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Exodus 7:14-25

14. And the Lord said unto Moses, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, he refuseth to let the people go.

14. Tunc dixit Jehova ad Mosen, Aggravatum est cor Pharaonis ne dimittat populum.

15. Get thee unto Pharaoh in the morning: lo, he goeth out unto the water; and thou shalt stand by the river’s brink against he come; and the rod which was turned to a serpent shalt thou take in thine hand.

15. Vade ad Pharaonem mane: ecce, egreditur ad aquas, et stes in occursum ejus super ripam fluminis: et virgam quae versa fuit in serpentem tolles in manum tuam.

16. And thou shalt say unto him, The Lord God of the Hebrews hath sent me unto thee, saying, Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness: and, behold, hitherto thou wouldest not hear.

16. Et dices ad eum, Jehova Deus Hebraeorum misit me ad te, dicens, Dimitte populum meum ut serviat mihi in deserto: et ecce, non audisti huc usque.

17. Thus saith the Lord, In this thou shalt know that I am the Lord: behold, I will smite with the rod that is in mine hand upon the waters which are in the river, and they shall be turned to blood.

17. Sic dixit Jehova, In hoc scies quod ego sum Jehova: ecce, ego percurtaim virga quae in manu mea est aquam quae est in flumine, et vertetur in sanguinem.

18. And the fish that is in the river shall die, and the river shall stink; and the Egyptians shall loathe to drink of the water of the river.

18. Pisces vero qui sunt in flumine morientur: et foetebit flumen, et molestia afficientur Aegyptii, bibendo aquas ex flumine.

19. And the Lord spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt, upon their streams, upon their rivers, and upon their ponds, and upon all their pools of water, that they may become blood; and that there may be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood, and in vessels of stone.

19. Et dixit Jehova ad Mosen, Dic ad Aharon, Tolle virgam tuam, et extende manum tuam super aquas ­Aegypti, super flumina eorum, super rivos et stagna eorum, et super omnem collectionem aquarum ipsorum: et fient sanguis, eritque sanguis per totam terram Aegypti in vasis ligneis et lapideis.

20. And Moses and Aaron did so, as the Lord commanded: and he lifted up the rod, and smote 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.

20. Et ita fecerunt Moses et Aharon sicuti praeceperat Jehova. Et elevans baculum, percussit aquas quae erant in flumine, coram oculis Pharaonis, et coram oculis servorum ejus. Et versae sunt aquam omnes quae erant in flumine, in sanguinem.

21. And the fish that was in the river died; and the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river: and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.

21. Pisces etiam qui erant in flumine mortui sunt: et computruit flumen, ut non possent Aegyptii bibere aquas ex flumine: fuitque sanguis per totam terram ­Aegypti.

22. And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, neither did he hearken unto them; as the Lord had said.

22. Sic etiam fecerunt praestigiatores Aegypti incantationibus suis: et obduruit cor Pharaonis, sicut loquutus fuerat Jehova.

23. And Pharaoh turned and went into his house, neither did he set his heart to this also.

23. Et revertens Pharao venit in domum suara: neque adjecit cor suum etiam ad hoc.

24. And all the Egyptians digged round about the river for water to drink; for they could not drink of the water of the river.

