Exodus 7:19
And the LORD spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt, upon their streams, upon their rivers, and upon their ponds, and upon all their pools of water, that they may become blood; and that there may be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood, and in vessels of stone.
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(19) The waters of Egypt consist of the main stream of the Nile; its branches; canals derived from it; natural lakes, pools, or ponds, either left by the inundation or anticipative of it, being derived by percolation from the main stream; and artificial reservoirs of a larger or smaller size in gardens, courts, and houses. There is no other stream but the Nile in the whole country; and there are no natural springs, fountains, or brooks. Water may, however, at all times, and in all parts of the Nile Valley, be obtained by digging wells; but, as the soil is impregnated with nitre, the well water is highly unpalatable. It is generally allowed that the author of Exodus shows in the present verse, coupled with Exodus 7:24, a very exact knowledge of the Egyptian water system.

Vessels of wood, and vessels of stone.—It was usual to store the Nile water in tanks or cisterns within the houses, in order that it might deposit its sediment. These tanks or cisterns, which existed in all the houses of the better class, were either of wood or stone.

Exodus 7:19. Upon their streams, &c., — both in vessels of wood and vessels of stone — “To what purpose this minuteness?” says the last-mentioned author. “May not the meaning be that the water of the Nile should not only look red and nauseous, like blood, in the river, but in their vessels too, and that no method of purifying it should take place, but, whether drunk out of vessels of wood or out of vessels of stone, by means of which they were wont to purge the Nile water, it should be the same, and should appear like blood.” — Harmer, vol. 2. p. 292.

7:14-25 Here is the first of the ten plagues, the turning of the water into blood. It was a dreadful plague. The sight of such vast rolling streams of blood could not but strike horror. Nothing is more common than water: so wisely has Providence ordered it, and so kindly, that what is so needful and serviceable to the comfort of human life, should be cheap and almost every where to be had; but now the Egyptians must either drink blood, or die for thirst. Egypt was a pleasant land, but the dead fish and blood now rendered it very unpleasant. It was a righteous plague, and justly sent upon the Egyptians; for Nile, the river of Egypt, was their idol. That creature which we idolize, God justly takes from us, or makes bitter to us. They had stained the river with the blood of the Hebrews' children, and now God made that river all blood. Never any thirsted after blood, but sooner or later they had enough of it. It was a significant plague; Egypt had great dependence upon their river, Zec 14:18; so that in smiting the river, they were warned of the destruction of all the produce of their country. The love of Christ to his disciples changes all their common mercies into spiritual blessings; the anger of God towards his enemies, renders their most valued advantages a curse and a misery to them. Aaron is to summon the plague by smiting the river with his rod. It was done in the sight of Pharaoh and his attendants, for God's true miracles were not performed as Satan's lying wonders; truth seeks no corners. See the almighty power of God. Every creature is that to us which he makes it to be water or blood. See what changes we may meet with in the things of this world; what is always vain, may soon become vexatious. See what mischievous work sin makes. If the things that have been our comforts prove our crosses, we must thank ourselves. It is sin that turns our waters into blood. The plague continued seven days; and in all that time Pharaoh's proud heart would not let him desire Moses to pray for the removal of it. Thus the hypocrites in heart heap up wrath. No wonder that God's anger is not turned away, but that his hand is stretched out still.The "streams" mean the natural branches of the Nile in Lower Egypt. The word "rivers" should rather be "canals"; they were of great extent, running parallel to the Nile, and communicating with it by sluices, which were opened at the rise, and closed at the subsidence of the inundation. The word rendered "ponds" refers either to natural fountains, or more probably to cisterns or tanks found in every town and village. The "pools", literally "gathering of waters," were the reservoirs, always large and some of enormous extent, containing sufficient water to irrigate the country in the dry season.

In vessels of wood - The Nile water is kept in vessels and is purified for use by filtering, and by certain ingredients such as the paste of almonds.

17-21. Aaron lifted up the rod and smote the waters, &c.—Whether the water was changed into real blood, or only the appearance of it (and Omnipotence could effect the one as easily as the other), this was a severe calamity. How great must have been the disappointment and disgust throughout the land when the river became of a blood red color, of which they had a national abhorrence; their favorite beverage became a nauseous draught, and the fish, which formed so large an article of food, were destroyed. [See on [17]Nu 11:5.] The immense scale on which the plague was inflicted is seen by its extending to "the streams," or branches of the Nile—to the "rivers," the canals, the "ponds" and "pools," that which is left after an overflow, the reservoirs, and the many domestic vessels in which the Nile water was kept to filter. And accordingly the sufferings of the people from thirst must have been severe. Nothing could more humble the pride of Egypt than this dishonor brought on their national god. Not that he was to go to every pool to use this ceremony there, but he stretched his hand and rod over some of them in the name of all the rest, which he might signify either by his words, or by the various motions of his rod several ways.

