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Exodus 7:15-18

7:15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning when 1  he goes out to the water. Position yourself 2  to meet him by the edge of the Nile, 3  and take 4  in your hand the staff 5  that was turned into a snake. 7:16 Tell him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to you to say, 6  “Release my people, that they may serve me 7  in the desert!” But until now 8  you have not listened. 9  7:17 Thus says the Lord: “By this you will know that I am the Lord: I am going to strike 10  the water of the Nile with the staff that is in my hand, and it will be turned into blood. 11  7:18 Fish 12  in the Nile will die, the Nile will stink, and the Egyptians will be unable 13  to drink water from the Nile.”’”

1 tn The clause begins with הִנֵּה (hinneh); here it provides the circumstances for the instruction for Moses – he is going out to the water so go meet him. A temporal clause translation captures the connection between the clauses.

2 tn The instruction to Moses continues with this perfect tense with vav (ו) consecutive following the imperative. The verb means “to take a stand, station oneself.” It seems that Pharaoh’s going out to the water was a regular feature of his day and that Moses could be there waiting to meet him.

3 sn The Nile, the source of fertility for the country, was deified by the Egyptians. There were religious festivals held to the god of the Nile, especially when the Nile was flooding. The Talmud suggests that Pharaoh in this passage went out to the Nile to make observations as a magician about its level. Others suggest he went out simply to bathe or to check the water level – but that would not change the view of the Nile that was prevalent in the land.

4 tn The verb תִּקַּח (tiqqakh), the Qal imperfect of לָקַח (laqakh), functions here as the imperfect of instruction, or injunction perhaps, given the word order of the clause.

5 tn The final clause begins with the noun and vav disjunctive, which singles this instruction out for special attention – “now the staff…you are to take.”

6 tn The form לֵאמֹר (lemor) is the Qal infinitive construct with the lamed (ל) preposition. It is used so often epexegetically that it has achieved idiomatic status – “saying” (if translated at all). But here it would make better sense to take it as a purpose infinitive. God sent him to say these words.

7 tn The imperfect tense with the vav (וְיַעַבְדֻנִי, vÿyaavduni) following the imperative is in volitive sequence, showing the purpose – “that they may serve me.” The word “serve” (עָבַד, ’avad) is a general term to include religious observance and obedience.

8 tn The final עַד־כֹּה (’ad-koh, “until now”) narrows the use of the perfect tense to the present perfect: “you have not listened.” That verb, however, involves more than than mere audition. It has the idea of responding to, hearkening, and in some places obeying; here “you have not complied” might catch the point of what Moses is saying, while “listen” helps to maintain the connection with other uses of the verb.

9 tn Or “complied” (שָׁמַעְתָּ, shamata).

10 tn The construction using הִנֵּה (hinneh) before the participle (here the Hiphil participle מַכֶּה, makkeh) introduces a futur instans use of the participle, expressing imminent future, that he is about to do something.

11 sn W. C. Kaiser summarizes a view that has been adopted by many scholars, including a good number of conservatives, that the plagues overlap with natural phenomena in Egypt. Accordingly, the “blood” would not be literal blood, but a reddish contamination in the water. If there was an unusually high inundation of the Nile, the water flowed sluggishly through swamps and was joined with the water from the mountains that washed out the reddish soil. If the flood were high, the water would have a deeper red color. In addition to this discoloration, there is said to be a type of algae which produce a stench and a deadly fluctuation of the oxygen level of the river that is fatal to fish (see W. C. Kaiser, Jr., “Exodus,” EBC 2:350; he cites Greta Hort, “The Plagues of Egypt,” ZAW 69 [1957]: 84-103; same title, ZAW 70 [1958]: 48-59). While most scholars would agree that the water did not actually become blood (any more than the moon will be turned to literal blood [Joel 2:31]), many are not satisfied with this kind of explanation. If the event was a fairly common feature of the Nile, it would not have been any kind of sign to Pharaoh – and it should still be observable. The features that would have to be safeguarded are that it was understood to be done by the staff of God, that it was unexpected and not a mere coincidence, and that the magnitude of the contamination, color, stench, and death, was unparalleled. God does use natural features in miracles, but to be miraculous signs they cannot simply coincide with natural phenomena.

12 tn The definite article here has the generic use, indicating the class – “fish” (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 19, §92).

13 tn The verb לָאָה (laa), here in the Niphal perfect with a vav consecutive, means “be weary, impatient.” The Niphal meaning is “make oneself weary” in doing something, or “weary (strenuously exert) oneself.” It seems always to indicate exhausted patience (see BDB 521 s.v.). The term seems to imply that the Egyptians were not able to drink the red, contaminated water, and so would expend all their energy looking for water to drink – in frustration of course.

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