corner graphic   Hi,    
ver. 2.0.20.06.01
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to classic.studylight.org/

Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Exodus 7

 

 

Introduction

The Commencement of The Contest Between Yahweh and Pharaoh In Egypt (Exodus 4:27 to Exodus 7:13).

Moses now meets up with Aaron and they go to Egypt to demand the release of Israel so that they may go into the wilderness and worship Yahweh. Pharaoh refuses their request and responds viciously.

a On arriving in Egypt Moses and Aaron perform their signs before the elders and begin their task in preparation for approaching Pharaoh (Exodus 4:27-31).

b They approach Pharaoh who turns on the people (Exodus 5:1-23)

c Yahweh responds to Pharaoh’s behaviour with a show of authority and power, providing His credentials, and promising to deliver His People (Exodus 6:1-9).

c Yahweh’s gives a charge to Moses and Aaron concerning the deliverance and details of Aaron’s credentials are provided as the head of Moses’ family (Exodus 6:10-30)

b After their first rebuff Moses and Aaron are to approach Pharaoh again (Exodus 7:1-5)

a They begin their task by performing the miracle of the staff becoming a snake, and their snake eats up the snakes of Egypt (Exodus 7:6-13)

Note the parallels. In ‘a’ Moses meets up with Aaron and they go to Egypt to demand the release of Israel so that they may go into the wilderness and worship Yahweh. Pharaoh refuses their request and responds viciously. In the parallel Yahweh by a sign reveals what He will do to Pharaoh if he remains intransigent. He too will act viciously. In ‘b’ Moses and Aaron approach Pharaoh who turns on the people, in the parallel, having been rebuffed they approach Pharaoh again. In ‘c’ Yahweh responds to Pharaoh’s behaviour with a show of authority and power, providing His credentials and promising to deliver His People, and in the parallel He gives a charge to Moses and Aaron to bring about this deliverance and Aaron’s credentials are provided as the head of Moses’ family.

Yahweh’s Battle With Pharaoh - The Ten Plagues (Exodus 7:14 to Exodus 12:51)

In the first seven chapters we have seen how God raised up Moses to deliver His people, and how when he approached Pharaoh with a simple request that they might go into the wilderness and worship Him because He had revealed Himself in a theophany there, Pharaoh had reacted savagely and had increased Israel’s burdens.

Then Yahweh had promised to Moses that He would reveal His name in mighty action and deliver them, but had initially provided Pharaoh with a further opportunity to consider by three signs which Pharaoh had rejected. Now He would begin in earnest.

The first nine plagues that follow were the intensification of natural occurrences that struck Egypt from time to time. Yet they came in such a way and with such effect and were so intense that they could not be described as ‘natural’, for they came when called on, ceased when Yahweh commanded, and affected only what Yahweh wanted affecting. They were thus supernaturally controlled natural phenomenon.

Because these plagues were common to natural occurrences that took place in Egypt they were connected with the gods of Egypt, for the Egyptians had gods which were connected with every part of life. Thus the very plagues meant that Yahweh was, in Egyptian eyes, in conflict with the gods of Egypt. However, it is important to recognise that the writer only mentions the gods of Egypt once (Exodus 12:12), and there only in relation to the slaying of the firstborn because at least one of the firstborn who would die would be connected with a god (Pharaoh). Thus he is drawing attention to Yahweh’s dealings with Pharaoh and the Egyptians rather than with their gods. This indicates that while the gods may have had the Egyptians as their servants, they did not have any control of the land or of nature. The writer is clearly monotheistic. To him the gods of Egypt are an irrelevance.

The Overall Pattern of the Narrative.

The first nine plagues can be divided into three sets of three as follows;

· The first three - water turned to blood (Exodus 7:14-25), plague of frogs (Exodus 8:1-15), plague of ticks and similar insects (Exodus 8:16-19).

· The second three - plague of swarms of flying insects (Exodus 8:20-32), cattle disease (Exodus 9:1-7), boils (Exodus 9:8-12).

· The third three - great hail (Exodus 9:13-35), plague of locusts (Exodus 10:1-20), thick darkness (Exodus 10:21-27).

As we have seen in Part 1 the previous section of Exodus has been mainly based on a series of chiastic and similar patterns which demonstrate the unity of the narrative. Here the overall pattern changes to a more complicated one in view of the combined subject matter, but the underlying pattern is the same nevertheless.

For we should note that there is a definite pattern in these series of threes. The first and second of each of the judgments in each series is announced to the Pharaoh before it takes place, while in each case the third is unannounced. The first incident of each series of three is to take place early in the morning, and in the first and second of these ‘first incidents of three’ the place where Moses meets Pharaoh is by the Nile, in the third it is before Pharaoh. The second judgment in each series is announced in the king's palace. The third judgment in each series comes without the Pharaoh or the Egyptians being warned. As these judgments from God continue, their severity increases until the last three bring the Egyptian people to a place where life itself becomes almost impossible, and their economy is almost totally destroyed. The huge hailstones kept them in their homes and wrecked their environment, the locusts ate up what the hail had left and made life unbearable, and the thick darkness kept them in solitude even from each other. They must have wondered what was coming next.

Furthermore in the first two judgments the magicians pit themselves against Moses as they imitate the judgments of blood and frogs, but in the third judgment of the first series, that of ticks, they are forced to yield and acknowledge, "This is the finger of God" (Exodus 8:19) and from then on they withdraw from the contest. In the sixth they cannot even stand before Moses, presumably because of the effect of the boils which they could do nothing about.

It is noteworthy in this regard that while blood and frogs can easily be manipulated by conjurors, ticks are a different proposition, for they cannot be so easily controlled.

In the second series an important distinction is drawn between the Israelites and the Egyptians, for from then on only the Egyptians are affected, and not the whole land of Egypt as previously. Several times the specific protection of Israel is mentioned.

As the intensity of the plagues increases, so does the intensity of the Pharaoh's desire to secure the intervention of Moses and Aaron for deliverance from the plague (consider Exodus 8:8; Exodus 8:25; Exodus 8:28; Exodus 9:27-28; Exodus 10:16-17; Exodus 10:24), and Moses becomes more outspoken.

In the first series of three judgments the staff of Aaron is used, in the second series of three no staff is mentioned and in the third series either the hand or staff of Moses is prominent. Note also that in two cases in the second series neither Moses nor Aaron do anything. Thus an instrument is used seven times. These overall patterns clearly demonstrate the unity of the narrative.

Another division can be made in that the first four plagues are personal in effect producing annoyance and distress while the next four inflict serious damage on property and person, the ninth is the extreme of the first four and the tenth the extreme of the second four. This further confirms the impression of unity.

