Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. the Lord said unto Moses--He is here encouraged to wait again
on the king--not, however, as formerly, in the attitude of a humble
suppliant, but now armed with credentials as God's ambassador, and to
make his demand in a tone and manner which no earthly monarch or court
I have made thee a god--"made," that is, set, appointed; "a
god"; that is, he was to act in this business as God's representative,
to act and speak in His name and to perform things beyond the ordinary
course of nature. The Orientals familiarly say of a man who is
eminently great or wise, "he is a god" among men.
Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet--that is, "interpreter"
or "spokesman." The one was to be the vicegerent of God, and the other
must be considered the speaker throughout all the ensuing scenes, even
though his name is not expressly mentioned.
3. I will harden Pharaoh's heart--This would be the
result. But the divine message would be the occasion, not
the cause of the king's impenitent obduracy.
4, 5. I may lay mine hand upon Egypt, &c.--The succession of
terrible judgments with which the country was about to be scourged
would fully demonstrate the supremacy of Israel's God.
7. Moses was fourscore years old--This advanced age was a pledge
that they had not been readily betrayed into a rash or hazardous
enterprise, and that under its attendant infirmities they could not
have carried through the work on which they were entering had they not
been supported by a divine hand.
9. When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, &c.--The king would
naturally demand some evidence of their having been sent from God; and
as he would expect the ministers of his own gods to do the same works,
the contest, in the nature of the case, would be one of miracles.
Notice has already been taken of the rod of Moses
but rods were carried also by all nobles and official persons in the
court of Pharaoh. It was an Egyptian custom, and the rods were symbols
of authority or rank. Hence God commanded His servants to use a
10. Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, &c.--It is to be
presumed that Pharaoh had demanded a proof of their divine mission.
11. Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers,
&c.--His object in calling them was to ascertain whether this doing of
Aaron's was really a work of divine power or merely a feat of magical
art. The magicians of Egypt in modern times have been long celebrated
adepts in charming serpents, and particularly by pressing the nape of
the neck, they throw them into a kind of catalepsy, which renders them
stiff and immovable--thus seeming to change them into a rod. They
conceal the serpent about their persons, and by acts of legerdemain
produce it from their dress, stiff and straight as a rod. Just the same
trick was played off by their ancient predecessors, the most renowned
of whom, Jannes and Jambres
were called in on this occasion. They had time after the summons to
make suitable preparations--and so it appears they succeeded by their
"enchantments" in practising an illusion on the senses.
12. but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods--This was what they
could not be prepared for, and the discomfiture appeared in the loss of
their rods, which were probably real serpents.
14. Pharaoh's heart is hardened--Whatever might have been his
first impressions, they were soon dispelled; and when he found his
magicians making similar attempts, he concluded that Aaron's affair was
a magical deception, the secret of which was not known to his wise
15. Get thee unto Pharaoh--Now began those appalling miracles of
judgment by which the God of Israel, through His ambassadors, proved
His sole and unchallengeable supremacy over all the gods of Egypt, and
which were the natural phenomena of Egypt, at an unusual season, and in
a miraculous degree of intensity. The court of Egypt, whether held at
Rameses, or Memphis, or Tanis in the field of Zoan
was the scene of those extraordinary transactions, and Moses must have
resided during that terrible period in the immediate neighborhood.
in the morning; lo, he goeth out unto the water--for the purpose
of ablutions or devotions perhaps; for the Nile was an object of
superstitious reverence, the patron deity of the country. It might be
that Moses had been denied admission into the palace; but be that as it
may, the river was to be the subject of the first plague, and
therefore, he was ordered to repair to its banks with the
miracle-working rod, now to be raised, not in demonstration, but in
judgment, if the refractory spirit of the king should still refuse
consent to Israel's departure for their sacred rites.
17-21. Aaron lifted up the rod and smote the waters,
&c.--Whether the water was changed into real blood, or only the
appearance of it (and Omnipotence could effect the one as easily as the
other), this was a severe calamity. How great must have been the
disappointment and disgust throughout the land when the river became of
a blood red color, of which they had a national abhorrence; their
favorite beverage became a nauseous draught, and the fish, which formed
so large an article of food, were destroyed. [See on
The immense scale on which the plague was inflicted is seen by its
extending to "the streams," or branches of the Nile--to the "rivers,"
the canals, the "ponds" and "pools," that which is left after an
overflow, the reservoirs, and the many domestic vessels in which the
Nile water was kept to filter. And accordingly the sufferings of the
people from thirst must have been severe. Nothing could more humble the
pride of Egypt than this dishonor brought on their national god.
22. And the magicians . . . did so with their
enchantments, &c.--Little or no pure water could be procured, and
therefore their imitation must have been on a small scale --the only
drinkable water available being dug among the sands. It must have been
on a sample or specimen of water dyed red with some coloring matter.
But it was sufficient to serve as a pretext or command for the king to
turn unmoved and go to his house.