Exodus
1-7 Israel Brought Out; Egypt Judged 8-13 A Miracle for Pharaoh 14-18 Announcement of the First Plague 19-25 The First Plague: Water Becomes Blood
Israel Brought Out; Egypt Judged

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.

The LORD sends Moses and Aaron with His ultimatum to Pharaoh. The fact that the LORD has made Moses “as a god” for Pharaoh means that Moses, God’s representative, must act as a judge against Pharaoh. Judges are also called ‘gods’ (Psa 82:66I said, “You are gods,
And all of you are sons of the Most High.
; Jn 10:3434Jesus answered them, “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I SAID, YOU ARE GODS’?).

The LORD tells Moses what He intends to do. Moses, in turn, must say it to Aaron, for Aaron is his “prophet”, that is, he is the mouthpiece of Moses. God informs His servants to encourage them, strengthen their faith and prepare them for their task. To this end, the book of Revelation has been given for us, Christians. It is given “to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place” (Rev 1:11The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated [it] by His angel to His bond-servant John,).

The LORD speaks to the encouragement of Moses about “My signs and My wonders” which He will make numerous in the land of Egypt. What for Egypt are “evil things”, are signs and miracles for God’s people that indicate that their salvation is near. This is also the case for the Christian who sees how the plagues of the book of Revelation are already getting a kind of pre-fulfilment in our days. From this we can see that the coming of the Lord is near.

God could have allowed Israel to leave without the plagues. He could have killed Pharaoh without a doubt. But he wants to show through a clear testimony of his glory and majesty who it is who calls his people.

A beautiful description of this can be found in Psalm 105:
“26 He sent Moses His servant,
[And] Aaron, whom He had chosen.
27 They performed His wondrous acts among them,
And miracles in the land of Ham.
28 He sent darkness and made [it] dark;
And they did not rebel against His words.
29 He turned their waters into blood
And caused their fish to die.
30 Their land swarmed with frogs
[Even] in the chambers of their kings.
31 He spoke, and there came a swarm of flies
[And] gnats in all their territory.
32 He gave them hail for rain,
[And] flaming fire in their land.
33 He struck down their vines also and their fig trees,
And shattered the trees of their territory.
34 He spoke, and locusts came,
And young locusts, even without number,
35 And ate up all vegetation in their land,
And ate up the fruit of their ground.
36 He also struck down all the firstborn in their land,
The first fruits of all their vigor.” (Psa 105:26-3626He sent Moses His servant,
[And] Aaron, whom He had chosen.
27They performed His wondrous acts among them,
And miracles in the land of Ham.
28He sent darkness and made [it] dark;
And they did not rebel against His words.
29He turned their waters into blood
And caused their fish to die.
30Their land swarmed with frogs
[Even] in the chambers of their kings.
31He spoke, and there came a swarm of flies
[And] gnats in all their territory.
32He gave them hail for rain,
[And] flaming fire in their land.
33He struck down their vines also and their fig trees,
And shattered the trees of their territory.
34He spoke, and locusts came,
And young locusts, even without number,
35And ate up all vegetation in their land,
And ate up the fruit of their ground.
36He also struck down all the firstborn in their land,
The first fruits of all their vigor.
)


A Miracle for Pharaoh

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.

Before the plagues occur, the miracle that Pharaoh asks, gives him as it were a last chance to meet God’s demand. But he doesn’t listen. On the contrary, he wants to destroy the power of the miracle by letting his magicians imitate it. Imitating something that comes from God has always been a success story of satan. Many have already been misled and are still being misled every day.

The transformation of the staff into a snake is an introduction to the plagues. This time it is the staff of Aaron which causes this sign for Pharaoh. First it was the staff of Moses, and he used it for the people (Exo 4:1-51Then Moses said, “What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say? For they may say, ‘The LORD has not appeared to you.’”2The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” And he said, “A staff.”3Then He said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it.4But the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand and grasp [it] by its tail”—so he stretched out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand—5“that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.”). Because the staff of Aaron is now being used, the sign has a slightly different meaning. The staff of Aaron will sprout (Num 17:88Now on the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony; and behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds.). This is why the power of life from the dead, the power of the resurrection, is attached to his staff.

Aaron is a picture of the Lord Jesus as the risen Lord. Aaron comes to Pharaoh as the one in whose hand the staff is. He has, as it were, been given the staff that has returned in the hand of Moses and is now exercising his authority. We see with the Lord Jesus that after His resurrection He says that He “has been given all power in heaven and on earth” (Mt 28:1818And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.).

We do not yet see this in reality, but we do see it by faith (Heb 2:88You have put all things in subjection under his feet.” For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.). When we look at the world, it seems as if the devil is in control. However, that is in appearance only. The power is in the hands of the Lord Jesus and He gives it to whom He will (Rom 13:11Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.; Pro 21:11The king’s heart is [like] channels of water in the hand of the LORD;
He turns it wherever He wishes.
; Dan 2:21a21“It is He who changes the times and the epochs;
He removes kings and establishes kings;
He gives wisdom to wise men
And knowledge to men of understanding.
). He is above all powers and eventually devours all powers. This introduction to the plagues shows us at the same time the outcome of the plagues: God is victorious, He destroys all opposition.

Paul mentions the names of the magicians of Pharaoh. He points to these magicians, because in so-called nominal Christians the same corrupt traits of character are revealed as in these magicians: “Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these [men] also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith” (2Tim 3:88Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these [men] also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith.). These are people who discredit the Christian faith, of whom Paul says to Timothy: “Holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power” (2Tim 3:55holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.).