24. Foderunt autem omnes Aegyptii per circuitum fluminis, ut aquas biberent, quia non poterant bibere ex aquis fluminis.

25. And seven days were fulfilled, after that the Lord had smitten the river.

25. Et completi sunt septem dies ex quo percussit Jehova fluvium.

14. And the Lord said unto Moses. Moses now begins to relate the two plagues which were inflicted upon Egypt before Pharaoh was induced to obey; and although there was something prodigious in the madness which strove against God’s hand so powerfully constraining him, yet in the person of this single reprobate, the picture of human pride and rebellion, when it is not controlled by a spirit of tractableness, is presented to our view. Let the faithful then be admonished by this narrative diligently to beware, lest, by wantonly rebelling against God, they provoke a similar vengeance upon themselves. For the same Being who hardened Pharaoh’s heart is the constant avenger of impiety, and, smiting His enemies with a spirit of confusion, renders them as furious as they are senseless. Moreover, lest Moses, stumbling against this obstacle, should desist from the course he had begun, God encourages him to the combat, as much as to say, that he had to contend with a very hard stone until it should be broken. Hearing that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, he might begin to waver, unless a hope of victory were shewn him from elsewhere. But since the obstinacy of this beast is indomitable, God arms His servant with new weapons, as much as to say, that he must be worn down though he could not be broken. But although to some the analogy may appear far-fetched, between the ten plagues and the ten precepts of the law, yet, in my opinion, it is probable, and agreeable to reason, that before God promulgated the law the wicked were smitten with as many plagues as He was about to give precepts to His people, that in this way He might confirm their authority. First, however, He commands Moses to take up the rod, and reminds him of the recent miracle that he may gird himself to the new conflict with greater confidence. Then, after the Hebrew manner, He more fully lays open what He had briefly touched upon; for, at first, no mention is made of Aaron, but God only announces to Moses what He would have done; then He explains that the hand of Aaron was to be interposed. Where God reminds them that the rod was lately turned into a serpent, He shews that we profit but little by His works, unless our faith gathers strength from them. Besides, when God denounces to Pharaoh what He is going to do, He renders him more inexcusable, because he is not awakened by threats to repentance. God indeed knew that this would be without success; but although he knows the disease to be incurable, He still ceases not to apply the remedies — not indeed such as will restore health, but such as will draw out the secret poison from the mind. Many are here at issue (litigant) with God, because He not only speaks to the deaf, but even, by admonishing or chastising them in vain, exasperates their malice more and more. But it is for us, when any appearance of unreasonableness perplexes us, reverently to adore the secret judgments of God and to be soberly wise. Meanwhile the event shews that God’s threatenings do not fall ineffectually, but that the contempt of them doubles both the crime and the punishment.

19. And the Lord spake unto Moses. This is the more extended narrative of which I spoke; for Moses mentions nothing different from what went before, but explains more distinctly his mode of action in the performance of the miracle, namely, that what God had commanded was completed by the instrumentality of Aaron. There was a reason for commencing with this miracle, that the Egyptians might know that there was no safeguard for them in the resources upon which they prided themselves the most. We know what great wealth, defense, and conveniences arose to them from the Nile; thence came their abundant fisheries, thence the fertility of their whole country, which it irrigated in its inundation, a thing that, in other lands is injurious; its navigation was most advantageous for their merchants, it was also a strong fortification to a good part of the kingdom. Therefore, in order to cast down the Egyptians from their principal dependence, He turns its waters into blood. Besides, because water is one of the two elements of which man’s life consists, in depriving the Egyptians of one part of their life, He used the best and shortest method of humiliating their haughtiness, had they not been altogether intractable. He might, indeed, by a single breath, have dried up all the sources of water, and overwhelmed the whole nation by drought; but this would have been commonly believed to have happened by chance, or naturally, and therefore would have been a less apparent prodigy, whilst it would have shut up the way for others. It would, then, have been sufficient, by the terror of death it awakened, to turn them to the fear of God, unless their madness had been desperate. Moses enumerates, besides the river, the streams, and ponds, and pools of water; because, in different parts of the country, as well artificially as naturally, the Nile was so diffused, that scarcely any other country is provided in all directions with such an abundance of water; as though God should say, “It shall avail you nothing to possess such an immense supply of water; because you shall thirst as much as if the Nile were dry.” He adds, “both in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone;” meaning, that in whatever kind of vessel they came to draw, they would find nothing but blood.

20. And Moses and Aaron did so. He repeats that what God threatened as to the death of the fish, and the stinking of the Nile, actually took place; that he may aggravate the sin of the king, who was unaffected by the manifold power of God. Still he immediately adds that his counsellors witnessed it also. Hence we may conjecture, that the same infatuation had pervaded the whole court. It was also proper that so memorable a circumstance should not only be known generally, but that its author should be seen by many eyes. But it was a sign of the reprobation of the whole nation, that there was none of all that multitude who labored to correct the folly of the king. Whence also it appears that God confounds the wisdom of the world; for there was no nation which gloried more in its universal knowledge; even as Isaiah reproaches them of their boast. (Isaiah 19:11.) But we see in how shameful a manner, on the one hand proud, and on the other amazed, they betrayed not a single spark of sound intelligence.

