how shall Pharaoh hearken unto me? so mean a person, and so poor a speaker, and he a mighty king, surrounded with wise counsellors and eloquent orators.
INTRODUCTION TO Exodus 7
Moses and Aaron are ordered to go to Pharaoh, and require the dismission of the people of Israel, but they are told before hand that Pharaoh's heart would be hardened, and would refuse to let them go, until the hand of the Lord was stretched out, and great judgments were brought down upon, Egypt, and then they should come forth, Exodus 7:1, which orders Moses and Aaron obeyed, and their age is observed, when this was done, Exodus 7:6 and they are bid to work a miracle, when Pharaoh should demand one, by turning a rod into a serpent, which they did; but Pharaoh's magicians doing the same in appearance, his heart was hardened, Exodus 7:8 and then they are directed to meet him at the river, and require the same as before; and if he refused, to smite the waters of the river with the rod, and turn them into blood, which they did, Exodus 7:15, but Pharaoh's magicians doing the same by enchantments, he did not regard it, though the plague lasted seven days, Exodus 7:22.
see; take notice of, observe what I am about to say:
I have made thee a god to Pharaoh; not a god by nature, but made so; he was so by commission and office, clothed with power and authority from God to act under him in all things he should direct; not for ever, as angels are gods, but for a time; not in an ordinary way, as magistrates are gods, but in an extraordinary manner; and not to any other but to Pharaoh, being an ambassador of God to him, and as in his room and stead to, rule over him, though so great a monarch; to command him what he should do, and control him when he did wrong, and punish him for his disobedience, and inflict such plagues upon him, and do such miracles before him, as no mere man of himself, and none but God can do; and even exercise the power of life and death, as in the slaying of the firstborn, that Pharaoh should stand in as much fear of him, as if he was a deity, and apply to him to remove the plagues upon him, as if he was one:
and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet; to declare the will of God revealed to him by Moses from the Lord; so that this seems to be more than to be the mouth and spokesman of Moses and interpreter and explainer of his words, or to be acting the part of an orator for him; for Moses in this affair being God's viceregent, and furnished with a knowledge of the mind and will of God respecting it, as well as with power to work miracles, and inflict plagues, was made a god to both Pharaoh and Aaron; see Exodus 4:6 to Pharaoh in the sense before explained, and to Aaron, he being his prophet, to whom he communicated the secrets of God, and his will and pleasure, in order to make the same known to Pharaoh. Thus highly honoured was Moses to be a god to a sovereign prince, and to have Aaron to be his prophet.
and Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh; whatsoever should be told him by Moses, as from the Lord:
that he send the children of Israel out of his land; this was the principal thing to be insisted upon; and all that was said or done to him was to bring about this end, the dismission of the children of Israel out of Egypt.
and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt; work one miracle and wonderful sign after another, until they are all wrought intended to be wrought; and which he had given Moses power to do, and until the end should be answered and obtained, the letting go of the children of Israel.
that I may lay mine hand upon Egypt; the inhabitants of Egypt, smiting them with one plague after another, and particularly with the last, slaying their firstborn; every plague was a stroke of his hand, and an effect of his mighty power and vengeance, and more especially that:
and bring forth mine armies; the children of Israel consisting of 600,000 men, besides women and children, Exodus 12:37 which, divided into twelve tribes, made twelve fine armies, 50,000 men in a tribe or army upon an average:
and my people the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; the word "and" need not be supplied; if any supplement is necessary, the word "even" would be better, since this clause is added by way of explanation, showing who are meant by the armies of the Lord, his people to be brought out:
by great judgments; inflicted upon the Egyptians.
when I stretch forth mine hand upon Egypt: especially the last time, to destroy the firstborn:
and bring out the children of Israel from among them; by which it would appear that he was mightier than they, and obtained the end for which the plagues were inflicted on them.
so did they; which is not a superfluous and redundant expression, but very emphatic, showing with what care and diligence they did every thing, and how exactly they conformed in all things to the divine will.
