Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Exodus 7

Verses 1-25

The Rod of Moses turned into a Serpent. The First Plague

1. A god to Pharaoh] see on Exodus 4:16. Thy prophet] A prophet is a spokesman. The prophets of God are those who declare His will. In doing this they may foretell His judgments and predict the future; but prediction is a secondary feature of prophecy, and is not contained in the original and proper sense of the word in which it is used here, where Aaron is called the prophet or mouthpiece of Moses. To prophesy sometimes means to declare God's praise in song. Thus Miriam is called a prophetess in Exodus 15:20, Eldad and Medad are said to have prophesied in Numbers 11:25 (see note there), Deborah was a prophetess (Judges 4:4; Judges 5:1), and in 1 Chronicles 25:1-3 the sacred musicians in the temple are said to 'prophesy with harps': cp. also 1 Samuel 10:10; 1 Samuel 19:20; 1 Corinthians 14:1;

4, 5. The purpose of the miraculous events connected with the exodus was not only the deliverance of the Israelites, but the manifestation of Jehovah's character to the Egyptians: see on Exodus 4:21.

7. See on Exodus 2:21.

9. Thy rod] Moses had entrusted his rod to Aaron: cp. Exodus 2:15, which is spoken to Moses.

11. Magicians] lit. 'engravers, sacred scribes': cp. Genesis 41:8 RV. They are depicted on the monuments with a quill pen on their heads and a book in their hands. A belief in magic was universal in Egypt and had a most potent influence in every department of thought and conduct. The magicians were a recognised body of men whose services were very frequently employed to interpret dreams, to avert misfortune, or to bring discomfiture upon an enemy: cp. on Numbers 22:5. Here Pharaoh calls his magicians to a trial of strength with Moses and Aaron, and they are able to imitate some of the wonders. In the end, however, they confess themselves beaten (Exodus 8:19). According to Jewish tradition two of the magicians who 'withstood Moses' were called Jannes and Jambres: see 2 Timothy 3:8.

12. They became serpents] Serpent charming is still practised in Egypt and has been described by several travellers. What was done on this occasion was probably a clever piece of sleight of hand. The magicians when they were called in might know what was expected of them, and be prepared to imitate what was done by Aaron.

13. He hardened Pharaoh's heart] This should be 'Pharaoh's heart was hardened,' as in RV. The Heb. is the same here as in Exodus 7:22 : see on Exodus 4:21.

14-25. The First Plague:—The Water of the Nile turned into Blood.

The Nile was regarded as a god to whom worship and sacrifice were offered. The defilement of its waters, therefore, was a severe blow to the religious prejudices of the Egyptians. It was also a great calamity, as the Nile was the source of all the fertility of Egypt, and its fish were largely used for food, some kinds being regarded as sacred.

15. He goeth out unto the water] either to bathe or to pay his devotions to the sacred river: see on Exodus 2:5.

19. Streams.. rivers] the various canals and branches of the Nile.

20, 21. At the annual rising of the Nile its waters frequently turn a dull red colour owing to the presence of mud, vegetable débris, and minute animalcules. This plague, therefore, like the following, may have been an aggravation of a natural phenomenon. It is to be observed, however, that whereas the natural discoloration of the water has no pernicious effect on the fish of the Nile, these all died under the plague.

22. The magicians probably obtained some water by digging near the Nile (see Exodus 7:24), and in some way were able to convince Pharaoh, who of course was willing to be convinced, that they could imitate the sign wrought by Moses and Aaron. Their sign, however, must have been on a much smaller scale, seeing that all the Nile water was already transformed.

25. The plague lasted seven days. Nothing is said of its removal.

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Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Exodus 7". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.