1 - 7 Israel Brought Out, Egypt Judged
1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “See, I make you [as] God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. 2 You 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. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. 4 When 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. 5 The 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.” 6 So Moses and Aaron did [it]; as the LORD commanded them, thus they did. 7 Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three, when they spoke to Pharaoh.
The LORD sends Moses and Aaron with His proxy to Pharaoh. The fact that the LORD has made Moses “a god” for Pharaoh means that Moses, God’s representative, must act as a judge against Pharaoh. Judges are also called ‘gods’ (Psa 82:6; Jn 10:34).
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 1:1).
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 “criminal reports” 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 105:26-36)
8 - 13 A Miracle for Pharaoh
8 Now 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.’” 10 So 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. 11 Then Pharaoh also called for [the] wise men and [the] sorcerers, and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same with their secret arts. 12 For each one threw down his staff and they turned into serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. 13 Yet Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said.
Before the plagues erupt, 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 imitate it by his magicians. Imitating something that comes from God has always been a success story of satan. Many have already been misled and are still 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 and happens this sign for Pharaoh. First it is the staff of Moses, and he used it for the people (Exo 4:1-5). Because the staff of Aaron is now being used, the sign has a slightly different meaning. The staff of Aaron will sprout (Num 17:8). This is why the power of life from the dead, the power of the resurrection, is attached to the 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 28:18).
We do not yet see this in reality, but we do see it in faith (Heb 2:8). When we look at the world, it seems as if the devil is in control. However, that is appearances. The power is in the hands of the Lord Jesus and He gives it to whom He will (Rom 13:1; Pro 21:1; Dan 2:21a). 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 name-believing 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 3:8). These are people who destroy the Christian faith, of whom Paul says to Timothy: “Holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power” (2Tim 3:5).
The plagues come over 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 Christianity is fully united with the world. In this way, Christianity shares in the judgment that God makes 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 2:19b; cf. Rev 18:4).
We live “in the last days” (2Tim 3:1). These are the days in which the magicians of Pharaoh try to take away the power of God’s Word with their magic. There is as yet no distinction between Israel and Egypt (Exo 8:22), between the world and God’s people. That is why we also have to do with it.
14 - 18 Announcement of the First Plague
14 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is stubborn; he refuses to let the people go. 15 Go 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. 16 You 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.” 17 Thus 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. 18 The 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 7:15; 8:20; 9:13). 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 8:24; 9:6). With the sixth plague, Moses is the performer. He scatters ash from the oven into the air. Israel remains free from these plagues (Exo 8:22). 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. We find therein “the hour of testing, that [hour] which is about to come upon the whole world” (Rev 3:10), not only upon Israel (Jer 30:7). In Revelation 16 it says that these are the plagues of God and especially also about Christianity (Rev 16:9). 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 16). God now demands the right on his people. He wants it 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 16:3-4).
The Nile is the idol of the Egyptians. From it they derive all their wealth. The fish of the Nile serves as food (Num 11:5a). 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 that by this man should acknowledge that He speaks, just as Pharaoh will know from this judgment of the LORD that he is the LORD.
19 - 25 The First Plague: Water Becomes Blood
19 Then 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.’” 20 So 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. 21 The 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. 22 But 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. 23 Then Pharaoh turned and went into his house with no concern even for this. 24 So all the Egyptians dug around the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink of the water of the Nile. 25 Seven days passed after the LORD had struck the Nile.
Just as God has said, so do Moses and Aaron. Aaron stretches his staff not only over the Nile, but over the waters of Egypt. The Nile is mentioned separately under the waters as a target of the plague. The Nile is worshipped by the Egyptians under a wide variety of names. He 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 dies, the Nile starts to stink and what is 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 separate from God is dead and works death.
Life on earth can give “to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” (Heb 11:25), but its end is death. Its stench fills the air. In today’s society, we are increasingly observing its forerunners. Man swallows in prosperity and perishes in it. The depravity of his thinking is taking on ever coarser proportions. What man thinks up, stinks more and more.
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 so it is not 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 stench.
The plague lasts for “seven days”, which means a fullness of time determined by God. From a reaction of Pharaoh, we read nothing.