josephus (t) calls these magicians of Egypt priests, and Artapanus (u) says, they were priests that lived about Memphis. According to the Arabs (w), the name of the place where they lived was Ausana, a city very ancient and pleasant, called the city of the magicians, which lay to the east of the Nile: their name in the Hebrew language is either from a word which signifies a style, or greying tool, as Fuller (x) thinks, because in their enchantments they used superstitious characters and figures; or, as Saadiah Gaon (y), from two words, the one signifying a "hole", and the other "stopped"; because they bored a hole in a tree to put witchcrafts into it, and stopped it up, and then declared what should be, or they had to say.
(t) Antiqu. l. 2. c. 13. sect. 3.((u) Apud Euseb. ut supra. (Praepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 27. p. 435.) (w) Arab. Geograph. Climat. 2. par. 4. lin. 21. (x) Miscell. Sacr. l. 5. c. 11. (y) Comment. in Dan. i. 20.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
11. Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers, &c.—His object in calling them was to ascertain whether this doing of Aaron's was really a work of divine power or merely a feat of magical art. The magicians of Egypt in modern times have been long celebrated adepts in charming serpents, and particularly by pressing the nape of the neck, they throw them into a kind of catalepsy, which renders them stiff and immovable—thus seeming to change them into a rod. They conceal the serpent about their persons, and by acts of legerdemain produce it from their dress, stiff and straight as a rod. Just the same trick was played off by their ancient predecessors, the most renowned of whom, Jannes and Jambres (2Ti 3:8), were called in on this occasion. They had time after the summons to make suitable preparations—and so it appears they succeeded by their "enchantments" in practising an illusion on the senses.
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