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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Exodus 7

Verse 1

1. I have made thee a god to Pharaoh No more was he to come to Pharaoh as a suppliant, but now he was invested with divine authority . To Aaron, Moses was a revealer of God’s will, (Exodus 4:16,) but to Pharaoh he was now to appear clothed with God’s power . Hitherto he had been an advocate, a mediator, and in that position had painfully felt the embarrassment of his slowness of speech; but now his deeds were to speak, and, armed with Jehovah’s thunders, he was to smite down the gods of Egypt. Thus, then, the Lord replies to Moses’s despairing plea “See, I have made thee a god!” Pharaoh had refused to glorify God by obedience to Moses as a messenger of his mercy; now shall he glorify him by submitting to Moses as a messenger of his wrath. The results of these threatened judgments are now predicted.

Verses 1-7


The foregoing genealogical digression may be regarded as an expansion of Exodus 6:13, giving a brief, clear family history of “that Aaron and Moses” who now undertake this weighty charge. The narrative now returns to the incident of Exodus 6:12, and repeats the circumstances under which Moses again plead that he was of uncircumcised lips. In Exodus 4:10, he urged this as a reason why he was disqualified to go to his brethren; now he feels it a sore hinderance when bid to go to Pharaoh .

Verse 2

2. Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh (the words of authority which I have commanded) that he send the children of Israel out of his land Rather, and he will send; prediction of the final result .

Verse 3

3. And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart At this stage of history Pharaoh had so far resisted the truth that God’s judgments but increased his obstinacy, and made him plunge into deeper and deeper rebellion . This result is foreseen and predicted, that Moses may be prepared for it . Pharaoh’s sin and its judicial consequences were to be the means of setting forth the attributes of Jehovah before the heathen. See on Exodus 4:21.

Verse 4

4. But Pharaoh shall not hearken There is nothing imperative or determinative in the use of the verb here; it is a simple future, and the verbs following are to be translated as futures, thus: But Pharaoh will not hearken… and I will lay my hand upon Egypt, and will bring forth mine armies… and the Egyptians will know .

Verse 7

7. Moses was fourscore years old Here, at the close of the recapitulation, we have the ages of the great actors in this drama set before us . Aaron, it seems, was three years older than Moses; and as we hear nothing of any special apprehensions of danger at the time of his birth, it is possible, though not certain, that the cruel edict which endangered the life of Moses had not then been promulgated. Miriam is not here mentioned, but she is generally supposed to be the sister, older than Moses and Aaron, mentioned in the second chapter. Moses entered on his great mission at fourscore, but as his ancestors Amram, Levi, and Jacob lived beyond the third of their second century, and he himself reached the one hundred and twentieth year, we may regard him as now having the vigour of a man of forty-five. There are nearly contemporary Egyptian records which show similar instances of Egyptian longevity. Stuart Poole gives (in Smith’s Dict.) a translation of a hieratic papyrus containing a discourse of a king’s son of the fifteenth dynasty of Shepherd Kings at Memphis, wherein the author speaks of himself as one hundred and ten years of age, and of his father as still reigning, who must then have been older than Moses, and probably as old as Levi. Yet these must be regarded as exceptional instances, for the ninetieth Psalm, entitled “A prayer of Moses, the man of God,” speaks of seventy or eighty years as the usual length of human life. And in harmony with this, Caleb, the contemporary of Moses, says of himself at eighty-five, “Behold, the Lord hath kept me alive, as he said, these forty and five years, even since the Lord spake this word unto Moses, while Israel wandered in the wilderness: and now, lo, I am this day fourscore and five years old. As yet I am strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me.” Joshua 14:10-6.14.11. Caleb evidently regards himself as vigorous at eighty-five by God’s special blessing .

Verse 10


10. And Aaron cast down his rod… and it became a serpent תנין , a dragon or crocodile, not the serpent ( נחשׁ ) into which the rod was changed when Moses came before the elders of Israel . Exodus 4:3. The shepherd’s staff is changed into the monster of the Nile . Pharaoh is thus warned, by a symbol clear to the Egyptian mind, that the shepherd race of Israel is to be miraculously transformed into a formidable nation, comparable in might with Egypt . The crocodile’s tail is the hieroglyphic symbol of Egypt .

Verse 11

11. Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers Literally, mutterers, (of magic formulas . )

Now the magicians Priestly scribes who were skilled in the hieroglyphic wisdom .

They also did in like manner with their enchantments Their secret arts, the black or hidden arts or tricks which constitute magic or sorcery . The Apostle Paul, doubtless following the Jewish traditions, names these magicians Jannes and Jambres, (2 Timothy 3:8,) and this tradition is found in the Targums and the Talmud.