22. And the magicians of Egypt did so. A question arises as to how the magicians could imitate Moses, when the material to work upon no longer remained; for, if there were no water left in Egypt, its transmutation was impossible. But I have no doubt but that, for the purpose of their illusion, pure and clear waters appeared for a little while, and then were changed into blood. For, since the season for concluding the contests was not yet arrived, doubtless God opened a way for Himself, until they reached their end. The supposition of Augustine8989     Tom. 3., pars prima, p. 428; Quaestiones in Exodum, 23; and tom. 2., p. 463; Ep. 143., in Marcellum, where he offers another explanation also, viz., that their miracle might have been wrought upon salt water. is a forced one, that the magicians took the water, which remained pure and unaltered among the habitations of the Israelites. I should more willingly accept what he says, that, perhaps the waters were smitten by them at the same instant, so that in one place the power of God shone forth, in another their deception prevailed — although the solution I have given is very sufficient. Whether the change were true or imaginary, I dare not decide; except that it is more in accordance with the delusions of Satan, that the eyes of the wicked were deceived. Nor is there any necessity to philosophize more subtilely with Augustine,9090     Vol. 3, pt. 1, p. 427, quaes. 21. “Insunt enim corporeis rebus per omnia elementa mundi quaedam occultae seminariae rationes, quibus, eum data fuerit opportunitas temporalis, atque causalis, prorumpunt in species debitas suis modis, et finibus.” that there is a seminal principle infused into all created things, so that one species may generate another. We may rather take our stand on the teaching of Paul, that God sends strong delusion to ensnare the unbelievers with lies, because they refuse to embrace the truth, (2 Thessalonians 2:11;) and I have already shewn from another passage of Moses, that, by the just judgment of God, false prophets perform signs and wonders. Moses, however, seems to hint that it was only an illusion, where he adds, “the magicians did so with their enchantments;” as if the flashes, as of lightning, dazzled the eyes of the spectators; for this I have shewn to be the meaning of the word. Yet I do not question but that God altogether preserved His people from this calamity, so that these guests and strangers were supplied with the water of Egypt, whilst not a drop was left for the natives of the land. Thus was the king convicted of obstinacy, because he was not more attentive to observe this distinction; nay, he must have been doubly mad and foolish, to the destruction of himself and his kingdom, to set the delusion of the magicians against the power of God. But this often happens to the reprobate, that they rush eagerly as it were to their own destruction, whilst they are borne away by satanic impulse in opposition to God. Yet this was no slight temptation to God’s servants, to see the ministers of Satan almost rivaling themselves. For, if God chose to bear witness to their deliverance by miracles, — when they saw their enemies endued with a similar power, how could their own vocation be ratified and sure? And indeed it is probable that their faith was shaken by these machinations; yet I count it certain that it did not yield and give way; for, if Moses had been overcome by doubt, he would have confessed it, as it was his custom to do. But God opened their eyes, so that they should regard with contempt the tricks and deceptions of the magicians; besides, the divine vision had shone upon them together with the word, so that it was no marvel that, thus supported, they should repel, or sustain, every assault with firmness.

23. And Pharaoh turned. In this word Moses teaches us that the hardness of heart, to which God had devoted Pharaoh, was voluntary; so that the sin rested in himself, nor did the secret appointment of God avail anything to lessen his culpability, for his folly is condemned, because he did not “set his heart to this also.” Whence it follows that he was the author of his own obstinacy, because, being blinded by pride and contempt, he took no account of the glory of God. Thus the wicked, although as being vessels of wrath, they are cast of God into a reprobate mind, still harden themselves, because wittingly and willfully they run against God, and thus their security, audacity, and perverseness take away from them the excuse of ignorance or error. Wherefore this example warns us not to slumber when God arouses us, but attentively to consider His works, which may instruct us to reverence and fear Him. The statement that the Egyptians dug wells for themselves increases the certainty of the miracle, as does also what is added as to the seven days; for if the corruption of the water had only been momentary, some suspicion of delusion might have crept in, which was removed both by the continued taste and appearance. Therefore it was said before, that the Egyptians would suffer inconvenience and pain9191     He seems to allude to verse 18, which he translates “et molestia afficientur Aegyptii, bibendo aquas ex flumine.” from the want of water; for thus I explain it, that they should be sorrowful and afflicted, viz., because they had nothing to drink.

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