The same is true of the wording and ideas used throughout. We have noted above the three sets of three plagues, and that in the first plague of each set Moses goes to Pharaoh in the early morning, either to the river or ‘before Pharaoh’, while in the second in each set Moses goes to the palace, and in the third plague in each set the plague occurs without warning. Now we should note the intricate pattern of phrases and ideas which are regularly repeated.

We should, for example, note that God says ‘let my people go’ seven times, the divinely perfect number (although only six times before specific plagues - Exodus 5:1; Exodus 7:16; Exodus 8:1; Exodus 8:20; Exodus 9:1; Exodus 9:13; Exodus 10:3). This is significant in the light of what follows below.

We should also note that there is a central core around which each plague is described, although the details vary. This central core is:

· A description in detail of what will happen (Plague one - Exodus 7:17-18; plague two - Exodus 8:2-4; plague three - no separate description; plague four - Exodus 8:21; plague five - Exodus 9:3-4; plague six - Exodus 9:9; plague seven - Exodus 9:15; plague eight - Exodus 10:4-6; plague nine - no separate description).

· The call to Moses either to instruct Aaron (three times - Exodus 7:19; Exodus 8:5; Exodus 8:16) or to act himself (three times - Exodus 9:22; Exodus 10:12; Exodus 10:21) or for them both to act (once - Exodus 9:8).

· The action taken (Exodus 7:20; Exodus 8:6; Exodus 8:17; no action; no action; Exodus 9:10; Exodus 9:23; Exodus 10:13; Exodus 10:22).

· And an inevitable description of the consequences, which parallels the previous description where given (Exodus 7:21; Exodus 8:6; Exodus 8:17; Exodus 8:24; Exodus 9:6-7; Exodus 9:10-11; Exodus 9:23-26; Exodus 10:13-15; Exodus 10:22-23).

It may be argued that this core was largely inevitable, and to a certain extent that is true, but we should note that while there are nine plagues, there are only seven separate prior descriptions, and as previously noted seven calls to act followed by that action, but the sevens are not in each case for the same plagues. Thus the narrative is carefully built around sevens. This can be exemplified further.

For example, Pharaoh’s initial response to their approach is mentioned three times, in that Pharaoh reacts against the people (Exodus 5:5-6); calls for his magicians (Exodus 7:11); and makes a compromise offer and then drives Moses and Aaron from his presence (Exodus 10:11). It indicates his complete action but denies to him the number seven. That is retained for Yahweh and His actions as we shall see, or for Pharaoh’s negativity overall caused by Yahweh.

One significant feature is that Pharaoh’s final response grows in intensity.

1). Yahweh hardened his heart so that he did not listen to them as Yahweh had said (Exodus 7:13) (Yahweh hardening him, and that he would not let the people go had been forecast in Exodus 4:21). This was prior to the plagues.

2). His heart was hardened and he did not listen to them as Yahweh had said, and he turned and went into his house, ‘nor did he set his heart to this also’ (Exodus 7:22-23).

3). He entreated Yahweh to take away the plague and said that he would let the people go to worship Yahweh (Exodus 8:8), and later hardened his heart and did not listen to them as Yahweh had said (Exodus 8:15).

4). Pharaoh’s heart was hardened and he did not listen to them as Yahweh had said (Exodus 8:19).

5). He told Moses and Aaron that they may sacrifice in the land (Exodus 8:25), and then, on Moses’ refusing his offer, said that they may sacrifice in the wilderness but not go far away (8:28) which Moses accepts, but later Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go (Exodus 8:32).

6). He sent to find out what had happened and then his heart was hardened and he would not let the people go (Exodus 9:7).

7). Yahweh hardened his heart and he did not listen to them as Yahweh had spoken to Moses (Exodus 9:12).

8). Pharaoh admitted that he had sinned, asked them to entreat for him, and said ‘I will let you go and you will stay no longer’ (Exodus 9:27-28). Then he sinned yet more and hardened his heart, he and his servants (Exodus 9:34), and his heart was hardened nor would he let the children of Israel go as Yahweh had spoken to Moses (Exodus 9:35).

9). Pharaoh admitted that he had sinned, and asked them to entreat Yahweh for him (Exodus 10:17), but later Yahweh hardened his heart so that he would not let the children of Israel go (Exodus 10:20).

10). Pharaoh said that they might go apart from their cattle (Exodus 10:24), and on Moses refusing ‘Yahweh hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not let them go’ (Exodus 10:27), and he commanded that they leave his presence and not return on pain of death (Exodus 10:28).

11). In the summary ‘Yahweh hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of his land’ (Exodus 11:10).

We note from the above that ‘Pharaoh will not listen to you’ occurs twice (Exodus 7:4; Exodus 11:9), ‘did not listen to them as Yahweh had said’ occurs four times (Exodus 7:13; Exodus 7:22; Exodus 8:15; Exodus 19); and ‘did not listen to them as Yahweh had spoken to Moses’ occurs once (Exodus 9:12), thus his not being willing to listen occurs seven times in all (the phrase ‘as Yahweh had spoken to Moses’ occurs twice (Exodus 9:12; Exodus 9:35), but not as connected with not listening).

In contrast he entreats that Yahweh will show mercy four times (Exodus 8:8; Exodus 8:28; Exodus 9:27; Exodus 10:17), and parleys with Moses three times (Exodus 8:8; Exodus 8:25; Exodus 10:24), making seven in all. Yahweh hardened his heart five times (Exodus 7:13; Exodus 9:12; Exodus 10:20; Exodus 10:27; Exodus 11:10), which with Exodus 4:21 and Exodus 10:1 makes seven times. (Yahweh also hardened his heart in Exodus 14:8, but that was over the matter of pursuing the fleeing people. See also Exodus 14:4; Exodus 14:17. He said that He would do it in Exodus 7:3).

His heart was hardened (by himself?) four times (Exodus 7:22; Exodus 8:19; Exodus 9:7; Exodus 9:35), and he hardened his own heart three times (Exodus 8:15; Exodus 8:32; Exodus 9:34), again making seven times. It is said that he would not let the people go five times (Exodus 8:32; Exodus 9:7; Exodus 9:35; Exodus 10:20; Exodus 11:10). With Exodus 4:21; Exodus 7:14 that makes not letting the people go seven times. Yahweh told Pharaoh to let His people go seven times (Exodus 5:1; Exodus 7:16; Exodus 8:1; Exodus 8:20; Exodus 9:1; Exodus 9:13; Exodus 10:3). Thus the writer would clearly seem to have been deliberately aiming at sevenfold repetition, and this sevenfoldness is spread throughout the narrative in different ways, stressing the total unity of the passage. One or two sevens might be seen as accidental but not so many.

