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Deeper Commentary


Exo 7:1 Yahweh said to Moses, Behold, I have made you as God to Pharaoh; and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet-
A prophet is thus defined as someone who is as a mouth for someone else (as in Dt. 18:18). Here we have another window into the meaning of the Divine inspiration of the scriptures. His prophets were as His mouth to their audiences. And we note that Moses, a man, can function as God. And yet he was not God. There should therefore be no reason for thinking that the Lord Jesus is "God" in the misguided Trinitarian sense. Like Moses, He could bear the Name of God and function as God, without being God Himself.

The amazing promise that Moses had been made as God to Pharaoh comes as response to his feeling he was unable to engage with Pharaoh, because of his cleft palet or speech impediment. But Yahweh is manifested through that. And that is the answer to Moses' inadequacy. His impediment was not healed. But God was manifest through it. However the point may be that Pharaoh perceived Moses as an incarnation of a God- which explains why Pharaoh doesn't simply have Moses executed.

Exo 7:2 You shall speak all that I command you; and Aaron your brother shall speak to Pharaoh, that he let the children of Israel go out of his land-
And yet throughout the record of the plagues, Aaron says nothing. This concession to Moses' weakness was not in fact required. Or it could be that God's 'plan B' didn't work out because Aaron failed to speak as required. And so Moses did the speaking, despite his concerns about his stuttering. These kinds of chops and changes between possible potential plans fill the entire Divine - human interaction which we are part of.

Exo 7:3 I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt-

Hardening isn't a negative, bad idea of itself. The same word is used of how God "strengthens" the hearts of the righteous. Idea is that we are confirmed in the psychological attitudes we ourselves choose to adopt.
It is Israel who were to later be often described as of hard hearts. They ended up acting as the Egypt which they loved. And this went too for their most religiously fanatical people. The Lord Jesus grieved for the hardened hearts of the Pharisees (Mk. 3:5), and we note the similarity between the Greek words Pharao and Pharisaios.

Hebrew tends to reason through placing 'blocks' of ideas are put in opposition to each other, or 'dialectic', in order to come to conclusions. That's why we can read of God hardening Pharaoh's heart, and Pharaoh hardening his own heart (Ex. 7:3; 8:15). To Greek, step-logic thinkers, that's a worrying contradiction- only because they don't pick up the way that Hebrew reasoning involves these kinds of statements being put in opposition to each other, so that through the dialectic process we come to understand what is meant. Summing up, our covenant relationship with God is a "living intercourse" as Abraham Heschel put it; it's not merely knowing a set of doctrines and information about the covenant promises, the terms of the covenant etc. In that case the covenant would be a tether or chain; but instead it is a relationship.

Exo 7:4 But Pharaoh will not listen to you, and I will lay My hand on Egypt, and bring out My armies and My people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments-

He will not, but I will... is an allusion to the "I will be who I will be" theme of Yahweh's Name just explained to Moses. In Ex. 6, Moses has lamented that Pharaoh will not listen to him, because he has uncircumcised lips, he had flesh that had not been cut off. He was missing the point; that Yahweh, "I will be who I will be", would release Israel exactly because Pharaoh would not listen to him. This is in response to Moses complaining that Pharaoh wouldn't hearken to him because of his speech impediment. God is saying that exactly because Pharaoh would not hearken, He would deliver Israel. And so no persuasive eloquence was required from Moses. 

It would appear that all the people of Israel had a guardian Angel- this seems to be implied by Ex. 7:4 "(I will) bring forth Mine armies (of Angels), and My people the children of Israel", implying that there were two armies leaving Egypt- one of Angels, another of their charges. Thus we read in Ex. 12:41 "it came to pass that all the hosts of the LORD (a phrase often used about the Angels- but here concerning the Israelites too) went out from the land of Egypt". In the same way as the Angels were especially Israel's guardians in guiding them out of Egypt, it may be that the Angels minister in a guardian capacity to us especially in leading us out of the world to baptism (cp. the Red Sea). Heb. 1:14 offers tentative support in that the Angels are said to "minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation". At baptism we become heirs of salvation (Rom. 4:13; Gal. 3:27-29)- those who "shall be heirs" are those as yet outside the promises of salvation. Confirmation of all this is provided by a careful reading of Dt. 33:2,3. This describes God coming "unto them" (Israel) "with ten thousands of saints"- i.e. Angels- and giving them "a fiery Law". The next verse records: "Yea, He loved the people; all His saints are in Thy Hand (Angelic language)... every one shall receive of Thy words". Here the saints appear to be the people, thus showing that God's love to Israel was shown by each of them having an Angel (thousands of saints for thousands of people), who individually taught them the word of God, albeit all at the same time. The Angels in the court of Heaven are watching us, almost with baited breath. We are made a theatre unto the Angels, as if they are in the audience as we act out our lives (1 Cor. 4:9 RVmg.).

