15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning, when he goes out to the water, and you shall stand by the river’s bank to meet him; and the rod which was turned to a serpent you shall take in your hand. 16 And you shall say to him, ‘The Lord God of the Hebrews has sent me to you, saying, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me in the wilderness”; but indeed, until now you would not hear! 17 Thus says the Lord: “By this you shall know that I am the Lord. Behold, I will strike the waters which are in the river with the rod that is in my hand, and they shall be turned to blood. 18 And the fish that are in the river shall die, the river shall stink, and the Egyptians will loathe to drink the water of the river.”‘”
Before Pharaoh could get the image of Moses’ serpent swallowing up the serpents of Egypt out of his mind, Jehovah sent Moses and Aaron back to Pharaoh with lesson #2 – Jehovah is Lord.
Jehovah instructed Moses to meet Pharaoh by the river with the rod that turned into a serpent eating serpent in his hand. As Pharaoh approached the river, the sight of Moses and Aaron was overshadowed by the rod; a glaring reminder that Jehovah appeared to Moses.
Before we continue with Pharaoh’s second lesson, let’s return to Moses experience at the burning bush. When Moses posed the problem that Israel may not believe him, Jehovah gave him three signs. The first sign was the rod turning into a serpent and then back into a rod. If Israel did not believe, Moses would perform the second sign: put his hand inside his cloak, and when he withdrew his hand it would be leprous. Put his leprous hand inside his cloak and when he withdrew it his hand would be healed. There is no indication Moses performed this sign before Pharaoh.
If Israel did not believe the first two signs and refused to listen to Moses, Jehovah instructed Moses to take water from the river and when he poured it on dry land it would be blood. This sign had a specific message from God attached to it: Jehovah is Lord. In summary, Israel was given two reasons to believe God appeared to Moses, and if they refused to believe then they would know who is Lord when they saw water turn into blood.
When Moses and Aaron spoke to Pharaoh, Pharaoh was given one reason to believe with a little extra evidence thrown in when Moses serpent swallowed the serpents of Egypt. Pharaoh believed Jehovah appeared to Moses but refused to grant Israel religious freedom. God responded by moving to the next lesson in Pharaoh’s education – Jehovah is Lord. Pharaoh can refuse to obey, but he will do so knowing the truth.
19 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your rod and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their streams, over their rivers, over their ponds, and over all their pools of water, that they may become blood. And there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in buckets of wood and pitchers of stone.'” 20 And Moses and Aaron did so, just as the Lord commanded. So he lifted up the rod and struck the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants. And all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood. 21 The fish that were in the river died, the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink the water of the river. So there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.
Once again, we see God dealing mercifully with Pharaoh by giving him a greater miracle than he gave to Israel. Israel saw Aaron take water from the river and pour it out as blood on dry land. Pharaoh and his servants saw Aaron strike a river with Moses rod and the entire river turned to blood, as well as the streams, ponds and even water in buckets and pitchers.
The blood caused the fish in the river to die creating a stench in the land. When people know the truth and reject it, they create a stench. God dealt mercifully with Pharaoh because God is not willing that any should perish and where sin abounds grace does much more abound.
So where was the grace? They had to dig for it.
22 Then the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments; and Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the Lord had said. 23 And Pharaoh turned and went into his house. Neither was his heart moved by this. 24 So all the Egyptians dug all around the river for water to drink, because they could not drink the water of the river.
When Pharaoh saw rivers turn to blood, he called on his servants and they also turned water to blood. Apparently, Pharaoh never stopped to consider where his servants found water to turn into more blood. Verse 24 says the Egyptians dug around the river for water to drink. Even in God’s judgment against Egypt, he did not with hold what they needed to live. Pharaoh’s servants found the water they used to create more blood in Jehovah’s mercy.
If Pharaoh’s servants wanted to do something profitable, they should have turned the river back into water instead of creating more blood. Ministers who support rebellious shepherds in their foolishness do foolish things. They took Jehovah’s mercy and turned it into more blood. They can copy what Jehovah does but they cannot undo what Jehovah has done.
God did everything the ministers of Egypt could do before he moved onto things they could not copy. God was dealing with more than Pharaoh. He wanted Pharaoh’s servants to know him. Ultimately, it proved easier persuading Pharaoh’s servants to obey than persuading Pharaoh and just as hard to bring the servants of a tyrant to sincere repentance.
God sought to heal Pharaoh’s heart with an astounding miracle, but Pharaoh just blew it off, turned around and went home, his heart unmoved. Even though Pharaoh had evidence to believe there is a God greater than the gods he controlled, he refused to hear it. He was Pharaoh. His father was Pharaoh and his grandfather was Pharaoh. Pharaoh was the authority on the gods. Pharaoh decided which gods the nation would worship. Pharaoh mediated between man and the cosmic gods of the universe. When Pharaoh died, he would take his place as a god among gods. He wasn’t going to let a shepherd tell him that he was wrong about the gods.
Pharaoh’s pride in his power and position created an inability to listen with intelligence, but his lack of intelligence only lay in accepting the truth about God. He was shrewd in many other ways. He enslaved a million Israelites once highly honored by the nation of Egypt. He is wiser than God’s people, but he is not wiser than Jehovah.
Are you wondering if Pharaoh really believed Jehovah appeared to Moses? Did Pharaoh really believe Jehovah is Lord? Pharaoh believed and I’ll prove it.
After Pharaoh left Moses standing by a river of blood, Jehovah waited seven days before he sent Moses with another lesson which we will examine in greater detail next week. Again Pharaoh refused to give Israel religious freedom and God filled the land with frogs. When Pharaoh’s servants made more frogs but could not rid the land of frogs, Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron to the throne room and said:
“Pray to the Lord to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let your people go to offer sacrifices to the Lord.” NIV
If Pharaoh did not believe Jehovah appeared to Moses, why did he ask Moses to pray to the Lord? If Pharaoh did not believe Jehovah is Lord, why did Pharaoh call him Lord not once but twice?
By your words you shall be justified and by your words you shall be condemned. Pharaoh told his servants that Moses was a liar but Pharaoh’s plea for help revealed the truth.
Not only did Pharaoh believe Jehovah appeared to Moses and that Jehovah is Lord, Pharaoh’s actions proved Jehovah was greater than the gods Pharaoh taught a nation to worship. Why did he ask Jehovah for help, if the gods of Egypt were greater? And I have another question. If Pharaoh knows that Moses God is real and greater than the gods of Egypt, why did he refuse to let Israel worship a living God? Why did he hold Israel captive to serve his ideas about God?