Exodus 7:22
And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, neither did he listen to them; as the LORD had said.
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(22) The magicians . . . did so with their enchantments.—The act of the magicians must have been a very poor imitation of the action of Moses and Aaron. The two brothers had turned into blood all the waters of the river, the canals, the pools or lakes, and the reservoirs. The magicians could not act on this large scale. They could only operate, or seem to operate, on some small quantity of water, obtained probably in the way noticed in Exodus 7:24. On this they succeeded, so far as to satisfy Pharaoh, who was probably easy to satisfy, and perhaps so far as to satisfy the courtiers. They turned the liquid of a red colour, or by sleight-of-hand substituted blood for it. The result was subjected to no test, and was perhaps not even done in the presence of any hostile witness. But it enabled the king to harden himself, and refuse the request of the brothers.

Exodus 7:22. The magicians did so — By God’s permission; with their enchantments — It seems they performed real miracles, for the text says expressly they did the same as Moses, and probably to their own surprise, as well as that of others, not knowing that any such effect would follow upon their using enchantments. Certainly they were ignorant of the extent of their own power, or rather, what Satan would or could do by them, and by what means these things came to pass, otherwise they would not have disgraced themselves, by making an attempt to bring forth lice, which they could not perform. What they did do served Pharaoh for an excuse not to set his heart to this also. And a poor excuse it was. Could they have turned the river of blood into water again, and by a word have purified those waters which the almighty power of God had rendered corrupt, they would have proved their power and done Pharaoh a signal favour. But the superiority of the miracles of Moses, even in these instances in which they vied with him, was incontestible: and they were compelled to acknowledge that what he did was by the finger of God. “God, by permitting them to succeed thus far in their opposition, rendered their folly more conspicuous: for by suffering them to change the waters into blood, and putting it out of their power to restore them to their former purity; and by permitting them to produce frogs, which they were not able to remove, he only put it in their power to increase those plagues upon themselves and their countrymen at the same time that they demonstrated their own inability.”— Bishop Kidder.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 fish ... - The Egyptians subsisted to a great extent on the fish of the Nile, though salt-water fish were regarded as impure. A mortality among the fish was a plague that was much dreaded. 22. And the magicians … did so with their enchantments, &c.—Little or no pure water could be procured, and therefore their imitation must have been on a small scale—the only drinkable water available being dug among the sands. It must have been on a sample or specimen of water dyed red with some coloring matter. But it was sufficient to serve as a pretext or command for the king to turn unmoved and go to his house. It was not difficult for the devil to convey blood speedily and unperceivably, and that in a great quantity, which might suffice to infect with a bloody colour those small parcels of water which were left for them to show their art in.

Quest. Whence could they have water, when all their waters were turned into blood?

Answ. It might be had, either,

1. By rain, which at that time God was pleased to send down either for this purpose, or to mitigate the extremity of the plague, or for other reasons known to him, though not to us. For that rain sometimes falls in Egypt, though not much nor often, is affirmed by ancient writers and late travellers. Or,

2. From Goshen, which was not far from the court, or from some houses of the Israelites, who dwelt amongst the Egyptians, as appears from many places of this history, and who were free from these plagues. See Exodus 8:22 9:26 10:23 12:13 &c. Or,

3. From the pits which they digged, Exodus 7:24. Or,

4. From some branch of Nilus, or some vessels in their houses, whose waters were not yet changed; for this change might be wrought not suddenly, (which is not affirmed in this relation,) but by degrees, which God might so order for this very end, that the magicians might have matter for the trial of their experiment. And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments,.... Who were either in company with Pharaoh and his nobles, or were immediately sent for to try their art, and confront Moses and Aaron with it; and who very probably got a little water in a vessel, and by some juggling trick imposing upon, and deceiving the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, made it look like blood; and the devil might help them to a sufficient quantity of blood, and discolour the water with it, and make it appear as if it was blood, and which was a poor business; had they turned the bloody river into water again, they would have equalled the miracle of Moses and Aaron, and done some service to their country; but to deceive the sight of people, or to spoil a small quantity of water that was good, by mixing it with blood, was but a mean and unworthy action. Should it be asked from whence they had this water, when all was turned into blood? it may be answered, either from Goshen, as the Targum of Jonathan, the waters of the Hebrews not being affected with this plague: though Aben Ezra thinks they were; or from the sea, as Theodoret; but both these places were too far distant to fetch water from, in the time that Pharaoh stayed here before his return home: rather therefore this water was had from some habitation of the Israelites in the city near at hand, where Pharaoh lived, or was dug for immediately by the magicians, as in Exodus 7:24 or it may be that all the waters were not immediately turned into blood, but successively and gradually, first the river, and then its streams, &c. so that there might be near at hand a pool of water, not yet turned into blood, and a vessel of water might be fetched from it, on which they exercised their juggling art:

and Pharaoh's heart was hardened: by seeing his magicians do what was similar to what Moses and Aaron had done; and therefore concluded that it was not by the hand of God, but owing to a magic art they were masters of, as his magicians were:

neither did he hearken unto them; to Moses and Aaron, and what they said to him, to let the people go:

as the Lord had said; had before told he would not hearken to them, Exodus 7:4.

And the magicians of Egypt did {g} so with their enchantments: and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, neither did he hearken unto them; as the LORD had said.

(g) In outward appearance, after the seven days were ended.

22. The magicians, however, did the same with their ‘secret arts’; and the Pharaoh remained unmoved. The expressions, as vv. 11b, 13 (P).Verses 22, 23. - On the occurrence of the second sign and first plague, the magicians were again consulted; and, by means which it is impossible to do more the. conjecture, they produced a seeming transformation into blood of a certain quantity of water. The inquiry, whence they procured the water, is answered by ver. 24. That they actually turned water into blood is scarcely asserted in the vague "did so" of ver. 22. Perhaps they had recourse to sleight of hand, and made a substitution, like modern conjurors; perhaps they merely turned the water of a red colour. All that was necessary was to convince Pharaoh that they were able to do what Moses and Aaron had done - there was no one to watch, and test, and examine their pretended miracle, which consequently passed muster, though it may have been no more than a trick. Pharaoh, however, suffered himself to be convinced, and "turned and went into his house" without paying any attention to the marvel wrought (ver. 23). Verse 22. - The magicians of Egypt did so. They could not do what Moses and Aaron had done - stretch out, that is, a rod over the Nile, and turn it and all its branches, and ponds, and pools, into blood, for this was already done. They could only show their skill upon some small quantity of water in a cup or other vessel. No doubt they produced some apparent change, which was accepted by Pharaoh as an equivalent to what had been effected by the Israelite chiefs, but which must have fallen far short of it. Pharaoh would not be a severe critic. 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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