Ex. 7:14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is unyielding; he refuses to let the people go. 15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning as he goes out to the river. Confront him on the bank of the Nile, and take in your hand the staff that was changed into a snake. 16 Then say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness. But until now you have not listened. 17 This is what the Lord says: By this you will know that I am the Lord: With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood. 18 The fish in the Nile will die, and the river will stink; the Egyptians will not be able to drink its water.’”
19 The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt—over the streams and canals, over the ponds and all the reservoirs—and they will turn to blood.’ Blood will be everywhere in Egypt, even in vessels[a] of wood and stone.”
20 Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord had commanded. He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood. 21 The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt.
22 But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharaoh’s heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said. 23 Instead, he turned and went into his palace, and did not take even this to heart. 24 And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile to get drinking water, because they could not drink the water of the river.
We enter now into a series on the plagues of Egypt and we do so, in part,
In order to see how God is a God who delivers His people
In order to see how God deals with the wicked who oppress His people
In order to see how God is true to His promises
In order to see how the pseudo gods are no gods at all
These and other realities will be brought to light as we consider these ten plagues against Egypt.
In order to provide the background to these plagues we are reminded that Israel went down into Egypt in order to escape a famine. God had set this all up via the life of the patriarch Joseph which begins this drama w/ being sold into slavery. We could well say that Israel’s occupation in Egypt begins with Joseph in slavery and ends in Joseph’s people being delivered from slavery.
Israel, as a separate people, are given the best of the land in Egypt so that Israel would not get genetically lost in Egypt. However eventually there arose a Pharoah over Egypt, who did not know Joseph (Ex. 1:8) and because of the threat that Pharoah viewed Israel that Pharaoh made Israel slaves in Egypt.
With the passage of time Israel’s bondage became so onerous that they cried out and God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.
At this point God rolls into motion what He had determined from eternity past. He rolls into motion the deliverance of His people from the great and mighty Egyptian empire. God unseen enters into the cosmic ring to absolutely enervate and disembowel the gods of Egypt.
That is was a battle between God and the gods of Egypt is testified to over and over again in Scripture. Here are some examples;
Ex. 12:12 For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and fatally strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the human firstborn to animals; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the Lord.
Later, Jethro speaking to Moses
Ex. 18:11 “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.”
Numbers 33:4 for the Lord had brought judgment on their gods.
Now as moderns we don’t think in these terms any longer. We moderns think we are too sophisticated to have gods and so all of this kind of language is just the stuff of myths or legends.
This is proven by the fact that many liberal commentaries do backflips in order to prove that all of these plagues, including this first plague, was a natural occurrence.
Remember, what you have been taught on this score. The liberal give naturalist interpretations because they begin their inquiry by presupposing that the supernatural cannot be true and since the supernatural cannot be true other explanations have to be found. For these anti-Christs the explanation of this supernatural reality are
1.) Astronomy view — Accounts for the Exodus events as the result of comets hitting the earth.
2.) Geological view — Accounts for the Exodus events as the result of volcanic eruptions or tidal waves
3) Seasonal view — The Nile hit a supercharged high tide water mark whereupon a chain reaction of plague events occurred.
In this 1st plague we are looking at we get the explanation that the Nile turned red because of minute fungi or perhaps because of tiny reddish insects that had overbred.
Anything to avoid a conclusion that all this happened by the hand of God (Ex. 7:5).
As your Pastor allow me to encourage you in the years to come to never make a home in a Church where any of the Leadership takes up this view of the supernatural.
So, as we said we have before us in the plagues an example of God going to war against His Egyptian competition.
We see that first in this text with the mention of Pharoah. In the Egyptian Pantheon Pharoah was a god. Ancient Egyptian texts characteristically describe Pharoah’s power in terms of “Pharoah’s strong hand,” “Pharoah being the possessor of a strong arm” and “Pharoah as the one who destroys the enemies with his arm.” These are the descriptors of a god and we know that because the Exodus account will speak the same way about Yahweh who is opposing Pharoah.
