Exodus 7, snakes and the first plague

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by Helen, Aug 1, 2002.

  1. Helen

    Helen
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    Chapter 7 starts with the Lord giving Moses and Aaron a brief sketch of what to expect: God will harden Pharaoh's heart and none of the miraculous signs from God will sway the king. But then the Lord will bring out the Israelites and, in so doing, the Egyptians will know that the God of the Israelites is a whole lot more God than their idols! And then there is the comment that Moses was 80 and Aaron 83 when this took place. Miriam, who would also be with them, would have been even older, for it was she who had watched her little brother's basket on the Nile that fateful day when the Pharaoh's daughter had seen it!

    Next, we've got a little problem with the English language again -- in all translations. In Exodus 4, Moses was told to throw down his staff, and it became a snake. Here in Exodus 7, Aaron is to throw down his staff and it becomes a snake.

    Two different words for snake, folks!

    In Exodus 4, the word was nahas, meaning snake as you and I know them, crawling along the ground, and also used for a poisonous snake, which we are presuming it was in Exodus 4 because Moses ran from it.

    In Exodus 7, Aaron's rod becomes a tanniyn, or monster! It is the same word used in Genesis 1 denoting the great creatures of the sea! It is also translated several times, however, as snake.

    The magicians' rods also become 'tanniyn'. So what they actually became is unknown to us. HOW they became this thing was either through sleight of hand or demonic arts (the magicians, not Aaron!).

    So Aaron's staff and Moses' staff were changed into two different things by the Lord. This is emphasized a little later in chapter seven, verse 15, when the Lord tells MOSES to meet Pharaoh in the morning going down to the Nile and to take his (Moses') staff with him and throw it to the ground and it will become a nahas again.

    However it is the raising of AARON's staff that turns the waters to blood.

    Were they really blood? Many will say yes. I would suggest that if something appears rather thick, red, and salty, you might just assume it was blood without a lab test to verify it...

    In other words, the waters on the surface of the ground gave the appearance and consistency of blood for the first plague.

    There are two interesting points here: the magicians were able to do the same, and the people had to dig for fresh water.

    To me this indicates that the event was timed by Aaron's rod, but not caused by it, but rather from something outside, as the magicians seemed to be able to do the same thing. This is possibly supported by the fact that only surface water was affected; the underground water remained pure. Even water in buckets and jars became this blood-type of thing.

    It may have been a flat-out miracle with no external 'cause' whatsoever. I will never deny that. However, given that as a distinct possibility, I am also curious about other possibilities. There have been a number of theories proposed through time: that we passed through the tail of a comet at that point and the material in the tail did this to the waters; that the waters were contaminated by a massive volcanic explosion not far away (a second explosion would explain the 'trick' accomplished by the court magicians); and a number of other things.

    Whatever it was killed the fish. And, fish being fish, they started to rot almost instantly, and it is because of the rot smell that the Bible tells us the people could not drink the water of the Nile. We often assume it is because it looked like blood, but that is not the reason the Bible gives!

    And Pharaoh? He refused to pay attention to this problem and the Bible says his heart became hard, just as the Lord had said. What did he do? Retreated into his palace, into his own 'comfort zone' while his people were frantically digging along the banks of the Nile looking for uncontaminated water to drink!
     
  2. Helen

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    Here is some additional material on the first plague. My husband clued me into something that led to several days of research. The ten plagues have been connected by a number of commentators to ten of the Egyptian deities. There are several commentators who seem to go overboard on this subject, and I would rather stay somewhat conservative in my approach, but there definitely is something to this connection which I was not aware of before.

    The Egyptians depended on the Nile as their life source. Thus, the deity connected with the Nile, Hapi (or Hapy) was a revered goddess. There is a distinct possibility that the Nile had failed to flood to its full extent a year or two before Moses' birth, or even the year of his birth, and that this was the excuse the Pharaoh used to throw the baby boys into the Nile to be drowned. It was also the strategy of conquerors in those times to kill all or a good percentage of the males in the conquered population so that they could not rise up against their conquerors. This would definitely include the baby boys.

    As a side note here, it then becomes apparent that when Herod killed all the baby boys in the Bethlehem area after he found out the 'rumor' about the King of the Jews being born that this was not a unique event in history!

    But now Moses is a grown man. The Egyptians did not involve themselves in blood sacrifices -- they were disgusted by blood and evidently thought such sacrifices barbaric. (So they just threw the babies into the Nile instead...)

    So when the Nile River and the surface waters became either blood or blood-like this struck at their deity, their crop irrigation, their sensibilities, and their life itself, for fish was the main source of protein, and the fish all died.

    All their prayers to their Nile God Hapi were of no avail.

    One interesting note here: there are several commentators who claim that Moses then cleared the waters, but I find no evidence of that in the text. Other plagues were stopped, but I did not see where the waters were cleared. The river would have kept flowing, however, so that one presumes the waters would have cleared by themselves at some point in time.

    ==========

    A Jewish commentary on this first plague is interesting: "the first plague--blood--struck the Nile because, according to one midrash, the Egyptians "cast the Israelites' children into the sea" (Mishnat Rabbi Eliezer, 19)
    from: http://www.biu.ac.il/JH/Eparasha/bo/gre.html

    [ August 11, 2002, 04:49 PM: Message edited by: Helen ]
     
  3. Clint Kritzer

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