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the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 7

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-7


Verses 1-7:

"I have made thee a god to Pharaoh," verse 1. The Egyptians were polytheists. They had no difficulty accepting the supernatural power Moses demonstrated as being that of a deity. This is why Moses once more readily gained audience with Pharaoh, after being so brusquely rejected at first. The problem with Pharaoh and the Egyptians was that they refused to acknowledge Jehovah as the one True God.

"I will harden Pharaoh’s heart," verse 3. "Harden" qashah, is "make sharp or hard; to make insensible." Paul quotes this verse in Ro 9:17, 18, and uses the word Break word skleruno, "to make hard, to render obstinate, stubborn." This is the word used in the Septuagint. Two other Hebrew words are translated "harden" in the KJV:

Chazaq, "to make firm or stiff, so as to be immovable".

Kabad, "to make hard or insensible": Ex 8:15, 32; 9:34; 10:1.

Twenty times in the Scripture narrative the expression "hardening" occurs with regard to Pharaoh:

Pharaoh, as the agent who hardens his own heart, (10 times): Ex 7:13, 14, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 34, 35; 13:15.

God, as the Agent who hardens Pharaoh’s heart, (10 times): Ex 4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8, 17.

In this text, God is the Agent who hardens Pharaoh’s heart. But the event is yet future. God here announces this to Moses as a prophecy of what was to come.

It is essential to note the order of events in which the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart occurred. Before the ten plagues began, at the confirmation of Jehovah’s message in turning Aaron’s rod into a serpent, and likewise after each of the first five plaques, Pharaoh hardened his own heart. It was only after resisting the evidence of the sixth plague that "Jehovah made firm the heart of Pharaoh" (Ex 9:12). Even after the seventh plague, Pharaoh had space for repentance, for in Ex 9:34 we read, "Pharaoh made heavy his heart." From thenceforth, following the other plagues, Jehovah hardened Pharaoh’s heart.

The Scripture narrative shows the grace and mercy of God, in giving Pharaoh repeated opportunities to repent and acknowledge Jehovah as the true God. But Pharaoh chose to reject the Word of God and the evidence of His power and grace. Paul paints a vivid picture of this, Ro 9:15-24. Both Moses and Pharaoh were sinners, both were witnesses of God’s glory; but Moses was chosen for glory, and Pharaoh was a vessel "fitted" for wrath. "Fitted" is middle voice, indicating that the subject acts upon itself. The meaning: "fitted himself." Thus, Pharaoh "fitted himself" for wrath, by his rejection of God’s Word.

God knew beforehand what Pharaoh would do; yet, He extended grace and "space for repentance" (2Pe 3:9; Ro 2:4, 5). God’s foreknowledge did not determine Pharaoh’s actions. Pharaoh made his own choice. But when the choice was irrevocably made by Pharaoh, then God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and demonstrated His power and glory in Pharaoh’s judgment.

Pharaoh and the Egyptians did not acknowledge Jehovah Elohe as the one and only true God. In the mighty wonders which God performed in Egypt, He demonstrated His superiority over the gods of Egypt, and gave convincing evidence that He was the true God.

Moses was eighty years old at the time he stood before Pharaoh. Aaron was eighty-three years old.

Verses 8-13

Verses 8-13:

Moses and Aaron came before Pharaoh as Jehovah’s representatives. They did not produce evidence of Divine power until challenged to do so.

The "rod" is described alternately as "Aaron’s" and "Moses’ " rod. At times it appears to have been placed in Aaron’s hand, as the official spokesman. At times it was in Moses’ hand. On this instance, it was in Aaron’s hand.

"Serpent" tannin, "howler," occurs only in this instance in the Scriptures. In verse 15, it is nachash, the term used in Genesis 3, and Ex 4:3. Both terms appear to be synonymous.

At Pharaoh’s demand for a sign, Aaron threw down his "rod,"

and it became a serpent. Pharaoh then tested this sign with one of his own.

"Wise men" chakkim, denotes skillful men, educated in human and supernatural wisdom.

"Sorcerers" kashaph, denotes those who use witchcraft.