… for by [b]a powerful hand the Lord brought you out from this place. Ex. 13:3
Ex. 6:6 Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the labors of the Egyptians, and I will rescue you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm, and with great judgments.
That Pharoah was an Egyptian god whom Yahweh is taking to the woodshed is also testified to by the fact that Pharoah was understood as the one who in the Egyptian mindset was responsible to maintain cosmic order. Through the plagues Yahweh is overturning the Egyptian cosmic order. With each plague Yahweh is casually whittling away at the perceived godlike power of Pharoah to maintain the cosmic order. With each plague the God of the Bible is mocking Pharoah as god.
Now there is another wrinkle here that is going on between God and Pharoah and that is that one of the symbols of power that Pharoah wore on his crown. When Moses confronts Pharoah there stands Pharoah as the seed of the serpent adorned with serpent power. The Egyptian Pharaohs wore a headdress with a serpent in the form of a cobra, and it was embroidered on the robes of princes.
So, not only do we find Pharoah taken as a God but we find him as the embodiment of the seed of the serpent rising up to strike Israel as the seed of the woman. This is Genesis 3:15 in living action.
God speaks to the serpent;
“And I will put warfare
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”
So, in this warfare between the gods of Egypt and Yahweh there is also redemptive history that is in bold relief. Yahweh has raised up a deliverer (Moses) to deliver His people from the clutches of the seed of the Serpent with the purpose of making His name known to Pharoah who had said that he had not heard of the God of the Hebrews (Ex. 5:2).
By this you will know that I am the Lord: (Ex. 7:17)
There is another Egyptian God to deal with in this text besides Pharoah and that is the river Nile. The Nile was the lifeline of Egypt. Without it Egypt would have been one with the deserts surrounding it. The Nile was the center of many of its religious ideas and many temple to various gods were built on the shores of the Nile. Many of the gods of Egypt were associated with the Nile;
The god Khnum was considered to be the guardian of the Nile sources
The god was the ‘spirit of the Nile’ and its dynamic essence
The oldest Egyptian text to mention Hapi was “Texts of Unas” where Hapi is mentioned as “Hep.” Hapi was believed to be the god of the Nile River which played the most important role in constructing the Egyptian civilization. It was believed that ‘Hapi’ actually was the name of Nile River during the pre-dynastic period in Egypt. Generally, he was considered as the god of water and fertility.
One of the greatest gods in the Egyptian pantheon was Osiris and the Egyptians believed that the river Nile was his bloodstream. When Yahweh turns the Nile to blood there is then a certain mocking factor to this. It is as if Yahweh is saying, “You think the Nile is Osiris’s blood. Fine! Let it be turned to blood.”
Of course this action reverses the effect of the Nile from being a blessing to the Egyptians to being a curse. They could not drink the water. It gave off a foul odor. The fish could not died.
The Egyptians had sang hymns to the Nile
“O sacred Nile
The bringer of food
Rich in provisions
Creator of all good
Lord and Majesty
Sweet of fragrance”
Yahweh had given a solid kick in the teeth to more than a few Egyptian gods.
And what of these gods of Egypt. Let us note something here about them;
What we see here is that all the gods of Egypt are, are a projection of Egypt collectively speaking.
One thing I hope to tease out in this series is the fact that all peoples and cultures are only a reflection of the Gods that they project reality onto. We will see that that was true of Egypt. Egypt by means of collective projection created their own gods. What the Egyptians did is that they supernaturalized the natural — they invested the natural with the supernatural — and in doing so made gods out of the natural realm.
The fundamental sin of Egypt was to see the world in naturalistic terms. Whatever gods there were to the Egyptians, were merely the projections of the Egyptians upon the natural world.
This is a point to camp on for a moment because this is the reality of all false gods that people serve, whether ancient or modern. People project their own desires and wishes and by that action give life and reality to that which has no life or reality on its own. The false gods people and peoples serve have no reality. In our language today we would say that are all merely social constructs.