(n) Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 7. 1.((o) Patricides, p. 26. apud Hottinger. p. 415.
saying, as follows.
then thou shalt say unto Aaron, take thy rod; the same that Moses had in his hand at Horeb, and brought with him to Egypt; this he had delivered into the hand of Aaron, who was to be his agent, and with this rod do signs and wonders as he did, and on account of them it is sometimes called the rod of God:
and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent; as it became one before at Horeb, when Moses by the order of God cast it on the ground, and afterwards became a rod again, as it now was, Exodus 4:2 Hence Mercury, the messenger of the gods with the Heathens, is represented as having a "caduceus", a rod or wand twisted about with snakes (p).
(p) Vid. Chartar. de Imag. Deorum, p. 136. imag. 48.
and they did as the Lord had commanded; they demanded in his name the dismission of the children of Israel, and upon his requiring a miracle to confirm their mission, wrought one as follows:
and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and it became a serpent: or a "dragon", as the Septuagint version; this word is sometimes used of great whales, Genesis 1:21 and of the crocodile, Ezekiel 29:3 and it is very likely the crocodile is meant here, as Dr. Lightfoot (q) thinks; since this was frequent in the Nile, the river of Egypt, where the Hebrew infants had been cast, and into whose devouring jaws they fell, and which also was an Egyptian deity (r). Though no mention is made of Pharaoh's demanding a miracle, yet no doubt he did, as the Lord had intimated he would, and without which it can hardly be thought it would be done; and Artapanus (s), an Heathen writer, expressly asserts it; for he says,"when the king required of Moses to do some sign or wonder, the rod which he had he cast down, and it became a serpent, to the amazement of all, and then took it by its tail and it be came a rod again;''which is a testimony from an Heathen of the truth of this miracle.
(q) Works, vol. 1. p. 702. (r) Crocodylen adorat, Juvenal, Sat. 15. (s) Apud Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 27. p. 435.
now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments; or by their secret wiles and juggles, making things seem to appear to the sight when they did not really, but by dazzling the eyes of men by their wicked and diabolical art, they fancied they saw things which they did not; for the word has the signification of flames of fire, or of a flaming sword, or lance, which being brandished to and fro dazzles the sight. The Targum of Jonathan gives the names of two of these magicians, whom he calls Jannes and Jambres, as does the apostle; see Gill on 2 Timothy 3:8. Josephus (t) calls these magicians of Egypt priests, and Artapanus (u) says, they were priests that lived about Memphis. According to the Arabs (w), the name of the place where they lived was Ausana, a city very ancient and pleasant, called the city of the magicians, which lay to the east of the Nile: their name in the Hebrew language is either from a word which signifies a style, or greying tool, as Fuller (x) thinks, because in their enchantments they used superstitious characters and figures; or, as Saadiah Gaon (y), from two words, the one signifying a "hole", and the other "stopped"; because they bored a hole in a tree to put witchcrafts into it, and stopped it up, and then declared what should be, or they had to say.
(t) Antiqu. l. 2. c. 13. sect. 3.((u) Apud Euseb. ut supra. (Praepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 27. p. 435.) (w) Arab. Geograph. Climat. 2. par. 4. lin. 21. (x) Miscell. Sacr. l. 5. c. 11. (y) Comment. in Dan. i. 20.
but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods; that is, the serpent that Aaron's rod was turned into, swallowed up the rods of the magicians, which never were otherwise than rods only in appearance; or if real serpents were put in the room of them, these were devoured by his serpent called his rod, because it was before turned into a serpent, as Aben Ezra observes; though the Targums of Jonathan, Jarchi, and R. Jeshua, suppose this was done after the serpent became a rod again; which makes the miracle the greater and more wonderful, that a rod should devour other rods; and supposing them real serpents, this was what the magicians could not make their rods do, and in which they were outdone by Aaron.
(z) Antiqu. ut supra. (l. 2. c. 13 sect. 3.)
that he hearkened not unto them; to Moses and Aaron, and comply with their demand, to dismiss the people of Israel:
as the Lord had said; or foretold he would not.