Israel were brought out by "great judgments" (Ex. 6:6; 7:4), i.e. by God's stretched out arm (Ex. 6:6). The way He acted with His “arm” was a manifestation of His judgment principles. Therefore the Red Sea deliverance is described as the judgment of God, the day of the Lord etc. because God's people exited from the world whilst judgments came upon it; the Name of God was revealed through this process (Ps. 76:6-9; 103:6,7).

Exo 7:5 The Egyptians shall know that I am Yahweh, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt, and bring out the children of Israel from among them-
This could continue the theme of God's hopeful intention that Egypt would be converted to Him by the whole process of Israel's redemption from Egypt. Just as the prophetic hope was that the surrounding Gentiles would be converted by Judah's redemption from the lands of their exile.

Or we could read this as meaning that all too late, having received God's judgments, the Egyptians would know Yahweh. The rejected will not only see how they could have been in the Kingdom; judgment results in men knowing God's Name / character. When God's judgments had been poured out on Egypt, then they knew God's Name. The rejected will come to appreciate true spirituality- but tragically all too late.

God remembers mercy in wrath, and His judgments are always creative. The plagues soon stopped applying to the Israelites; as evidence that they could be avoided by identification with Israel. And the later plagues included pleas to the Egyptians to avoid experiencing them, e.g. by bringing in their cattle from the field. Yet there was no warning in the third plague in the three cycles of 3 plagues [which preceded the killing of the firstborn]. The message was that they indeed deserved judgment and God could afflict them legitimately. The endings of the plagues often teaches that God can intervene and end judgment in response to human desire ['Please say the time when the plague shall end?'- again, a nudge towards Egyptian repentance]. The penultimate plague of darkness simply gave the Egyptians some time to reflect, to sit at home and think. And the final plague was completely avoidable if they shared in the Passover lamb.    

Exo 7:6 Moses and Aaron did so. As Yahweh commanded them, so they did-
Moses and Aaron agreed to continue speaking to Pharaoh and Israel; they "did as the Lord commanded them, so did they". This is saying the same thing twice- stressing their obedience. This could be a notice inserted to make the point that Moses had previously not been at all obedient. Now he was, and indeed on he would be. It's as if he has gone a rung up the ladder. 

Exo 7:7 Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh-
Aaron would have been only say seven years old at the most when Moses disappeared into the court of Pharaoh. He hardly knew Moses, so his obedience to the Divine call to make a long desert journey to meet his brother at a remote mountain was therefore the more commendable. 

Exo 7:8 Yahweh spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying-
The trumpets of Rev. 8-11 are clearly based upon the plagues of Ex. 7-12. Yet those plagues were each one designed to induce repentance in Egypt; there were various possible futures and outcomes related to each of them. If, e.g., after plague eight, Pharaoh had truly repented- then the other plagues wouldn't have happened. And perhaps it will be the same with the trumpets of the last days.

Exo 7:9 When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, ‘Perform a miracle!’ then you shall tell Aaron, ‘Take your rod, and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it become a serpent’-
There is no mention here of the serpent turning back into a rod. A man's rod was his personal possession and indicative of his power and standing; we recall Judah giving his rod as a guarantee to Tamar and being humiliated by losing it. It is significant that the rods of Pharaoh's courtiers were gobbled up by Aaron's rod / serpent- and they were left, as it were, without their symbols of power. Even if the snakes produced by the magicians were just let out of a bag, all the same, the courtiers could not then suddenly claim their rods had returned to them. They would have had to at least conceal them.

There was serpent imagery on Pharaoh's head dress and crown. Serpents bend and twist (and Ez. 29:3 uses the term to describe Egypt as a serpent of the waters), so he was being warned in this sign that God could both harden and unharden him. And that is to be our take away lesson.  The word for "sign" also means "portent". This was a portent of what would be if he didn't repent.

Exo 7:10 Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh, and they did so, as Yahweh had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh and before his servants, and it became a serpent-
Despite the stress upon the impudence of Moses and his refusal to obey his Divine commission, the record now emphasizes his obedience to God's commands.

