1The LORD answered Moses: See! I have made you a god to Pharaoh,a and Aaron your brother will be your prophet.* 2You will speak all that I command you. In turn, your brother Aaron will tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his land. 3Yet I will make Pharaoh so headstrong that, despite the many signs and wonders that I work in the land of Egypt, 4Pharaoh will not listen to you. Therefore I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring my armies, my people the Israelites, out of the land of Egypt. 5All Egyptians will know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of their midst.
III. THE CONTEST WITH PHARAOH
The Staff Turned into a Serpent. 8The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron: 9When Pharaoh demands of you, “Produce a sign or wonder,” you will say to Aaron: “Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh, and it will turn into a serpent.”b 10Then Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the LORD had commanded. Aaron threw his staff down before Pharaoh and his servants, and it turned into a serpent. 11Pharaoh, in turn, summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they also, the magiciansc of Egypt, did the same thing by their magic arts. 12Each one threw down his staff, and they turned into serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed their staffs. 13Pharaoh, however, hardened his heart and would not listen to them, just as the LORD had foretold.
First Plague: Water Turned into Blood.* 14Then the LORD said to Moses: Pharaoh is obstinate* in refusing to let the people go. 15In the morning, just when he sets out for the water, go to Pharaoh and present yourself by the bank of the Nile, holding in your hand the staff that turned into a snake.* 16Say to him: The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you with the message: Let my people go to serve me in the wilderness. But as yet you have not listened. 17Thus says the LORD: This is how you will know that I am the LORD. With the staff here in my hand, I will strike the water in the Nile and it will be changed into blood.d 18The fish in the Nile will die, and the Nile itself will stink so that the Egyptians will be unable to drink water from the Nile.
19The LORD then spoke to Moses: Speak to Aaron: Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt—its streams, its canals, its ponds, and all its supplies of water—that they may become blood. There will be blood throughout the land of Egypt, even in the wooden pails and stone jars.
20This, then, is what Moses and Aaron did, exactly as the LORD had commanded. Aaron raised his staff and struck the waters in the Nile in full view of Pharaoh and his servants, and all the water in the Nile was changed into blood. 21The fish in the Nile died, and the Nile itself stank so that the Egyptians could not drink water from it. There was blood throughout the land of Egypt. 22But the Egyptian magicians did the same* by their magic arts. So Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not listen to them, just as the LORD had said. 23Pharaoh turned away and went into his house, with no concern even for this. 24All the Egyptians had to dig round about the Nile for drinking water, since they could not drink any water from the Nile.
Second Plague: The Frogs. 25Seven days passed after the LORD had struck the Nile. 26Then the LORD said to Moses: Go to Pharaoh and tell him:e Thus says the LORD: Let my people go to serve me. 27If you refuse to let them go, then I will send a plague of frogs over all your territory. 28The Nile will teem with frogs. They will come up and enter into your palace and into your bedroom and onto your bed, into the houses of your servants, too, and among your people, even into your ovens and your kneading bowls. 29The frogs will come up over you and your people and all your servants.
* [7:1] Prophet: Hebrew nabi, one who can legitimately speak for God and in God’s name to another or others. Just as God spoke to Moses, so Moses will speak to Aaron, who will be a “prophet” to Pharaoh. Cf. 4:16.
* [7:14–12:30] After a brief preface (vv. 8–13) drawn from the Priestly source, a narrative depicting the series of ten disasters that God brings upon Pharaoh because of his stubbornness ensues. Although most of these disasters, known traditionally as the “ten plagues of Egypt,” could be interpreted as naturally occurring phenomena, they are clearly represented by the biblical authors as extraordinary events indicative of God’s intervention on behalf of Israel and as occurring exactly according to Moses’ commands. See Ps 78:43–51 and 105:27–36 for poetic versions of these plagues, which also differ significantly from the account here.
* [7:14] Pharaoh is obstinate: lit., “Pharaoh’s heart is heavy” (kabed); thus not precisely the same Hebrew idiom as found in vv. 13 and 22, “stubborn,” lit., “Pharaoh’s heart was hard(ened)” (hazaq) (cf. the related idiom with Pharaoh as the object, e.g., 4:21).
* [7:15] The staff that turned into a snake: the allusion is to 4:2–4 rather than 7:9–12. The latter comes from the hand of the Priestly writer and features Aaron—with his staff—as the principal actor.
* [7:22] The Egyptian magicians did the same: this is an exaggeration, presumably influenced by the similar statement in v. 11; whereas the magicians could turn their staffs into snakes after Aaron had done so, after Aaron’s sign there should not have been any water in Egypt still unchanged to blood for the magicians “to do the same” with it (cf. v. 24).