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EXODUS 7

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
"I Will Stretch Out My Hand" Aaron Is Moses' Spokesman The Call of Moses and the Appointment of Aaron The Lord's Command to Moses and Aaron The Narrative of Moses' Call Continued
6:2-7:7
6:28-7:7 6:28-7:7 6:28-7:5
7:6-7
Aaron's Rod Becomes a Snake Aaron's Miraculous Rod The Ten Plagues Aaron's Walking Stick The Staff Turned Into a Snake
7:8-13 7:8-13 7:8-13 7:8-13 7:8-13
Water Is Turned to Blood First Plague: Water Becomes Blood Disasters Strike Egypt The First Plague: Water Turns to Blood
7:14-19 7:14-18 7:14-19 7:14-18 7:14-18
7:19-25 7:19-25
7:19
7:20-25
7:20-24 7:20-24
The Second Plague
7:25-8:15 7:25

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Third paragraph
  4. Etc.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

  1. This is the section of Exodus (chapters 7-11) that deals with the ten plagues.
    1. pollution of the Nile, Exod. 7:14-25
    2. swarm of frogs, Exod. 8:1-15
    3. abundance of gnats, lice, mosquitos, Exod. 8:16-19
    4. swarm of flies, Exod. 8:20-32
    5. disease on animals, Exod. 9:1-7
    6. disease on humans, Exod. 9:8-12
    7. hail, Exod. 9:18-35
    8. locusts, Exod. 10:1-20
    9. darkness, Exod. 10:21-29
    10. death of the firstborn, Exod. 11:1-8

  2. These plagues do not form a major theological tenet in the faith of Israel. While the exodus is a major historical event referred to over and over again, the plagues are simply not developed theologically (i.e., Ps. 78:44; 105:29). However, the symbolism of the first plague is used by the Apostle John in the book of Revelation (cf. Rev. 8:8; 11:6; 16:4).

  3. The time element for the plagues is uncertain but most scholars postulate a period of six to eighteen months. This is because of the interpretive discrepancy between (1) natural phenomenon in their appropriate season and (2) supernatural phenomenon possibly opposite their appropriate season. The length of time, in my opinion, accentuates the theological truth that YHWH is trying to speak to the Egyptians (i.e., by depreciating Egyptian gods; cf. Exod. 12:12; Num. 33:4; see Bernard Ramm, Let My People Go), as well as the Hebrews.
    The plagues are natural occurrences (see Kenneth A. Kitchen, "Plagues of Egypt" in New Bible Dictionary, following Greta Hort; NIDOTTE, vol. 4, pp. 1056-1059) in Egypt but with supernatural
    1. intensity
    2. timing
    3. location
    The plagues targeted Egypt but not the delta settlements of the Hebrews.

  4. F. B. Huey, one of my seminary professors, has an interesting note on the purpose(s) of the plagues in his Study Guide Commentary (p. 51).
    1. to deliver Israel from Egyptian bondage (Exod. 7:4)
    2. to make Egypt know that Yahweh was truly God (Exod. 7:5,17; 8:22)
    3. to punish Egypt for their sins (Exod. 9:27,34)

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 7:1-7
1Then the Lord said to Moses, "See, I make you as God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. 2You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall speak to Pharaoh that he let the sons of Israel go out of his land. 3But I will harden Pharaoh's heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. 4When Pharaoh does not listen to you, then I will lay My hand on Egypt and bring out My hosts, My people the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by great judgments. 5The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst." 6So Moses and Aaron did it; as the Lord commanded them, thus they did. 7Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three, when they spoke to Pharaoh.

7:1 "See" This is a Qal IMPERATIVE from the same root (BDB 906) as one of the names/titles for prophets (ro'eh, BDB 906, "a seer"; see SPECIAL TOPIC: OT PROPHECY).
Here the IMPERATIVE is a way to draw attention to YHWH's command to speak to Pharaoh.

▣ "I make you as God to Pharaoh" This seems to involve one of two things: (1) it is an idiom for Moses' authority (cf. Exod. 4:16) or (2) as Pharaoh thought himself to be a god, the plagues would show Moses as the true representative of Deity.