(a) "attamen obfirmatum est", Junius & Tremellius. (b) "Itaque", Piscator.
he refuseth to let the people go; which was an instance and proof of the hardness and heaviness of his heart, on which the above miracle had made no impression, to regard what God by his ambassadors had required of him.
(c) "grave", Montanus, Drusius. So Ainsworth.
lo, he goeth out unto the water; the river Nile, either to take his morning's walk, and to refresh himself at the waterside, as the Jerusalem Targum; or to observe divinations upon the water, as a magician, as the Targum of Jonathan. So in the Talmud (d) it is said, that the Pharaoh in the days of Moses was a magician. Or rather, as Aben Ezra thinks, which he says is a custom of the kings of Egypt to this day, to go out in the months of Tammuz and Ab, i.e. June, and July, when the river increases, to observe how many degrees it has ascended, by which the fruitfulness of the ensuing season was judged of. See Gill on Or else he went to worship the rising sun, or the Nile, to pay his morning devotions to it: for not only Jarchi, and other Jewish writers, say it was their chief god, but Plutarch (e) also affirms, that nothing was so much honoured with the Egyptians as the Nile; and both Theodoret on this place, and Athanasius (f) elsewhere says, that they reckoned it a god, and worshipped it as such; and it has been usual with other nations to worship rivers, as Aelianus (g) reports:
and thou shall stand by the river's brink against he come; over against the brink of the river Nile, in order to meet him:
and the rod which was turned to a serpent shalt thou take in thine hand; as a terror to Pharaoh, on sight of which he might be put in mind of what had been done, and by means of which he might fear other wonders would be wrought; by this it appears, that after the rod had been turned into a serpent, it became a rod again, as it did at Horeb, Exodus 4:4. Moses having previous notice of all this, shows the prescience of God, and his certain knowledge of future contingent events.
(d) T. Bab. Moed. Katon, fol. 18. 1.((e) De lside & Osir. Vide Philo de Vita Mosis, l. 1. p. 617. (f) Contr. Gentil p. 20. & de Incarnatione, p. 73. (g) Var. Hist. l. 2. c. 33.
the Lord God of the Hebrews hath sent me unto thee; still appearing in the character of the ambassador of Jehovah, the God of the children of Israel:
saying, let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness; the demand is once more renewed, before any punishment is inflicted for refusal, that the patience and forbearance of God might be the more visible, and his judgments appear the more righteous when inflicted, as well as Pharaoh be left more inexcusable. The reason of the demand is observed:
that they may serve me; keep a feast, and sacrifice to him, as is before expressed, and the place where is pointed at:
in the wilderness; at Sinai, in Arabia, where were the mountains of Sinai and Horeb; but the time of their service is not here expressed, as elsewhere, namely, three days:
and, behold, hitherto thou wouldest not hear; and obey the voice of the Lord, upbraiding him with his disobedience, and the hardness of his heart; but signifying it was not now too late, though it was advisable to be quick, or the blow would be given, and the plagues inflicted.
behold, I will smite with the rod that is in my hand; which though in the hand of Moses, Exodus 7:18 yet he being his ambassador, and representing him, is said to be in the hand of the Lord; and with this he threatens to smite
upon the waters which are in the river; the river Nile, and the canals thereof:
and they shall be turned to blood; and if this river was their god, it would abundantly appear that the God of the Hebrews was Jehovah, and above all gods, and particularly above theirs.
and the river shall stink; with the blood, into which it should be congealed, and with the putrefied bodies of fishes floating in it:
and the Egyptians shall loath to drink of the water of the river; the very colour of it, looking like blood, would set them against it, and create a nausea in them; or "shall be weary" (h), tired of drinking it in a little time, through the loathsomeness of it; or be weary in digging about it, Exodus 7:24 to get some clear water to drink of; or in seeking to find out ways and methods to cure the waters, that so they might be fit to drink of, as Jarchi interprets it.
