Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
And the LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet.
And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,SECOND SECTION
The miracles of Moses, or the result of the nine Egyptian Plagues, preliminary to the last. Pharaoh’s alternate repentance and obduracy
A.—MOSES’ MIRACULOUS ROD AND THE EGYPTIAN MAGICIANS. THE FIRST PLAGUE INFLICTED WITH THE ROD: CHANGE OF THE WATER INTO BLOOD
8And Jehovah spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, 9When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Shew a miracle for you [yourselves]: then thou shalt say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become [let it become] a serpent. 10And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as Jehovah had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and 11before his servants, and it became a serpent. Then [And] Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now [and] the magicians of Egypt, they also did in 12like manner with their enchantments [secret arts]. For [And] they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents; but Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods. 13And he hardened Pharaoh’s heart [Pharaoh’s heart was hardened]1, that 14[and] he hearkened not unto them, as Jehovah had said. And Jehovah said unto Moses, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened [hard]2, he refuseth to let the people go. 15Get thee unto Pharaoh in the morning; lo, he goeth out unto the water; and thou shalt stand by the river’s brink against he come [to meet him]; and the rod which was turned to a serpent shalt thou take in thine [thy] hand. 16And thou shalt say unto him, Jehovah, God [the God] of the Hebrews hath sent me unto thee, saying, Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness: and, behold, hitherto 17thou wouldest not hear [hast not heard, i.e., obeyed]. Thus saith Jehovah, In this thou shalt know that I am Jehovah: behold, I will smite with the rod that is in mine [my] hand upon the waters which are in the river, and they shall be turned to blood. 18And the fish that is in the river shall die, and the river shall stink; and 19the Egyptians shall loathe to drink of [drink] the water of [from] the river. And Jehovah spake [said] unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and stretch out thine [thy] hand upon the waters of Egypt, upon their streams, upon their rivers [canals],3 upon their ponds, and upon all their pools of water, that they may become blood; and that there may [and there shall] be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood, and in vessels of stone. 20And Moses and Aaron did so, as Jehovah 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. 21And the fish that was in the river died; and the river stank; and the Egyptians could not drink of [drink] the water of [from] the river; and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. 22And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments [secret arts]: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, neither did he [and he did not] hearken unto them; as Jehovah had said. 23And Pharaoh turned and went into his house, neither did he [and he did not] set his heart to this also [even to this].4 24And all the Egyptians digged round about the river for water to drink; for they could not drink of the water of the riExo 7:25And seven days were fulfilled, after that Jehovah had smitten the river.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
[Exo 7:13. The same form here, יֶחֱזַק, as in Exo 7:22, where the A. V. correctly renders it intransitively. Literally, “was firm, or strong,” i.e., unyielding, unimpressible.—TR.].
[Exo 7:14. The Hebrew has here a different word, כָּבֵד. Literally, ‘heavy’—the same word which Moses used respecting his tongue, 4:10.—TR.].
[Exo 7:19. יְאֹרֵיהֶם, plural of the word which is used almost exclusively of the Nile. Here probably it signifies the artificial canals leading from the Nile—TR.].
[Exo 7:23. Or, according to the English idiom: “nor did he lay even this to heart.”—TR.].
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
On the whole series of Egyptian plagues, see the Introduction. But we reckon not nine plagues (with Keil), but ten, as a complete number symbolizing the history of the visitation. Moses’ miraculous rod forms the prologue to it; the destruction of Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea, the epilogue.
1. Moses’ miraculous rod in contest with the divining rods of the Egyptian wise men, Exo 7:8–13.
Exo 7:8, 9. Shew a miracle for yourselves.—It is a general assumption, shared also by the Egyptians, that an ambassador of God must attest his mission by signs, miraculous signs. Take thy rod.—Aaron’s rod is Moses’ rod, which, however, passes over into his hand, as Moses’ word into his mouth.—A serpent. The Hebrew is תַּנִּין. LXX. δράκων. According to Keil the expression is selected with reference to the Egyptian snake-charmers. He says, “Comp. Bochart, Hieroz. III., p. 162 sqq., ed. Rosenmüler; and Hengstenberg, Egypt and the Books, etc., p. 100 sqq. Probably the Israelites in Egypt designated by תַּנִּין, which occurs in Deut. 32:33; Ps. 91:13, in parallelism with פֶּתֶן, the snake with which the Egyptian serpent-charmers chiefly carry on their business, the Hayeh of the Arabs.” Of the so-called Psylli it is only known that they are able to put serpents into a rigid state, and in this sense to transform them into sticks. This then is the natural fact in relation and opposition to which the sign, by which Moses attested his mission, stands. The relation between the mysterious miracle of Moses and the symbolical development of it is rather difficult to define.