Taking with this the fact that each narrative forms a definite pattern any suggestion of fragmented sources of any size that can be identified is clearly not permissible. Thus apart from an occasional added comment, and in view of the way that covenants were always recorded in writing, there seems little reason to doubt that Exodus was written under the supervision of Moses or from material received from him as was constantly believed thereafter. Other Old Testament books certainly assert the essential Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch (‘the Law’) demonstrating the strong tradition supporting the claim (see 1 Kings 2:3; 1 Kings 8:53; 2 Kings 14:6; 2 Kings 18:6; 2 Kings 18:12). More importantly Jesus Christ Himself saw the Pentateuch as the writings of Moses (John 5:46-47), and as without error (Matthew 5:17-18), and indicated Moses’ connection with Deuteronomy (Matthew 19:7-8; Mark 10:3-5). See also Peter (Acts 3:22), Stephen (Acts 7:37-38), Paul (Romans 10:19; 1 Corinthians 9:9), and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 10:28).

One fact that brings out Pharaoh’s total selfishness and disregard for his people is that he only asks Moses to entreat Yahweh to remove a plague four times, in the case of the frogs, the flying insects, the hail and the locusts. These were the ones that would personally affect him the most. The narrative is totally consistent.

The Plagues In The Light Of Natural Phenomena.

We will now try to see the plagues in the light of natural phenomena, recognising that God used natural phenomena, enhancing it where necessary, to accomplish His purpose. While the land waited totally unaware of the forces that were gathering He knew exactly what was coming and what He would do with it and directed Moses accordingly.

The first nine plagues form a logical and connected sequence if we work on the basis that in that year there was an abnormally high inundation of the Nile occurring in July and August. In Egypt too high an inundation of the Nile could be as bad as too low an inundation, and this was clearly beyond anything known. This would be caused by abnormal weather conditions in lands to the south of Egypt of a kind rarely experienced which may well have also caused the effects not produced directly by the inundation.

The higher the Nile-flood was, the more earth it carried within it, especially of the red earth from the basins of the Blue Nile and Atbara. And the more earth it carried the redder it became. The flood would further bring down with it flood microcosms known as flagellates and associated bacteria. These would heighten the blood-red colour of the water and create conditions in which the fish would die in large numbers (Exodus 7:21). Their decomposition would then foul the water further and cause a stench (Exodus 7:21). The water would be undrinkable and the only hope of obtaining fresh water would be to dig for it (Exodus 7:24). The whole of Egypt would of course be affected. This is the background to the first plague.

The result of these conditions would be that the decomposing fish would be washed along the banks and backwaters of the Nile polluting the haunts of the frogs, who would thus swarm out in huge numbers seeking refuge elsewhere (Exodus 8:3). Their sudden death would suggest internal anthrax which would explain their rapid putrefaction (Exodus 8:13-14). This is the background to the second plague.

The high level of the Nile-flood would provide especially favourable conditions for mosquitoes, which may partly explain either the ‘ken’ (ticks/lice/fleas) (Exodus 8:16) or the ‘arob (swarms) (Exodus 8:21), while the rotting carcasses of the fish and frogs would encourage other forms of insect life to develop, as would excessive deposits of the red earth which may have brought insect eggs with them. Insects would proliferate throughout the land (Exodus 8:16). These might include lice and also the tick, an eight-legged arthropod and blood-sucking parasite and carrier of disease, as well as fleas. This is the background to the third plague.

As well as mosquitoes from the Nile flood, flies would also develop among the rotting fish, the dead frogs and the decaying vegetation, including the carrier-fly, the stomoxys calcitrans (which might well be responsible for the later boils), and become carriers of disease from these sources. The ‘swarms’ may well have included both (Exodus 8:21). This is the background to the fourth plague.

The dying frogs might well have passed on anthrax, and the proliferating insects would pass on other diseases, to the cattle and flocks who were out in the open (Exodus 9:3) and therefore more vulnerable. This is the background to the fifth plague.

The dead cattle would add to the sources of disease carried by these insects, and the insect bites, combined with the bites of the other insects, may well have caused the boils (Exodus 9:9). This would occur around December/January. It may well be the background to the sixth plague.

Thus the first six plagues in a sense follow naturally from one another given the right conditions, but it is their timing, extremeness and Moses’ knowledge of them that prove the hand of God at work.

The excessively heavy hail (Exodus 9:22), with thunder, lightning and rain, may well have resulted from the previously mentioned extreme weather conditions, but it went beyond anything known and was exceptional, resulting in death and destruction, and the ruination of the barley and flax, but not the wheat and spelt which was not yet grown (Exodus 8:31-32). (This indicates a good knowledge of Egyptian agriculture). This would probably be in early February.

The excessively heavy rains in Ethiopia and the Sudan which led to the extraordinarily high Nile would cause the conditions favourable to an unusually large plague of locusts (Exodus 10:4; Exodus 10:13), which would eventually be blown down into Northern Egypt and then along the Nile valley by the east wind (Exodus 10:13).

The thick darkness (Exodus 10:21) that could be felt was probably an unusually heavy khamsin dust storm resulting from the large amounts of red earth which the Nile had deposited which would have dried out as a fine dust, together with the usual sand of the desert. The khamsin wind would stir all this up making the air unusually thick and dark, blotting out the light of the sun. Three days is the known length of a khamsin (Exodus 10:23). This, coming on top of all that had come before, and seeming to affect the sun god himself, would have a devastating effect.

These unusual and freak events demonstrate an extremely good knowledge of Egyptian weather conditions with their particular accompanying problems, which could only have been written in the right order by someone with a good knowledge of the peculiar conditions in Egypt which could produce such catastrophes, confirming the Egyptian provenance of the record and the unity of the account.

In all this the gods of Egypt would be prominent to the Egyptians as the people were made aware that the God of the Hebrews was doing this, and that their gods could seemingly do nothing about it. Prominent among these would be Ha‘pi, the Nile god of inundation, Heqit the goddess of fruitfulness, whose symbol was the frog, Hathor the goddess of love, often symbolised by the cow, along with Apis the bull god, Osiris for whom the Nile was his life-blood, now out of control, the goddess Hatmehyt whose symbol was a fish, and of whom models were worn as charms, Nut the sky goddess, Reshpu and Ketesh who were supposed to control all the elements of nature except light, and Re the sun god. All these would be seen to be unable to prevent Yahweh doing His work and thus to have been at least temporarily defeated.

But it should be noted that that is the Egyptian viewpoint. Moses only mentions the gods of Egypt once, and that is probably sarcastically (Exodus 12:12). As far as he is concerned they are nothing. They are irrelevant.