(h) "delassabuntur", Tigurine version, Vatablus. "Defatigabuntur", Cartwright.
say unto Aaron, take thy rod, and stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt; upon all of them in general, what were in the river Nile, or derived from it, as follows:
upon their streams; the seven streams of the river Nile; see Gill on Isaiah 11:15.
upon their rivers; the canals that were cut out of the river Nile, for the watering of their fields and gardens, for they had no other river:
and upon their ponds, and upon all their pools of waters; which were dug near the river, or to which pipes were laid to convey the water thither:
that they may become blood; and so not fit to drink:
and that there may be blood throughout all the land of Egypt,
both in vessels of wood, and in vessels of stone; in which water were kept in private houses, fetched from the river for the use of families; all which were to be turned into blood everywhere, in all parts of the land, and in all places mentioned, immediately upon Aaron's taking his rod, and smiting the waters with it in that part of the river that was before him.
and he lift up the rod, and smote the waters that were in the river; or "in that river" (i), the river Nile, on the brink of which Pharaoh then stood:
in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; his nobles and courtiers who tended him in his walk to the water; for this was done before he returned to his palace:
and all the waters that were in the river were turned into blood; not only the face of the waters looked like blood, but they were really turned into it; and not only the surface of the water, but all the water that was in the river, wherever it flowed, and as far as it flowed in the land of Egypt.
(i) Sept. "in eo rivo", Junius and Tremellius, Piscator.
and the Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river; and they had no other water to drink of (k); for rain seldom fell in Egypt, though sometimes it did in some places; see Gill on Zechariah 14:18. The water of the river Nile was not only their common drink, but it was exceeding pleasant, and therefore the loss of it was the greater; it was so remarkable for the sweetness and delicacy of its taste, that in the time of Pescennius Niger, when his soldiers murmured for want of wine, he is reported to have answered them,"what! crave you wine, and have the water of the Nile to drink?''which Mr. Maillett, who lived sixteen years consul for the French nation at Grand Cairo, confirms, and says, that it is grown to be a common proverb, that whoever has once tasted it will ever after pine for it (l); with this compare Jeremiah 2:18,
and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt; in the river, wherever it flowed, in all its streams and channels, and wherever any water was collected out of it, or fetched from it, let it be in what reservoir it would. This is the first plague executed on the Egyptians, and a very righteous one by the law of retaliation for shedding the blood of innocent babes, through casting them into this river; and this will be the second and third vials of God's wrath, which will be poured on antichrist, or mystical Egypt, who will have blood given to drink because worthy, see Revelation 16:3. Artapanus (m), an Heathen writer, bears testimony to this miracle, though he does not so fully and clearly express it as it was; he says,"a little after, that is, after the former miracle of the rod turned into a serpent, the Nile, that river whose swelling waves overflow all Egypt, was smitten with the rod; and the water being gathered and stagnated, boiled up, and not only the fishes were destroyed, but the people perished through thirst.''
(k) Vid. Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 6. c. 29. (l) See the Bishop of Clogher's Chronology of the Hebrew Bible, p. 287. (m) Apud Euseb Praepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 27. p. 435.
and Pharaoh's heart was hardened: by seeing his magicians do what was similar to what Moses and Aaron had done; and therefore concluded that it was not by the hand of God, but owing to a magic art they were masters of, as his magicians were:
neither did he hearken unto them; to Moses and Aaron, and what they said to him, to let the people go:
as the Lord had said; had before told he would not hearken to them, Exodus 7:4.
neither did he set his heart to this also: had no regard to this miracle of turning the waters into blood, as well as he had none to the rod being turned into a serpent, and devouring the rods of the magicians; he neither considered the one nor the other, or seriously and closely thought of this, any more than of the other.
for water to drink: for there was none in the river, streams, ponds and pools, or in vessels, in which they used to reserve it, and therefore could come at none but by digging; and whether they obtained any in that way is not said:
for they could not drink of the waters of the river; it being turned into blood, and stunk so exceedingly; and though they might strain it, and make it in some measure, drinkable, and might make use of the juice of herbs, and other things, to extinguish their thirst, and the better sort might have a stock of wine, yet multitudes must be greatly distressed, and many perish, as Philo (n) the Jew says they did.
(n) De Vita Mosis, l. 1. p. 617.