▣ "Aaron shall be your prophet" The basic meaning of the term Prophet is "to be a spokesman." See SPECIAL TOPIC: OT PROPHECY.

7:2 "You shall speak all that I command you" In Exod. 4:28, Moses spoke "all" of YHWH's words to Aaron. In Exod. 4:30, Aaron spoke all that he heard from Moses to the people. Here, the text asserts that Moses is to speak "all" of YHWH's words to Pharaoh. The spokesperson, though unstated, will be Aaron, not Moses.
Also note these words are not from Moses or Aaron. They are YHWH's words; not one can be overlooked or minimized. This is divine, specific revelation.

▣ "Let the sons of Israel go out of his land" This is a recurrent phrase.

  1. Exod. 7:2 - Piel PERFECT
  2. Exod. 7:14 - negated, Piel INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT
  3. Exod. 7:16 - Piel IMPERATIVE
  4. Exod. 26 (English 8:1) - Piel IMPERATIVE
  5. Exod 8:4 (English 8:8) - Piel IMPERFECT
The theologically purposeful test of wills continues between a hard-hearted Pharaoh and the only true God (see SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM). Pharaoh's hard heart allows YHWH to demonstrate His power over the nature idols of Egypt.

7:3 "But I will harden Pharaoh's heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt" This has caused major theological discussion. The hardening of Pharaoh's heart is first mentioned in Exod. 4:21 (see notes there and at 7:14). Several times throughout this passage, it is said that God hardens Pharaoh's heart. Other times it says that Pharaoh hardens his own heart. One time it says that Pharaoh's heart was hardened but without the subject being identified (see note at Exod. 4:21). It seems significant that it is always connected with the signs and wonders. The hardening is for a redemptive purpose. Pharaoh refuses to believe in YHWH. I do not think that this one example violates the biblical assertion of the sovereignty of God and the expected human response. It is very similar to the theological problem with Judas. When we see God's overall plan for the redemption of all humans, the stubbornness (divine or self imposed) of one man really does not set the theology. The exodus, by means of these signs, will be for the purpose of not only delivering Israel, but for building up her faith. It will also have an evangelistic thrust, not only for Pharaoh, Exod. 8:10, the Magicians, Exod. 8:14, but to all of Egypt, Exod. 9:14-15, and to the whole world, Exod. 9:16. The effect of these signs for redemptive purposes can be clearly seen in Exod. 5:20; 11:3.

▣ "My signs" This term (BDB 16) is used of several people.

  1. a sign to Moses, Exod. 3:12
  2. a sign to the Israelites, Exod. 4:8,9,17,28,30; 13:9,16; 31:13,17 (Sabbath); Deut. 4:34; 6:22; 7:19
  3. a sign to Pharaoh, the plagues, Exod. 7:3; 8:23; 10:1,2; Deut. 11:3
  4. a sign for the Death Angel, Exod. 12:13

▣ "My wonders" This term (BDB 68) is also used of miraculous wonders before Pharaoh (cf. Exod. 4:2; 7:3,9; 11:9,10). It would include (1) the staff turning into a snake and (2) the ten plagues.
The terms "signs" and "wonders" are often together and are synonymous for YHWH's great acts of deliverance from Egyptian bondage. See SPECIAL TOPIC: WONDERFUL THINGS.

7:4 "I will lay My hand on Egypt" The "hand" is a Hebraic idiom for God's judgment. See SPECIAL TOPIC: HAND.

▣ "bring out My hosts, My people the sons of Israel" Here it is obvious that the term "hosts" (BDB 838) means either a large multitude or an army (BDB 838, cf. Exod. 6:26; 12:41; also note in Exod. 13:18, BDB 332, "in martial array"; and Num. 10:14,18,22,25). This is the term "Sabboath," which is used in the phrase "the Lord of hosts." See SPECIAL TOPIC: Lord OF HOSTS.