Verses 1-13

Yahweh Encourages Moses To Go Forward (Exodus 7:1-13).

a Yahweh tells Moses that He has made him as a God to Pharaoh, with Aaron as his prophet (Exodus 7:1).

b Moses is therefore to say all that Yahweh commands, and Aaron must communicate it in diplomatic style to Pharaoh, with the aim of him letting the children of Israel leave the land (Exodus 7:2).

c Yahweh promises that He will harden Pharaoh’s heart (make it firm and strong in the wrong direction) and will as a result multiply signs and wonders in Egypt The result is that Pharaoh will not listen to them. Yahweh will then lay His hand on Egypt and bring forth His ‘hosts’, that is His people the children of Israel, and He will do it by great judgments (Exodus 7:3-4).

c Then the Egyptians will know that He is Yahweh, when He stretches out His hand on Egypt, and bring the children of Israel out from among the Egyptians (Exodus 7:5).

b And Moses and Aaron did what Yahweh commanded. That is what they did (Exodus 7:6).

a And Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron eighty three years old when they spoke to Pharaoh (Exodus 7:7).

Note that in ‘a’ Yahweh tells them that He has made him as a God to Pharaoh, with Aaron as his prophet, while in the parallel their ages are given. This suggests that we are to see a significance in their ages. This may lie in the fact that eight intensified is the indication of a new beginning and thus Moses is to be seen as the Deliverer while Aaron is eight intensified plus three, the one who makes the deliverer complete. See the commentary in respect of this. In ‘b’ Moses is to say all that Yahweh commands, and Aaron must communicate it in diplomatic style to Pharaoh, with the aim of him letting the children of Israel leave the land, and in the parallel they do what they are commanded. In ‘c’ Yahweh promises that He will harden Pharaoh’s heart and will as a result multiply signs and wonders in Egypt (make known that He is Yahweh). The result is that Pharaoh will not listen to them. Yahweh will then lay His hand on Egypt and bring forth His ‘hosts’, that is His people the children of Israel, and He will do it by great judgments

Exodus 7:1

‘And Yahweh said to Moses, “Look, I have made you a god to Pharaoh and Aaron your brother will be your prophet. You will speak all that I command you and Aaron your brother will speak to Pharaoh that he let the children of Israel go out of his land.” ’

In Exodus 4:16 Yahweh had said that Moses would be ‘as a god’ to Aaron, and Aaron would be his ‘mouth’. Now he is to ‘be a god’ to Pharaoh with Aaron as his prophet. The idea would seem therefore to be that he will stand aloof and Aaron will speak on his behalf and perform wonders (Exodus 4:17). Moses would not only stand as God’s representative but would have the mystique that goes with divinity, and be seen as a god and to be at war with the gods of Egypt, and especially the god Pharaoh. He would be the voice, but Aaron would be the mouth.

Elohim is used here, not in the Hebrew sense of God, but as a faithful rendering of the Egyptian title, neter, "god", which was one of the attributes of Pharaoh. It applied to the living as well as to the dead Pharaoh. Thus he could be called "the glorious god" or "the god without equal". In many cases the Pharaohs were also described as "the good god" (neter nefer), or "the great god" (neter ar). In our passage, the use of Elohim is thus putting Moses on a parallel position to Pharaoh, suggesting with the word an ironical reference to Pharaoh's pretensions.

We probably do not appreciate how powerful Pharaoh felt in being divine but now when he saw Moses he would see someone whom he would soon regard as his equal. Moses was to be the ‘Pharaoh’ of the children of Israel, and Aaron would, in his turn, be his prophet, his "mouth". These names given to Moses and Aaron were a guarantee of the signs and wonders that were about to be revealed. These alone could have made Pharaoh see Moses as a God.

Exodus 7:3-5

“And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh will not listen to you, and I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring forth my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments. And the Egyptians will know that I am Yahweh when I stretch out my hand over Egypt and bring out the children of Israel from among them.”

The plan is now laid bare. God will harden Pharaoh’s heart so that he refuses to let the children of Israel go into the wilderness to worship their God, and this will result in the pouring out of God’s mighty judgments in signs and wonders until at last they will be able to go altogether and Egypt will be left glad to see them go and knowing that Yahweh is indeed ‘the One Who is there to act’, greater than all the gods of Egypt. By it the Egyptians will know that He is ‘Yahweh’.

It should, however be noted that the gods of Egypt are only mentioned once in the whole Exodus account (Exodus 12:12). From his own point of view Moses was dealing with the living Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt were nothing. He did not see himself as battling with gods in which he did not believe. It was Pharaoh, basking in his own divinity, who would see him as a god.

“My signs and my wonders.” An indication that what was to come would be so outstanding and unique that they would be beyond the expectation of everyone. ‘Signs’, that is something that demonstrates Who and What He is. ‘Wonders’, that is something to fill men with awe.

“Bring forth my hosts.” The word ‘hosts’ is used of armies (Genesis 21:22 and often), of ‘the host of heaven’ meaning the sun, moon and stars (Deuteronomy 4:19; Nehemiah 9:6 : Psalms 33:6; Psalms 148:2; Isaiah 34:4; Isaiah 45:12; Jeremiah 33:22), of the panoply of gods represented by them (Deuteronomy 4:19; 2 Kings 21:3; 2 Kings 21:5; Jeremiah 8:2; Daniel 8:10; Zephaniah 1:5), and of the heavenly hosts of God’s armies (Genesis 32:2) so that God can later be known as ‘Yahweh of hosts’ (first found in 1 Samuel 1:3), and of all things in creation (Genesis 2:1). The thought here may be that they are being brought forth as His hosts, as His army to bring His judgment on Canaan. But it may just represent them as His numerous people whom he would mobilise (‘number’) for the advance on Canaan (see Exodus 12:37; Numbers 1-2; Numbers 26:1-51).

“And the Egyptians will know that I am Yahweh when I stretch out my hand over Egypt and bring out the children of Israel from among them.” Knowing that He is Yahweh involves seeing Him in action. His successful actions will reveal what He is and the meaning of His name.

The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was so that he would not compromise and thus so ameliorate the position that Israel would have no reason for leaving. But Yahweh was not here intending to harden the heart of a compassionate man. He was ensuring that a cruel, arrogant and evil despot did not for the sake of expediency compromise. What was at stake here was the whole future of Israel.

It must be remembered that humanly speaking Pharaoh had Israel under a slave contract. This would put them in the wrong if they simply disappeared. Yahweh would not encourage the breaking of treaties. Thus it was important that Pharaoh by his own choice insisted that they leave. Of course, once he sent his army after them having first made an agreement with them which he was then intending to break, he had put himself in the wrong and himself broken the contract. Thus Israel was no longer bound by it.

Exodus 7:6

‘And Moses and Aaron did so. As Yahweh commanded them so they did.’

