"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."
I. ITS SIGNIFICANCE.
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.
III. ITS EFFECT UPON THE MONARCH.
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.
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.
III. THEIR AGES WOULD BE AN INCENTIVE TO FIDELITY, AS THEY HAD SPENT THE YOUNGER PART OF LIFE, AND WOULD BE FORCEFULLY REMINDED OF THE FUTURE.
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)
(W. H. Taylor, D. D.)
PeopleAaron, Egyptians, Israelites, Moses, Pharaoh
PlacesEgypt, Nile River
TopicsAaron, Becometh, Cast, Hast, Miracle, Monster, Perform, Pharaoh, Prove, Rod, Saying, Says, Serpent, Snake, Speak, Speaketh, Speaks, Staff, Throw, Wonder, Working, Yourselves
Outline1. 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 ThemesExodus 7:8-12
LibraryThe 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.
The Hardening in the Sacred Scripture.
Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity Paul's Care and Prayer for the Church.
Exposition of Chap. Iii. (ii. 28-32. )
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