Exo 7:11 Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and the sorcerers. They also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same thing with their enchantments-
Surely they used trickery, releasing serpents out of a bag. But it is recorded here and in :12 as if they really succeeded in doing this 'miracle' (:9). Likewise the language of demons is used in the New Testament, as if they really existed as radically evil spirits, and were responsible for sickness; when the rest of the Bible denies this. 

Exo 7:12 For they each cast down their rods, and they became serpents: but Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods-
This was to warn the perceptive Egyptians that Yahweh could easily swallow them up if He wished; and He did so at the Red Sea, to those who refused to learn this lesson (Ex. 15:12). This is the only other usage of "swallowed". The account of the plagues starts and finishes with this idea of 'swallowed'. There is no record that their 'serpents' turned back into rods. They were left without their rods; and perhaps Aaron's rod / serpent literally gobbled up their rods, thus taking their symbols of power and authority away from them.

We don't read that Aaron's serpent swallowed their serpents, but that his rod sowed their rods. After they had supposedly turned back into rods. Rods symbolising power, this was a statement of dominance over them. Seeing they used their rods as wands, the magicians were effectively rendered powerless.  These were all nudges intended to lead them and all Egypt to repentance. 

Exo 7:13 Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he didn’t listen to them; as Yahweh had spoken-
The same Hebrew words used of the hardening of Pharaoh's heart occur in a positive context- for God also hardens or strengthens the hearts of the righteous (Ps. 27:14; Is. 35:4). Indeed, Is. 35:4 speaks of how the righteous shouldn’t have a weak or [Heb.] ‘fluid’ heart, but rather a hardened one. Clearly enough, God solidifies human attitudes, one way or the other, through the work of His Spirit upon our spirit. This is a sobering thought- for He is prepared to confirm a person in their weak thinking. But on the other hand, even the weakest basic intention towards righteousness is solidified by Him too.

Exo 7:14 Yahweh said to Moses, Pharaoh’s heart is stubborn. He refuses to let the people go-
"Stubborn" is used of how ears of hearing are dull [s.w. stubborn; Is. 6:10; 59:1; Zech. 7:11). He was consciously refusing to hear God's word.  

Exo 7:15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning. Behold, he goes out to the water; and you shall stand by the river’s bank to meet him; and the rod which was turned to a serpent you shall take in your hand-
The idea was that God, the "I will be who I will be", can change things; a rod to a serpent, and now water into blood. He can and will change things on earth; that is part of the declaration of His Name and the salvation and redemption which are the lead characteristics of His Name. Pharaoh likely went to the Nile to worship the gods he believed to be there. And the changing of water into blood was therefore a  judgment of his gods. Seeing that Pharaoh considered himself a divine figure, and related to the gods, this was therefore a judgment upon himself personally.

Pharaoh would be alone by the river, without pressure to maintain appearances before his courtiers. Moses was to meet him there privately. We see here God's desire to convert even Pharaoh and His sensitivity to the role of peer pressure on men.  

Exo 7:16 You shall tell him, ‘Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to you, saying, Let My people go, that they may serve Me in the wilderness, and behold, until now you haven’t listened-
See on Ex. 34:27. Ex. 7:16 brings out the unity between Moses and Israel by a play on words: “The LORD God of the Hebrews hath sent me [lit. ‘let me go’] unto thee, saying, Let my people go”. “Let go” translates the same Hebrew word as “sent me”. Just as Moses had been let go by Yahweh, so Israel were to be. Likewise, both the Lord Jesus and Israel are called "the elect" (Is. 42:1; 45:4); both are fulfillments of the servant songs in Isaiah.

"Serve Me" could refer specifically to the initial request to keep a feast to Yahweh. But the call was for Israel to be allowed to change masters, from Pharaoh to Yahweh. They changed masters when they crossed the Red Sea, just as Paul says happens when we are baptized (Rom. 6). And the Red Sea crossing represented baptism into Jesus (1 Cor. 10:1,2). Like us, Israel were not radically free to do as they pleased. What happened was that they changed masters; hence the appeal to Pharaoh to let God's people go, that they may serve Him rather than Pharaoh. We too will only find ultimate freedom through this servitude to God's ways, and will finally emerge into the radical liberty of the children of God in the Kingdom age (Rom. 8:21).   