This is to let us know immediately that Moses and Aaron did do what Yahweh commanded. They were obedient. We have seen similar brief comments previously. They were typical of Israel’s ancient writings. Part of what is in mind here is found in Exodus 7:2.

Exodus 7:7

‘And Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty three years old when they spoke to Pharaoh.’

“Eighty years old.” It could be that we are to see in this not a literal number but ‘two generations’, with forty years representing a generation. The first being seen as ended when he fled from Egypt as ‘grown up’ (Exodus 2:11), the second covered his life in Midian and has brought him to this stage. The third stage, that of old age will take him up to his death (Deuteronomy 31:2; Deuteronomy 34:7), The ‘eighty three’ of Aaron would then simply be this ‘eighty’ with the three years of completeness representing that he was a little older than Moses.

But the parallel with verse 1 suggests that these descriptions in some way tied up with the fact that Moses had been made a God to Pharaoh and Aaron his prophet. Eight is the number of deliverance. There were eight people who were delivered in the ark (Genesis 7:7 compare 1 Peter 3:20). Circumcision which brought men into the covenant with Abraham and delivered them from the world into the covenant community was carried out on the eighth day (Genesis 17:12; Philippians 3:5). It was the eighth day of the feast of Tabernacles, the day that signalled the end of the agricultural year, on which deliverance was proclaimed (later citing Isaiah 12:3). It was on the eighth day that God would accept His people when the new altar of Ezekiel was built, following seven days of atonement, when the new deliverance began (Ezekiel 43:27). It was on the eighth day that Aaron and his sons began their priestly ministry of deliverance and atonement (Leviticus 9:1). The cleansing and deliverance of the one time skin diseased man was accomplished on the eighth day (Leviticus 14:10; Leviticus 14:23). It is probable that the eight hundred years of the early patriarchs (Genesis 5:4-19 - each conjoined there with another significant number), indicated their long triumph over death (although it came in the end). Here then the eighty years was probably intended to indicate that these two were God’s appointed deliverers.

Moses and Aaron Perform Their First Wonder in Pharaoh’s Presence (Exodus 7:8-13).

a Yahweh tells Moses and Aaron that when Pharaoh asks them to prove themselves by a wonder they are to cast down the staff that it become a large snake (Exodus 7:8-9).

b They did as He commanded and it became a snake in front of Pharaoh and his servants (Exodus 7:10).

b Pharaoh then called forth his wise men, sorcerers and magicians and they did the same (Exodus 7:11).

a When they did so Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staves, thus revealing a further wonder. But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened and he did not listen to their words just as Yahweh had declared 12-(Exodus 7:13).

Thus in ‘a’ they perform a wonder by their staff turning into a large snake, while in the parallel there is another wonder as their staff eats up the staves of the magicians. In ‘b’ their turning their staff into a snake is paralleled by the Egyptians doing the same.

Exodus 7:8-10

‘And Yahweh spoke to Moses and to Aaron saying, “When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, ‘Show a wonder in your support.’ Then you will say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh so that it becomes a large snake (tannin).’ ” And Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh and they did just as Yahweh had commanded them, and Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and before his servants and it became a large snake.’

Moses and Aaron again approached Pharaoh and his high officials (his servants). He was now aware that they came in the name of Yahweh so he challenged them. ‘Support your case with a show of divine power, a ‘wonder’.’ So they did so. Aaron threw down the staff and it became a large snake.

The word for snake here is ‘tannin’, different from that in Exodus 4:13 and Exodus 7:15 below. It possibly refers to a larger snake. It was also the word used for sea creatures and large reptiles such as crocodiles, including mythical monsters. But it may just be used for variation here and so that the reader will link it with the ideas of demi-gods, seeing the snake as a symbol of them.

The staff Aaron threw down was probably that of Moses which he now carried as a symbol of Moses’ authority and status (he certainly used it in Exodus 4:30). It may, however, have been his own It is called Aaron’s staff (Exodus 7:12) but that is not necessarily significant. It could mean only that he was the bearer of it. But it matters little. God was not limited in His use of staves.

Pharaoh was probably not impressed. He had seen things like this before. ‘Signs and wonders’ on a minuscule scale were the forte of magicians around the world, and especially in Egypt where they proliferated. They were like the prominent conjurors of today.

Exodus 7:11-12 a

‘Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and the sorcerers and they also, the magicians of Egypt did just the same with their enchantments, for they threw down, every man, his staff, and they became snakes.’

The wise men and magicians were also able to do what appeared to be a similar thing. Their staves also became snakes. It would in fact appear that the Egyptian cobra can be rendered immobile if pressure is applied to the muscles at the nape of the neck after it has been charmed. This procedure is pictured on several ancient Egyptian scarab-amulets and was presumably the technique employed here. Alternately this may have been done by conjuring.

The wise men and the sorcerers’. These would have had long training in sacred writings, rituals and spells in temple schools. They were not averse to using conjuring and performing ‘wonders’ in order to impress the uninitiated. Egypt’s greatest magicians were the hry-tp (compare Hebrew hartom - magician), the chief lector-priests.

Exodus 7:12 b

“But Aaron”s staff swallowed up their staves.’

It is significant that it says ‘staff’ and not ‘snake’. The staff was the symbol of authority and status. Thus we have here Moses’ and Aaron’s authority and status revealed as greater than that of the magicians. This should have given Pharaoh pause for thought, especially as the snake had significance in Egyptian mythology as a semi-divine creature and Pharaoh himself often bore the symbol of the uraeus-snake on his head for protection when he went into battle. The power of Moses was thereby revealed. Pharaoh’s protective snake will do him no good. It will be eaten up.

This incident should have brought home to Pharaoh that the serpents of Egypt with all their significance, stood no chance against Yahweh. He was Lord over all, and could swallow everything whole whether earthly or heavenly.

Exodus 7:13

‘And Pharaoh’s heart was strong and he did not listen to them, just as Yahweh had said.’

In Exodus 4:21 Yahweh had said that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart. Yahweh was seen by His people as, and revealed Himself as, sovereign over all. Everything that took place was therefore seen to be as a result of His activity. So in one sense if men hardened their hearts it was because Yahweh had done it. But the use of the passive tense lets us realise that here the action was indirect rather than direct. Pharaoh had taken up such an attitude that he was engaged in hardening his own heart. Yahweh did not make a good man evil, He allowed an evil man full sway in his evil. Pharaoh was not an innocent tool, but totally blameworthy.

We note here that God was gradually revealing His power to Pharaoh. He began with lesser wonders which could partly be duplicated but through which He demonstrated His superiority, and would then move on to greater. Had Pharaoh been discerning there would have been no problem and no plagues. And God is like this with all men. He does not force Himself on them but gives them indications of His power and presence. Then it depends on their response whether they receive more. Yet at the same time He works His sovereign will.

