Aaron to Speak for Moses (7:1–7)
11–13 Pharaoh summoned his magicians, and they performed the same miracle with their staffs. They did it by their secret arts (verse 11)—either by sleight of hand (as in a magic trick) or by demonic powers.19 But then Aaron’s staff swallowed up the staffs of the magicians, a sign that God’s power was greater than the powers of Egypt. Still, Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened (verse 3).
The Plague of Blood (7:14–25)
14 In this section and in the following three chapters, we are given an account of ten plagues that God inflicted upon the people of Egypt through His servants Moses and Aaron. As mentioned earlier (see verse 5 and comment), the plagues had several purposes: first, to bring judgment on the Egyptians for their cruelty and ungodliness; second, to persuade Pharaoh to set the Israelites free; and third, to demonstrate that the God of Israel was the only true God, a God of infinite power, holiness and compassion. Through the plagues, the name of the one true God would be proclaimed in all the earth (Exodus 9:16; Romans 9:17).
The plagues were a fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham: “. . . whoever curses you I will curse” (Genesis 12:3); “I will punish the nation they (your descendants) serve as slaves” (Genesis 15:14). The plagues (curses) grew in severity from irritations to destruction to death. As the plaguesintensified,Pharaoh’sofficialsbegan to urge him to let the Israelites go; but still Pharaoh refused—until the last plague.
15–19 The first plague, the plague of blood, was similar to one of the signs Moses had already shown to the Israelite elders to convince them he had been sent by God (Exodus 4:9). But then it had been just a small amount of water from the Nile that had turned to blood; this time it was the entire Nile River—as well as all the streams, canals, ponds and reservoirs that the Nile’s water flowed into (verse 19).
20–21 All the plagues were initiated by the Lord; everything was done as the LORD had commanded. Moses and Aaron acted together, Moses passing on the Lord’s instructions to Aaron and Aaron carrying them out. Moses said he would strike the water (verse 17), and then Aaron was the one to do it (verse 20); they were acting as one.
22–25 It must have been a stunning sight to see the huge Nile River suddenly become red when two old Hebrew men raised their staff over the water.20 But Pharaoh was unimpressed. His magicians duplicated the miracle. It’s uncertain where they found clear water to turn to blood; perhaps they used well water, or water that had been filtered through the sand along the river (verse 24).
We are not told how quickly the Nile’s water returned to normal, but a week would pass before God brought the next plague, the plague of frogs.