Before you read: Moses and Aaron did go back to Pharaoh. God turned Aaron’s staff into a snake, but Pharaoh’s magicians were able to do the same thing – though Aaron’s snake swallowed theirs up. Still, Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites go.
Read Exodus 7:14-24
14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is unyielding; he refuses to let the people go. 15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning as he goes out to the river. Confront him on the bank of the Nile, and take in your hand the staff that was changed into a snake. 16 Then say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness. But until now you have not listened. 17 This is what the Lord says: By this you will know that I am the Lord: With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood. 18 The fish in the Nile will die, and the river will stink; the Egyptians will not be able to drink its water.’”
19 The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt—over the streams and canals, over the ponds and all the reservoirs—and they will turn to blood.’ Blood will be everywhere in Egypt, even in vessels of wood and stone.”
20 Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord had commanded. He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood. 21 The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt.
22 But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharaoh’s heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said. 23 Instead, he turned and went into his palace, and did not take even this to heart. 24 And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile to get drinking water, because they could not drink the water of the river.
Da-dum! Da-dum! Can you hear?
It’s the heavy footstep of God coming up beside Moses and flexing His muscle as He prepares to take on Egypt.
He starts with the river because the Egyptians worship it. Technically, they worship the river god, Hapi. By corrupting the water of the river, God is challenging their god. He wins.
The Nile River stretches wide and embraces all Egypt, flooding it year after year and leaving rich river silt to grow abundant crops. It’s also the main highway, crowded with riverboats carrying people and cargo. All the buildings, farms, and cities of Egypt crowd close to the river because it is their source of life. (I know my picture is all wrong – couldn’t find a free one that worked).
And every morning Pharaoh goes out to bathe in it and pay tribute to its god.
How annoying to find Moses and Aaron there! Must they ruin even this pleasant ritual?
Pharaoh doesn’t know he’s a character in the Story God is writing. Pharaoh thinks he’s the author of his own story and the story of all Egypt, including the Israelites. It’s a terrible misunderstanding.
God wants the Israelites out of Egypt, so He sends Moses and Aaron back to Pharaoh a third time. All Pharaoh sees are two Hebrew men, not powerful at all. He doesn’t see God and doesn’t believe such a being even exists.
So God needs to get his attention.
Da-dum! Turning the river to blood is only the first of what will be ten plagues of destruction God will use to hammer Pharaoh and break the power of Egypt.
Moses doesn’t know this, at least not specifically. He’s probably amazed and relieved that the river turned to blood. Finally, God is doing something. Now, the Israelites will listen to him.
But God had already done something.
He had spoken.
He had given His word that He would free the Israelites and bring them to their own land. With God, to speak is to do, but all the characters in the Story have yet to learn it: Pharaoh, Moses, the Israelites – me and you.