Exodus 7:11
Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments.
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(11) The magicians of Egypt.—These persons are called indifferently khàkâmim, “wise men,” më-kashshëphim, “mutterers of charms,” and khartum-mim, “scribes,” perhaps “writers of charms.” Magic was very widely practised in Egypt, and consisted mainly in the composition and employment of charms, which were believed to exert a powerful effect, both over man and over the brute creation. A large part of the “Ritual of the Dead” consists of charms, which were to be uttered by the soul in Hades, in order to enable it to pass the various monsters which it would encounter there. Charms were also regarded as potent in this life to produce or remove disease, and avert the attacks of noxious animals. Some Egyptian works are mere collections of magical receipts, and supply strange prescriptions which are to be used, and mystic words which are to be uttered. A Jewish tradition, accepted by the Apostle Paul (2Timothy 3:6), spoke of two magicians as the special opponents of Moses, and called them “Jannes and Jambres.” (See the Tar-gums of Jerusalem and of Jonathan, and comp. Numen, ap. Euseb. Prœp. eν. ix. 8.) The former of these, Jannes, obtained fame as a magician among the classical writers, and is mentioned by Pliny (H. N. xxx. 1) and Apuleius (Apolog. p. 108). It has been supposed by some that the magicians were really in possession of supernatural powers, obtained by a connection with evil spirits; but, on the whole, it is perhaps most probable that they were merely persons acquainted with many secrets of nature not generally known, and trained in tricks of sleight-of-hand and conjuring.

They also did in like manner.—The magicians had entered into the royal presence with, apparently, rods in their hands, such as almost all Egyptians carried. These they cast down upon the ground, when they were seen to be serpents. This was, perhaps, the mere exhibition of a trick, well known to Egyptian serpent-charmers in all ages (Description de l’Egypte, vol. i. p. 159), by which a charmed serpent is made to look like a stick for a time, and then disenchanted. Or it may have been effected by sleight-of-hand, which seems to be the true meaning of the word lĕhâtim, translated “enchantments.” (Rosenmüller, Scholia in Exodum, p. 110.)

Exodus 7:11. Moses had been originally instructed in the learning of the Egyptians, and was suspected to have improved in magical arts in his long retirement. The magicians are therefore sent for to vie with him. The two chief of them were Jannes and Jambres. Their rods became serpents, probably by the power of evil angels, artfully substituting serpents in the room of the rods, God permitting the delusion to be wrought for wise and holy ends. But the serpent which Aaron’s rod was turned into, swallowed up the others: which was sufficient to have convinced Pharaoh on which side the right lay.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.Three names for the magicians of Egypt are given in this verse. The "wise men" are men who know occult arts. The "sorcerers" are they who "mutter magic formulae," especially when driving away crocodiles, snakes, asps, etc. It was natural that Pharaoh should have sent for such persons. The "magicians" are the "bearers of sacred words," scribes and interpreters of hieroglyphic writings. Books containing magic formulae belonged exclusively to the king; no one was permitted to consult them but the priests and wise men, who formed a council or college, and were called in by the Pharaoh on all occasions of difficulty.

The names of the two principal magicians, Jannes and Jambres, who "withstood Moses," are preserved by Paul, 2 Timothy 3:8. Both names are Egyptian.

Enchantments - The original expression implies a deceptive appearance, an illusion, a juggler's trick, not an actual putting forth of magic power. Pharaoh may or may not have believed in a real transformation; but in either case he would naturally consider that if the portent performed by Aaron differed from that of the magicians, it was a difference of degree only, implying merely superiority in a common art. The miracle which followed Exodus 7:12 was sufficient to convince him had he been open to conviction. It was a miracle which showed the truth and power of Yahweh in contrast with that of others.

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. Under the general title of

wise men he seems to comprehend all who were most eminent in any sort of wisdom, either natural, or civil, or divine, who were all called to give their opinion and advice in these matters.

The magicians, the same now called

sorcerers, who acted by the power of the devil, whom by certain rites and ceremonies they engaged to their assistance. Of these the two chief were Jannes and Jambres, 2 Timothy 3:8.

They also did in like manner, in show and appearance, which was not difficult for the devil to do, either by altering the air and the spectators’ sight, and by causing their rods both to look and move like serpents; or by a sudden and secret conveyance of real serpents thither, and removing the rods. Nor is it strange that God permitted those delusions, partly because it was a just punishment upon the Egyptians for their horrid and manifold idolatry, and barbarous cruelty towards the Israelites, and their other wickedness; and partly because there was a sufficient difference made between their impostures, and the real miracles wrought by Moses and Aaron, as appears from the next verse, and from Exodus 8:18, and from other passages. And this is a great evidence of the truth of Scripture story, and that it was not written by fiction and design. For if Moses had written these books to deceive the world, and to advance his own reputation, (as some have impudently said,) it is ridiculous to think that he would have put in this, and many other passages, which might seem so much to eclipse his honour, and the glory of his works. 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.

Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the {d} sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments.

(d) It seems that these were Jannes and Jambres; 2Ti 3:8 so the wicked maliciously resist the truth of God.

11. wise men] cf. Genesis 41:8, Isaiah 19:11-12.

magicians] Heb. ḥarṭummim, a word of unknown etymology, but found only in connexion with Egypt (Genesis 41:8; Genesis 41:24, Exodus 7:11; Exodus 7:22; Exodus 8:7; Exodus 8:18-19; Exodus 9:11), and (borrowed from Gen.) in Daniel (Exodus 1:20, Exodus 2:2; Exodus 2:10, &c.). RVm. in Genesis sacred scribes: and probably the word did in fact correspond to the Greek ἱερογραμματεῖς,—the term applied by Numenius to Jannes and Jambres. Magic flourished in ancient Egypt; and many magical formulae are known to us from the inscriptions: see Erman, pp. 289, 308, 353 ff., 373.

with their secret arts (RVm.)] i.e. with their usual mystic words or movements. So v. 22, Exodus 8:7; Exodus 8:18 (not elsewhere in this sense).

The Jerus. Targ., both here and on Exodus 1:15, following a Jewish tradition gives the names of the magicians whom Pharaoh called as Jannes and Jambres (cf. 2 Timothy 3:8): the same two names are also given elsewhere, as Evang. Nicod. 5; Numenius, the Pythagorean philosopher the 2nd cent. a.d., as cited in Eus. Praep. Ev. ix. 8; see also Buxtorf, s.v. יוֹחַנָּא, or Levy, Chald. Wörterb. s.v. יַנִּים; and Schürer, § 32 (ed 3, iii. 292 ff.), with the references.

11, 12. The Egyptian magicians do the same. The art of serpent-charming is indigenous in the East: there are allusions to it in Psalm 58:5, Jeremiah 8:17, Ecclesiastes 10:11; and it is practised in Egypt to the present day. Modern Egyptian serpent-charmers possess an extraordinary power over serpents, drawing them forth, for instance, by noises made with the lips, from their hiding-places, and by pressure applied to the neck throwing them into such a state of hypnotic rigidity that they can be held as rods by the tip of the tail (Lane, Mod. Eg., ch. 20, in ed. 1871, ii. 93 f.; DB. iii. 889a; EB. iv. 4394: see further references in Di.). The serpent commonly used for the purpose is a species of cobra. As Di., however, remarks, we hear elsewhere only of serpents becoming rods, not of rods becoming serpents: the latter, a also the swallowing up of the magicians’ rods by Aaron’s rod, is ‘peculiar to the Hebrew story (Sage).’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. את־ידי ונתתּי: "I will lay My hand on Egypt," i.e., smite Egypt, "and bring out My armies, My people, the children of Israel." צבאות (armies) is used of Israel, with reference to its leaving Egypt equipped (Exodus 13:18) and organized as an army according to the tribes (cf. Exodus 6:26 and Exodus 12:51 with Numbers 1 and 2), to contend for the cause of the Lord, and fight the battles of Jehovah. In this respect the Israelites were called the hosts of Jehovah. The calling of Moses and Aaron was now concluded. Exodus 7:6 and Exodus 7:7 pave the way for the account of their performance of the duties consequent upon their call.
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