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Exodus 7-9 Listen
1 And the LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet.
2 Thou shalt speak all that I command thee: and Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he send the children of Israel out of his land.
3 And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt.
4 But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you, that I may lay my hand upon Egypt, and bring forth mine armies, and my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments.
5 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch forth mine hand upon Egypt, and bring out the children of Israel from among them.
6 And Moses and Aaron did as the LORD commanded them, so did they.
7 And Moses was fourscore years old, and Aaron fourscore and three years old, when they spake unto Pharaoh.
8 And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,
9 When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Shew a miracle for you: then thou shalt say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent.
10 And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the LORD had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent.
11 Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments.
12 For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods.
13 And he hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.
Let's get our bearings here. This discussion with God carries over from the end of Exodus 6 (see notes). God is preparing Moses to make another appearance before Pharaoh, but pay close attention to what God says in verses 3 and 4, "And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you, that I may lay my hand upon Egypt, and bring forth mine armies, and my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments." So, let's see...Moses is to go to Pharaoh (again) and insist that he let the people go on a journey into the wilderness for three days to make a sacrifice to God (Exodus 3:18, see notes). Oh! By the way...Pharaoh will say, "no." His first trip to Pharaoh was in Exodus 5:1 (see notes), and sure enough, Pharaoh said, "No!" Now, here's that second trip, but this time he uses the rod God gave him that turns into a serpent. Eighty-year-old Moses goes before Pharaoh with his older brother Aaron, but Pharaoh's magicians duplicate the rod trick; their rods turn to serpents also. Of course Moses' rod serpent eats up all of their rod serpents. However, it still wasn't impressive enough to Pharaoh for him to negotiate. Of course verse 13 says, "And he hardened Pharaoh's heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said." God had already said that wouldn't do it because God hardened Pharaoh's heart. So, I guess we're right on plan.
Now, you might be wondering what's the point. I mean...if God told Moses before he even went to see Pharaoh this time that Pharaoh would refuse his request, why go? Answer: it was an exercise - one that Moses, Pharaoh and the children of Israel needed as an important part of their preparation; all involved needed to see a series of acts of God over a period of time. The text doesn't tell us that God prepared Moses and Aaron for the magicians to duplicate their rod-to-serpent trick. That must have been a disappointing surprise. Then...the excitement of seeing your stick eat their sticks - it must have been exciting. And...when Pharaoh's magicians went back to the rod store (if there was one) to get replacements - that had to be a little embarrassing...I mean...explaining what happened to your rod.
There's one more important point that should be noticed here in verse 1. According to Exodus 4:16 (see notes), Moses was to be a god to Aaron; therefore, Aaron is here called the prophet of Moses i.e. the person who would announce to Pharaoh the revelations of Moses. Now God tells Moses, "I have made thee a god to Pharaoh." That means that God has promised divine authority and power over Pharaoh. Armed with that word from God, there is no reason for him to be afraid of the king of Egypt. Moses was a god to Aaron as the revealer of the divine will, and to Pharaoh as the executor of that will. Incidentally, verse 7 tells us that Moses was 80 years old and Aaron was 83 at this point in time.
14 And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, he refuseth to let the people go.
15 Get 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; and the rod which was turned to a serpent shalt thou take in thine hand.
16 And thou shalt say unto him, The LORD 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 thou wouldest not hear.
17 Thus saith the LORD, In this thou shalt know that I am the LORD: behold, I will smite with the rod that is in mine hand upon the waters which are in the river, and they shall be turned to blood.
18 And the fish that is in the river shall die, and the river shall stink; and the Egyptians shall lothe to drink of the water of the river.
19 And the LORD spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt, upon their streams, upon their rivers, and upon their ponds, and upon all their pools of water, that they may become blood; and that there may be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood, and in vessels of stone.
20 And Moses and Aaron did so, as the LORD 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.
21 And the fish that was in the river died; and the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river; and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.
22 And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, neither did he hearken unto them; as the LORD had said.
23 And Pharaoh turned and went into his house, neither did he set his heart to this also.
24 And all the Egyptians digged round about the river for water to drink; for they could not drink of the water of the river.
