Saturday, November 5, 2011

Exodus 7:8-13 God's Method of Conducting a Staff Meeting

"The LORD said to Moses and Aaron,
'When Pharaoh says to you, "Perform a miracle,"
then say to Aaron, "Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh,"
and it will become a snake."

So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the LORD commanded.
Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials,
and it became a snake.

Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers,
and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts:
Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake.

But Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs.

Yet Pharaoh's heart became hard
and he would not listen to them, just as the LORD had said."

Exodus 7:8-13

God knew that the Pharaoh would require a sign from Moses and Aaron in order to prove their authority as representatives of the God of the Israelites.  In His great mercy, he gave Pharaoh such a sign:  Aaron's staff became a snake before the eyes of Pharaoh and his court.

Pharaoh then summoned his wise men and sorcerers, and they appeared to duplicate the miraculous sign.  Whether by sleight of hand, or aided by demonic power, each man's staff also became a snake.  [I know that the thought of them being aided by demonic power sounds strange, but we will see why this may be the case.]

Aaron's staff swallowed up all of the other staffs.  As they watched, Aaron's staff consumed all of the other staffs.  Now, it is probable that these magicians and sorcerers were adept at various forms of sleight-of-hand.  That is, they had no doubt amazed Pharaoh by various means before that day.  Otherwise, they wouldn't have kept their position.  It is possible that they had concealed snakes in their garments and produced them at the proper time, as any skillful magician could.

However, this text (in verse 7) asserts that the magicians' staffs actually became snakes -- not that they were able to fool Pharaoh by making the staffs seem to become snakes.  Perhaps this point will only seem important if you already believe that the Scripture is the authority in all matters [a conclusion which will be considered in further posts/pages] -- but nonetheless, this is still what it says, which is something significant. 

Also, where would the magicians' staffs have gone if this was just a sleight-of-hand trick?  For they had thrown their staffs on the ground, so it would have been extremely difficult for them to have retrieved and hidden the staffs while releasing a substitute live snake -- all before the eyes of Pharaoh, Moses and Aaron.  Unless these staffs were collapsible, it would have been quite difficult for them to conceal rigid staffs in their garments after the snakes had appeared.

It seems that there was indeed more than just a trick going on here.  The God of the Israelites was also the God of the universe, and He was beginning to reveal Himself to the nation of Egypt as well as fulfil His covenant with the Hebrew people.  At the same time that He was preparing to deliver the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, He was extending His salvation to the Egyptian nation.  Of course it was not done in an overt way at this point, but as we will see in future developments [i.e., the plagues], the Egyptians could not help but notice that this God of the Israelites had great power.  This display of power was not meant to destroy the Egyptians, but to bring them to recognize the one true God.

The whole situation seemed to be a spiritual confrontation between God and the powers which Pharaoh relied upon.   We have seen before this time (back during the time of Joseph's life in Egypt after he was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers ) how these wise men, magicians and sorcerers were a mainstay of  each Pharaoh's court.  The Pharaoh in Joseph's days had relied upon them for advice and for interpreting his dreams.  It seemed that the present Pharaoh was no different in this regard.  This confrontation between Pharaoh's men and Moses and Aaron was, at its deepest level, a confrontation between God and Satan.

By swallowing up the magicians' staffs, God was showing Pharaoh that He alone was the true God, and the One who held all power.  God would be glorified even through Pharaoh's hardened heart.  We don't usually dwell on this fact when we speak of the Exodus, but God was extending His mercy to Pharaoh and all of the Egyptian people by showing them His power.

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