In this chapter,
I. The dispute between God and Moses finishes, and Moses applies
himself to the execution of his commission, in obedience to God's
II. The dispute between Moses and Pharaoh begins, and a famous trial of
skill it was. Moses, in God's name, demands Israel's release; Pharaoh
denies it. The contest is between the power of the great God and the
power of a proud prince; and it will be found, in the issue, that when
God judgeth he will overcome.
1. Moses confirms the demand he had made to Pharaoh, by a miracle,
turning his rod into a serpent; but Pharaoh hardens his heart against
2. He chastises his disobedience by a plague, the first of the ten,
turning the waters into blood; but Pharaoh hardens his heart against
|Moses Receives a Fresh Commission.
||B. C. 1491.|
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
7 And Moses was fourscore years old, and Aaron fourscore and
three years old, when they spake unto Pharaoh.
I. God encourages Moses to go to Pharaoh, and at last silences all his
1. He clothes him with great power and authority
I have made thee a god to Pharaoh; that is, my representative in
this affair, as magistrates are called gods, because they are
God's vicegerents. He was authorized to speak and act in God's name and
stead, and, under the divine direction, was endued with a divine power
to do that which is above the ordinary power of nature, and invested
with a divine authority to demand obedience from a sovereign prince and
punish disobedience. Moses was a god, but he was only a made
god, not essentially one by nature; he was no god but by commission. He
was a god, but he was a god only to Pharaoh; the living and true God is
a God to all the world. It is an instance of God's condescension, and
an evidence that his thoughts towards us are thoughts of peace, that
when he treats with men he treats by men, whose terror shall not make
2. He again nominates him an assistant, his brother Aaron, who was not
a man of uncircumcised lips, but a notable spokesman: "He shall be
thy prophet," that is, "he shall speak from thee to Pharaoh, as
prophets do from God to the children of men. Thou shalt, as a god,
inflict and remove the plagues, and Aaron, as a prophet, shall denounce
them, and threaten Pharaoh with them."
3. He tells him the worst of it, that Pharaoh would not hearken to him,
and yet the work should be done at last, Israel should be delivered and
God therein would be glorified,
The Egyptians, who would not know the Lord, should be made to know him.
Note, It is, and ought to be, satisfaction enough to God's messengers
that, whatever contradiction and opposition may be given them, thus far
they shall gain their point, that God will be glorified in the success
of their embassy, and all his chosen Israel will be saved, and then
they have no reason to say that they have laboured in vain. See here,
(1.) How God glorifies himself; he makes people know that he is
Jehovah. Israel is made to know it by the performance of his promises
and the Egyptians are made to know it by the pouring
out of his wrath upon them. Thus God's name is exalted both in those
that are saved and in those that perish.
(2.) What method he takes to do this: he humbles the proud, and exalts
If God stretch out his hand to sinners in vain, he will at last stretch
out his hand upon them; and who can bear the weight of it?
II. Moses and Aaron apply themselves to their work without further
objection: They did as the Lord commanded them,
Their obedience, all things considered, was well worthy to be
celebrated, as it is by the Psalmist
They rebelled not against his word, namely, Moses and Aaron,
whom he mentions,
Thus Jonah, though at first he was very averse, at length went to
Nineveh. Notice is taken of the age of Moses and Aaron when they
undertook this glorious service. Aaron the elder (and yet the inferior
in office) was eighty-three, Moses was eighty; both of them men of
great gravity and experience, whose age was venerable, and whose years
might teach wisdom,
Joseph, who was to be only a servant to Pharaoh, was preferred at
thirty years old; but Moses, who was to be a god to Pharaoh, was not so
dignified until he was eighty years old. It was fit that he should long
wait for such an honour, and be long in preparing for such a
|Magicians of Egypt.
||B. C. 1491.|
8 And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,
9 When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Show 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
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.
The first time that Moses made his application to Pharaoh, he produced
his instructions only; now he is directed to produce his credentials,
and does accordingly.
1. It is taken for granted that Pharaoh would challenge these
demandants to work a miracle, that, by a performance evidently above
the power of nature, they might prove their commission from the God of
nature. Pharaoh will say, Show a miracle; not with any desire to
be convinced, but with the hope that none will be wrought, and then he
would have some colour for his infidelity.
