Exegetical Notes: Exodus 7:1-14

And the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet.

“I have made you like God to Pharaoh” -Although Pharaoh believed himself to be a god, Yahweh would demonstrate His chosen prophet to be more powerful than any of Pharaoh’s magicians and Pharaoh himself.

Moses “was to act in this business as God’s representative, to act and speak in His name and to perform things beyond the ordinary course of nature.”
 Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, vol. 1 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 52.

“Aaron shall be your prophet” -as in a spokesman. Moses is clearly identified in previous narratives to be the prophet, and Aaron his mouthpiece.

2 You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land.
3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt,

“But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart” -Within the plague narrative we see occasions where God is seen as the active force hardening the heart of Pharoah and in other instances, Pharaoh hardens his own heart. Compare 7.3a and and 8:15, “he (Pharoah) hardened his heart and would not listen to them”. The common theme throughout both instances is the repetition of the phrase “as the Lord had said” (7:13; 8:15, 18, etc.) in regards to both instances. Although God knew Pharoah would not respond favorably, He still revealed himself to Pharaoh though the plaugues. As the narrative continues, God’s active hardening seems to increase, ultimately causing Pharoah to lose his heir to the throne and his own life.

Paul speaks of this same hardening in Romans 1:18-25: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”

Two thoughts to consider:
1) People are responsible for sin and should take advantage of God’s patients and kindness as He reveals Himself to them. “We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” Ro 2:2–5.
2) Special revelation requires a significant movement from God on behalf of the individual. “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Co 4:3–6. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” Eph 2:4–5.

“and though I multiply my signs and wonders…Pharaoh will not listen to you” -This phrase contains a great warning for all mankind. Even today. Signs do not prove the truth of God to those who refuse to exercise faith. We see this throughout scripture. Most notably, Jesus tackles this subject himself in John 6. See: John 6:25-51.

4 Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment.
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.”

“The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord” -Why plagues? Why such severity? Two thoughts:

1) The plagues are a direct confrontation with the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart. They are a direct response from Pharaoh’s belittling of God in chapter 5. “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.” Ex 5:2.
2) The plagues are designed to have an evangelistic effect, confronting the false gods of Egypt and demonstrating God to be the one true God worthy of worship. See: “For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.” Mal 1:14; 
”After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,” Rev. 7:9

6 Moses and Aaron did so; they did just as the Lord commanded them.
7 Now Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh.

concerning the giving of their age -The age of prominent figures often accompanies prominent events within the Old Testament.

APP: 1) God’s timetable is not our timetable. It may often run slower than we expect. 2) Your age may influence what you do for God, but not your ability to be used by Him. 3) There is no retirement from serving the Lord.

8 Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron,
9 “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Prove yourselves by working a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’ ”

“Take your staff” -rods were carried also by all nobles and official persons in the court of Pharaoh. It was an Egyptian custom, and the rods were symbols of authority or rank. Hence God commanded His servants to use a rod.
 Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, vol. 1 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 52.

10 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent.
11 Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts.

“did the same by their secret arts” -Some have sought to explain away the magician’s ability to replicate Aaron’s staff changing into a serpent. See below:

“The magicians of Egypt in modern times have been long celebrated adepts in charming serpents, and particularly by pressing the nape of the neck, they throw them into a kind of catalepsy, which renders them stiff and immovable—thus seeming to change them into a rod. They conceal the serpent about their persons, and by acts of legerdemain produce it from their dress, stiff and straight as a rod. Just the same trick was played off by their ancient predecessors, the most renowned of whom, Jannes and Jambres (2 Ti 3:8), were called in on this occasion. They had time after the summons to make suitable preparations—and so it appears they succeeded by their “enchantments” in practising an illusion on the senses. 
Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, vol. 1 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 52.

However, the biblical text says that it was accomplished “by their secret arts”. We should not assume the evil spiritual realm to be void of legitimate spiritual power. That being said, Yahweh clearly demonstrates his superiority through the eating of the other serpents.

12 For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs.

“But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs.” -Verses 11-12 seems to add an immediate hiccup in the narrative designed to demonstrate God’s sole omnipotence and sovereignty, however the end of verse 12 would’ve completely demoralized those who were opposed to God. Aaron’s staff swallowing the other staff’s of the Egyptian magicians would’ve no doubt been more than enough to “prove yourselves” (7:8) before Pharaoh, but instead he responds with hardening. Additionally, I hope none of the enchanters were dependent upon their staffs for walking assistance. 😉

13 Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said,

“Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened” -Pharaoh’s heart was not enabled to heed the message and demonstrate repentance by releasing the people (7:13). God demonstrates His absolute sovereignty over mankind by using them as He pleases; some, like Moses, to honor Him and others, like Amenhotep II, to dishonor Him. Both kinds of people bring glory to God though it is beyond man’s finite ability to understand how this can be.
 John D. Hannah, “Exodus,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 118.

“he would not listen to them” -The need to listen to God is a key theme throughout scripture: See: Mark 4:2-25. See also: The letters to the 7 churches in Rev. 2:1-3:22. Each of the churches is told, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says…” (or some variation of this).

APP: William Hendriksen (New Testament Commentary: Mark) provides a practical understanding of the parable of the sower in Mark 4. He lists 4 types of hearts (or listeners):
1. The unresponsive heart (Mark 4:15)
2. The impulsive heart (Mark 4:16,17)
3. The preoccupied heart (Mark 4:18,19)
4. The responsive heart (Mark 4:20)

14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is hardened; he refuses to let the people go.

APP: Hardness of heart always results in refusal to honor the Lord.

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