First plague: Blood River
God puts Moses in charge1The LORD told Moses, “I want you to know that I’m giving you the power of God over Pharaoh. Your brother Aaron will serve as your prophet. 2I want you to tell Aaron the orders I’m giving. Then, your brother will tell Pharaoh to let the Israelite people leave Egypt. 3But I’m going to make Pharaoh more stubborn than he already is. I’m going to do this to create many opportunities for me to show everyone the proof of my power in Egypt.
4Pharaoh won’t listen to you. But I’m going to step in and get my people out of there. I’m going to do this by bringing justice to Egypt. 5When I do that, when I pass judgment on the Egyptians throughout the nation and free the Israelites, Egyptians will finally realize that I am the LORD.”
6Moses and Aaron did what the LORD told them to do. 7Moses was 80 years old and Aaron was 83 when they delivered God’s demand to Pharaoh.
A stick becomes a snake8The LORD gave Moses and Aaron these instructions. 9“Pharaoh will say, ‘Prove your power with a miraculous sign.’ When he does, I want Moses to tell Aaron, ‘Toss your walking stick down in front of Pharaoh.’ It will turn into a snake.” 10So, Moses and Aaron met with Pharaoh. They did what the LORD told them to do. Aaron dropped the walking stick on the floor and it morphed into a snake.
11Pharaoh called in his scholarly sages, magicians, along with sorcerers who specialized in secret arts. These people worked a spell that did what Moses and Aaron had done. They turned a stick into a snake. 12In fact, each one of those people threw down a stick, and each stick turned into a snake. But the snake from Aaron’s stick swallowed the others. 13Yet Pharaoh’s stubborn streak grew thicker. He refused to listen further, just as the LORD predicted.
Moses waits for king at the Nile14The LORD told Moses, “Pharaoh is stubborn. He has no intention of letting the people go. 15What I want you to do next is wait for Pharaoh in the morning, when he goes down to the Nile River. Wait on the bank with the same walking stick that turned into a snake. 16Tell him, “The LORD, who is God of the Hebrews, sent me to deliver this message to you: ‘I’ve told you to let my people go so they can worship me in the desert. But you haven’t taken me seriously.’ 17So this is what the LORD says he will do: “When you see what I am about to do you will know that I am the LORD. Look at this. I’m going to put my hand on this walking stick, and when the stick touches the water, the Nile River will turn to blood. 18The fish will die. The water will stink. And your Egyptian people won’t be able to drink it anymore”
Blood Nile19The LORD told Moses to tell Aaron, “Hold your walking stick above the water. All the freshwater in Egypt will turn to blood. That includes rivers, ponds, and irrigation ditches—all the water. It will all turn to blood. Even water stored in stone jars and wooden buckets. 20Moses and Aaron did exactly what the LORD told them to do. Aaron held the walking stick above the water. When he touched the stick into the water, while Pharaoh and his entourage watched, the Nile turned into blood.
21The fish died. The water stunk. And the Egyptian people couldn’t stand to drink it. The water everywhere had turned into blood. 22Egyptian magicians managed to turn water into blood, too. So, Pharaoh remained unimpressed with the LORD, and he grew even more stubborn, as the LORD predicted. 23Pharaoh went back to his palace and moved on to other matters. 24For drinking water, Egyptians had to dig wells near the river. 25This continued for a week.
A prophet’s job in the Bible was to deliver God’s message to the people. Aaron was the spokesman God appointed for Moses, though Moses also often spoke for himself (Exodus 4:16).
Did the Nile literally turn into blood? Although the original Hebrew word, dam, means blood, it can also mean bloodlike or blood-colored. Scholars offer many theories about what happened. Some argue that in the Old Testament, the word dam always refers only to the blood of people or animals. Others offer theories about God using natural forces to turn the water red: strong currents stirring up red sediment in the soil; flooding upstream pulls in contaminated swamp water with organisms that produce an affect similar to the Red Tide.
BY ROBERT V. HUBER
In preparing Moses for his second encounter with Pharaoh, God is careful to let Moses know that he must tell Aaron what to say and that Aaron must repeat Moses’ words and not speak on his own. As he puts it, “Your brother Aaron will serve as your prophet” (Exodus 7:1). What do you think God means by that?
The LORD tells Moses that he is going to make Pharaoh even more stubborn than he already is in refusing to release the Israelites to go on a pilgrimage. His reason for doing this, God says, is to show everyone the proof of his power in Egypt. What’s the point? Why do you think God didn’t immediately compel Pharaoh to release the Hebrews? Wouldn’t that have shown his strength, too?
Doing as God instructed, Aaron takes what some might see as a version of a magic wand (actually, a mere shepherd’s staff) and works the first of God’s wonders. Aaron turns his staff into a snake. To his dismay, however, the magicians from Pharaoh’s court also manage to turn sticks into snakes. What are we supposed to make of that?
Bible scholars argue over whether the Nile actually turned into blood, as stated in most translations of the Bible, or was merely discolored and polluted through some other process. (See the footnote for Exodus 7:17). Some say it doesn’t really matter if the water was blood or just looked like blood. What do you think was the point of this unique plague? Egypt had seen locust and frog infestations before. Flies and gnats, too. But a blood-red Nile, probably not.
What do you make of the report that the Egyptian magicians are able to turn water into blood, as well?
LIFE APPLICATION. Pharaoh didn’t give God the credit for what God did. The king didn’t recognize God’s work when he saw it. When have you seen what you believe was God at work in your life or in the life of someone you know?