▣ "from the land of Egypt by great judgments" It is significant that Moses directly confronts the king of Egypt who was believed to be a god (i.e., son of Ra), and the gods of Egypt, particularly the Nile River (i.e., Hapi) and the animal gods, as well as the priests. God's judgment is primarily on the religion of Egypt and by judging their gods, He opens the door for belief on the part of the Egyptians. We later learn that a mixed multitude left with Israel (cf. Exod. 12:38). Though they later cause some problems (cf. Num. 11:4), I believe that this is the fulfillment of the merciful purpose of God (cf. Exod. 7:5).

7:5 The theme of the revelation (i.e., knowledge) of YHWH Himself is recurrent (cf. Exod. 7:5,17; 8:19; 10:7). YHWH has a larger redemptive plan. See SPECIAL TOPIC: YHWH'S ETERNAL REDEMPTIVE PLAN.

▣ "I stretch out My hand on Egypt" This is anthropomorphic language. God does not have physical hands. He is an eternal Spirit. See SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD DESCRIBED AS HUMAN.

7:7 "Moses was eighty years old" It seems that not only in the Pentateuch but also in Acts 7:23-30 that Moses' life is divided into three segments of forty years each.

  1. he was raised in Pharaoh's court for forty years
  2. he was exiled for forty years to the very desert region where he would later lead the children of Israel
  3. he brought the children of Israel out of Egypt and wandered in the wilderness for forty years (cf. Deut. 34:7)

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 7:8-13
8Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 9"When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, 'Work a miracle,' then you shall say to Aaron, 'Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.'" 10So Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh, and thus they did just as the Lord had commanded; and Aaron threw his staff down before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. 11Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and the sorcerers, and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same with their secret arts. 12For each one threw down his staff and they turned into serpents. But Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs. 13Yet Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the Lord had said.

7:9 "When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, 'Work a miracle'" This first miracle of the staff turning into a serpent was mentioned earlier in Exod. 4:3, where it was meant to encourage Moses. In Exod. 4:30 it was to show the Hebrews that Moses was from God. Pharaoh had possibly heard of this miracle being performed before the Hebrew people and he had prepared his magicians so that they could duplicate it. The term "serpent," used in Exod. 7:9,10,12, is the term "tannin" (BDB 1072), which could mean

  1. reptile (cf. Deut. 32:33)
  2. a large sea creature (cf. Gen. 1:21; Ps. 148:7)
  3. sea monsters (cf. Job 7:12; Ps. 74:13; Isa. 27:1; possibly an allusion to Apopis, the Egyptian chaos creature who took the form of a snake)
But, because the normal word for serpent (BDB 638) is used in Exod. 4:3 and 7:15, they are obviously synonymous here, so serpent is the intended meaning.

7:11 There are several terms used to describe these wise men.

  1. "wise men" - BDB 314, KB 314, would have included men learned in science, math, medicine, astrology, and the occult
    1. Egypt - Gen. 41:8; Isa. 19:11,12
    2. Babylon - Isa. 44:25; Jer. 30:35; 51:57
    3. Persia - Esther 1:13; 6:13
    They would typify human wisdom.
    There is a rabbinical tradition about their names and number which is recorded in 1 Tim. 3:8. There has been much discussion among commentators as to whether these men truly had the power to mimic the works of God (i.e., the occult) or if they were simply adept at trickery and manipulation (i.e., magicians).
  2. "sorcerers" - BDB 506, KB 503, Piel PARTICIPLE, means "practice sorcery" which attempts to control or predict future events. The MASCULINE NOUN is used in 2 Kgs. 9:22; Isa. 47:9,12; Mic.5:11; Nah. 3:4. The FEMININE NOUN is used only once, in Exod. 22:18. The VERB is used in 2 Chr. 33:6; Deut. 18:10; Dan. 2:2; Mal. 3:5.
  3. "magicians" - BDB 355, KB 352, basically means "to write" (BDB) or "to read" (KB). It denotes a diviner, astrologer, magician, who kept and interpreted Egypt's sacred texts (i.e., one who read signs or kept sacred texts, cf. Gen. 41:8,24; Exod. 8:14,15; 9:11; Dan. 1:20; 2:2). It is often translated "sooth-sayer priests."
  4. NASB, NRSV - "their secret acts" - BDB 532, which basically means "secretly" (cf. Jdgs. 4:2; Ruth 3:7; 1 Sam. 18:22), but here it denotes one who uses "secret" knowledge (cf. Exod. 7:11,22; 8:6,18; 9:11; NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 794). Other possible translations are
    1. NKJV - "their enchantments"
    2. TEV - "the magic they did"
    3. NJB, JPSOA, REB - "their spells"
    4. LXX - "their magical potions"
For a list of these kinds of false wise men see notes at Deuteronomy 18. Also note discussion in Robert B. Girdlestone, Synonyms of the OT, pp. 297-302.

