Psalm 78:44



Verse 44. And had turned their rivers into blood. The waters had been made the means of the destruction of Israel's newborn infants, and now they do as it were betray the crime -- they blush for it, they avenge it on the murderers. The Nile was the vitality of Egypt, its true life blood, but at God's command it became a flowing curse; every drop of it was a horror, poison to drink, and terror to gaze on. How soon might the Almighty One do this with the Thames or the Seine. Sometimes he has allowed men, who were his rod, to make rivers crimson with gore, and this is a severe judgment; but the event now before us was more mysterious, more general, more complete, and must, therefore, have been a plague of the first magnitude.

And their floods, that they could not drink. Lesser streams partook in the curse, reservoirs and canals felt the evil; God does nothing by halves. All Egypt boasted of the sweet waters of their river, but they were made to loathe it more than they had ever loved it. Our mercies may soon become our miseries if the Lord shall deal with us in wrath.



Verse 43-51. See Psalms on "Psalms 78:43" for further information.

Verse 44. Turned their rivers into blood, etc. This displays also the folly of creature worship. Pharaoh adores the life sustaining power of nature, as embodied in the majestic river before him. The God of nature transforms the running water into a river of death before his eyes. It demonstrates, in the way that was most striking to the Hebrew and the Egyptian, that the God of Israel was the true and only God of heaven and earth, and that all other objects of worship were but the creatures of God or the works of men's hands. James G. Murphy.

Verse 44. Turned their river into blood, etc. They looked upon their river not only as consecrated to a deity; but, if we may believe some authors, as their chief national god; and worshipped it accordingly ... They must have felt the utmost astonishment and horror, when they beheld their sacred stream changed and polluted, and the divinity whom they worshipped so shamefully soiled and debased. And these appearances must have had a salutary effect upon the Israelites; as they were hence warned not to accede to this species of idolatry; but to have it ever in contempt, as well as abhorrence. It is to be observed, that God might, if it had been the divine pleasure, have many different ways tainted and polluted the streams of Egypt. But he thought proper to change it to blood. Now the Egyptians, and especially their priests, were particularly nice and delicate in their outward habit and rites; and there was nothing which they abhorred more than blood, they seldom admitted any bloody sacrifices; and with the least stain of gore they would have thought themselves deeply polluted. Their affectation of purity was so great that they could not bear to come within contact with a foreigner, or even to handle his clothes; but to touch a dead body was an abomination, and required to be immediately expiated ... On these accounts the priests were continually making ablutions. There were four stated times, twice in the day, and as often in the night, at which they were all obliged to bathe themselves. Many accidents caused them to repeat it much oftener. Hence this evil brought upon them must have been severely felt, as "there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt," Exodus 7:21 . Jacob Bryant (1715-1804), in "Observations upon the Plagues inflicted upon the Egyptians."

Verse 44. And their floods, that they could not drink. A third calamity accompanying this plague was the impossibility of drinking the water of the Nile, a vexation the keener felt by them, because the water of the Nile, after having been purified from the slime by a kind of almond dough is, on the one hand, most agreeable, tasteful and healthy, so that it appears to strangers almost as an artificially prepared drink -- whence the Egyptian proverb originated: "the water of the Nile is as sweet as honey and sugar," and the adage, "that if Mohammed had drank of it, he would have besought God to be immortal, that he might always enjoy it"; and it is on the other hand, the only drinkable water which the inhabitants can possibly use; for, says Maillet (

  • pg 20): "The well and cistern water in Egypt is detestable and unwholesome; fountains are so rare, that they are a kind of prodigy in that country; and, as rain water, that is out of the question, as scarcely any rain falls in Egypt." M. M. Kalisch, in "A Historical and Critical Commentary on the Old Testament." 1867.