We see that with this first plague. Both Pharoah and the Nile were natural phenomena and yet both were invested with the supernatural and were so treated as one of the 80 or so gods that belonged to the pantheon of Egyptian gods.
This should pause us to ask what are the fake gods in our culture that we have, by means of projection, imbued with the supernatural?
What of our Scientism wherein we project divinity upon something that clearly is only a natural phenomenon? What of our technology wherein we do the same?
We laugh and make fun of the ancient Egyptians for their turning crocodiles, rivers, hippopotami, snakes, frogs and vultures into gods but how far are we from just that by turning psychology, management techniques, and the FEDS into gods by means of projecting the supernatural upon them.
We should also note, that all these Egyptian gods running around demonstrates once again that all cultures are hopelessly expressive of the gods they serve. Modern man in the West likes to pretend that his culture isn’t an expression of the gods he serves and yet a how far removed are we really from the Egyptians? It was clearly the case for the Egyptians that in Pharoah they lived and moved and had their being. Is it any less the case for the Modern West that we look to the State as our god?
Well… let us consider one more reality before leaving off this morning.
Many scholars believe, and I submit that they make a good case that what is going on with the plagues including this turning water to blood is that Yahweh is doing to Egypt a reverse of what he did in Creation. The argument is that just as Yahweh ordered the universe in creation so Yahweh is disordering and undoing creation as applied to the Egyptian world. Now we have already hinted at this but note here some of the Biblical evidence particularly as it applies to the first plague of blood;
To initiate the plague of blood, we are told that Aaron is to take his staff and hold it over all of Egypt’s bodies (or gatherings) of water. The Hebrew word used in Exodus 7:19 to describe the “bodies” or “gatherings” of water is מקוה the same word that appears in the opening chapters of Genesis when God creates the seas:
בראשית א:י וַיִּקְרָא אֱלֹהִים לַיַּבָּשָׁה אֶרֶץ וּלְמִקְוֵה הַמַּיִם קָרָא יַמִּים וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים כִּי טוֹב
In Gen 1:10 God called the dry land Earth, and the gatherings (מקוה) of waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
The use of the unusual Hebrew word מקוה in connection with the plague of blood cannot fail to evoke an association with the creation of the seas in Genesis 1:10 and indicates the cosmic import of the plague.
Similarly, the expression in Exodus 7:19 “Let them be(come) blood” (וְהָיָה דָם) echoes the use of the same verb (though not in the exact same form owing to a different linguistic context), “Let there be(come)” (יְהִי), in the creation story in Genesis.
However, in contrast to the creation, where the primeval waters are not altered by a creative act, the first plague demonstrates that God is able to change the very nature of things.
God is visiting chaos upon the Egyptians. He is uncreating them.
This is altogether appropriate given that Egypt refuses to live in God’s reality. Egypt has created a false reality to live in and now God is uncreating their false reality. He is disabusing them of their social constructs. He is essence turning them over to their sin.
“You want to live in a false reality… I’ll take from you real reality and you let me know how that goes.”
This next observation is probably controversial, but you’ll be hearing it week to week so we should get it on the table. I think what is going on here is God is mocking the Hades out of the Egyptians. In this battle between the Egyptian gods and Yahweh God is rubbing their pretentious Egyptian noses in their profoundly stupid social constructs. What’s more it is a polemical mockery.
And why does he do all this?
Because God will not share His glory with another. God will not be mocked which is what all idolatry is. Idolatry is a mocking of God.
God does this to rescue a people who are not any better than the Egyptians. He has set His love upon Israel and it is that love alone … a love that was constantly unrequited that drove God to deliver His people.
It is the same love, grace and compassion that provided delivery for us in our houses of bondage. God could have rightly left us in our sin and misery but out of His great love He provided a deliverer for us and rescued from the slavery of sin. It is the character of God to love because He loves. It is the character of God to rain nuclear vengeance upon those who touch the apple of His eye.
Remember vs. 7. He does all this to make Himself known.