Exodus 7 - Miracles and Plagues Before Pharaoh
A. God lays out the plan to Moses again.
1. (1-2) The re-affirmation of Aaron's place in the ministry of Moses.
a. God is patient with Moses; after the outburst at the end of chapter six, we might expect that God had enough with Moses. But God doesn't even chastise Moses; He simply tells him what to do and sets him to do it. God is rich in mercy!
b. I have made you as God to Pharaoh: Pharaoh had rejected having any direct dealing with Yahweh (Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? [Exodus 5:2]), so God would deal with Pharaoh through Moses. This would let Moses know that when Pharaoh was rejecting him, he was really rejecting God - and he wouldn't take it so personally!
i. In the same way, God will make us "as God" to people we encounter who are rejecting God; if they harden their hearts or reject us, we shouldn't take it personally!
c. Aaron your brother shall be your prophet: if Moses is as God to Pharaoh, then Aaron would be "God's" (that is, Moses') "prophet" - his spokesman before Pharaoh.
i. Also, even as Moses was not to act on his own initiative, but to wait for God's direction, Aaron was not to act on his own initiative, but to wait for Moses' direction.
d. God will not allow Moses to let the seeming failure of his first encounter with Pharaoh to discourage him; Moses is simply commanded, you shall speak all that I command you.
2. (3) God promises to harden Pharaoh's heart.
a. Again, we remember that God will not harden Pharaoh's heart against Pharaoh's own desire; it is not as if Pharaoh wished to have a tender heart towards Israel, but God would not allow him.
b. Instead, Pharaoh revealed his heart when he refused the humble request of Moses back in 5:1-4; now, God will merely strengthen Pharaoh in the evil he already has chosen.
i. God can do the same today; in our rebellion, we may reach the place where God will strengthen us in the evil we desire: Therefore God also gave them up to their uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts . . . and even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting (Romans 1:24, 28).
3. (4-7) Why God will harden Pharaoh's heart.
a. Essentially, it is to bring righteous judgment upon Egypt: so that I may lay My hand on Egypt . . . and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord. Pharaoh and the Egyptians said they didn't know who the Lord was; God is going to let them know!
b. Pharaoh displayed the evil in his heart by rejecting a humble request; God will harden Pharaoh's heart, and Pharaoh will do what he wants to do: sin against Israel and God even more. Then, God will judge that sin.
B. Moses stands before Pharaoh.
1. (8-10) Moses and Aaron appear before Pharaoh again.
a. It must have taken real courage to come again, after such disastrous results the first time; but Moses is being obedient to God.
b. When God first gave Moses the sign in Exodus 4:1-9, it seemed that the signs were primarily to be for the leaders of Israel - but now, Moses brings the sign before Pharaoh.
c. Seemingly, Moses did not perform the sign God had given him back at Mount Sinai the first time he appeared before Pharaoh; now he does, and no doubt he expects it to be very impressive!
2. (11-13) Pharaoh's magicians imitate the miracle of Aaron's rod.
a. In the midst of an unmistakable miracle, Satan has provided Pharaoh with a reason to doubt - and Pharaoh seized on the doubt and hardened his heart.
b. How did the magicians of Egypt do this with their enchantments? Apparently, this wasn't mere magic - this was demonic power manifested by true supernatural miracles.
i. Miracles are part of Satan's arsenal; The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they may be saved (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10).
ii. Miracles can prove that something is supernatural, but they cannot prove that something is true
c. These Egyptian magicians were intelligent, learned men; but they lacked the wisdom of God, as Paul observes concerning them in 2 Timothy 3:7-9: Always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.
d. How could they have not seen the greater power of God when Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods? These are men who harden their hearts against the evidence, not because of it.
i. It also shows God has a sense of humor; what must have been the look on the faces of Pharaoh and the magicians when Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods?
3. (14-18) God sends Moses to warn Pharaoh about the coming of the first plague.
a. The first plague - as all the plagues - will come because Pharaoh has hardened his heart against God and His people; in mercy, God warns Pharaoh, but Pharaoh in his hardness of heart disregards the warning.
b. Precisely, God did not plague Egypt because Pharaoh would not let the children of Israel go; but because Pharaoh refused to recognize and honor God: By this you shall know that I am the Lord.
i. Pharaoh sinned against Israel because he was sinning against the Lord; if he really recognized and honored the God of Israel, he would free the children of Israel. Many of our relationships with people are bad because our relationship with God is bad.
4. (19-21) The first plague comes upon Egypt: The Nile turns to blood.
a. This is the first of the plagues; there are nine in total (the tenth is the slaying of the firstborn, which is in a class by itself), and they are grouped together in threes.
i. In this structure of threes, the first two plagues only come after warning and a call to repentance; the third plague in each set comes without warning.
b. Many say this first plague, as well as the other eight, all have naturalistic explanations. When the Nile reaches an extremely high flood stage, it collects finely powdered red earth, and this red earth carry along organisms which color the water and kill fish. But if this were the cause, how possibly could Pharaoh be impressed?
i. God may or may not have used natural mechanisms to accomplish these plagues; even if He did, the timing and character of the plagues come from God's hand alone.
ii. It is important to understand that these plagues were all literal; there is nothing "symbolic" about them. They really happened. This guides our understanding about the plagues in Revelation; there is no reason to see them as "symbolic" either.
c. The plagues God brought against Egypt had a definite strategy and purpose; they each confront and attack a prized Egyptian deity. Not only did they bring punishment against Egypt, the plagues also answered Pharaoh's original question: Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? (Exodus 5:2) The plagues show the Lord God to be greater than any of the deities of Egypt.
d. Specifically, this first plague is directed against the numerous Egyptian river deities; the Nile itself was virtually worshipped as a god by the Egyptians, and the Lord God has shown He has complete power over the river, not some river god.
i. The Egyptian god Khnum was said to be the guardian of the Nile, and this showed he was unable to protected his territory; the god Hapi was said to be the spirit of the Nile, and was dealt a defeat; the great god Osiris was thought to have the Nile as his bloodstream - now, he is truly bleeding!
ii. In fact, the Nile itself was worshipped as a god, and we have papyri recording hymns sung in praise of the river.
5. (22-25) The magicians of Egypt copy the miracle.
a. How could the magicians of Egypt have fresh water to make as blood, if all the water had been turned to blood? Seemingly, all the waters directly associated with the Nile had been turned to blood (including its pools and tributaries, and water in vessels drawn from the Nile). But water obtained by wells was not plagued: So all the Egyptians dug all around the river for water to drink, because they could not drink the water of the river. The magicians turned fresh well water into blood.
b. Bible scholars warmly debate if this is a parlor trick or if these enchantments are miracles from Satan's hand; the evidence seems to lean in favor of them being miracles from Satan's hand.
i. If the magicians of Egypt really wanted to do a miracle, why didn't they turn the bloody river clean again? Because it seems that Satan cannot perform a constructive, cleansing miracle; he can bring supernatural destruction, but not goodness. All they did was make more bloody water!
ii. "Alleviation of human suffering is no part of the programme of the devil or his agents. That can only come from Jehovah, through the believing cry of his servants." (Meyer)
c. One way or another, the result in the heart of Pharaoh is the same - he seizes upon another opportunity to reject and dishonor the Lord God, and Pharaoh's heart grew hard . . . Neither was his heart moved by this.