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The L ord said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. 2You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his land. 3But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and I will multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. 4When Pharaoh does not listen to you, I will lay my hand upon Egypt and bring my people the Israelites, company by company, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. 5The Egyptians shall know that I am the L ord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out from among them.” 6Moses and Aaron did so; they did just as the L ord commanded them. 7Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three when they spoke to Pharaoh.

Aaron’s Miraculous Rod

8 The L ord said to Moses and Aaron, 9“When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Perform a wonder,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh, and it will become a snake.’ ” 10So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did as the L ord had commanded; Aaron threw down his staff before Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. 11Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers; and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same by their secret arts. 12Each one threw down his staff, and they became snakes; but Aaron’s staff swallowed up theirs. 13Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the L ord had said.

The First Plague: Water Turned to Blood

14 Then the L ord said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is hardened; he refuses to let the people go. 15Go to Pharaoh in the morning, as he is going out to the water; stand by at the river bank to meet him, and take in your hand the staff that was turned into a snake. 16Say to him, ‘The L ord, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you to say, “Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness.” But until now you have not listened. 17Thus says the L ord, “By this you shall know that I am the L ord.” See, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall be turned to blood. 18The fish in the river shall die, the river itself shall stink, and the Egyptians shall be unable to drink water from the Nile.’ ” 19The L ord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt—over its rivers, its canals, and its ponds, and all its pools of water—so that they may become blood; and there shall be blood throughout the whole land of Egypt, even in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.’ ”

20 Moses and Aaron did just as the L ord commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and of his officials he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the river, and all the water in the river was turned into blood, 21and the fish in the river died. The river stank so that the Egyptians could not drink its water, and there was blood throughout the whole land of Egypt. 22But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts; so Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the L ord had said. 23Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart. 24And all the Egyptians had to dig along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the river.

25 Seven days passed after the L ord had struck the Nile.

8. And the Lord spake. No wonder that Moses often repeats the same thing, because he wrote for persons of rude and dull minds. But it behooves us, lest we should be disgusted by his simple and popular style, diligently to examine how little we are inclined to be acute and earnest in our consideration of the works of God. No doubt there is here related what we have already heard respecting the change of the rod into a serpent, except that he now tells us that the miracle which had before been performed in the wilderness of Midian, and afterwards in Egypt, in the sight of the people, was likewise performed once more before Pharaoh. Moreover, we gather from hence that at the request of Pharaoh the servants of God had proved and testified their vocation; and therefore that his pertinacity was the less excusable, since he despised the power of God so manifestly shewn forth. For this is usual with unbelievers, to demand proofs of God’s power, which they may still discredit, — not that they professedly scorn God, but because their secret impiety urges them to seek after subterfuges. The message is disagreeable and full of what is annoying to the proud king; and because he does not dare directly to refuse God, he invents a plausible pretext for his refusal, by asking for a miracle; and when this is performed, he seeks still deeper lurking places, as we shall very soon perceive. Since, therefore, it was certain that he would not pay a willing obedience to the divine command, and would not yield before he had been miraculously convinced, God furnishes His servants with a notable and sure testimony of His power. Moreover, the change of the crook, or shepherd’s staff, into a serpent had this object, namely, that the mean and rustic guise of Moses should not be despised. For (since kings are wont to exalt themselves very highly) Pharaoh might have laughed at the audacity of Moses and Aaron, who, forgetful, as it seemed, of their condition, put themselves into conflict with the whole power of Egypt; but Pharaoh knew, although they were not to be dreaded for their splendid appearance, and had nothing magnificent about them, that they were still not destitute of sure and strong help, when he saw the serpent come forth from the rod. In a word, God bore witness that His power is hidden beneath the infirmity of His servants, so that at every season He might render formidable to the greatest monarchs those who otherwise are like earthen vessels. It is not clear to me why Aaron was commanded to cast down the rod rather than Moses, unless, perhaps, because God would designedly humble the pride of the arrogant king, when He did not deign to exert His power by the hand of His superior servant, but only employed the inferior one. Therefore, with reference to this ministration, the rod of God and of Moses is now called the rod of Aaron. Thus Paul boasts of his gospel, the office of preaching which he knew to be committed to him. (Romans 16:25, and 2 Timothy 2:8.)

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