25 And seven days were fulfilled, after that the LORD had smitten the river.
Here goes that third trip before Pharaoh, this time with a significantly more convincing miracle - turning the Nile river to blood. The Nile, along with the other fresh-water sources (verse 19) remain that way for seven days, and all the fish die. While Pharaoh's magicians duplicate the miracle to some degree, still the Egyptians lost their water source and had to get their water from the ground instead of the river for that period of time. Nonetheless, this didn't move Pharaoh to action. No surprise though; look at verse 22, "...and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, neither did he hearken unto them; as the LORD had said." It is important to understand that, while the ultimate outcome will be a complete release of the Hebrews to leave Egypt permanently, up to this point Moses is only asking for a week or so off from work so they can go out into the wilderness and sacrifice to God. Nothing will be revealed to Pharaoh about the big plan of leaving permanently until later. But, of course, Moses and Aaron have already been told by God that this first plague won't cause Pharaoh to comply.
By the way, I wonder why the magicians chose to make more bloody water. Wouldn't the better trick have been to turn the water back to clear again? Hmmm...you don't suppose it was because THEY COULDN'T, do you?
Plague #2: Aren't those frogs cute! (Exodus 8:1-15)
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, Go unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
2 And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs:
3 And the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into thine house, and into thy bedchamber, and upon thy bed, and into the house of thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thine ovens, and into thy kneadingtroughs:
4 And the frogs shall come up both on thee, and upon thy people, and upon all thy servants.
5 And the LORD spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch forth thine hand with thy rod over the streams, over the rivers, and over the ponds, and cause frogs to come up upon the land of Egypt.
6 And Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up, and covered the land of Egypt.
7 And the magicians did so with their enchantments, and brought up frogs upon the land of Egypt.
8 Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, Intreat the LORD, that he may take away the frogs from me, and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may do sacrifice unto the LORD.
9 And Moses said unto Pharaoh, Glory over me: when shall I intreat for thee, and for thy servants, and for thy people, to destroy the frogs from thee and thy houses, that they may remain in the river only?
10 And he said, To morrow. And he said, Be it according to thy word: that thou mayest know that there is none like unto the LORD our God.
11 And the frogs shall depart from thee, and from thy houses, and from thy servants, and from thy people; they shall remain in the river only.
12 And Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh: and Moses cried unto the LORD because of the frogs which he had brought against Pharaoh.
13 And the LORD did according to the word of Moses; and the frogs died out of the houses, out of the villages, and out of the fields.
14 And they gathered them together upon heaps: and the land stank.
15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.
Frogs are kinda cute. Two frogs are twice as cute. At what point do frogs stop being cute? Look at verses 3-4 and you tell me: "And the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into thine house, and into thy bedchamber, and upon thy bed, and into the house of thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thine ovens, and into thy kneadingtroughs: And the frogs shall come up both on thee, and upon thy people, and upon all thy servants." Wherever the line is between cute and disgusting, we're waaaaaay there! Verse 7 is just plain ol' funny. Pharaoh's magicians get their opportunity to demonstrate to Pharaoh that this is just a party trick and no big deal. So, what do they do? Do they create mongooses to eat the frogs? No! They bring in more frogs! Pharaoh's gotta be rolling his eyes on this one. Pharaoh says (paraphrased) in verse 8, "Just get rid of the frogs and your people can have a few days off to go make their sacrifice to God!" So, does Moses cause the frogs to trail back off into the river? Naaaaa. They just die right there in the spot where they were last seen - dead frogs everywhere! There were so many dead frogs that the land of Egypt stank. But still, look at verse 15, "But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said." We're still on plan. Incidentally, do you suppose the lack of fresh water in the rivers' from plague #1 caused these frogs to seek fresh water elsewhere?
Plague #3: A few gnats (aka lice) don't cause any harm, right? (Exodus 8:16-19)
16 And the LORD said unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch out thy rod, and smite the dust of the land, that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt.
17 And they did so; for Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod, and smote the dust of the earth, and it became lice in man, and in beast; all the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt.
18 And the magicians did so with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not: so there were lice upon man, and upon beast.
19 Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.
Many Bible scholars say the Hebrew word here (used only 5 times) is uncertain and could be gnats, sand fleas, or mosquitoes. Now here's where the abilities of these magicians start seeming a little suspicious. They could duplicate the rod-to-a-serpent trick; they could duplicate the water-to-blood; they could duplicate the frogs; but, are you telling me that they couldn't duplicate a few lice/gnats? That's right! These little ol' critters become the deal breaker for the magicians. Who wants more lice/gnats anyway? By the way, don't frogs eat gnats? Whoooops...the frogs are all dead! As a matter of fact, the magicians have some advice for Pharaoh after the gnats in verse 19, "Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, 'This is the finger of God.' But Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said." But there it is again; God had hardened Pharaoh's heart.