"Magicians’ chartummim, scribes or bearers of sacred words.

These men were able to produce demonstrations of supernatural power with their "enchantments" lehatim, "flashings," or secret, hidden arts. Some expositors say that these "magicians" had beforehand secretly charmed snakes to become stiff and immobile to look like rods. Then when they appeared before Pharaoh, they merely broke the "spell," and what appeared to be rods were in reality snakes. This view discounts the power of Satan and demonic forces.

Paul explains this supernatural power behind the Gentiles’ gods as being that of demons, 1Co 10:20. He further testifies of Satan’s beauty and power, 2Co 11:14, 15. There appears to be no valid reason to doubt that the efforts of Egypt’s magicians were successful in duplicating some of the miracles which Aaron and Moses produced by the power of Jehovah.

The magicians duplicated Aaron’s sign by producing serpents from their rods. This demonstrated the power of their "gods." But Jehovah showed his superiority over Egypt’s gods, by having Aaron’s rod devour those of the Egyptians.

"Hardened" is not active voice; "his heart" is not accusative, but nominative. This denotes that the miracle made no impression on Pharaoh because his heart was too hard. He did not see what Moses and Aaron had done as any greater than what his own magicians were able to do.

Verses 14-18

Verses 14-18:

"In the morning" may allude to a custom of Egypt, that one of the duties of the Pharaoh was to offer a morning sacrifice to the Nile deity on the river bank. It was on this occasion that Moses and Aaron were to confront the king for the first of the ten plagues.

"Against he come" is literally "to meet him."

Jehovah instructed Moses and Aaron to announce the "first" of the plagues upon the land of Egypt. This was the turning of the waters of the Nile River to blood, (as Jesus’ first miracle turned water to wine, Joh 2:11). This would kill all the fish in the river. The dead fish, combined with the blood, would produce a terrible stench throughout the land.

Verses 19-25

Verses 19-25:

Moses and Aaron followed Jehovah’s instructions. This plague was to affect the Nile, upon which the entire land of Egypt depended for life. The waters inundated the flat, low farmland of Egypt, providing water necessary for their crops The fish which swam in the river provided much of the diet of the Egyptians.

Four areas are mentioned:

1. The various branches of the Nile, which according to Herodotus were seven (Herod. 2:17).

2. The canals which ran from each of these branches into the various farming regions.

3. The ponds, marshes, and pools resulting from the overflowing of the Nile, or from seepage along its banks.

4. Artificial ponds and reservoirs, used to store water when the annual flooding was over.

In addition, the effects of this sign would be felt even in the private dwellings of the Egyptians, to include the water stored in wooden and stone vessels of any size.

Some skeptics argue that the waters merely turned a reddish color, due to a particularly heavy rainfall in the Abyssnian mountains in the headwaters of the Nile. Others suggest there was a heavy infestation of plants or organic life which discolored the waters. There is no valid reason to accept either of these theories. Neither mineral deposits nor organic matter could produce the devastation described in the text.

Egypt’s waters literally became blood, at the command of Moses and Aaron. But then the magicians of Egypt apparently duplicated this feat. They could not turn the Nile to blood: this had already been done. It is likely they produced a similar sign in a cup or other small container of water. At any rate, what they did was sufficient for Pharaoh to believe their power was equal to that represented by Moses and Aaron.

Once more, Pharaoh hardened his heart. He rejected again the Word of God, and His authority over his life.

Water was necessary for life, so the Egyptians dug wells near the Nile, to obtain enough to sustain life. The mineral content of Egypt’s soil makes shallow well water very unpleasant to the taste; but it was at least more palatable than the blood which flowed in the Nile.

"Seven days" is apparently the duration of this first plague. By this time, the natural process emptied the river of its foul, stinking flow.

The contest was not between Moses and Pharaoh, nor between Aaron and the magicians of Egypt. The contest was between Jehovah Elohe of Israel, and the false gods of the Egyptians. The Nile was one of Egypt’s foremost deities. God showed His superiority over this deity in a dramatic way.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Exodus 7". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/exodus-7.html. 1985.
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