The plagues affect Egypt, which represents the world. By mentioning the magicians in 2 Timothy 3 we see that the plagues also relate to Christianity. This is because Christendom is linked with the world. In this way, Christianity shares in the judgment that God makes to come upon the world. This is why the call comes to the true Christian: “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness” (2Tim 2:19b19Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.”; cf. Rev 18:44I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues;).

We live “in the last days” (2Tim 3:11But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.). These are the days in which the magicians of Pharaoh try to explain away the power of God’s Word with their magic. At this stage there is no distinction between Israel and Egypt (Exo 8:2222But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where My people are living, so that no swarms of flies will be there, in order that you may know that I, the LORD, am in the midst of the land.), between the world and God’s people. That is why we also have to deal with it.


Announcement of the First Plague

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.”‘”

Before looking at the individual plagues, first a general introduction to the plagues. The first nine plagues can be divided into three groups of three plagues. The tenth plague stands alone. At the first, fourth, and seventh plague, Moses must go to Pharaoh early in the morning (Exo 7:1515Go 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.; 8:2020Now the LORD said to Moses, “Rise early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh, as he comes out to the water, and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me.; 9:1313Then the LORD said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me.). This refers every time to a new beginning. The third, sixth and ninth plagues come each without prior warning.

The plagues 1-3 come all three from the earth and are done by the staff of Aaron. The plague is affecting the Egyptians as well as the people of Israel. In these first three plagues the Egyptian magicians play a role. They try to imitate the plagues of God. As said, because of the mention of these magicians in 2 Timothy 3, especially these plagues have a special message for us, who live in the last days of Christianity.

The plagues 4-6 happen without mentioning the staff of Moses or the staff of Aaron. Also their origin – from heaven or from earth – is not mentioned. It simply says that the LORD does it (Exo 8:2424Then the LORD did so. And there came great swarms of flies into the house of Pharaoh and the houses of his servants and the land was laid waste because of the swarms of flies in all the land of Egypt.; 9:66So the LORD did this thing on the next day, and all the livestock of Egypt died; but of the livestock of the sons of Israel, not one died.). With the sixth plague, Moses is the performer. He scatters ash from the oven into the air. Israel remains free from these plagues (Exo 8:2222But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where My people are living, so that no swarms of flies will be there, in order that you may know that I, the LORD, am in the midst of the land.). Egyptian magicians cannot imitate these plagues.

The plagues 7-9 do not affect Israel either. They come directly from heaven over Egypt and are executed by the staff of Moses.

Almost all of the plagues we find here we find in Revelation also. We find therein “the hour of testing, that [hour] which is about to come upon the whole world” (Rev 3:1010Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that [hour] which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.), not only upon Israel (Jer 30:77‘Alas! for that day is great,
There is none like it;
And it is the time of Jacob’s distress,
But he will be saved from it.
). In Revelation 16 it says that these are the plagues of God and especially also about Christianity (Rev 16:99Men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, and they did not repent so as to give Him glory.). In the seven bowls in Revelation 16, many of the plagues that have crossed Egypt are found.

We now follow the reports on the plagues. Moses is given the task to go to Pharaoh in the morning with the message to let God’s people go to serve Him in the wilderness (verse 1616You 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.”). God now demands the right of his people. He wants them to serve Him and not Pharaoh. Pharaoh wants it the other way around: he wants the people to serve him and not God.

The LORD lets Moses announce the first plague because of the unrelenting heart of Pharaoh. Therefore Moses must take the staff of Aaron, the staff that has been turned into a serpent, and thus strike the water of the Nile. The water of the Nile will then turn into blood and become undrinkable (cf. Rev 16:3-43The second [angel] poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became blood like [that] of a dead man; and every living thing in the sea died.4Then the third [angel] poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of waters; and they became blood.).

The Nile is the idol of the Egyptians. From it they derive all their wealth. The fish of the Nile serves as food (Num 11:5a5We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic,). The plague will kill the fish and turn their source of wealth into a stinking river. If God is kept out of the blessing we enjoy, it can just happen that the blessing turns into a curse and that life (water) turns into death (blood). It is God’s intention by this that man should acknowledge that He speaks, just as Pharaoh will know from this judgment of the LORD that he is the LORD.


The First Plague: Water Becomes Blood

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.’” 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.

Moses and Aaron do just as God has said. Aaron stretches his staff not only over the Nile, but over the waters of Egypt. The Nile is mentioned separately from the waters as a target of the plague. The Nile is worshipped by the Egyptians under a wide variety of names. It represents all that is good. God destroys this great power on which the Egyptians rely. He strikes them in what gives them pleasure and prosperity. The fish die, the Nile starts to stink, and the water is no longer drinkable.

Water speaks of what invigorates and gives life. Blood that has been shed speaks of death. In God’s Word, the Nile stands for earthly blessings that are enjoyed without thanks to God in any way. Enjoying all kinds of blessings in this way can only lead to death, because everything that is apart from God is dead and works death.

Life on earth can give opportunity “to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” (Heb 11:2525choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,), but its end is death. Its odor fills the air. In today’s society, we are increasingly observing its forerunners. Man wallows in prosperity and perishes in it. The depravity of his thinking is taking on ever coarser proportions. What man thinks up is becoming more and more repulsive.

The magicians can imitate what Moses did, but they cannot take away the ailment. They only make the plague worse. It can be seen in politics and in society where excuses are always sought for the follies that man commits. The solutions that are offered only make the ailment worse. For example, pregnancy is a blessing from God, but it is not considered so in the corrupt thinking of man who wants to be independent of God. Man wants to be able to intervene, both in the ‘making’ of life through, for example, test tube fertilization and in the removal of what is not desired through abortion. The result is repulsive to all who love God.

The plague lasts for “seven days”, which means a fullness of time determined by God. Of any reaction of Pharaoh, we read nothing.


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