2. Orders are therefore given to turn the rod into a serpent,
according to the instructions,
The same rod that was to give the signal of the other miracles is now
itself the subject of a miracle, to put a reputation upon it. Aaron
cast his rod to the ground, and instantly it became a serpent,
This was proper, not only to affect Pharaoh with wonder, but to strike
a terror upon him. Serpents are hurtful dreadful animals; the very
sight of one, thus miraculously produced, might have softened his heart
into a fear of that God by whose power it was produced. This first
miracle, though it was not a plague, yet amounted to the threatening of
a plague. If it made not Pharaoh feel, it made him fear; and this is
God's method of dealing with sinners--he comes upon them gradually.
3. This miracle, though too plain to be denied, is enervated, and the
conviction of it taken off, by the magicians' imitation of it,
Moses had been originally instructed in the learning of the Egyptians,
and was suspected to have improved himself in magical arts in his long
retirement; the magicians are therefore sent for, to vie with him. And
some think those of that profession had a particular spite against the
Hebrews ever since Joseph put them all to shame, by interpreting a
dream which they could make nothing of, in remembrance of which slur
put on their predecessors these magicians withstood Moses, as it is
2 Timothy 3:8.
Their rods became serpents, real serpents; some think, by the power of
God, beyond their intention or expectation, for the hardening of
Pharaoh's heart; others think, by the power of evil angels, artfully
substituting serpents in the room of the rods, God permitting the
delusion to be wrought for wise and holy ends, that those might believe
a lie who received not the truth: and herein the Lord was righteous.
Yet this might have helped to frighten Pharaoh into a compliance with
the demands of Moses, that he might be freed from these dreadful
unaccountable phenomena, with which he saw himself on all sides
surrounded. But to the seed of the serpent these serpents were no
amazement. Note, God suffers the lying spirit to do strange things,
that the faith of some may be tried and manifested
that the infidelity of others may be confirmed, and that he who is
filthy may be filthy still,
2 Corinthians 4:4.
4. Yet, in this contest, Moses plainly gains the victory. The serpent
which Aaron's rod was turned into swallowed up the others, which was
sufficient to have convinced Pharaoh on which side the right lay. Note,
Great is the truth, and will prevail. The cause of God will undoubtedly
triumph at last over all competition and contradiction, and will reign
But Pharaoh was not wrought upon by this. The magicians having produced
serpents, he had this to say, that the case between them and Moses was
disputable; and the very appearance of an opposition to truth, and the
least head made against it, serve those for a justification of their
infidelity who are prejudiced against the light and love of it.
|The Plagues of Egypt.
||B. C. 1491.|
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
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 loathe 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 is the first of the ten plagues, the turning of the water into
blood, which was,
1. A dreadful plague, and very grievous. The very sight of such vast
rolling streams of blood, pure blood no doubt, florid and high-colored,
could not but strike a horror upon people: much more afflictive were
the consequences of it. Nothing more common than water: so wisely has
Providence ordered it, and so kindly, that that which is so needful and
serviceable to the comfort of human life should be cheap, and almost
every where to be had; but now the Egyptians must either drink blood,
or die for thirst. Fish was much of their food
but the changing of the waters was the death of the fish; it was a
pestilence in that element
The fish died. In the general deluge they escaped, because
perhaps they had not then contributed so much to the luxury of man as
they have since; but in this particular judgment they perished
He slew their fish; and when another destruction of Egypt, long
afterwards, is threatened, the disappointment of those that make
sluices and ponds for fish is particularly noticed,
Egypt was a pleasant land, but the noisome stench of dead fish and
blood, which by degrees would grow putrid, now rendered it very
2. It was a righteous plague, and justly inflicted upon the Egyptians.
(1.) Nilus, the river of Egypt, was their idol; they and their land
derived so much benefit from it that they served and worshipped it more
than the Creator. The true fountain of the Nile being unknown to them,
they paid all their devotions to its streams: here therefore God
punished them, and turned that into blood which they had turned into a
god. Note, That creature which we idolize God justly removes from us,
or embitters to us. He makes that a scourge to us which we make a
competitor with him.
(2.) They had stained the river with the blood of the Hebrews'
children, and now God made that river all bloody. Thus he gave them
blood to drink, for they were worthy,
Note, Never any thirsted after blood, but, sooner or later,
they had enough of it.
