Exodus 7:20
And Moses and Aaron did so, as the LORD commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and smote 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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) He lifted up the rod.—“He” is, undoubtedly, Aaron. (See Exodus 7:19.)

In the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants.—If the occasion was one of a Nile festival, Pharaoh would have “gone out to the water” (Exodus 7:15) accompanied by all the great officers of the Court, by a large body of the priests, and vast numbers of the people. If it was a mere occasion of bodily ablution, he would have had with him a pretty numerous train of attendants. In either case considerable publicity was given to the miracle, which was certainly not “done in a corner.”

Exodus 7:20. The waters in the river were turned into blood — This was a plague justly inflicted on the Egyptians; for the river of Egypt was their idol; they and their land had so much benefit by that creature, that they served and worshipped it more than their Creator. In ancient times they annually even sacrificed a girl to it, at the opening of the canals, Univ. Hist., vol. 1. p. 413. Also they had stained the river with the blood of the Hebrew children, and now God made that river all bloody; thus he gave them blood to drink, for they were worthy, Revelation 16:6. See the power of God! Every creature is that to us which he makes it to be, water or blood. See the mutability of all things under the sun, and what changes we may meet with in them. That which is water to-day may be blood to- morrow; what is always vain may soon become vexatious. And see what mischievous work sin makes! It is sin that turns our waters into blood. All the waters — It seems the word all here, and in the foregoing verse, is either to be understood in a limited sense, as it frequently is in Scripture, meaning not all in the strictest sense, but only a very great part; or else that although Moses’s commission extended to all the waters in Egypt, yet it was only executed upon the river Nile: because we read that the magicians did the same thing; but if Moses had turned all the waters into blood, as some scoffers have, with great raillery and triumph, observed, how could the magicians do the same, there being, on this supposition, no water for them upon which to make the trial.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. No text from Poole on this verse. And Moses and Aaron did so, as the Lord commanded,.... Moses delivered the rod to Aaron, who took it and went to the water side:

and he lift up the rod, and smote the waters that were in the river; or "in that river" (i), the river Nile, on the brink of which Pharaoh then stood:

in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; his nobles and courtiers who tended him in his walk to the water; for this was done before he returned to his palace:

and all the waters that were in the river were turned into blood; not only the face of the waters looked like blood, but they were really turned into it; and not only the surface of the water, but all the water that was in the river, wherever it flowed, and as far as it flowed in the land of Egypt.

(i) Sept. "in eo rivo", Junius and Tremellius, Piscator.

And Moses and Aaron did so, as the LORD commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and smote 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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Verse 20. - He lifted up the rod. "He" must be understood to mean "Aaron" (see ver. 19); but the writer is too much engrossed with the general run of his narrative to be careful about minutia. All that he wants to impress upon us is, that the rod was used as an instrument for the working of the miracle. He is not thinking of who it was that used it. In the sight of Pharaoh. See the comment on ver. 15. And of his servants. Either "his courtiers generally," or, at any rate, a large troop of attendants. When 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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