Exo 7:11. “These sorcerers (מְכַשְּׁפִים), whom the Apostle Paul, according to the Jewish legend, names Jannes and Jambres (2 Tim. 3:8), were not common jugglers, but חֲכָמִים, wise men,… and חַרְטֻמִּיםἱερογραμματεῖς, belonging to the caste of priests, Gen. 41:8” (Keil).
Exo 7:12, 13. Exo 7:13 does not stand in direct relation to the close of Exo 7:12. The hardening of Pharaoh cannot well relate to the fact that Aaron’s rod swallowed up the rods of the sorcerers, although this is probably to be understood metaphorically, but to the fact that the Egyptian sorcerers do the same thing as Aaron does. The essential difference between the acts of God and the demoniacal false miracles is not obvious to the world and the worldly tyrants.
2. The transformation of the water of the Nile into blood, Exo 7:14–25.
Exo 7:15. Lo, he goeth out unto the water. To worship the Nile.
Exo 7:17. “The transformation of the water into blood is, according to Joel 3:4 [2:31], according to which the moon is changed into blood, to be conceived as a blood-red coloring by which it acquired the appearance of blood (2 Kings 3:22), not as a chemical transformation into real blood. According to the reports of many travellers, the Nile water, when lowest, changes its color, becomes greenish and almost undrinkable, whereas, when rising, it becomes red, of an ochre hue, and then begins to be more wholesome. The causes of this change have not yet been properly investigated” (Keil). Two causes are alleged: the red earth in Sennaar, or, according to Ehrenberg, microscopic infusoria. Even the Rhine furnishes a feeble analogue. The heightening of the natural event into a miraculous one lies in the prediction of its sudden occurrence and in its magnitude, so that the red Nile water instead of becoming more wholesome assumes deadly or injurious properties.
Exo 7:19. That blood should come into all the ramifications of the water, even to the stone and woodeu vessels, is evidently the result of the previous reddening of the Nile. Kurtz exaggerates the miracle by inverting the order of the reddening of the water. His notion is refuted by Keil, p. 479.5
Exo 7:22. How could the Egyptian sorcerers do the like, when the water had already been all changed to blood? Kurtz says, they took well-water. But see Keil in reply.6 According to the scriptural representation of such miracles of darkness, they knew how, by means of lying tricks, to produce the appearance of having made the water. In this case it was not difficult, if they also used incantations, and the reddening of the water subsequently increased.
Exo 7:25. Seven days were fulfilled. The duration of the plague. The beginning of the plague is by many placed in June or July, “according to which view all the plagues up to the killing of the first-born, which occurred in the night of the 14th of Abib, i.e., about the middle of April, must have occurred in the course of about nine months. Yet this assumption is very insecure, and only so much is tolerably certain, that the seventh plague (of the hail) took place in February (see on 9:31 sq.)” (Keil). Clearly, however, the natural basis of the miraculous plagues is a chain of causes and effects.
1[Exo 7:13. The same form here, יֶחֱזַק, as in Exo 7:22, where the A. V. correctly renders it intransitively. Literally, “was firm, or strong,” i.e., unyielding, unimpressible.—TR.].
2[Exo 7:14. The Hebrew has here a different word, כָּבֵד. Literally, ‘heavy’—the same word which Moses used respecting his tongue, 4:10.—TR.].
3[Exo 7:19. יְאֹרֵיהֶם, plural of the word which is used almost exclusively of the Nile. Here probably it signifies the artificial canals leading from the Nile—TR.].
4[Exo 7:23. Or, according to the English idiom: “nor did he lay even this to heart.”—TR.].
5[The point made by Keil is that, according to Kurtz’s theory, the vessels of wood and of stone ought to have been mentioned immediately after the “pools of water.”—TR.].
6[The reply made by Keil (and a very pertinent one) is that if the Egyptians already had well water there would have been no need of their digging wells (Exo 7:24) in order to obtain drinkable water. Keil understands that the phrases in Exo 7:19 are not to be interpreted so strictly as to imply that absolutely all water, even what had already been taken from the Nile before the miracle, was turned into blood. Murphy and Kalisch prefer to assume that the magicians dug wells, and practiced their arts on the water drawn from them.—TR.].