Plague #4: Even one fly is irritating (Exodus 8:20-32)
20 And the LORD said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh; lo, he cometh forth to the water; and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
21 Else, if thou wilt not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies upon thee, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thy houses: and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground whereon they are.
22 And I will sever in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there; to the end thou mayest know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth.
23 And I will put a division between my people and thy people: to morrow shall this sign be.
24 And the LORD did so; and there came a grievous swarm of flies into the house of Pharaoh, and into his servants’ houses, and into all the land of Egypt: the land was corrupted by reason of the swarm of flies.
25 And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land.
26 And Moses said, It is not meet so to do; for we shall sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians to the LORD our God: lo, shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us?
27 We will go three days’ journey into the wilderness, and sacrifice to the LORD our God, as he shall command us.
28 And Pharaoh said, I will let you go, that ye may sacrifice to the LORD your God in the wilderness; only ye shall not go very far away: intreat for me.
29 And Moses said, Behold, I go out from thee, and I will intreat the LORD that the swarms of flies may depart from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people, to morrow: but let not Pharaoh deal deceitfully any more in not letting the people go to sacrifice to the LORD.
30 And Moses went out from Pharaoh, and intreated the LORD.
31 And the LORD did according to the word of Moses; and he removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people; there remained not one.
32 And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.
Pharaoh doesn't like flies either...especially in these massive swarms all over Egypt, except Goshen where the Hebrews live. You don't suppose the flies were swarming over all the dead frogs, do you? Without even calling upon his magicians this time (What would be the point?), Pharaoh's resolve begins to weaken; he starts to negotiate with Moses. Pharaoh offer #1: Sacrifice to your God, but stay in Goshen to do it. Moses counter offer: "No!" By the way, Moses points out that the Egyptians will find the Hebrew method of sacrificing very distasteful - better not do it in front of them. Pharaoh offer #2: Go sacrifice, but not three days' journey away from Egypt - somewhere closer than that; just ask your God, and see what he says. Moses agrees to ask God, but insists that Pharaoh needs to keep his word and not cheat on his offer. God causes the flies to go away, but verse 32 tells us that Pharaoh did cheat on his offer. His heart was hardened.
Isn't it interesting that the proposed deal on the table between Moses and Pharaoh at this point is still a temporary release for the Hebrews to go make a sacrifice. We know the plan is much larger than that, but obviously Pharaoh does not.
Plague #5: The Egyptian cattle die (Exodus 9:1-7)
1 Then the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh, and tell him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
2 For if thou refuse to let them go, and wilt hold them still,
3 Behold, the hand of the LORD is upon thy cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep: there shall be a very grievous murrain.
4 And the LORD shall sever between the cattle of Israel and the cattle of Egypt: and there shall nothing die of all that is the children’s of Israel.
5 And the LORD appointed a set time, saying, To morrow the LORD shall do this thing in the land.
6 And the LORD did that thing on the morrow, and all the cattle of Egypt died: but of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one.
7 And Pharaoh sent, and, behold, there was not one of the cattle of the Israelites dead. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.
It's interesting that Moses was talking about sacrificing cattle in the preceding verses and how distasteful Egyptians would find this practice. Now...the plagues move to the Egyptian cattle. We're talking a completely thorough job of wiping out Egypt's cattle "which is in the field." That phrase is important to note later on in chapter 9. None of the cattle belonging to the Hebrews died. Did this do the trick? Verse 7, "... And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go." Now, don't lose sight of why Pharaoh's heart was hardened. God did it! But why did God continue to cause Pharaoh's heart to be hardened? I could tell you now, but the answer is found in Exodus 10:1-2 (see notes), we'll analyze it there.
8 And the LORD said unto Moses and unto Aaron, Take to you handfuls of ashes of the furnace, and let Moses sprinkle it toward the heaven in the sight of Pharaoh.
9 And it shall become small dust in all the land of Egypt, and shall be a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast, throughout all the land of Egypt.
10 And they took ashes of the furnace, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses sprinkled it up toward heaven; and it became a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast.
11 And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils; for the boil was upon the magicians, and upon all the Egyptians.
