Exodus 7:11
On this sign, notice -

I. ITS SIGNIFICANCE.

1. Its distinctness from the similar sign wrought for the conviction of the Israelites. On the meaning of the latter, see Exodus 4:1-6. There the serpent into which the rod was turned seemed to denote the power of the monarch - the royal and divine power of Egypt - of which the serpent was an Egyptian emblem. However threatening the aspect of this power to Moses and the Israelites, the sign taught them not to fear it, and promised victory over -it. Here, on the contrary, the serpent is a menace to Pharaoh. It speaks to him in his own language, and tells him of a royal and Divine power opposed to his which he will do well not to provoke. The sign was harmless in itself, but menacing in its import.

2. Its relation to Egyptian magic. On this, see the exposition. The magicians produced an imitation of the miracle, but this very circumstance was turned into an occasion of greater humiliation to them. "Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods." The truth taught was the impotence of magic arts as opposed to the power of Jehovah. Royalty, divinity, magic, all are represented as overthrown in this significant marvel. Note - God seldom destroys a sinner without first warning him. The warnings are such that, if taken in time, worse consequences may be escaped. Conscience warns, the Spirit warns, providence warns. Red danger-signals stand at the opening of every path of crime, if the deluded transgressor would but take heed to them.

II. ITS EVIDENTIAL VALUE. It was ordered to be wrought in answer to Pharaoh's demand for a miracle (ver. 9). Presumably, Pharaoh made the request, then the wonder was performed. Note here -

1. The human mind naturally craves for miracle as an evidence of revelation. The evidence of outward miracle is not the highest, but neither' should it be disparaged. It is the kind of evidence which minds at an inferior stage of development are most capable of appreciating, while, in connection with other circumstances, it is a powerful confirmation to the faith even of those who might possibly dispense with it. Christ's repeated refusal of a sign was not based upon the principle that signs were unnecessary, but upon the fact that a superabundance of signs had already been given. A faith resting merely on miracles (John 2:23, 24) may be destitute of moral worth, but miracles had their value in certifying the source of the message, as well as in arousing attention, and they were themselves vehicles of moral teaching.

2. God satisfies this craving of the mind by granting the evidence required. It does not lessen, but greatly enhances, the value of this evidence that most of the miracles of Scripture are not merely credentials of the revelation, but constitutive parts of it. See this truth wrought out in the chapter on "The Function of Miracle in Revelation' in Dr. Alex. Bruce's book, 'The Chief End of Revelation.' This able writer, however, is unnecessarily vehement in his polemic against the view that miracles are also wrought in proof of revelation; especially as in the latter part of his discussion he really admits all that the advocates of the so-called "traditional" view would think worth contending for. "Take away miracle from a revelation of grace, and the revelation can hardly be known for what it is... With the miracles retained as an essential part of the story, a gracious purpose towards a chosen people is indubitable; without them, it is very doubtful indeed Retain the miracles, and the gracious purpose is stringently proved, and the contrary opinion excluded as untenable. The miracles and the purpose thus stand or fall together. To certify, beyond all doubt, a gracious purpose, miracle is necessary. (pp. 175-177). In the case before us, the evidential function must be allowed to be the leading one.

3. Pharaoh's request for the miracle. It is a significant circumstance that whereas on the previous occasion (Exodus 5:1-5) Pharaoh made no request for a sign, he asks for one at this second interview. The unexpected reappearance of these two men, renewing their former demand, and doing so with even more emphasis and decision than at first, must have produced a startling effect upon him. Truth, to a certain extent, carries its own credentials with it. There must have been that in the manner and speech of these grave and aged men (ver. 7) which repelled the hypothesis that they were impostors. Probably Pharaoh had never been quite sure that their mission was mere pretence. A secret fear of the God whose worshippers he knew he was maltreating may have mingled with his thoughts, and kept him in vague uneasiness. He may thus have been more disturbed by the former demand than he cared to allow, and now thought it prudent to satisfy himself further. Professed disbelief in the Bible is in the same way often accompanied by a lurking suspicion that there is more in its teaching than is admitted.

III. ITS EFFECT UPON THE MONARCH.

1. He permitted himself to be imposed on by the counterfeit of the magicians. Their imitation of the miracle furnished him with a plausible excuse for ascribing the work to magic. It gave him a pretext for unbelief. He wished one, and he got it. He ignored the strong points in the evidence, and fixed on the partial resemblance to the miracle in the feats of his tricksters. There were at least three circumstances which should have made him pause, and, if not convinced, ask for further proof.