Note for Christians.

Moses had been a shepherd, but now, because he had obeyed God, he had become as ‘a god’. Each of us can be ‘gods’ in the place where He has put us. For if we are Christians it is not only we who are there but within us is the living God. Christ lives through us. And as we allow Him to do so day by day so will God be present in all the situations around us. For we are the main means by which God seeks to break through into the world. If we fail to reveal Him the world will never know Him.

Being a god would not be easy for Moses. Things lay ahead that he had never dreamed of. But he learned here from the beginning through the sign of the snake that whatever Satan threw against him God could gobble it up. Thus did he have nothing to fear. If you are a Christian people may multiply snakes against you. But do not be afraid, for if you look to Him, God will gobble them up. He will ‘bruise Satan under your feet shortly’ (Romans 16:20).


Verses 14-25

(For an introduction to the plagues, see the Chapter Comments).

The First Plague - The Nile is Turned Into ‘Blood’ (Exodus 7:14-25).

a Yahweh says that Pharaoh’s heart is stubborn so that he will not let the people go (Exodus 14).

b Moses is to go to Pharaoh with his staff and meet him by the Nile (Exodus 15).

c Yahweh had said, ‘let my people go’, but Pharaoh has not listened (Exodus 16)

d Now Pharaoh will know that He is Yahweh because He will smite the waters and they will be turned to blood, the fish will die and the river will smell (Exodus 17-18).

e Aaron told to stretch out his hand that there might be blood throughout all the land of Egypt (Exodus 19).

d Moses and Aaron do so and all the waters turn to blood, and the fish die and the river smells throughout all the land of Egypt (Exodus 20-21).

c The magicians do the same with their enchantments, and Pharaoh’s heart is hardened and he does not listen to them as Yahweh has said (Exodus 22 b).

b Pharaoh returned to his house and did not set his heart to consider the matter, but all the Egyptians had to dig about the river for water because they could not drink the river (Exodus 23-24).

a Seven days were fulfilled after Yahweh had smitten the river (Exodus 25).

Note that in ‘a’ Yahweh says that Pharaoh’s heart is stubborn so that he will not let the people go, and in the parallel He punishes him by a seven day smiting of the Nile, a great blow to any Egyptian. In ‘b’ Moses meets Pharaoh by the Nile, with his staff which was turned into a snake in his hand, but Pharaoh does not consider the matter and returns to his palace, deserting the Nile. The result in the parallel is that the people receive no help from the Nile and have to dig in the earth round about it. The great comparison in both these parallels is between Yahweh’s authority and power, and His rendering inoperative the sacred Nile because of Pharaoh’s intransigence. In ‘c’ Pharaoh refuses to listen to Yahweh, and in the parallel his heart is hardened and he does not listen to Moses and Aaron. In ‘d’ Yahweh’s name will be revealed by the turning of the Nile and its tributaries into blood with all its consequences, while in the parallel the Nile and its tributaries are turned into blood and all the consequences follow. The overall consequence is found in ‘e’, and that is that there will be blood throughout all the land of Egypt.

Exodus 7:14

‘And Yahweh said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is stubborn (literally ‘heavy’). He refuses to let the people go.”

The account of the ten plagues begins with this criticism by Yahweh which stresses that Pharaoh is to be seen as blameworthy. His heart is proud and stubborn and self-willed. He is not just a tool in the hand of God. It will also end with the same judgment, although there it is attributed to Yahweh (Exodus 11:10). So whatever ‘Yahweh hardened Pharaoh’s heart’ later means this initial statement indicates that it does not mean that Pharaoh had no choice. He had a clear choice to make, and he was making it.

Exodus 7:15

“You go to Pharaoh in the morning. Lo, he goes to the water. And you will stand by the river’s brink to meet him, and the rod which was turned into a snake you will take in your hand.”

It would appear that Pharaoh went to the Nile frequently in the morning (see Exodus 8:20), just as earlier Pharaoh’s daughter had done the same when she found Moses. This was probably in order to venerate the Nile god. Moses was to meet him there with the staff of God which had previously turned into a snake in his hand, and stand by the edge of the river.

The specific continued reference to the snake suggests that it is to be seen as significant in regards to what was to happen. This could well be because God knew how significant the snake was to Pharaoh. When worn as a symbol on his head Pharaoh probably saw it as protecting him from harm. Now he would learn that there was one who could devour his snake and any his people reproduced.

Exodus 7:16-18

“And you will say to him, ‘Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to you saying, “Let my people go that they may serve me in the wilderness.” And behold, up to now you have not listened. Thus says Yahweh, “In this will you know that I am Yahweh, behold I will smite with the staff that is in my hand on the waters which are in the Nile and they will be turned into blood. And the fish that are in the Nile will die and the Nile will give off a stench and the Egyptians will loathe drinking water from the Nile.” ’ ”

Moses is now told that he must make the position crystal clear to Pharaoh. Yahweh’s command is that Pharaoh let His people go so that they may serve Him in the wilderness. This command will be constantly repeated.

But Pharaoh has refused to let the people go to serve Him in the wilderness so Yahweh now tells Pharaoh through Moses that He will turn the Nile red as blood, so that the fish die and the Nile smells, and so that even those who worship the Nile will refuse to drink its waters.

The Nile regularly turned red annually as a result of high flooding bringing red earth down from its sources, but that was common and did not have major effects. It was then still drinkable. However, Moses declares that in this case the water will be so polluted that it will kill the fish and their rotting bodies will pollute the Nile. The major miracle here is that it will appear to happen at the time Yahweh commands, and in great profusion.

“In this will you know that I am Yahweh.” Once again the motif of ‘knowing Yahweh’ comes out, and again as a result of His present action. Pharaoh will know that He is ‘the One Who Is There to act’ (compare on Exodus 3:14; Exodus 6:3).

“Behold I will smite with the staff that is in my hand.” The staff in the hand of Aaron will be the staff in the hand of Yahweh, for Aaron will stand as representative of Yahweh and of Moses. Aaron will be Yahweh’s hand as he is Moses’ mouth (Exodus 4:16). The staff represented the authority of the bearer and represented who he was.

“They will be turned into blood.” That is, they will be turned unusually blood-red and will be unusually ‘thick’. The ancients would readily describe any thick blood-red liquid as blood. There would clearly be a change to the colour of the Nile that day in excess of what was usually known, a change that would be very noticeable as the flood waters swept down bearing excessive quantities of the red earth.

