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Exodus 7


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 ( 2 Timothy 3:8 ), 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 men.

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 ( Psalms 78:12 ), 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 rose 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. 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.

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