And the Lord spake unto Moses,.... Pharaoh still being obstinate, and refusing to let the people go:

say unto Aaron, take thy rod, and stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt; upon all of them in general, what were in the river Nile, or derived from it, as follows:

upon their streams; the seven streams of the river Nile; see Gill on Isaiah 11:15.

upon their rivers; the canals that were cut out of the river Nile, for the watering of their fields and gardens, for they had no other river:

and upon their ponds, and upon all their pools of waters; which were dug near the river, or to which pipes were laid to convey the water thither:

that they may become blood; and so not fit to drink:

and that there may be blood throughout all the land of Egypt,

both in vessels of wood, and in vessels of stone; in which water were kept in private houses, fetched from the river for the use of families; all which were to be turned into blood everywhere, in all parts of the land, and in all places mentioned, immediately upon Aaron's taking his rod, and smiting the waters with it in that part of the river that was before him.

And the LORD spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt, upon their streams, upon their rivers, and upon their ponds, and upon all their pools of water, that they may become blood; and that there may be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood, and in vessels of stone.
19–20a. Before describing how the Nile was smitten, the compiler introduces P’s account of the command given to Moses. According to this, not the water of the Nile only, but all the water in Egypt, is to become blood.

19. Say unto Aaron] as regularly in P (p. 55).

thy rod] as v. 9.

their rivers] The Nile, and its arms, running through the Delta.

their streams] lit. their Niles, i.e. their Nile-canals,—such as were constructed for irrigation purposes, to convey the water of the Nile to the fields.

all their ponds of water] Heb. every gathering (Genesis 1:10, Leviticus 11:36) of their water. Probably reservoirs (tanks, cisterns, &c.) are in particular thought of: cf. the fem. in Isaiah 22:11 (‘reservoir’).

20b. and he lifted up] At first sight, in view of v. 19a, the subject seems to be Aaron: Aaron, however, in v. 19, is to stretch out his hand over all the water in Egypt; here the Nile only is smitten, in exact accordance with v. 17. At least therefore in its original context, when the narrative of E was complete, the ‘he’ will have been Moses, who carries the rod in vv. 15b, 17.

Verse 19. - Say unto Aaron. There is an omission here (and generally throughout the account of the plagues) of the performance by Moses of God's behest. The Samaritan Pentateuch in each case supplies the omission. It has been argued (Kennicott) that the Hebrew narrative has been contracted; but most critics agree that the incomplete form is the early one, and that, in the Samar. version, the original narrative has been expanded. The waters of Egypt... streams... rivers... ponds... pools of water. The waters of Lower Egypt, where this miracle was wrought, consisted of

(1) the various branches of the Nile, natural and artificial, which were seven when Herodotus wrote (Herod. 2:17), whence the Nile was called "septemfluus," or "septemgeminus;"

(2) the canals derived from each branch to fertilise the lands along its banks;

(3) ponds, marshes, and pools, the results of the overflowing of the Nile, or of its percolation through its banks on either side; and

(4) artificial reservoirs, wherein water was stored for use after the inundation was over. The four terms of the text seem applicable to this four-fold division, and "show an accurate knowledge of Egypt" (Cook), and of its water system. The "streams" are the Nile branches; the" rivers correspond to the canals; the "ponds" are the natural accumulations of waters in permanent lakes or in temporary pools and marshes; while the "pools," or "gatherings of waters" (margin), are the reservoirs made by art. Aaron was to stretch out his rod over the Nile, but with the intent to smite all the Egyptian waters, and all the waters would at once be smitten, the streams and the canals and the natural lakes and the reservoirs. The miracle would even extend to private dwell-trigs, and the change would take place throughout all the land of Egypt, not only in respect of the open waters spread over the country, but even in respect of that stored, as was usual, in houses, and contained either in vessels of wood or in vessels of stone. With respect to these, it is to be observed that the Nile water was much improved by keeping, since the sediment subsided; and that tanks, sometimes of wood, sometimes of stone, were usual adjuncts of all the better class of houses. Exodus 7:19When Pharaoh hardened his heart against the first sign, notwithstanding the fact that it displayed the supremacy of the messengers of Jehovah over the might of the Egyptian conjurers and their gods, and refused to let the people of Israel go; Moses and Aaron were empowered by God to force the release of Israel from the obdurate king by a series of penal miracles. These מפתים were not purely supernatural wonders, or altogether unknown to the Egyptians, but were land-plagues with which Egypt was occasionally visited, and were raised into miraculous deeds of the Almighty God, by the fact that they burst upon the land one after another at an unusual time of the year, in unwonted force, and in close succession. These plagues were selected by God as miraculous signs, because He intended to prove thereby to the king and his servants, that He, Jehovah, was the Lord in the land, and ruled over the powers of nature with unrestricted freedom and omnipotence. For this reason God not only caused them to burst suddenly upon the land according to His word, and then as suddenly to disappear according to His omnipotent will, but caused them to be produced by Moses and Aaron and disappear again at their word and prayer, that Pharaoh might learn that these men were appointed by Him as His messengers, and were endowed by Him with divine power for the accomplishment of His will.