The red earth came from the basins of the Blue Nile and Atbara, and the more earth the flooding Nile carried the redder it became. The flood would further bring down with it flood microcosms known as flagellates and associated bacteria. These would heighten the blood-red colour of the water and create conditions in which the fish would die in large numbers resulting in rotting fish and a great stench. The latter would not, of course, all happen in one day.

Pharaoh and the people were used to the Nile looking somewhat red at this time of the year, thus the intensity of the redness must have been such that it amazed even them.

“The Egyptians will loathe drinking water from the Nile.” To the Egyptians the Nile was a friendly god and to drink its waters was a thing to be desired. Indeed typical of the adoration of the Nile is the famous Hymn to the Nile, “You are the Lord of the poor and the needy. If you were overthrown in the heavens the gods would fall upon their faces and men would perish." But now they will rather turn against the Nile and refuse to drink its waters.

“Let my people go.” This phrase, which is first found in Exodus 5:1 in the first polite request to Pharaoh, comes at the commencement of the first two incidents in each of the three series of plagues (see Exodus 7:16; Exodus 8:1; Exodus 8:20; Exodus 9:1; Exodus 9:13; Exodus 10:3), although in the last it is not under Yahweh’s instruction. Exodus 5:1 makes up the seventh. It thus appears seven times, the divinely perfect number. (It is an indication of the intricate pattern in the narrative that a seven can constantly be built into the ten).

Exodus 7:19

‘And Yahweh said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, over their canals, and over their reed pools and over all their ponds of water. And there will be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.”

“Take your staff.” Three times Aaron is told to take his staff, in Exodus 7:9; Exodus 7:15; Exodus 7:19. The staff would have special significance for Pharaoh because it had turned into a large snake and eaten the snakes produced by the magicians. It had swallowed his protection and had outmanoeuvred his magicians. It was a symbol of the power of Yahweh and of Moses and Aaron.

Yahweh now tells Moses that Aaron, as Moses’ prophet, is to stretch out the staff of God over the Nile resulting in all water sources being contaminated. This would be inevitable, for all drew their water from the Nile. The Nile was the lifeblood of Egypt on which Egypt depended for its very existence. All its water in the end came from the Nile, and where the Nile and its offshoots did not reach was only desert.

“Over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, over their canals, and over their reed pools and over all their ponds of water.” This basically covers all water sources, the Nile, its tributaries, the irrigation canals built to irrigate the land, the standing pools and the man made reservoirs. Note the fivefold description of the water sources. In Egypt five was the number of completeness. This may have been a standard Egyptian description for the water sources.

“In vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.” The water in these would not turn red instantaneously, but because water in these was drawn from the Nile, eventually that is all that would be in their vessels. They drew their water and stored it in their vessels, hoping the sediment might fall to the bottom, and then had to pour it away because it was undrinkable and unusable. It is interesting to note that with the five previous water sources this now makes up seven. Now even their vessels are yielding blood at the command of Yahweh.

“Take your staff and stretch out your hand --.” Compare Exodus 8:5 - ‘stretch forth your hand with your staff’; Exodus 8:16 - ‘stretch out your staff’; Exodus 8:24 - no action by Moses; Exodus 9:5 - no action by Moses; Exodus 9:8 - ‘take handfuls of ashes -- sprinkle it towards the heavens’; Exodus 9:22 - ‘stretch forth your hand towards the heavens’; Exodus 10:12 - ‘stretch forth your hand over the land of Egypt’; Exodus 10:21 - ‘stretch out your hand towards heaven’.

We note from this that the command to use the staff comes three times, the command to use the hand comes three times, and with the taking of a handful of ashes (a further use of the hand), overall action is taken seven times in a carefully patterned narrative. Three is the number of completeness, seven the number of divine perfection. We note also that action is made towards the heavens three times

Exodus 7:20

‘And Moses and Aaron did so, as Yahweh commanded, and he lifted up the staff and smote the waters that were in the Nile, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants. And all the waters that were in the Nile were turned to blood, and the fish that were in the Nile died, and the Nile gave off a stench, and the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile, and the blood was throughout all the land of Egypt.’

Aaron acts but it is Moses who is in charge. And at their action the Nile begins to go a deeper red and darken, the fish die, the stench increases and the waters become undrinkable.

During July and August it was normal for a reddish colour to permeate the water as a result of the red earth brought down by its flow which itself, like the Nile, was beneficial to Egypt covering the land as the Nile flooded and providing fertile soil. But normally the fish did not die and the water remained drinkable.

But this year there was excess of the red earth, and living organisms intensified the redness, and all the fish died and the water could not be drunk. For Egypt this was disaster. They depended on the fish for a food source, and on the water for drink, and both failed.

“He lifted up the staff and smote the waters that were in the Nile, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants.” They made it clear to Pharaoh and his officials that what was to happen was the work of Yahweh by smiting the Nile with the rod of God in full view.

Exodus 7:22-23

‘And the magicians of Egypt did the same with their enchantments, and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them as Yahweh had said. And Pharaoh turned and went into his house, nor did he lay even this to heart’

The Nile and all its offshoots were now red as blood. Thus the magicians had to find uncontaminated water, either in storage pots or in springs not yet affected by what had happened to the Nile. Once they had done so it would not be hard with their learning and abilities to make it look to Pharaoh and his officials as though they also could then turn it red, which they did, no doubt dramatically. Pharaoh and his officials would be the last to suffer from events. They would be provided with drinking water and with food while the people struggled and went hungry and had to dig for their water. Thus Pharaoh was not prepared to change his mind. He could bravely allow his people to suffer.

“Pharaoh turned and went into his house.” A dramatic description of his refusal to hear. There he was safe from all the problems that would be caused. He could ignore the world outside. He was not willing to heed the message given. ‘Turned and went’ may signify peremptory action. In Exodus 10:6 it is Moses who turns and goes.

Exodus 7:24

‘And all the Egyptians dug round about the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink of the water of the Nile.’

For the people it was not so easy. Pharaoh could sit in his house and have his water brought to him, but they had to provide their own water. And they had to find it by digging to find places where the water was not contaminated. The great Nile had failed them. The water they found would not be very drinkable because of the nature of the soil which gave it a bitter taste, but at least it was usable.

We can presumably assume that the children of Israel, having been warned by Moses, had stored up water against this eventuality (note the ‘all the Egyptians’).

Exodus 7:25

‘And seven days were fulfilled after Yahweh had smitten the Nile.’

The ‘seven days’ that now passed represented the divinely perfect and complete time, a short time determined by Yahweh, and however long as was necessary. During this time Pharaoh was to be left to think, and then Yahweh would act again. It was only Yahweh Who knew what would come next.