(1) The miracle of Moses and Aaron was not done by enchantments.

(2) The men who did the wonder themselves asserted that it was wrought by Divine power.

(3) The superiority of their power to that of the magicians was evinced by Aaron's rod swallowing up the rods of the others. And seeing that the miracle of God's messengers was real, while that of the magicians was (so far as we can judge) but a juggler's trick, there were probably numerous other circumstances of difference between them, on which, had Pharaoh been anxious to ascertain the truth, his mind would naturally have rested. But Pharaoh's mind was not honest. He wished to disbelieve, and he did it.

2. He refused the request. He hardened himself, i.e. the unwillingness of his heart to look at the truth, now that it had got something to stay itself upon, solidified into a fixed, hard determination to resist the demand made upon him. Note -

(1) God tries men's dispositions by furnishing them with evidence which, while abundantly sufficient to convince minds that are honest, leaves numerous loopholes of escape to those indisposed to receive it.

(2) It is the easiest thing in the world, if one wants to do it, to find pretexts for unbelief. We are far from asserting that all doubt is dishonest, but it is unquestionable that under the cloak of honest intellectual inquiry a great dean that is not honest is frequently concealed. To a mind unwilling to be convinced, there is nothing easier than to evade evidence. Specious counter-arguments are never far to seek. Any specious reply to Christian books, any naturalistic hypothesis, any flimsy parallel, will serve the purpose. The text directs attention to the method of false parallels - a favourite one with modern sceptics. Parallels are hunted up between Christianity and the ethnic religions. Superficial resemblances in ethics, doctrine and ritual, are laid hold upon and magnified. Christ is compared with Buddha and Confucius, or his miracles are put in comparison with the ecclesiastical miracles of the middle ages. And thus his religion is supposed to be reduced to the naturalistic level. The defeat of all such attempts is shadowed forth in the miracle before us. - J.O.







They also did in like manner with their enchantments.
I. MOSES DIVINELY WARNED OF PHARAOH'S DEMAND FOR A SUPERNATURAL CREDENTIAL. When men profess to bring a message from God, they should be prepared to substantiate it by satisfactory evidence.

II. MOSES DIVINELY SUSTAINED IN MEETING THE DEMAND.

1. God will never forsake those who go forth to implicitly work His will.

2. God often permits His enemies to temporarily triumph.

III. MOSES COMMANDED TO APPEAL AGAIN TO PHARAOH (vers. 14-17).

1. God's knowledge of the human heart.

2. God's knowledge of the purposes and plans of men.

3. God's recognition of free agency, and its correlative responsibility.

4. God deals with men on the basis of their moral freedom, and according to their constitutional nature.Lessons:

1. Here we have a type of the conflict of ages.

(1)In its spirit.

(2)In its aims.

(3)In its result.

2. The side to which we lean, and for which we fight, shows the party to which we really belong.

(D. C. Hughes, M. A.)

1. Miracles from God will not persuade wicked hearts to believe.

2. Unbelieving sinners are apt to call in all instruments of Satan to gainsay God.

3. Providence hath of old suffered wisdom to be abused to sorcery and pernicious acts (ver. 11).

4. God hath suffered creatures by Satan's help to do some like things to His miracles.

5. Under God's permission Satan may work strange changes in creatures, but no miracles.

6. God's true miracles devour all lying wonders of Satan (ver. 12).

7. Wicked hearts harden themselves by lying wonders against God, and therefore are hardened by Him.

8. The fruit of such hardening is rebellion against God's word and will.

9. God's word is made good in all the disobedience of the wicked foretold (ver. 13).

(G. Hughes, B. D.)

I. THAT MAN HAS A RIGHT TO EXPECT THAT ANY SPECIAL REVELATION FROM GOD SHOULD BE ACCOMPANIED BY INFALLIBLE AND UNIMPEACHABLE CREDENTIALS. (ver. 9).

1. We require these credentials to vindicate the authority of the speaker. The Bible contains the evidences of its Divine origin on its own pages, for on every page we see the miracle repeated, the rod is turned into a serpent. And the miracles which the book contains, and the miracle which it is in itself, are sufficient token to the honest mind that it comes from God. This evidence is equal to the case. It leaves disobedience without excuse.

