Exodus 7:9
"When Pharaoh tells you, 'Perform a miracle,' you are to say to Aaron, 'Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh,' and it will become a serpent."
The Great ConflictH.T. Robjohns Exodus 7:1-25
The Lord, He is GodG.A. Goodhart Exodus 7:1-25
The Credentials of God's Ambassadors to the FrowardJ. Urquhart Exodus 7:8-13
The First Sign to Pharaoh: the Rod Becomes a SerpentD. Young Exodus 7:8-13
The Rod Turned into a SerpentJ. Orr Exodus 7:8-14

On this sign, notice -


1. Its distinctness from the similar sign wrought for the conviction of the Israelites. On the meaning of the latter, see Exodus 4:1-6. There the serpent into which the rod was turned seemed to denote the power of the monarch - the royal and divine power of Egypt - of which the serpent was an Egyptian emblem. However threatening the aspect of this power to Moses and the Israelites, the sign taught them not to fear it, and promised victory over -it. Here, on the contrary, the serpent is a menace to Pharaoh. It speaks to him in his own language, and tells him of a royal and Divine power opposed to his which he will do well not to provoke. The sign was harmless in itself, but menacing in its import.

2. Its relation to Egyptian magic. On this, see the exposition. The magicians produced an imitation of the miracle, but this very circumstance was turned into an occasion of greater humiliation to them. "Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods." The truth taught was the impotence of magic arts as opposed to the power of Jehovah. Royalty, divinity, magic, all are represented as overthrown in this significant marvel. Note - God seldom destroys a sinner without first warning him. The warnings are such that, if taken in time, worse consequences may be escaped. Conscience warns, the Spirit warns, providence warns. Red danger-signals stand at the opening of every path of crime, if the deluded transgressor would but take heed to them.

II. ITS EVIDENTIAL VALUE. It was ordered to be wrought in answer to Pharaoh's demand for a miracle (ver. 9). Presumably, Pharaoh made the request, then the wonder was performed. Note here -

1. The human mind naturally craves for miracle as an evidence of revelation. The evidence of outward miracle is not the highest, but neither' should it be disparaged. It is the kind of evidence which minds at an inferior stage of development are most capable of appreciating, while, in connection with other circumstances, it is a powerful confirmation to the faith even of those who might possibly dispense with it. Christ's repeated refusal of a sign was not based upon the principle that signs were unnecessary, but upon the fact that a superabundance of signs had already been given. A faith resting merely on miracles (John 2:23, 24) may be destitute of moral worth, but miracles had their value in certifying the source of the message, as well as in arousing attention, and they were themselves vehicles of moral teaching.

2. God satisfies this craving of the mind by granting the evidence required. It does not lessen, but greatly enhances, the value of this evidence that most of the miracles of Scripture are not merely credentials of the revelation, but constitutive parts of it. See this truth wrought out in the chapter on "The Function of Miracle in Revelation' in Dr. Alex. Bruce's book, 'The Chief End of Revelation.' This able writer, however, is unnecessarily vehement in his polemic against the view that miracles are also wrought in proof of revelation; especially as in the latter part of his discussion he really admits all that the advocates of the so-called "traditional" view would think worth contending for. "Take away miracle from a revelation of grace, and the revelation can hardly be known for what it is... With the miracles retained as an essential part of the story, a gracious purpose towards a chosen people is indubitable; without them, it is very doubtful indeed Retain the miracles, and the gracious purpose is stringently proved, and the contrary opinion excluded as untenable. The miracles and the purpose thus stand or fall together. To certify, beyond all doubt, a gracious purpose, miracle is necessary. (pp. 175-177). In the case before us, the evidential function must be allowed to be the leading one.

3. Pharaoh's request for the miracle. It is a significant circumstance that whereas on the previous occasion (Exodus 5:1-5) Pharaoh made no request for a sign, he asks for one at this second interview. The unexpected reappearance of these two men, renewing their former demand, and doing so with even more emphasis and decision than at first, must have produced a startling effect upon him. Truth, to a certain extent, carries its own credentials with it. There must have been that in the manner and speech of these grave and aged men (ver. 7) which repelled the hypothesis that they were impostors. Probably Pharaoh had never been quite sure that their mission was mere pretence. A secret fear of the God whose worshippers he knew he was maltreating may have mingled with his thoughts, and kept him in vague uneasiness. He may thus have been more disturbed by the former demand than he cared to allow, and now thought it prudent to satisfy himself further. Professed disbelief in the Bible is in the same way often accompanied by a lurking suspicion that there is more in its teaching than is admitted.