Exodus 7:14-21

The Water of the Nile Turned into Blood. - In the morning, when Pharaoh went to the Nile, Moses took his staff at the command of God; went up to him on the bank of the river, with the demand of Jehovah that he would let His people Israel go; and because hitherto (עד־כּה) he had not obeyed, announced this first plague, which Aaron immediately brought to pass. Both time and place are of significance here. Pharaoh went out in the morning to the Nile (Exodus 7:15; Exodus 8:20), not merely to take a refreshing walk, or to bathe in the river, or to see how high the water had risen, but without doubt to present his daily worship to the Nile, which was honoured by the Egyptians as their supreme deity (vid., Exodus 2:5). At this very moment the will of God with regard to Israel was declared to him; and for his refusal to comply with the will of the Lord as thus revealed to him, the smiting of the Nile with the staff made known to him the fact, that the God of the Hebrews was the true God, and possessed the power to turn the fertilizing water of this object of their highest worship into blood. The changing of the water into blood is to be interpreted in the same sense as in Joel 3:4, where the moon is said to be turned into blood; that is to say, not as a chemical change into real blood, but as a change in the colour, which caused it to assume the appearance of blood (2 Kings 3:22). According to the statements of many travellers, the Nile water changes its colour when the water is lowest, assumes first of all a greenish hue and is almost undrinkable, and then, while it is rising, becomes as red as ochre, when it is more wholesome again. The causes of this change have not been sufficiently investigated. The reddening of the water is attributed by many to the red earth, which the river brings down from Sennaar (cf. Hengstenberg, Egypt and the Books of Moses, pp. 104ff. transl.; Laborde, comment. p. 28); but Ehrenberg came to the conclusion, after microscopical examinations, that it was caused by cryptogamic plants and infusoria. This natural phenomenon was here intensified into a miracle, not only by the fact that the change took place immediately in all the branches of the river at Moses' word and through the smiting of the Nile, but even more by a chemical change in the water, which caused the fishes to die, the stream to stink, and, what seems to indicate putrefaction, the water to become undrinkable; whereas, according to the accounts of travellers, which certainly do not quite agree with one another, and are not entirely trustworthy, the Nile water becomes more drinkable as soon as the natural reddening beings. The change in the water extended to "the streams," or different arms of the Nile; "the rivers," or Nile canals; "the ponds," or large standing lakes formed by the Nile; and all "the pools of water," lit., every collection of their waters, i.e., all the other standing lakes and ponds, left by the overflowings of the Nile, with the water of which those who lived at a distance from the river had to content themselves. "So that there was blood in all the land of Egypt, both in the wood and in the stone;" i.e., in the vessels of wood and stone, in which the water taken from the Nile and its branches was kept for daily use. The reference is not merely to the earthen vessels used for filtering and cleansing the water, but to every vessel into which water had been put. The "stone" vessels were the stone reservoirs built up at the corners of the streets and in other places, where fresh water was kept for the poor (cf. Oedmann's verm. Samml. p. 133). The meaning of this supplementary clause is not that even the water which was in these vessels previous to the smiting of the river was turned into blood, in which Kurtz perceives "the most miraculous part of the whole miracle;" for in that case the "wood and stone" would have been mentioned immediately after the "gatherings of the waters;" but simply that there was no more water to put into these vessels that was not changed into blood. The death of the fishes was a sign, that the smiting had taken away from the river its life-sustaining power, and that its red hue was intended to depict before the eyes of the Egyptians all the terrors of death; but we are not to suppose that there was any reference to the innocent blood which the Egyptians had poured into the river through the drowning of the Hebrew boys, or to their own guilty blood which was afterwards to be shed.

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