2. We require these credentials to vindicate the credibility of the speaker. God would never give men power to work a miracle to authenticate a lie. The miracle not only demonstrated the authority of these men, but also the unimpeachable honesty and verity of their statements. And so men take the Bible to-day; they perhaps say that in general terms the hook has come from God, and has His authority, and yet how many question the verity of its corn tents. They call one part of the message a myth, another part a fable, until, indeed, there is very little remaining as true.

3. That God anticipates these requests on the part of man, and provides His messengers with the needed credentials. Any one who rejects the claims of the Bible, rejects the highest proof, the most reliable evidence; hence his condemnation will be awful as that of the rebellious king.

4. The spirit in which these credentials should be investigated and received —

(1)Thoughtfully.

(2)Devoutly.

(3)Never sceptically.

(4)Remember that the messengers of God can only offer the credentials divinely permitted to them.

II. THAT MEN HAVE RECOURSE TO MANY DEVICES TO WEAKEN AND NULLIFY THE CREDENTIALS WHICH ARE PRESENTED TO THEM IN TOKEN AND SUPPORT OF A DIVINE MESSAGE AND CLAIM. "Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments."

1. We find that men in the investigation of a Divine message are not satisfied with the evidence they themselves propose. A sceptical mind will not yield even when it has attained evidence for the truth of its own seeking. It is most criminal in its unbelief.

2. We find that men in the investigation of a Divine message often seek others to supply them with sceptical arguments they are not clever enough to produce themselves.

3. We find that men endeavour to confirm their comrades in scepticism by imitating the credentials of the messengers of God. But in vain. The truth-seeker can distinguish between the productions of the two; he never mistakes the enchantment of the Egyptian for the miracle of Moses.

4. That the men who endeavour to confirm their comrades in scepticism respecting the Divine credentials are subject to the truth. The rods of the Egyptian magicians were swallowed up by Aaron's rod.

III. THAT THE MEN WHO REJECT THE CREDENTIALS OF DIVINE MESSENGERS COMMENCE A CONFLICT WHICH WILL BE PRODUCTIVE OF GREAT WOE AND OF FINAL OVERTHROW TO THEM. "And He hardened Pharaoh's heart that he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said." Lessons:

1. That the messengers of God can always produce Divine credentials.

2. That Divine credentials are often rejected by men of high social position.

3. That a continued rejection of Divine credentials will end in destruction.

4. That the servants of God are often perplexed by the conduct of men in rejecting Divine claims.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

The mode in which the magicians "withstood Moses" (see 2 Timothy 3:1-9) was simply by imitating, so far as they were able, whatever he did. From this we learn the solemn truth that the most Satanic resistance to God's testimony in the world is offered by those who, though they imitate the effects of the truth, have but "the form of godliness," and "deny the power thereof." Persons of this class can do the same things, adopt the same habits and forms, use the same phraseology, profess the same opinions, as others. How needful to understand this! How important to remember that "as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses," so do those self-loving, world-seeking, pleasure-hunting professors "resist the truth!" They would not be without "a form of godliness"; but while adopting "the form," because it is customary, they hate "the power," because it involves self-denial. "The power" of godliness involves the recognition of God's claims, the implanting of His kingdom in the heart, and the consequent exhibition thereof in the whole life and character; but the formalist knows nothing of this, nor does he desire to know it. He does not want his lusts subdued, his pleasures interfered with, his passions curbed, his affections governed, his heart purified. He wants just as much religion as will enable him " to make the best of both worlds."

(A. Nevin, D. D.)