1. He permitted himself to be imposed on by the counterfeit of the magicians. Their imitation of the miracle furnished him with a plausible excuse for ascribing the work to magic. It gave him a pretext for unbelief. He wished one, and he got it. He ignored the strong points in the evidence, and fixed on the partial resemblance to the miracle in the feats of his tricksters. There were at least three circumstances which should have made him pause, and, if not convinced, ask for further proof.

(1) The miracle of Moses and Aaron was not done by enchantments.

(2) The men who did the wonder themselves asserted that it was wrought by Divine power.

(3) The superiority of their power to that of the magicians was evinced by Aaron's rod swallowing up the rods of the others. And seeing that the miracle of God's messengers was real, while that of the magicians was (so far as we can judge) but a juggler's trick, there were probably numerous other circumstances of difference between them, on which, had Pharaoh been anxious to ascertain the truth, his mind would naturally have rested. But Pharaoh's mind was not honest. He wished to disbelieve, and he did it.

2. He refused the request. He hardened himself, i.e. the unwillingness of his heart to look at the truth, now that it had got something to stay itself upon, solidified into a fixed, hard determination to resist the demand made upon him. Note -

(1) God tries men's dispositions by furnishing them with evidence which, while abundantly sufficient to convince minds that are honest, leaves numerous loopholes of escape to those indisposed to receive it.

(2) It is the easiest thing in the world, if one wants to do it, to find pretexts for unbelief. We are far from asserting that all doubt is dishonest, but it is unquestionable that under the cloak of honest intellectual inquiry a great dean that is not honest is frequently concealed. To a mind unwilling to be convinced, there is nothing easier than to evade evidence. Specious counter-arguments are never far to seek. Any specious reply to Christian books, any naturalistic hypothesis, any flimsy parallel, will serve the purpose. The text directs attention to the method of false parallels - a favourite one with modern sceptics. Parallels are hunted up between Christianity and the ethnic religions. Superficial resemblances in ethics, doctrine and ritual, are laid hold upon and magnified. Christ is compared with Buddha and Confucius, or his miracles are put in comparison with the ecclesiastical miracles of the middle ages. And thus his religion is supposed to be reduced to the naturalistic level. The defeat of all such attempts is shadowed forth in the miracle before us. - J.O.

Fourscore years old.
Their ages would have an important bearing toward the work of these two men.

I. THEIR AGES WOULD INDICATE THAT THEY WERE NOT LIKELY TO BE MISLED BY THE ENTHUSIASM OF YOUTH. The world is slow to take young men into its confidence. It soon smiles at their visions, and laughs at their enthusiastic hopes.

II. THEIR AGES WOULD BE LIKELY TO COMMAND THE RESPECT OF THOSE WITH WHOM THEY HAD TO DO. The world wants men of tried energy and long experience to achieve its moral emancipation; men in whom hot passion has calmed into a settled force.


(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

Let us learn not to be impatient for the discovery of our true lifework. Moses was eighty years old before he entered upon that noble career by which he became the emancipator and educator of his nation. Two-thirds of his days were gone before he really touched that which was his great, distinctive, and peculiar labour, and his enterprise was all the more gloriously accomplished by reason of the delay. Nor is this a solitary instance. The Lord Jesus Himself lived thirty years, during most of which He was in training for a public ministry, which lasted only two-and-forty months. John Knox never entered a pulpit until he was over forty years of age; and much of the fire and energy of his preaching was owing to the fact that the flame had been so long pent up within his breast. Havelock was a dreary while a mere lieutenant, held back by the iniquitous system of purchase, which was so long in vogue in the English army; but, as it happened, that was only a life-long apprenticeship, by which he was enabled all the more efficiently to become, at length, the saviour of the Indian Empire. So let no one chafe and fret over the delay which seems evermore to keep him from doing anything to purpose for the world and his Lord. The opportunity will come in its own season. It does come, sooner or later, to every man; and it is well if, when at length he hears the voice calling, "Moses! Moses!" he is ready with the answer, "Here am I." For while I would comfort you with the assurance that the hour will come, I do not mean that you should be idle until it strikes. No; for if you adopt such a plan, the certainty is that you will not hear its stroke, or that you will not be ready to begin at its call. The true principle is to do with your might that which is lying at your hand day by day, in the firm conviction that you are thereby training yourself into fitness for your future vocation.