What lessons then can we draw from this passage? There are many. It declares God’s power over creation. It reveals His right to make demands on us. It reveals the arrogance of man’s heart over against God. The people we live among may not be Pharaoh’s, but they are equally rejecting the commands of Yahweh. It tells us that God will bring all sins into account, whether it be soon or in the more distant future, for it reveals a God Who requires obedience to His commandments.

And these lessons will continually be taught in the passages that follow for in this battle between Yahweh’s will and Pharaoh’s we have a picture of the world in contention with God. God has shown man through His word what he must do. But man is continually obstinate like Pharaoh and refuses to obey His will. Thus must God continually work to bring man into submission, with the warning that if he will not submit he can only expect the judgment of God.

Excursus: Further Note On The Plagues (mainly repeated from the introduction).

We have noted in the introduction (see Chapter Comments) the three sets of three plagues, and that in the first plague of each set Moses goes to Pharaoh, either to the river or ‘before Pharaoh’, while in the second in each set Moses goes to the palace, and in the third plague in each set the plague occurs without warning.

We have also noted that God says ‘let my people go’ seven times (although only six times before specific plagues - Exodus 5:1; Exodus 7:16; Exodus 8:1; Exodus 8:20; Exodus 9:1; Exodus 9:13; Exodus 10:3).

Now we note again that there is a central core around which each plague is described, although the details vary. This is: a description in detail of what will happen (Exodus 7:17-18; Exodus 8:2-4; no separate description; Exodus 8:21; Exodus 9:3-4; Exodus 9:9; Exodus 9:15; Exodus 10:4-6; no separate description), the call to Moses either to instruct Aaron (three times - Exodus 7:19; Exodus 8:5; Exodus 8:16) or to act himself (three times - Exodus 9:22; Exodus 10:12; Exodus 10:21) or for them both to act (once -Exodus 9:8), the action taken (Exodus 7:20; Exodus 8:6; Exodus 8:17; no action; no action; Exodus 9:10; Exodus 9:23; Exodus 10:13; Exodus 10:22), and an inevitable description of the consequences, which parallels the previous description where given (Exodus 7:21; Exodus 8:6; Exodus 8:17; Exodus 8:24; Exodus 9:6-7; Exodus 9:10-11; Exodus 9:23-26; Exodus 10:13-15; Exodus 10:22-23).

Note that there are seven separate prior descriptions, and as previously noted seven calls to act followed by that action, but the sevens are not for the same plagues. The narrative is carefully built around sevens.

Pharaoh’s initial response to their approach is mentioned three times, for Pharaoh reacts against the people (Exodus 5:5-6); calls for his magicians (Exodus 7:11); makes a compromise offer and then drives Moses and Aaron from his presence (Exodus 10:11).

As might be expected Pharaoh’s final response grows in intensity.

1). Yahweh hardened his heart so that he did not listen to them as Yahweh had said (Exodus 7:13) (Yahweh hardening him, and that he would not let the people go had been forecast in Exodus 4:21). This was prior to the plagues.

2). His heart was hardened and he did not listen to them as Yahweh had said, and he turned and went into his house, ‘nor did he set his heart to this also’ (Exodus 7:22-23).

3). He entreated Yahweh to take away the plague and said that he would let the people go to worship Yahweh (Exodus 8:8), and later hardened his heart and did not listen to them as Yahweh had said (Exodus 8:15).

4). Pharaoh’s heart was hardened and he did not listen to them as Yahweh had said (Exodus 8:19).

5). He told Moses and Aaron that they may sacrifice in the land (Exodus 8:25), and then, on Moses’ refusing his offer, that they may sacrifice in the wilderness but not go far away (Exodus 8:28) which Moses accepts, but later he hardened his heart and would not let the people go (Exodus 8:32).

6). He sent to find out what had happened and then his heart was hardened and would not let the people go (Exodus 9:7).

7). Yahweh hardened his heart and he did not listen to them as Yahweh had spoken to Moses (Exodus 9:12).

8). Pharaoh admitted that he had sinned, asked them to entreat for him, and said ‘I will let you go and you will stay no longer’ (Exodus 9:27-28). Then he sinned yet more and hardened his heart, he and his servants (Exodus 9:34), and his heart was hardened nor would he let the children of Israel go as Yahweh had spoken to Moses (Exodus 9:35).

9). Pharaoh admitted that he had sinned, and asked them to entreat Yahweh for him (Exodus 10:17), but later Yahweh hardened his heart so that he would not let the children of Israel go (Exodus 10:20).

10). Pharaoh said that they might go apart from their cattle (Exodus 10:24), and on Moses refusing ‘Yahweh hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not let them go’ (Exodus 10:27), and he commanded that they leave his presence and not return on pain of death (Exodus 10:28).

11). In the summary ‘Yahweh hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of his land’ (Exodus 11:10).

We note from the above that ‘Pharaoh will not listen to you’ occurs twice (Exodus 7:4; Exodus 11:9), ‘did not listen to them as Yahweh had said’ occurs four times (Exodus 7:13; Exodus 7:22; Exodus 8:15; Exodus 19); and ‘did not listen to them as Yahweh had spoken to Moses’ occurs once (Exodus 9:12) thus his not being willing to listen occurs seven times in all (the phrase ‘as Yahweh had spoken to Moses’ occurs twice (Exodus 9:12; Exodus 9:35), but not as connected with not listening). In contrast he entreats that Yahweh will show mercy four times (Exodus 8:8; Exodus 8:28; Exodus 9:27; Exodus 10:17), and parleys with Moses three times (Exodus 8:8; Exodus 8:25; Exodus 10:24), making seven in all. Yahweh hardened his heart five times (Exodus 7:13; Exodus 9:12; Exodus 10:20; Exodus 10:27; Exodus 11:10), which with Exodus 4:21 and Exodus 10:1 makes seven times. (Yahweh also hardened his heart in Exodus 14:8, but that was over pursuing the fleeing people). His heart was hardened (by himself?) four times (Exodus 7:22; Exodus 8:19; Exodus 9:7; Exodus 9:35), and he hardened his own heart three times (Exodus 8:15; Exodus 8:32; Exodus 9:34), again making seven times. It is said that he would not let the people go five times (Exodus 8:32; Exodus 9:7; Exodus 9:35; Exodus 10:20; Exodus 11:10). With Exodus 4:21; Exodus 7:14 that makes not letting the people go seven times. Yahweh told Pharaoh to let His people go seven times (Exodus 5:1; Exodus 7:16; Exodus 8:1; Exodus 8:20; Exodus 9:1; Exodus 9:13; Exodus 10:3). Thus the writer would clearly seem to have been deliberately aiming at sevenfold repetition, and this is spread throughout the narrative in different ways, stressing the total unity of the passage.

End of excursus.

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Exodus 7:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/exodus-7.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, June 1st, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
ADVERTISEMENT
Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology