Thus said the LORD, In this you shall know that I am the LORD: behold, I will smite with the rod that is in my hand on the waters which are in the river, and they shall be turned to blood.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)In this thou shalt know that I am the Lord.—See the comment on Exodus 7:5.
The rod that is in my hand, i.e., “in the hand of my servant.” God is here represented as about to do that which was actually done by Aaron (Exodus 7:20). “Qui facit per alium, facit per se.”Who is the Lord? and, I know not the Lord, Exodus 5:2, thou shalt know him experimentally, and to thy cost. Behold, I will smite, viz. by Aaron’s hand, who shall do it by my command and direction. Thus Pilate is said to give Christ’s body to Joseph, Mark 15:45, because he commanded it to be delivered by others to him. The same action is ascribed to the principal and instrumental cause. The river Nile, which was one of their principal gods; and therefore it was inexcusable in them, that they would not renounce those feeble gods, which were unable to help not only their worshippers, but even themselves, nor embrace the service and commands of that God whose almighty power they saw and felt.
They shall be turned to blood, which was a very grievous plague to them; both because it was an eternal dishonour to their religion, and because from hence they had both their drink, Deu 11:10,11 Jer 2:18, and their meat, Numbers 11:5; for greater and lesser cattle they would not eat, Exodus 8:26. And it was a very proper punishment for them, who had made that river an instrument for the execution of their bloody design against the Israelitish infants, Exodus 1:22.
behold, I will smite with the rod that is in my hand; which though in the hand of Moses, Exodus 7:18 yet he being his ambassador, and representing him, is said to be in the hand of the Lord; and with this he threatens to smite
upon the waters which are in the river; the river Nile, and the canals thereof:Thus saith the LORD, In this thou shalt know that I am the LORD: behold, I will smite with the rod that is in mine hand upon the waters which are in the river, and they shall be turned to blood.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)17. The proof to be given to the Pharaoh that the God of the Hebrews is Jehovah: the waters of the Nile to be smitten and turned into blood (i.e. to assume the appearance of blood).
I will smite] As Di. remarks, the transition from the Divine ‘I’ just before to the ‘I’ of Moses is very abrupt: we expect, ‘I [i.e. Jehovah] will smite the waters that are in the Nile’ (cf. v. 25, ‘after that Jehovah had smitten the Nile’); hence it is probable (Di.) that the words, with the rod that is in mine hand, are introduced by the compiler from the narrative of E (in which, Moses being addressed, thine will have stood originally for mine). It these words are omitted, the ‘I’ in ‘I will smite’ will of course be Jehovah.
the river] the Nile. So vv. 18 (thrice), 20 (twice), 21 (thrice), 24 (twice), 25. See on Exodus 1:22.Verse 17. - In this thou shalt know that I am the Lord. Pharaoh had declared on the occasion specially referred to, "I know not Jehovah, neither will I let Israel go" (Exodus 5:2). He is now told that he shall "know Jehovah" in the coming visitation; he shall know, i.e., that there is a great and truly existent God who controls nature, does as he will even with the Nile, which the Egyptians regarded as a great deity; and can turn, if he see fit, the greatest blessings into curses. Behold, I will smite. God here speaks of the acts of Moses and Aaron as his own acts, and of their hands as his hand, because they were mere instruments through which he worked. The Roman law said: "Qui facit per alium, tacit per se." The waters... shall be turned to blood. Not simply, "shall be of the colour of blood," as Rosenmuller paraphrases, but shall become and be, to all intents and purposes, blood. It is idle to ask whether the water would have answered to all the modern tests, microscopic and other, by which blood is known. The question cannot be answered. An that we are entitled to conclude from the words of the text is, that the water had all the physical appearance the look, taste, smell, texture of blood: and hence, that it was certainly not merely discoloured by the red soil of Abyssinia, nor by cryptegamic plants and infusoria. Water thus changed would neither kill fish, nor "stink," nor be utterly undrinkable. Exodus 7:8-13), and concluded with the announcement of the last blow that God would inflict upon the hardened king (Exodus 11:1-10). The centre of these negotiations, or rather the main point of this lengthened section, which is closely connected throughout, and formally rounded off by Exodus 11:9-10 into an inward unity, is found in the nine plagues which the messengers of Jehovah brought upon Pharaoh and his kingdom at the command of Jehovah, to bend the defiant spirit of the king, and induce him to let Israel go out of the land and serve their God. If we carefully examine the account of these nine penal miracles, we shall find that they are arranged in three groups of three plagues each. For the first and second, the fourth and fifth, and the seventh and eighth were announced beforehand by Moses to the king (Exodus 7:15; Exodus 8:1, Exodus 8:20; Exodus 9:1, Exodus 9:13; Exodus 10:1), whilst the third, sixth, and ninth were sent without any such announcement (Exodus 8:16; Exodus 9:8; Exodus 10:21). Again, the first, fourth, and seventh were announced to Pharaoh in the morning, and the first and fourth by the side of the Nile (Exodus 7:15; Exodus 8:20), both of them being connected with the overflowing of the river; whilst the place of announcement is not mentioned in the case of the seventh (the hail, Exodus 9:13), because hail, as coming from heaven, was not connected with any particular locality. This grouping is not a merely external arrangement, adopted by the writer for the sake of greater distinctness, but is founded in the facts themselves, and the effect which God intended the plagues to produce, as we may gather from these circumstances - that the Egyptian magicians, who had imitated the first plagues, were put to shame with their arts by the third, and were compelled to see in it the finger of God (Exodus 8:19), - that they were smitten themselves by the sixth, and were unable to stand before Moses (Exodus 9:11), - and that after the ninth, Pharaoh broke off all further negotiation with Moses and Aaron (Exodus 10:28-29). The last plague, commonly known as the tenth, which Moses also announced to the king before his departure (Exodus 11:4.), differed from the nine former ones both in purpose and form. It was the first beginning of the judgment that was coming upon the hardened king, and was inflicted directly by God Himself, for Jehovah "went out through the midst of Egypt, and smote the first-born of the Egyptians both of man and beast" (Exodus 11:4; Exodus 12:29); whereas seven of the previous plagues were brought by Moses and Aaron, and of the two that are not expressly said to have been brought by them, one, that of the dog-flies, was simply sent by Jehovah (Exodus 8:21, Exodus 8:24), and the other, the murrain of beasts, simply came from His hand (Exodus 9:3, Exodus 9:6). The last blow (נגע Exodus 11:1), which brought about the release of Israel, was also distinguished from the nine plagues, as the direct judgment of God, by the fact that it was not effected through the medium of any natural occurrence, as was the case with all the others, which were based upon the natural phenomena of Egypt, and became signs and wonders through their vast excess above the natural measure of such natural occurrences and their supernatural accumulation, blow after blow following one another in less than a year, and also through the peculiar circumstances under which they were brought about. In this respect also the triple division is unmistakeable. The first three plagues covered the whole land, and fell upon the Israelites as well as the Egyptians; with the fourth the separation commenced between Egyptians and Israelites, so that only the Egyptians suffered from the last six, the Israelites in Goshen being entirely exempted. The last three, again, were distinguished from the others by the fact, that they were far more dreadful than any of the previous ones, and bore visible marks of being the forerunners of the judgment which would inevitably fall upon Pharaoh, if he continued his opposition to the will of the Almighty God.
In this graduated series of plagues, the judgment of hardening was inflicted upon Pharaoh in the manner explained above. In the first three plagues God showed him, that He, the God of Israel, was Jehovah (Exodus 7:17), i.e., that He ruled as Lord and King over the occurrences and powers of nature, which the Egyptians for the most part honoured as divine; and before His power the magicians of Egypt with their secret arts were put to shame. These three wonders made no impression upon the king. The plague of frogs, indeed, became so troublesome to him, that he begged Moses and Aaron to intercede with their God to deliver him from them, and promised to let the people go (Exodus 8:8). But as soon as they were taken away, he hardened his heart, and would not listen to the messengers of God. Of the three following plagues, the first (i.e., the fourth in the entire series), viz., the plague of swarming creatures or dog-flies, with which the distinction between the Egyptians and Israelites commenced, proving to Pharaoh that the God of Israel was Jehovah in the midst of the land (Exodus 8:22), made such an impression upon the hardened king, that he promised to allow the Israelites to sacrifice to their God, first of all in the land, and when Moses refused this condition, even outside the land, if they would not go far away, and Moses and Aaron would pray to God for him, that this plague might be taken away by God from him and from his people (Exodus 8:25.). But this concession was only forced out of him by suffering; so that as soon as the plague ceased he withdrew it again, and his hard heart was not changed by the two following plagues. Hence still heavier plagues were sent, and he had to learn from the last three that there was no god in the whole earth like Jehovah, the God of the Hebrews (Hebrews 9:14). The terrible character of these last plagues so affected the proud heart of Pharaoh, that twice he acknowledged he had sinned (Exodus 9:27; Exodus 10:16), and gave a promise that he would let the Israelites go, restricting his promise first of all to the men, and then including their families also (Exodus 10:11, Exodus 10:24). But when this plague was withdrawn, he resumed his old sinful defiance once more (Exodus 9:34-35; Exodus 10:20), and finally was altogether hardened, and so enraged at Moses persisting in his demand that they should take their flocks as well, that he drove away the messengers of Jehovah and broke off all further negotiations, with the threat that he would kill them if ever they came into his presence again (Exodus 10:28-29).
Attestation of the Divine Mission of Moses and Aaron. - By Jehovah's directions Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh, and proved by a miracle (מופת Exodus 4:21) that they were the messengers of the God of the Hebrews. Aaron threw down his staff before Pharaoh, and it became a serpent. Aaron's staff as no other than the wondrous staff of Moses (Exodus 4:2-4). This is perfectly obvious from a comparison of Exodus 7:15 and Exodus 7:17 with Exodus 7:19 and Exodus 7:20. If Moses was directed, according to Exodus 7:15., to go before Pharaoh with his rod which had been turned into a serpent, and to announce to him that he would smite the water of the Nile with the staff in his hand and turn it into blood, and then, according to Exodus 7:19., this miracle was carried out by Aaron taking his staff and stretching out his hand over the waters of Egypt, the staff which Aaron held over the water cannot have been any other than the staff of Moses which had been turned into a serpent. Consequently we must also understand by the staff of Aaron, which was thrown down before Pharaoh and became a serpent, the same wondrous staff of Moses, and attribute the expression "thy (i.e., Aaron's) staff" to the brevity of the account, i.e., to the fact that the writer restricted himself to the leading facts, and passed over such subordinate incidents as that Moses gave his staff to Aaron for him to work the miracle. For the same reason he has not even mentioned that Moses spoke to Pharaoh by Aaron, or what he said, although in Exodus 7:13 he states that Pharaoh did not hearken unto them, i.e., to their message or their words. The serpent, into which the staff was changed, is not called נחשׁ here, as in Exodus 7:15 and Exodus 4:3, but תּנּיּן (lxx δράκων, dragon), a general term for snake-like animals. This difference does not show that there were two distinct records, but may be explained on the ground that the miracle performed before Pharaoh had a different signification from that which attested the divine mission of Moses in the presence of his people. The miraculous sign mentioned here is distinctly related to the art of snake-charming, which was carried to such an extent by the Psylli in ancient Egypt (cf. Bochart, and Hengstenberg, Egypt and Moses, pp. 98ff. transl.). It is probable that the Israelites in Egypt gave the name תּנּיּן (Eng. ver. dragon), which occurs in Deuteronomy 32:33 and Psalm 91:13 as a parallel to פּתן (Eng. ver. asp), to the snake with which the Egyptian charmers generally performed their tricks, the Hayeh of the Arabs. What the magi and conjurers of Egypt boasted that they could perform by their secret or magical arts, Moses was to effect in reality in Pharaoh's presence, and thus manifest himself to the king as Elohim (Exodus 7:1), i.e., as endowed with divine authority and power. All that is related of the Psylli of modern times is, that they understand the art of turning snakes into sticks, or of compelling them to become rigid and apparently dead (for examples see Hengstenberg); but who can tell what the ancient Psylli may have been able to effect, or may have pretended to effect, at a time when the demoniacal power of heathenism existed in its unbroken force? The magicians summoned by Pharaoh also turned their sticks into snakes (Exodus 7:12); a fact which naturally excites the suspicion that the sticks themselves were only rigid snakes, though, with our very limited acquaintance with the dark domain of heathen conjuring, the possibility of their working "lying wonders after the working of Satan," i.e., supernatural things (2 Thessalonians 2:9), cannot be absolutely denied. The words, "They also, the chartummim of Egypt, did in like manner with their enchantments," are undoubtedly based upon the assumption, that the conjurers of Egypt not only pretended to possess the art of turning snakes into sticks, but of turning sticks into snakes as well, so that in the persons of the conjurers Pharaoh summoned the might of the gods of Egypt to oppose the might of Jehovah, the God of the Hebrews. For these magicians, whom the Apostle Paul calls Jannes and Jambres, according to the Jewish tradition (2 Timothy 3:8), were not common jugglers, but חכמים "wise men," men educated in human and divine wisdom, and חרטתּים, ἱερογραμματεῖς, belonging to the priestly caste (Genesis 41:8); so that the power of their gods was manifested in their secret arts (להטים from להט to conceal, to act secretly, like לטים in Exodus 7:22 from לוּט), and in the defeat of their enchantments by Moses the gods of Egypt were overcome by Jehovah (Exodus 12:12). The supremacy of Jehovah over the demoniacal powers of Egypt manifested itself in the very first miraculous sign, in the fact that Aaron's staff swallowed those of the magicians; though this miracle made no impression upon Pharaoh (Exodus 7:13).
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