(W. H. Taylor, D. D.)

Aaron, Egyptians, Israelites, Moses, Pharaoh
Egypt, Nile River
Aaron, Becometh, Cast, Hast, Miracle, Monster, Perform, Pharaoh, Prove, Rod, Saying, Says, Serpent, Snake, Speak, Speaketh, Speaks, Staff, Throw, Wonder, Working, Yourselves
1. Moses and Aaron are encouraged to go again to Pharaoh
8. Aaron's rod is turned into a serpent
11. The sorcerers do the like; but their rods are swallowed up by Aaron's
13. Pharaoh's heart is hardened
14. God's message to Pharaoh
19. The river is turned into blood; and the consequent distress of the Egyptians

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Exodus 7:8-12

     1449   signs, purposes

Exodus 7:8-24

     5593   trial

Exodus 7:9-13

     4687   snake

The History of the Prophetic Sermons, Epistles, and Apocalypses
[Sidenote: Real character and aims of the prophets] To understand and rightly interpret the prophetic writings of the Old Testament it is necessary to cast aside a false impression as to the character of the prophets which is widely prevalent. They were not foretellers, but forth-tellers. Instead of being vague dreamers, in imagination living far in the distant future, they were most emphatically men of their own times, enlightened and devoted patriots, social and ethical reformers, and spiritual
Charles Foster Kent—The Origin & Permanent Value of the Old Testament

Letter Lxxxv. To Paulinus.
Paulinus had asked Jerome two questions, (1) how can certain passages of scripture (Exod. vii. 13; Rom. ix. 16) be reconciled with Free Will? and (2) Why are the children of believers said to be holy (1 Cor. vii. 14) apart from baptismal grace? For the first of these questions Jerome refers Paulinus to his version (newly made) of Origen's treatise, On First Principles. For the second he quotes the explanation of Tertullian. Written in 400 a.d. 1. Your words urge me to write to you but your eloquence
St. Jerome—The Principal Works of St. Jerome

The Hardening in the Sacred Scripture.
"He hath hardened their heart."-- John xii. 40. The Scripture teaches positively that the hardening and "darkening of their foolish heart" is a divine, intentional act. This is plainly evident from God's charge to Moses concerning the king of Egypt: "Thou shalt speak all that I command thee; and I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply My signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh shall not harken unto you, and I will lay My hand upon Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the
Abraham Kuyper—The Work of the Holy Spirit

Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity Paul's Care and Prayer for the Church.
Text: Ephesians 3, 13-21. 13. Wherefore I ask that ye may not faint at my tribulations for you, which are your glory. 14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 and that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that ye may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man; 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be strong
Martin Luther—Epistle Sermons, Vol. III

Exposition of Chap. Iii. (ii. 28-32. )
Ver. 1. "And it shall come to pass, afterwards, I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy; your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions." The communication of the Spirit of God was the constant prerogative of the Covenant-people. Indeed, the very idea of such a people necessarily requires it. For the Spirit of God is the only inward bond betwixt Him and that which is created; a Covenant-people, therefore, without such an inward
Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg—Christology of the Old Testament

The book of Exodus--so named in the Greek version from the march of Israel out of Egypt--opens upon a scene of oppression very different from the prosperity and triumph in which Genesis had closed. Israel is being cruelly crushed by the new dynasty which has arisen in Egypt (i.) and the story of the book is the story of her redemption. Ultimately it is Israel's God that is her redeemer, but He operates largely by human means; and the first step is the preparation of a deliverer, Moses, whose parentage,
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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