Reference: Exodus 7:11, 22; 8:7
In Exodus 7:10+ how can that act of going ‘One On One’ with Moses’ miracles such as the staff turning into a serpent or the staff turning the water to blood, etc… be explained? This wasn’t just 3 Card Monte or slight of the hand tricks. These were huge events that took place. Yet Pharaoh’s magicians were able to perform them as well.
2 Possible Answers:
Logically there are only two options concerning the magic. Either these guys were the ancient Egyptian equivalent of David Blane or they had X-men powers. Either way though, the message communicated stays the same.
Option 1. The magic was a trick: It is perfectly reasonable to conclude that these men were simply performing amazing tricks. They may have been students of nature who knew how to manipulate animal behavior for the sake of control or appearance. Or perhaps they may have been very good at selling people on their tricks. In the passages listed above it says that Moses performed the action first. In the plague of blood, the entire Nile River turned to blood by the hand of God first. So how could the magicians have turned the Nile to blood if it was already turned to blood. It doesn’t say that they did, it only says that following the actions of Moses and Aaron the magicians turned some nondescript water into blood. This certainly could have been a trick. But turning the Nile into blood is nothing short of a horrific sign of God. Likewise, Aaron and Moses first caused frogs to come up and cover the land. How then could the magicians prove that they did anything if the land was already covered with frogs. This again could have been a trick, or a manipulation of Pharaoh, who is the key antagonist in this contest.
Option 2. The magic was real: The only other option is that the Magic was indeed real. We know from scripture that the world we live in is one in which there is a real spiritual battle going on all around us. God is the great God of power, but his kingdom on earth was usurped by Satan back in Genesis 3. That means there are spiritual forces, with unexplainable spiritual powers in this world. Paul dealt with this in Acts, Jesus confronted it often in the Gospels. Thus, it is also perfectly logical and within Biblical precedent to arrive at the conclusion that Pharaoh’s magicians, by some type of ancient divination had tapped into a source of power other than God (a practice explicitly forbidden by God Deuteronomy 18:10; Leviticus 19:26). All this to say, some other spiritual power could have been allowing them to perform real magic.
One Possible Interpretation
Whichever option one ascribes to above, they must still arrive at the same conclusion, and the main point of these passages. Namely, Pharaoh’s heart hardens and God wins the contest. Whether this was real magic or well-disguised tricks, Pharaoh’s heart became hard because of them. Or, as I conclude in a previous blog post, Pharaoh’s heart was already hard. Thus, even if they were only tricks they still wouldn’t have had to be very impressive to make Pharaoh deny God’s request to “Let my people go!” But the most important conclusion is that God wins. Every time that the magicians of Pharaoh try to challenge the mighty hand of God they fall short until they themselves agree that this is “The finger of God” (Exodus 8:19). But still Pharaoh would not believe until the most horrific plague of all, the death of the first-borns, in which Pharaoh lost his own son. Awful as this was, it served as a potent sign of God’s power, and his mercy, for it was in this final plague that God would “passover” the Israelites and spare them from his wrath. The Israelites shed the blood of lambs and marked their homes so that God would, pass them by. This is one of the most powerful moments of mercy and of foreshadowing toward Jesus, who would be the Passover Lamb for all of us. Again, we see a reminder of one of the most important truths of this passage and all of scripture, God wins!