Exodus 7:1–2 Earlier in Exodus 4:14–16 Aaron is called to be Moses’ spokesman to the people but here the focus is on Aaron speaking for Moses to Pharaoh, and the goal is to get the king to do the Lord’s will. God is doing this to assure Moses so that He will not doubt his calling and equipping. Moses in fact will do most of the talking; but Aaron’s role would encourage Moses should he have any reservations.
Exodus 7:3-5 These verses are a summation. In v 3 the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is a reminder of Exodus 4:21 including the reminder that victory will come accompanied by “signs and wonders”. The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is a difficult concept, in Hebrew it implies that one is determined or resolved to do something. God does not cause Pharaoh to act contrary to his own desires. He actually gives Pharaoh the courage to remain stubbornly committed to his plan in dealing with his Jewish slaves. God never uses force to manipulate people to do His will. Pharaoh is allowed to resist even when the signs and wonders demonstrate that resistance against God are doomed to failure. These signs and wonders will humiliate Egypt and her gods and demonstrate that the God of Israel alone controls the world. The “great acts of judgment” in Exodus 7:4 reminds us of Exodus 6:6 as one of the four “I will’s” of God spoke. Every Passover in our homes we remember these works of God in His redemption of the Jewish people. All of these plagues and signs confirm that God is the one who brings judgment and deliverance moving Egypt to confess that the God of Israel, is God.
Exodus7:6–7 Moses and Aaron had, in their encounter with Pharaoh so far (Exodus 5:1–5), been faithful in delivering God’s message to Pharaoh. Moses’ age is repeated later in Deut 34:7 where Moses’ death follows forty years later at the age one hundred and twenty. Aaron’s age at death is given in Num 33:39 “Aaron was a hundred and twenty-three years old when he died on Mount Hor”. Aaron’s and Miriam both died before Moses.
Exodus 7:8-13 Aaron is told that when Pharaoh asks for a sign to prove themselves, they should do so that it might demonstrate God’s power to Pharaoh. Egyptian magicians, called by Pharaoh were able to duplicate the staff to snake miracle. We are left to wonder can God’s miracles be duplicated by the magicians who clearly do not honor God. Do they also have supernatural powers? Or did God give Moses and Aaron a simple magic trick that magicians could also perform? Moses and Aaron were not magicians or sorcerers but simple servants of God who were empowered by Him to transform a wooden staff into a living animal. Janes and Jambres were (2 Timothy 3:8) the Egyptians, were magicians and accomplished their act with sleight of hand or illusion.
Pharaoh wanted to disbelieve the power of God through Moses and Aaron so his magicians gave him an excuse to ignore the call and command of God. We are told that the magicians accomplished their work “by their secret arts” rather than by supernatural power. Some have speculated that they were actually snake charmers who had the ability to charm snakes into a state of rigor mortis, only to bring them back to normal through similar means. Others believe evil spirits assisted the magicians. In the end, Aaron’s snake swallowed their snakes. But Pharaoh’s heart grew harder still. God’s purpose was to begin in a small way. This initiated the battle between God and Pharaoh. It was one thing to use these miracles to convince Israel, but it will take much more to convince Pharaoh.
Exodus 7:14-15 This first account of the plagues that came on Egypt emphasize God’s part in Pharaoh’s hardness. We are told that God is at work here (Romans 9:17) in Pharaoh’s heart. Moses knew from God that Pharaoh would resist. Later in Exodus 7:21 we’re told that this miracle affected all of Egypt’s water. This was a display to all of Egypt. Earlier the displays of the power of God were more private. Now all of Egypt began to feel the effect of God’s wrath, and the pressure begins to be put on Pharaoh. It was one thing for him to ignore a private display of God’s power, but to ignore the cries of his people for their need of water would be quite a different.
We should note that the Egyptians believed the Nile to be a god. They were pantheistic in their understanding of the universe. This was a battle between the Gods of Egypt and the one true God (Exodus 12:12). The Nile was Egypt’s greatest asset, a source of life and prosperity, it now became a source of death. This first confrontation with Pharaoh and the resultant plague takes place on the banks of the Nile. He likely was using the Nile to bathe. The plague then had an immediate effect on Pharaoh. Once again, we see the staff of Moses as representative of the power of God. The staff that represents God and his power was later placed in the Holy of Holies and was a visible testimony of God’s deliverance of His people from Egypt.
Exodus 7:16–18 The words that God gave Moses to say to Pharaoh clearly describes that Moses represented (“the God of the Hebrews,” v. 16), The Lord was demanding that Pharaoh “let my people go,” Pharaoh is reminded that “so far you have not obeyed.” The Lord is going to teach Pharaoh who he is, that He is all powerful. Moses spoke prophetically describing exactly what was going to happen. “With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall turn into blood. The fish in the Nile shall die …”. This exact outcome was to let Pharaoh know that this was the hand and power of God. Moses was simply an instrument of God; his adversary was not Moses but the King of the universe. He is told that the Egyptian people would suffer as well if he did not obey the command of God. “By this you will know that I am the Lord” (v. 17). God has spoken in this way to the Patriarchs, but this is the first time that he is speaking to Gentiles in the same way. God has a love for Egypt that remains to this day and will be expressed in the future according to Isaiah 19:19ff. Egypt is the first Gentile nation that God speaks to in calling them to repentance and salvation. In Exodus 7:5 “The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them”.
Exodus 7:19–21 In these verses the first plague is described, the changing waters of the Nile into blood. “Blood” is a color in Hebrew as well as a substance, we cannot be sure that the water turned to actual blood. What is key here is that water became foul and undrinkable and deadly to fish. This miracle demonstrated God’s power over the “god” of the Nile. It was Aaron at the instruction of Moses that affected the plague, the rod being a representation of the power of God once again. Exodus 7:19 informs us that the blood was in all the waters of Egypt, not just the Nile. The plagues will increase as they unfold. This plague did not bring death to the Egyptians only fish.
Exodus 7:22–25 The magicians were able to duplicate on a small scale, the changing of water into reddish water. Such an imitation would only require adding something that would dye some water red through sleight of hand. Why not use their powers to alleviate the situation rather than add to it, if indeed their powers were real and to be feared? Pharaoh was convinced once again that God’s magicians were no more powerful than his. The Egyptian people, however, had to come up with a way to get water, which was available only from new wells. Only water at surface level was affected.