Verse 12

12. They cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents Crocodiles, as above . Moses wrought a miracle which they could easily imitate, for all the apparent transformations with which our modern jugglers have made us familiar, and even more wonderful ones than these, have been practised in Egypt and the East from an unknown antiquity . The author describes the transaction just as it appeared to those who saw it, as we would describe similar apparent transformations wrought by a juggler today, but his language cannot fairly be pressed to prove that these magicians possessed any supernatural power . The most famous magicians have always professed to deceive, and declared that their most striking exploits were mere illusions; and how much more than deception there is in magic and sorcery, and whether all their wonders are literally “lying wonders,” must be held as still open questions; but it is certain that Satan has ever used such dark arts and powers to resist the truth. See the Introduction to the History of the Plagues, 2.

But Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods This was prophetic of the religion that was soon to swallow up all the boasted wisdom of Egypt, and the true miracle was thus also distinguished from the “lying wonder.”

Verse 13

13. And he hardened Pharaoh’s heart Rather, And hard was the heart of Pharaoh . (Samuel, Septuagint, Vulg . , Onk . , Syr . ) The presence of superhuman power, and the solemn symbolic lessons, though they may have created in Pharaoh a momentary awe, yet failed to arouse his torpid conscience . Here, in this “sign,” was no infliction of punishment, but a simple manifestation of power in attestation of the mission of Moses and Aaron, as well as a symbolic prediction hereafter to be more fully understood .

Verses 14-18

FIRST PLAGUE BLOOD, Exodus 7:14-2.7.25.

15. Lo, he goeth out unto the water; and thou shalt stand by the river’s brink Some think that this was the time of the commencement of the annual rise of the river, because that the Nile then assumes a reddish hue produced by the mud of the upper country; but this annual redness of the river is an indication of palatability and wholesomeness . Yet, as all these plagues are found, as far as we understand them, to correspond remarkably with peculiarities of the country, being, as Hengstenberg has shown, specially fitted to the Egyptian geography, climate, soil, vegetable and animal life, it is possible that the very peculiarity of the miracle lay in the fact that the reddish hue, which is usually a sign of wholesomeness in the Nile, then deepened to a bloody tinge, which was the token of loathsomeness and death. The water which is usually drank with such avidity became nauseous and poisonous. If this be so, then the time of the infliction is fixed at about the middle of June. Yet this must be taken as supposition only, the first sure note of time occurring in the account of the hail, (Exodus 9:31-2.9.32,) which destroyed the barley in the ear and the flax in blossom, which in Egypt must have been in February . The tenth plague occurred about the middle of April . Now the Nile begins to regularly rise in Lower Egypt, which is the scene of this history, about the summer solstice, or toward the end of June; about the end of August it begins to pour through the canals and fall over the valley in sheets of water, and the inundation then properly commences; toward the end of September it reaches its height, and then sinks to its lowest point at about the Vernal Equinox, or the last of March . If now the first of the plagues took place in the middle of June, it will be seen that the ten ran through the whole Nile period, thus cursing every several part of the Egyptian year. This is the view of Hengstenberg in his Egypt and the Books of Moses.

Probably Pharaoh went forth in the morning to worship, since the Nile was regarded as the embodiment of the god Osiris, of whom the bull Apis was considered the living emblem. On the monuments we find it called the “god Nile,” the “Father of the gods,” the “life-giving Father of all things.” At Nilopolis (Nile-city) there was a temple and an order of priests for the worship of the river. Thus was Pharaoh’s god smitten to death before his eyes as he offered him his morning prayer.

Verse 19

19. Stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt The language of this verse shows a minute acquaintance with the extensive and complicated water system which was peculiar to Egypt. The streams are the arms which branch out from the Nile, just north of modern Cairo, through the great plain of the delta, carrying the waters down to the Mediterranean. There are two principal and five or more lesser streams. The rivers are the canals running each side of the Nile, and receiving their waters through sluices at the time of the inundation. As the land sloped northward, the water was conveyed through main canals running along the southern or higher side of each field, and thence it spread through branches, straight or curved, down northward over the land. The ponds were the large standing lakes left by the inundation; and the pools literally, every collection of their waters were the smaller ponds and reservoirs which they used who lived at a distance from the river.

Wood… stone This is also a peculiarly Egyptian touch, for the Nile water was kept in large stone tanks for public use, and was also filtered and purified for domestic use in smaller vessels.

Verses 20-21

20, 21. And all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood Also, by implication, (Exodus 7:19,) all the waters that had been drawn from the river into the ponds, tanks, etc., underwent the change. The sweet, beneficent Nile water became red and putrid like stagnant blood, so that it poisoned the fishes and became unfit for use. The red moon of the eclipse is said to be turned into blood, Joel 2:3. Only the Nile water was smitten, for water could yet be obtained from the wells and by digging, as we see from Exodus 7:24.

Verse 22

22. And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened The two things are connected as cause and effect . He tried to believe that their pretended miracle was as real as Jehovah’s judgment “sign . ” They could as easily obtain water for their trick as could the Egyptians for drinking . If they had the power to which they pretended, their part, of course, was to turn back the water as it was before, and so relieve the distress of the Egyptians .

Verse 25

25. Seven days A week passed while the Nile rolled blood through Egypt, but Pharaoh obstinately shut himself in his house and made no sign of submission .

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Exodus 7". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.