Verse 29. He turned their waters into blood, and slew their fish. So that the plague was not a mere colouring of the water with red earth, as some suppose, but the river was offensive and fatal to the fish. The beloved Nile and other streams were all equally tainted and ensanguined. Their commonest mercy became their greatest curse. Water is one of the greatest blessings, and the more plentiful it is the better, but blood is a hideous sight to look upon, and to see rivers and pools of it is frightful indeed. Fish in Egypt furnished a large part of the food supply, and it was no small affliction to see them floating dead and white upon a stream of crimson. The hand of the Lord thus smote them where all classes of the people would become aware of it and suffer from it.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 29. -- He turned their waters into blood, etc. The Nile begins to rise about the end of June, and attains its highest point at the end of September. About the commencement of the rise it assumes a greenish hue, is disagreeable to the taste, unwholesome, and often totally unfit for drinking. It soon, however, becomes red and turbid, and continues in this state for three or more weeks. In this condition it is again healthy and fit for use. The miracle now performed was totally different from this annual change. For,
- It occurred after the winter, not the summer, solstice;
- The water was turned into blood, and not merely reddened by an admixture of red clay or animalcule;
- The fish died, a result which did not follow from the periodical change of colour;
- The river stank, and became offensive, which it ceased to be when the ordinary redness made its appearance;
- The stroke was arrested at the end of seven days, whereas the natural redness continued for at least three weeks; and
- The change was brought on instantly at the word of command before the eyes of Pharaoh. The calamity was appalling. The sweet waters of the Nile were the common beverage of Egypt. It abounded in all kinds of fish, which formed a principal article of diet for the inhabitants. It was revered as a god by Egypt. But now it was a putrid flood, from which they turned away with loathing. -- James G. Murphy.
Verse 29. -- He turned their waters into blood. By the miraculous change of the waters into blood, a practical rebuke was given to their superstitious. This sacred and beautiful river, the benefactor and preserver of the country, this birthplace of their chief gods, this abode of their lesser deities, this source of all their prosperity, this centre of all their devotion, is turned to blood: the waters stink; the canals and pools, the vessels of wood and vessels of stone, which were replenished from the river, all are alike polluted. The Nile, according to Pliny, was the "only source from whence the Egyptians obtained water for drinking" (Hist. Nat. 76, c. 33). This water was considered particularly sweet and refreshing; so much so that the people were in the habit of provoking thirst in order that they might partake more freely of its soft and pleasant draughts. Now it was become abominable to them, and they loathed to drink of it. --Thomas S. Millington.
Verse 29. -- And slew their fish. Besides the fish cured, or sent to market for the table, a very great quantity was set apart expressly for feeding the sacred animals and birds, -- as the cats, crocodiles, ibises, and others; and some of the large reservoirs, attached to the temples, were used as well for keeping fish as for the necessary ablutions of the devout and for various purposes connected with religion. The quantity of fish in Egypt was a very great boon to the poor classes, and when the Nile overflowed the country inhabitants of the inland villages benefited by this annual gift of the river, as the land did by the fertilizing mud deposited upon it. The canals, ponds, and pools, on the low lands, continued to abound in fish, even after the inundation had ceased; and it was then that their return to the Nile was intercepted by closing the mouths of the canals. --Sir J. Gardner Wilkinson, in "A Popular Account of the Ancient Egyptians," 1854.