▣ "did the same" The duplication of the first three plagues by Egyptian wise men was surely the way YHWH hardened Pharaoh's heart. YHWH knew what an arrogant eastern king would do when challenged. These implications lowered the impact of the first three "signs" and "wonders." I think this duplication was the power of the demonic, see SPECIAL TOPIC: ANGELS AND DEMONS. But, note that it is limited and surpassed!

7:12 "each one of them threw down his staff and they turned into a serpent" Some would see this as a particular way of handling snakes which made them rigid, while others would see it as mimicking or aping the power of God (i.e., the occult). Snake charming is mentioned often in the Bible (i.e., magicians, tricksters, cf. Ps. 58:5; Eccl. 10:11; Jer. 8:17).

▣ "Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs" Even when the wise men duplicated the sign, YHWH's power was demonstrably greater!
The same thing is clearly seen in Exod. 7:22, when the wise men turned a small amount of water red, but YHWH turned all the water in Egypt red.
It should be noted that in Egyptian magic texts, the VERB "to swallow" was used symbolically of incorporating another person/god's power.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 7:14-19
14Then the Lord said to Moses, "Pharaoh's heart is stubborn; he refuses to let the people go. 15Go to Pharaoh in the morning as he is going out to the water, and station yourself to meet him on the bank of the Nile; and you shall take in your hand the staff that was turned into a serpent. 16You shall say to him, 'The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you, saying, "Let My people go, that they may serve Me in the wilderness. But behold, you have not listened until now." 17Thus says the Lord, "By this you shall know that I am the Lord: behold, I will strike the water that is in the Nile with the staff that is in my hand, and it will be turned to blood. 18The fish that are in the Nile will die, and the Nile will become foul, and the Egyptians will find difficulty in drinking water from the Nile."'" 19Then the Lord said to Moses, "Say to Aaron, 'Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, over their streams, and over their pools, and over all their reservoirs of water, that they may become blood; and there will be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.'"

7:14-19 "the Nile. . .it will be turned to blood" We learn from Exod. 7:18 that the fish are going to die, that the water is going to smell, and that the Egyptians would have difficulty drinking from it (Exod. 7:21,24 say it could not be drunk). Again, there has been a disagreement among commentators as to whether the smell came from the fish or from some natural change in the water (algae). We know that the Nile does turn red from time to time due to the red clay of its tributary that runs through Ethiopia (see The New Oxford Annotated Bible, p. 77, footnote and NET Bible, p. 129, #16). We also know from historical records of this phenomenon in salt water called "the red tide." But this is a supernatural miracle. Not only is the timing supernatural but also the intensity as well (i.e., all of the water in all of the containers in Egypt being changed at once, cf. Exod. 7:19). However, I do not believe that the water actually changed to human blood. It seems that the color is the significant aspect, but it is more than just color because it killed the fish. Here again, is the seeming mixture of the natural with the supernatural. It is significant that the Nile was one of the chief deities of Egypt (i.e., Hapi). Here, at the beginning, Moses confronts Pharaoh, the ruler and the chief deity of Egypt (i.e., son of Ra), to show the superiority of YHWH.

7:14 There are several terms used to describe Pharaoh's heart (see full note at Exod. 4:21) in this context.