12 And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had spoken unto Moses.
Moses goes before Pharaoh and symbolically throws a handful of soot up into the air. Everybody breaks out in oozing boils ("a boil breaking forth with blains"). Now this is amusing: the boils even disable the magicians (verse 11). But look at verse 12, "But the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had spoken to Moses." Yup! Still on plan.
13 And the LORD said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
14 For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth.
15 For now I will stretch out my hand, that I may smite thee and thy people with pestilence; and thou shalt be cut off from the earth.
16 And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.
17 As yet exaltest thou thyself against my people, that thou wilt not let them go?
18 Behold, to morrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even until now.
19 Send therefore now, and gather thy cattle, and all that thou hast in the field; for upon every man and beast which shall be found in the field, and shall not be brought home, the hail shall come down upon them, and they shall die.
20 He that feared the word of the LORD among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his cattle flee into the houses:
21 And he that regarded not the word of the LORD left his servants and his cattle in the field.
22 And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch forth thine hand toward heaven, that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, upon man, and upon beast, and upon every herb of the field, throughout the land of Egypt.
23 And Moses stretched forth his rod toward heaven: and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and the fire ran along upon the ground; and the LORD rained hail upon the land of Egypt.
24 So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation.
25 And the hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt all that was in the field, both man and beast; and the hail smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field.
26 Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, was there no hail.
27 And Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have sinned this time: the LORD is RIGHTEOUS, AND I AND MY PEOPLE ARE wicked.
28 Intreat the LORD (for it is enough) that there be no more mighty thunderings and hail; and I will let you go, and ye shall stay no longer.
29 And Moses said unto him, As soon as I am gone out of the city, I will spread abroad my hands unto the LORD; and the thunder shall cease, neither shall there be any more hail; that thou mayest know how that the earth is the LORD’S.
30 But as for thee and thy servants, I know that ye will not yet fear the LORD God.
31 And the flax and the barley was smitten: for the barley was in the ear, and the flax was bolled.
32 But the wheat and the rie were not smitten: for they were not grown up.
33 And Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh, and spread abroad his hands unto the LORD: and the thunders and hail ceased, and the rain was not poured upon the earth.
34 And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants.
35 And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the LORD had spoken by Moses.
This one is big, really big. God sends huge, heavy hail stones that kill everything outside, but Moses gives a warning first. You will recall that the cattle in the fields in verses 1-7 have already died. They had better get the remaining cattle under shelter along with their people if they want to survive this hail. This is the first plague that actually threatens human life. Obviously, the plagues have intensified. No hail in Goshen, though, where the Hebrews lived. Pharaoh does hate a hail storm; he makes a precedent-setting statement in verse 27, "...I have sinned this time: the LORD is righteous, and I and my people are wicked." Hey! Moses! Pleeeeaaaase make the hail storm stop! So, how does Moses respond to Pharaoh's words of repentance. He agrees to make the hail storm stop, but says in verse 30, "But as for thee and thy servants, I know that ye will not yet fear the LORD God." Sure enough, look at verses 34-35, "And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the LORD had spoken by Moses." Well, no surprises here; it's all working just the way God said it would.
We do see something quite interesting in verse 16, "And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth." In other words, Pharaoh had been raised up by God for this very special mission of being the poster boy of God's wrath. Why? It was so that "my [God] name may be declared throughout all the earth."
Verses 31-32 contain some interesting seasonal information that directs us toward a time frame for this seventh plague. Following is an excerpt from the Old Testament commentary by Keil and Delitzsch regarding the agricultural season in which the seventh plague occurred:
The barley is ripe about the end of February or beginning of March; the wheat, at the end of March or beginning of April. The flax is in flower at the end of January. In the neighbourhood of Alexandria, and therefore quite in the north of Egypt, the spelt is ripe at the end of April, and farther south it is probably somewhat earlier; for, according to other accounts, the wheat and spelt ripen at the same time (vid., Hengstenberg, p. 119). Consequently the plague of hail occurred at the end of January, or at the latest in the first half of February; so that there were at least eight weeks between the seventh and tenth plagues. The hail must have smitten the half, therefore, of the most important field-produce, viz., the barley, which was a valuable article of food both for men, especially the poorer classes, and for cattle, and the flax, which was also a very important part of the produce of Egypt; whereas the spelt, of which the Egyptians preferred to make their bread (Herod. 2, 36, 77), and the wheat were still spared.
That puts us right on track for a Passover-season exodus from Egypt. Click here to read the notes on Exodus 10.