3. It was a significant plague. Egypt had a great dependence upon their
so that in smiting the river they were warned of the destruction of all
the productions of their country, till it came at last to their
firstborn; and this red river proved a direful omen of the ruin of
Pharaoh and all his forces in the Red Sea. This plague of Egypt is
alluded to in the prediction of the ruin of the enemies of the
But there the sea, as well as the rivers and fountains of water, is
turned into blood; for spiritual judgments reach further, and strike
deeper, than temporal judgments do. And, lastly, let me observe
in general concerning this plague that one of the first miracles Moses
wrought was turning water into blood, but one of the first miracles our
Lord Jesus wrought was turning water into wine; for the law was given
by Moses, and it was a dispensation of death and terror; but grace and
truth, which, like wine, make glad the heart, came by Jesus Christ.
I. Moses is directed to give Pharaoh warning of this plague. "Pharaoh's
heart is hardened
therefore go and try what this will do to soften it,"
Moses perhaps may not be admitted into Pharaoh's presence-chamber, or
the room of state where he used to give audience to ambassadors; and
therefore he is directed to meet him by the river's brink, whither God
foresaw he would come in the morning, either for the pleasure of a
morning's walk or to pay his morning devotions to the river: for thus
all people will walk, every one in the name of his god; they will not
fail to worship their god every morning. There Moses must be ready to
give him a new summons to surrender, and, in case of a refusal, to tell
him of the judgment that was coming upon that very river on the banks
of which they were now standing. Notice is thus given him of it
beforehand, that they might have no colour to say it was a chance, or
to attribute it to any other cause, but that it might appear to be done
by the power of the God of the Hebrews, and as a punishment upon him
for his obstinacy. Moses is expressly ordered to take the rod with him,
that Pharaoh might be alarmed at the sight of that rod which had so
lately triumphed over the rods of the magicians. Now learn hence,
1. That the judgments of God are all known to himself beforehand. He
knows what he will do in wrath as well as in mercy. Every consumption
is a consumption determined,
2. That men cannot escape the alarms of God's wrath, because they
cannot go out of the hearing of their own consciences: he that made
their hearts can make his sword to approach them.
3. That God warns before he wounds; for he is long-suffering, not
willing that any should perish, but that all should come to
II. Aaron (who carried the mace) is directed to summon the plague by
smiting the river with his rod,
It was done in the sight of Pharaoh and his attendants; for God's true
miracles were not performed, as Satan's lying wonders were, by those
that peeped and muttered: truth seeks no corners. An amazing change was
immediately wrought; all the waters, not only in the rivers but in all
their ponds, were turned into blood.
1. See here the almighty power of God. Every creature is that to us
which he makes it to be, water or blood.
2. See the mutability of all things under the sun, and what changes we
may meet with in them. That which is water to-day may be blood
to-morrow; what is always vain may soon become vexatious. A river, at
the best, is transient; but divine justice can quickly make it
3. See what mischievous work sin makes. if the things that have been
our comforts prove our crosses, we must thank ourselves: it is sin that
turns our waters into blood.
III. Pharaoh endeavours to confront the miracle, because he resolves
not to humble himself under the plague. He sends for the magicians,
and, by God's permission, they ape the miracle with their enchantments
and this serves Pharaoh for an excuse not to set his heart to this also
and a pitiful excuse it was. Could they have turned the river of blood
into water again, this would have been something to the purpose; then
they would have proved their power, and Pharaoh would have been obliged
to them as his benefactors. But for them, when there was such scarcity
of water, to turn more of it into blood, only to show their art,
plainly intimates that the design of the devil is only to delude his
devotees and amuse them, not to do them any real kindness, but to keep
them from doing a real kindness to themselves by repenting and
returning to their God.
IV. The Egyptians, in the mean time, are seeking for relief against the
plague, digging round about the river for water to drink,
Probably they found some, with much ado, God remembering mercy in the
midst of wrath; for he is full of compassion, and would not let the
subjects smart too much for the obstinacy of their prince.
V. The plague continued seven days
and, in all that time, Pharaoh's proud heart would not let him so much
as desire Moses to intercede for the removal of it. Thus the hypocrites
in heart heap up wrath; they cry not when he binds them
and then no wonder that his anger is not turned away, but his hand is
stretched out still.