Exo 7:17 Thus says Yahweh, In this you shall know that I am Yahweh. Behold, I will strike with the rod that is in My hand on the waters which are in the river, and they shall be turned to blood-
The signs done by Moses before Pharaoh have evident connection with the later plagues brought upon him- they were all "that you may know" (Ex. 7:17 etc.). The staff, stretched out right hand, snakes, the rod "swallowing" the serpent rods of Egypt (symbols of Pharaoh- Ez. 29:3-5; 32:2) just as the Egyptians were to be swallowed at the Red Sea (Ex. 15:12), leprosy / boils, water / blood all repeat. The signs were thus both an encouragement to believe as well as a warning of judgment to come. Pharaoh was presented with the possibility of either faith, or destruction. Note in passing that God's hardening of that man's heart didn't mean that He made no effort to save him nor appeal to him. It was God's desire that he repent. I suggest the Lord Jesus had God's intentions with Pharaoh in view when He said that He was doing miracles "that you may know that the Son of Man has power to forgive sins" (Mk. 2:10). 

"My hand..." again shows how Yahweh's hand is that of Moses, his rod, the symbol of an obscure workaday life working for his father in law, like a paintbrush or roller for a house painter, becomes God's instrument and the path to salvation.

"You shall know" can be read as a command more than a prediction. It parallels "that you may know that I am Yahweh" (Ex. 9:14). It is even a plea for their repentance and entering relationship with Yahweh along with Israel. For Yahweh has said in Ex. 6 that His people would "know" Him in relationship. His intention was that Egypt and Pharaoh came to relationship with Him. This is certainly how the idea of 'Egyptians coming to know Yahweh' is used in Isaiah: "When they [the Egyptians] cry to the LORD because of oppressors, he will send them a savior, and will defend and deliver them. The LORD will make himself known to the Egyptians; and the Egyptians will know the LORD on that day… The LORD will strike Egypt, striking and healing; they will return to the LORD" (Is. 19:20-22). To "know Yahweh" is to repent, to "return to Yahweh". Yahweh revealed in Ex. 3 and 6 that He wanted His people to "know" Him, to be in relationship with Him, and the plagues show that He wished this for Egypt and even Pharaoh too.

The magicians and surely all Egypt got to a point of recognizing that "this is the finger [power] of God" (Ex. 8:19), but they generally did not come from that to know Yahweh. This recalls how God said in Ex. 6 that He was previously known as God Almighty, El Shaddai, the God of power- but now He was revealing Himself as Yahweh, the God who could be intimately known. The plagues were intended to make Pharaoh know Yahweh (Ex. 8:22); as if God wanted the persecutor of His children to become a repentant member of the family and enter covenant relationship with Him. And there was an overall increase in the gradation of the plagues. Striking with death is used in the death of the livestock [plague 5] and then plague 6 brings boils on men, as if to show that people can also be judged. Egypt are being set up to expect that soon the plagues will mean striking people dead, and not just animals. But the increasing gradation of the plagues appears to stop with the penultimate plague of darkness- because that was in order to make the Egyptians stop and sit at home in darkness and meditate, before the final slaying of the firstborn. All through, God wanted their repentance.

So we can read the plagues as the articulation of the Yahweh Name, which seeks to save as well as uphold integrity. Grace and desire to save is seen all through the plagues, because that is what God's Name is all about. The plagues destroyed all the harvests of the Egyptians. But Goshen wasn't affected, and so when the Israelites left, the Egyptians would have gone to the place of the Hebrews for food. In this we see God's grace.

Exo 7:18 The fish that are in the river shall die, and the river shall become foul; and the Egyptians shall loathe to drink water from the river’-
"Foul" has the sense of being morally obnoxious. The use of this word, with its moral overtones, is appropriate once we perceive that the god represented by the river was being targetted. The intention of the plagues was to turn the people against their own gods, and to Yahweh. The god of the Nile became odious to them, and it was seen to have failed to provide them with water. We see the power of selective memory in that Israel later lamented how they had eaten fish in Egypt, and so wished to return there.

Exo 7:19 Yahweh said to Moses, Tell Aaron, ‘Take your rod, and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, over their streams, and over their pools, and over all their ponds of water, that they may become blood; and there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone’-
"Ponds of water" is NIV "reservoirs". The destruction of the water was a case of "Against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am Yahweh” (Ex. 12:12; 15:11; Num. 33:4). The “gods” are spoken of for a moment as real and existing, in order to show Yahweh’s total superiority over them to the point that they didn’t exist. Note how it was the Egyptian people who were judged (Gen. 15:14); their idols (“gods”) are used by metonymy to stand for those who believed in them. Likewise “demons” is sometimes put by metonymy for those who believed in them (e.g. Mk. 2:32,34). The judgment upon Egypt’s gods is brought out by an otherwise obscure reference in Ex. 7:19 to how “there shall be blood in all the land of Egypt on wood and in stone”. “Wood and stone” is a term usually used in the Bible for idols; and “the Egyptian priests used to wash the images of their gods in water every day early in the morning”. Thus the gods were shown to be effectively dead and bleeding.

Exo 7:20 Moses and Aaron did so, as Yahweh commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and struck the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood-
Blood implies death, and the idea was that the gods associated with the Nile had been effectively slain. All the plagues were intended to lea the Egyptians to ditch their faith in their gods, and accept Yahweh. There is always ultimate spiritual purpose in all God's judgments; they are never to be seen as the lashing out of an offended deity. Yet without doubt this was to remind the Egyptians of their policy 40 years previously of murdering the Hebrew babies in the Nile. They were being shown that effectively, they had turned the river into blood by what they had done. They were being shown what their sins of 40 years ago really looked like. And so God works with men to this day.

Exo 7:21 The fish that were in the river died; and the river became foul, and the Egyptians couldn’t drink water from the river; and the blood was throughout all the land of Egypt-
As noted on :18, "foul" has the sense of being morally obnoxious. The use of this word, with its moral overtones, is appropriate once we perceive that the god represented by the river was being targetted. The spiritually perceptive were intended to realize that if God could manipulate the Nile as He wished, He could do so with the Red Sea. Those who charged into it pursuing the Israelites had refused to learn this obvious lesson. The drying up of waters and death of fish is the language of Babylon's destruction; Judah were asked to believe that as God had acted with Egypt in order to release God's people, so He could do so with Babylon (Is. 50:2).

Exo 7:22 The magicians of Egypt did the same thing with their enchantments; and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he didn’t listen to them; as Yahweh had spoken-
Their claims would have been almost comical; because all the Nile water was made blood, it was impossible for them to take some of it and turn it to blood. But the record does not record a word of this explicitly. Their false claims are recorded uncorrected – to bring home (to the sensitive reader) the power of Yahweh’s triumph over them. It's the same with the language of demons in the NT. And the miracle was clearly aimed at showing that the gods of the Nile had been slain by Yahweh; for the magicians to seek to replicate this was therefore driving them to as it were slay their own gods. 

"Pharaoh's heart was hardened,” is linked grammatically with the previous clause, “the magicians did so”. The fake miracles by the magicians were laughable. But Pharaoh's heart was hardened because he thought that at least something had been said or done in response to Yahweh's claims. And that is the mentality today. It is vaguely hoped or thought that "science" has some answer to theism. The fact that there is some counter argument, no matter how pathetic, hardens unbelievers. So the Biblical account is so absolutely psychologically credible and true to experience today.  

There were so many similarities between Elijah and Moses; Dale Allison points out:
Confronted Ahab (1 Kings 17:1) = Confronted Pharaoh (Ex. 5:1)
Fled into the wilderness fearing for his life (1 Kings 19:3) = Fled into the wilderness fearing for his life (Ex. 2:15)
Miraculously fed “...bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening...” (1 Kings 17:6) = Miraculously fed “...meat to eat in the evening, and bread to the full in the morning...” (Ex. 16:8, 12)
Gathered all Israel to Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:19)=Gathered all Israel to Mount Sinai (Ex. 19:17)
Combated the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:20-40) = Combated the magicians of Pharaoh (Ex. 7:8-13, 20-22; 8:1-7)
Successful in his intercession for Israel to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel (1 Kings 18:36-39) = Successful in his intercession for Israel to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel (Ex. 32:11-14)
Elijah took twelve stones at Carmel “...according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob...” (1 Kings 18:30-32) = Moses had twelve pillars set up at Sinai “...corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel...” (Ex. 24:4)
The Lord accepted Elijah’s offering by sending fire from heaven and consuming it completely. The people threw themselves down on their faces. (1 Kings 18:36-39) = The Lord accepted Moses and Aaron’s offering by sending fire from heaven and consuming it completely. The people threw themselves down on their faces. (Lev. 9:22-24)
By Elijah’s authority 3000 idolatrous prophets were slain (1 Kings 18:40) = By Moses’ authority 3000 idolaters were slain (Ex. 32:25-29)
After killing the prophets of Baal Elijah climbed Carmel to pray. (1 Kings 18:42) = After killing the idolaters Moses climbed Sinai to pray (Ex. 32:30)
Went without food for forty days and forty nights (1 Kings 19:8) = Went without food for forty days and forty nights (Ex. 34:38; Dt. 9:9)
Elijah was in “the cave” on Horeb (=Sinai) when the Lord “passed by” (1 Kings 19: 9-11) = Moses was hidden “in the cleft of the rock” when the Lord passed by Sinai (Ex. 33:21-23)
Elijah saw storm, wind, an earthquake and fire upon Horeb (=Sinai). (1 Kings 19:11-12) = Moses saw storm, wind, an earthquake and fire upon Sinai (Ex. 19:16-20; 20:18; Dt. 4:11; 5:22-27).
Prayed that he might die (1 Kings 19:1-4) = Prayed that he might die. (Num. 11:10-15).
The Lord brought down fire from heaven upon his enemies (2 Kings 1:9-12) = The Lord brought down fire from heaven upon those who rebelled against him (Num. 16; cf. Lev. 10:1-3)
Elijah parted the waters of the Jordan by striking the waters with his cloak and passed over on dry ground. (2 Kings 2:8) = Moses parted the waters of the Red Sea by stretching out his staff and passed over on dry ground (Ex. 14:16, 21-22)
His successor was one who had served him and came to resemble him in many ways, parting the waters of the Jordan as he had ( 2 Kings 2) = His successor was one who had served him and came to resemble him in many ways, parting the waters of the Jordan as he had the Red Sea. (Josh. 3)
Was taken away in the Transjordan (2 Kings 2:9-11) = Died in the Transjordan (Dt. 34:5)
Mysteriously translated (2 Kings 9-18) = Died mysteriously and buried in a valley, but his burial place was unknown. (Dt. 34:6)
The point of these similarities was that the Angel wanted Elijah to be like Moses; to pray for the peoples’ salvation, to return to the people and lead them and teach them. Moses had begged for God’s mercy for His people; but Elijah was so full of self-justification that he prayed against Israel. And so with us, we are potentially led into situations where we are to discern the similarities between us and Bible characters; we are set up with opportunities to respond in a way that reflects how we have learnt the lessons from them. The way the Lord Jesus perceived this in His wilderness temptations is a great example.

Exo 7:23 Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he didn’t even take this to heart-
Because God had hardened his heart (:22), meaning He had removed sensitivity from his conscience. His heart was turned by God, because that was the direction he himself wanted (Ps. 105:25). Pharaoh's response gets increasingly better, confessing sinfulness, asking for prayer, etc. And yet we have to read this as his conscience being increasingly touched, and yet he refused to act upon it. The movement of conscience within him was overcome by the movement of hardness; and as hardness was his dominant desire, it was that which Yahweh confirmed.

The first plagues were intense forms of what was well known in Egypt. At times the Nile did appear reddish because of sediment colorization after flooding. But now it turned to actual blood so that the fish died. After the flood season, frogs appeared around the Nile every year. But now they appeared in huge numbers. God was nudging Egypt to accept Him, although testing Pharaoh as to whether he would just explain away the first plagues as mere natural phenomena. He does the same today. But if ignored or rationalised away, the nudges get louder, harder and more intrusive and painful. Like Pharaoh, they refuse to "fix his attention even on this thing" (:23 LXX). Spiritual focus is in short supply in the natural man. But if we do make the effort to focus, and that is one purpose of the breaking of bread, then the message is clear and powerful.   

Exo 7:24 All the Egyptians dug around the river for water to drink; for they couldn’t drink of the water of the river-
Pharaoh was condemned and Egypt overthrown because of his hard heart- but the very word is used to describe the hardness of Israel's heart at the time (Ex. 32:9; 33:3-5; 34:9). Israel were really no better than Egypt- just as Egypt was plagued "so that they could not drink the water" (Ex. 7:24), so we find Israel in the same situation right after leaving Egypt (Ex. 15:23). As the Egyptians were stripped of their jewellery, so Israel stripped themselves of it before the golden calf (Ex. 12:36; 33:6). The God who knows the future knew all this. So we see that He didn't save Israel because they were soft hearted, and Egypt were hard hearted. Most were hard hearted, but God therefore saved Israel by grace.

Exo 7:25 Seven days were fulfilled, after Yahweh had struck the river-
This period was intended to allow the Egyptians to meditate upon what had been done. The language of Yahweh striking is appropriate to the striking of a person; the idea was consistently that the gods supposedly behind the Nile had been slain.