  1. "harden," Exod. 7:3 - BDB 904, this also means "to harden," cf. Deut. 2:30
  2. "hardened," Exod. 7:13,22 - BDB 304, lit. "strong" or "hard," cf. Exod. 4:21; 8:15; 9:12,35; 10:20,27; 11:10; 14:4,8,17; Jos. 11:20
  3. "stubborn," Exod. 7:14 - BDB 457, lit. "heavy," cf. Exod. 8:15,32; 9:7,34; 10:1
These terms are used interchangeably here. There seems to be no distinction intended. This may be the result of different oral traditions (see John H. Walton and D. Brent Sandy, The Lost World of Scripture).

7:16 "The Lord, the God of the Hebrews" For "Lord" (YHWH) and "God" (Elohim) see SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY, C. and D.
For "Hebrews" see notes at Exod. 1:15.

7:17 "By this you shall know that I am the Lord" Pharaoh claimed a lack of "knowledge" about YHWH in Exod. 5:2. The plagues will clearly reveal YHWH's power and supremacy over the Egyptian deities/idols (cf. Exod. 8:10,22; 9:14,29).

There is obviously a word play on
  1. "know" - BDB 393, KB 390
    1. information
    2. personal relationship (see SPECIAL TOPIC: KNOW)
  2. "I am. . .YHWH" - see notes at Exod. 3:14-16

7:18 "became foul" This VERB (BDB 92, KB 107, Qal PERFECT) is used three times in Exodus.

  1. the Nile smelled bad because of the dead fish, Exod. 7:18
  2. the land smelled bad because of the dead frogs, Exod. 8:14
  3. manna, if left overnight, smells bad, Exod. 16:20

7:19 This plague affected

  1. a chief deity of Egypt (i.e., Pharaoh on his way to bathe/anoint himself in the Nile)
  2. the food (i.e., fish) of the Egyptians
  3. the drinking water of the Egyptians
    1. in the river
    2. in ponds/wells
    3. in streams
    4. in containers
Notice in Exod. 7:24 the Egyptians tried to find drinking water.
The IVP Bible Background Commentary (p. 83) suggests that the literal Hebrew, "sticks and stones," was used in Ugaritic literature for "the outlying, barren regions." If so, it is imagery for all water sources being polluted.

▣ "both in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone" It was not just the water in the Nile, but all the sources of water in Egypt were affected, even the water being held in containers for immediate use.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 7:20-25
20So Moses and Aaron did even as the Lord had commanded. And he lifted up the staff and struck the water that was in the Nile, in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants, and all the water that was in the Nile was turned to blood. 21The fish that were in the Nile died, and the Nile became foul, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. And the blood was through all the land of Egypt. 22But the magicians of Egypt did the same with their secret arts; and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the Lord had said. 23Then Pharaoh turned and went into his house with no concern even for this. 24So all the Egyptians dug around the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink of the water of the Nile. 25Seven days passed after the Lord had struck the Nile.

7:22 As the magicians did with the staff becoming a snake (Exod. 7:11), so too, with the water turning red (7:22). They will do the same with the frogs in Exod. 8:7, but they could not duplicate the "gnats" (7:18).
I think the magicians are using the power of the occult but that their power was limited and weak in comparison to YHWH's power.

7:24 The plight of the Egyptian populace (i.e., those who did not have access to wine) was severe. Their only hope was to dig new wells close to the Nile and let the sand/dirt function as a filter.

7:25 "seven days" Why this initial plague lasted seven days is uncertain, but it is probably connected to the symbolic meaning of seven to the Hebrews. See SPECIAL TOPIC: SYMBOLIC NUMBERS IN SCRIPTURE.
Notice the text never says Moses took away this plague, as it does the other plagues!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. Did Pharaoh harden his heart or did God harden his heart?
  2. What events caused Pharaoh's heart to harden to YHWH's power?
  3. What is the purpose of the Exodus?
  4. Why is YHWH turning the Nile red so theologically significant?
  5. Where did Pharaoh's wise men get their "secret arts"?

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