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EXEGESIS > Old Testament > Pentateuch > Exodus > Ex. 7:8-13 - Serpent Rods

Serpent Rods
Ex. 7:8-13


Part of the Lord’s instruction to Moses concerning his visit with Pharaoh had to do with a miracle. God informed Moses that when Pharaoh asked for a sign that Aaron was to cast his rod on the ground and it would become a serpent. And this was done.

Pharaoh then called his wise men and they did the same thing, whereupon, Aaron’s rod swallowed their rods.

As a result “Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the Lord had said” (Ex. 7:13; see: Ex. 4:21 – God and Pharaoh).

Consider four thoughts.

Miracles do happen.
    Testimony of Scripture

In the KJV and the NKJV “miracle” translates mopheth in Ex. 7:9; in the KJV the Hebrew word is translated “miracle” two times, “sign” eight times, and “wonder” twenty-three times.

The word speaks of God’s supernatural activity; it is God calling attention to Himself and His purpose.

The miracle is that the rod of Aaron turned into a serpent (Ex. 7:10); the Hebrew word for serpent is tannin in vs. 9, 10, 12, but nachash in 4:3 and 7:15; some say the words are virtual synonyms, but while the latter word is always translated “serpent,” the other word has other translations such as “dragon” or “sea monster,” but is also translated as “serpent” if the context warrants.

    Understanding Miracles

Two options

One, miracle is God working according to rules consistent with nature; we simply do not know them; they are beyond our knowledge; the miracle is a miracle to us because there is not full understanding; view held by Augustine and C. S. Lewis.

Two, miracle is God acting contrary to the established order of things; the laws of nature are suspended are bypassed; view held by Aquinas.

This site assumes that a miracle is that which is contrary to the known natural order of things; a miracle is contrary to the laws of nature.

This seems to be consistent with the more important position that at the heart of Christianity is miracle: the Virgin Conception of Christ and the Resurrection of Christ; both appear to be contrary to the known laws of nature.

    Rejection of Miracles

In our present post-Christian culture the idea of miracles is unacceptable; it is simply not allowed as a viable option at the table of discussion.

There are really only two options: rejection of miracles or acceptance of miracles.

Rejection of miracles is predicated on the concept of a closed system; all phenomena is explained and must be explained by that which is within the system; no external causes are allowed; the system is the cosmos; the starting point in this position is man’s reason and the capabilities of science.

Acceptance of miracles is predicated on the concept of an open system; while much phenomena can be explained from within the system, some phenomena can only be explained by something or Someone from outside the system; additionally, all phenomena can only have meaning and ultimate understanding by that which is external to the system; the starting point in this position is God, and for the Christian, the God of the Bible.

There are Divine miracles and Demonic miracles.

    Divine Miracle – Aaron’s Rod

What happened to Aaron’s rod was the result of God’s power; the miracle happened in 4:1-5 and in 7:8-10; both times God caused the transformation of the rod into a serpent and the serpent into the rod.  

    Demonic Miracle – Magicians’ Rods

The words “wise men,” “sorcerers,” and “magicians” speak of that which is associated with the occult; there is the companion idea of cunning, subtle, and clever (Jannes and Jambres are mentioned in II Tim. 3:8, and are traditionally thought to be the names of two of the magicians).

Pharaoh called his magicians, and the Scriptures record that “they also did in like manner with their enchantments” (Ex. 7:11; “enchantments” are “secret arts”); they duplicated the act of Aaron.

They performed their act either by trickery or by demonic power, or by a combination of both; it does not matter; what they did was not of God.

    Distinguishing the Divine from the Demonic

Jesus warned that “false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matt. 24:24).

Additional warnings are found in Scripture: II Cor. 11:13-15 and II Thess. 2:9-10.

The ability to distinguish between that which is of God and that which is not is found in the truth; Paul writes that those who are susceptible to demonic deception have not submitted to the truth (II Thess. 2:10); the truth—God’s Revelation—is the only basis by which to judge the supernatural.

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (I Jo. 4:1); the spirits are tested by the truth.

Demonic deception will characterize the end-time: Rev. 13:13; 16:14; 19:20.

God is more powerful than Satan.

Scripture records the fact that in some manner the magicians of Egypt were able to duplicate or imitate the miracles of God through Moses; their rods turned into serpents (Ex. 7:12); they turned water to blood (Ex. 7:22); and they produced frogs (Ex. 8:7).

But there was a limit to their ability; regarding lice: “the magicians worked with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not”; and they said to Pharaoh: “This is the finger of God” (Ex. 8:18-19).

In Revelation the inhabitants of the earth are warned: “the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time” (12:12); Satan’s ability is limited and his time is short.

Divine Miracles do not impress evil men.

When Pharaoh was told by his magicians that the miracles were the finger of God, the Bible records that “Pharaoh’s heart grew hard” (Ex. 8:19; see: Ex. 4:21 – God and Pharaoh).

The rejection of God, His Word, and His acts leads to hardening: Lu. 16:19-31; II Thess. 2:9-11; II Tim. 3:1-9; I Jo. 4:1-3.

See:  Ex. 7-12 - The Plagues

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