They must have possessed a knowledge of nature beyond that of their countrymen, who had sufficient experience of the utility of such knowledge to reverence teachers endued with any rare portion of it. The magicians must have considered this knowledge as Divine; and have come more and more to regard the different powers of nature and the different objects in which these powers were exhibited, as themselves Divine. They will have been politicians as well as naturalists, ready to employ their lore and the mastery which it gave them over the things of the earth, to uphold the authority of the monarch, or to promote his plans. They will therefore have fallen into a scheme of trick and dissimulation, which would have been ineffectual and impossible if there had not been some truths lying at the root of it; and some real assurance in their own minds both of those truths and of their own capacities. It is this mixture of faith with insincerity — of actual knowledge with the assumption of knowledge, of genuine power with the desire to make the power felt and worshipped, a readiness therefore to abuse it to low grovelling purposes — which we have to recognize in the impostures of all subsequent ages, and to which we are here introduced in one of its primitive manifestations. It was most natural for a politic monarch to wish that a body of strangers, who were doing little good in a certain portion of his land, should be made slaves, and so become agents in carrying out what seemed to him magnificent projects. It was most natural that a body of politic priests — disliking these strangers, for the traditions and customs which separated them from their influence — should readily co-operate with him in that plan, or should be the first suggesters of it. It is equally natural that his Egyptian subjects should sympathize with the design, and should feel that they were raised in the degradation of another race. But it was impossible that king, priests, and people, should effect this seemingly sage and national purpose, without forging new chains for themselves, without losing some perceptions of a moral order in the world and a moral Ruler of it, which had been implied in their government and worship, and which Joseph's arrangements had drawn out; it was impossible but that with the loss of this feeling, they should sink further and further into natural and animal worship.

(F. D. Maurice, M. A.)

Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods
I. Let us turn aside to see this great sight — the Divine triumphant over the diabolical: the spiritual subduing the natural — AARON'S ROD SWALLOWING ALL ITS RIVALS.

1. Let us take the case of the awakened sinner. That man was, a few days ago, as worldly, as carnal, as stolid, as he well could be. If any one should propose to make that man heavenly-minded, the common observer would say, "Impossible! As in old Roman walls, the cement has become so strong, that the stone is no longer a separate piece, but has become a part of the wall itself — so this man is cemented to the world, he cannot lie separated from it. You must break him in pieces with the hammer of death; you cannot separate him in any other way from the cares of life." Ah, but Aaron's rod shall swallow up this rod. The man listens to the Word; the truth comes with power into his soul; the Holy Ghost has entered him; and the next day, though he goes to his business, he finds no true contentment in it, for he pants after the living God. Now, his spirit pleads its needs, and outstrips the body in the contest for its warmest love. He spurns the trifles of a day: he seeks the jewels of eternity. Grace has won the day, and the worldling seeks the world to come.

2. The same fact, with equal distinctness, is to be observed in the individual when he becomes a believer in Jesus Christ; his faith destroys all other confidences.

3. The same fact is very manifest after faith in all who truly love the Saviour. They who love Christ aright, love no one in comparison with Him.

4. You will notice this in the man who makes his delight in the Lord Jesus. He who makes his delight in Christ after a true sort, will discover that this delight swallows up all other delights.

5. Yet more is it so in a man who is devoted to God's service. The service of God swallows up everything else when the man is truly God's servant. When a man gets fully possessed with an enthusiastic love for Jesus, difficulties to him become only things to be surmounted, dangers become honours, sacrifices pleasures, sufferings delights, weariness rest.

II. WE NOW DRAW AN INFERENCE. If it be so, that wherever true religion — the finger of God — comes into a man, it becomes a consuming passion, till the zeal of God's house eats the man up. Then there are many persons who profess religion, who cannot have found the right thing. Those who are mean, miserly, and miserable in the cause of Christ, whose only expenditure is upon self, and whose main object is gain, what can we say of them? Why, that they look upon religion as some great farmers do upon their little off-hand farms. They think it is well to have a little religion; they can turn to it for amusement sometimes, just to ease them a little of their cares; besides, it may be very well, after having had all in this world, to try to get something in the next. They are moral and decent in all ways; they can pray very nicely in prayer-meetings, yet they never dream of consecrating their secular employments unto God. Aaron's rod, in their case, has never swallowed up their rods.

III. Now, I will GIVE SOME REASONS WHY I PUT THE SERVICE OF GOD SO PROMINENT, AND THINK THAT AARON'S ROD OUGHT TO SWALLOW UP ALL OTHER RODS. What does the great gospel revelation discover to us? Does it not show us an awful danger, and one only way of escape from it? Does not our religion also reveal to us the joyous reward of another world? It opens to us yonder pearly gates, and bids us gaze on angels and glorified spirits. By hell, and by heaven, therefore, I do entreat you, let Aaron's rod swallow up all other rods; and let love and faith in Jesus be the master passion of your soul. Moreover, do we not learn in our holy faith of a love unexampled? Where was there love such as that which brought the Prince of Glory down to the gates of death, and made Him pass the portals amid shame and scoffing? Shall such love as this have half our hearts?

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

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