8 Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 9 “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Prove yourselves by working a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’ ” 10 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. 11 Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. 12 For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. 13 Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said.
As we look today at this shorter text, it’s important to note that this event is the preview to all the plagues and will show that God is victorious. It’s also important to note that this is a battle between God and Satan. Pharoah, the sorcerers, witches, and all the false gods belong to Satan’s domain. I think we may sometimes forget that all religions are from Satan. All cults are from Satan. All false groups that would call themselves Christian are from Satan. Everyone and everything that stands against Jesus Christ and His Word belong to the false god of this world.
God had told Pharoah to let His people go. Then God hardened Pharoah’s heart so that he would not let His people go. God had positioned Himself to shower judgement down on Satan’s dominion. Egypt and her false gods would be devastated by God.
We learn from the ten plagues that are about to begin what the Apostle Paul teaches us in Ephesians…
Ephesians 6:10–13 (ESV)
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
Ephesians 6:13–19 (ESV)
13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,
Our battle is also against Satan and cosmic forces of evil that plague us in this current evil world. However, as we are made ready for battle, God has already won the final victory.
Notice from the OT that we are to be suited for battle like the Lord is. We, as His people, are to wear the same uniform as our General. We must be dressed for battle and our uniforms match our Lord who leads the battle and who is already victorious.
Isaiah 59:16–19 (ESV)
16 He saw that there was no man,
and wondered that there was no one to intercede;
then his own arm brought him salvation,
and his righteousness upheld him.
17 He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
and a helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on garments of vengeance for clothing,
and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.
18 According to their deeds, so will he repay,
wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies;
to the coastlands he will render repayment.
19 So they shall fear the name of the Lord from the west,
and his glory from the rising of the sun;
for he will come like a rushing stream,
which the wind of the Lord drives.
Here in this preview of the plagues we see the supernatural dimension between Moses and Pharoah or as we have said between God and Satan.
This event really shows us many of the themes we will again pick up as we look at the ten plagues. We will see the obedience of Moses and Aaron, the counterfeit miracles of Satan and his servants, the superior power of God, and the continued hardening of Pharoah’s heart, and the wrath of God poured out on Satan’s domain.
This is a preview. There is a very vivid thematic connection between the snakes being swallowed by God’s snake and the Red Sea swallowing Satan’s army. The word here for swallow is unique in Hebrew and in the song of Moses after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, he of course through inspiration makes the connection. Standing up on top the mountain of salvation I can see how this image reminded Moses of the event in our text today. The Red Sea being parted was God’s snake and Pharoah’s army riding in chariots I’m sure looked like a snake weaving its way through the parted sea. Then when the Red Sea swallowed them, it looked like God’s snake swallowing Satan’s snake. So, Moses uses the same word in his song of praise…God swallowed the enemy.
7:12 Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs
Exodus 15:12 (ESV)
12 You stretched out your right hand;
the earth swallowed them.
It was the late James Montgomery Boice who really brought this out in his writings concerning this event of the snakes.
Another important fact that we see in our current text is that Moses had been brought to the place where he trusted God. Remember how every time God told him what to do there was an argument from Moses? No argument now, he simply does what God tells him to do.
Have you ever argued with God?
1. Moses and Aaron Obey God
8 Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 9 “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Prove yourselves by working a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’ ” 10 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent.
What did Moses learn here as he obeyed God just as God commanded? He learned God could be trusted to do what He said He would do. Unless we obey God we will never learn God keeps His Word and can be trusted. Especially in difficult times, this knowledge of God is extremely valuable. We are called to obey the Lord all the time and in every circumstance.
As we mature as believers, we learn of a connection that exists between obedience and our love for God. Scripture is clear on this connection…
Deuteronomy 11:1 (ESV)
11 “You shall therefore love the Lord your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always.
John 15:14–17 (ESV)
14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
John 14:15 (ESV)
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
So, Moses finally came to the place where he truly loved God and obedience became much easier. It’s much easier for us as well when we truly love God. We can be faithful through difficult times as we love God. The things of this world become far less important as we see and meditate on the ultimate value and worth of God. Difficulties are not so hard when God is our treasure.
Aaron threw his staff on the ground and it became a serpent just as the Lord said it would. Moses discovered through obedience God would do everything He promised He would do. Remember God desires for all of us to be obedient to His calling. What has God called you to? Are you obeying God in everything He’s called you to do? Are you seeing God work?
2. Satan’s Serpents
11 Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. 12 For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents.
Those who study Egyptology and the Pharoahs tell us that the serpent was a symbol of Pharoah. In fact the symbol of the serpent marked his deity in Egyptian culture. People get off track when they spend all their time and efforts trying to figure out what type of serpent these were. The focus of the text is not zoological but theological.
Remember Moses had become God to Pharoah and Aaron was his prophet. When Moses declared that he came in the name of Yahweh, Pharoah demanded a sign to prove Moses’ authority just as God told Moses he would request. Pharoah demanded a sign. What better sign to give Pharoah that one that depicted Pharoah’s deity?
The Egyptians worshipped Pharaoh whose image was a serpent. Many Egyptians wore gold jewelry depicting a serpent. Do you see Satan at work here? The old serpent? He desires to be worshipped. He wants everything God has.
When Aaron threw his staff to the ground, he was directly attacking Pharoah’s supposed sovereignty. God was executing judgement on Pharoah who claimed to be god and who refused to let God’s people go.
God’s first move was to attack Pharaoh (satan) and show that his claims were false. He was not God but just a man.
We are told that the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts.
12 For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. 13 Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said.
The occultic magicians, the Bible tells us did the same thing by their secret arts. Some say their attempt was simply magic trick, sort of a slight of hand type trick. Others tell us there is a way in which they could induce the serpent into a trance in with it goes stiff then their throwing it to the ground woke it back up. The biblical account is much simpler. Satan has some powers and could copy this miracle. He will always remain a counterfeiter. He always seeks to copy what God does through his own power.
2 Thessalonians 2:9–10 (ESV)
9 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
My personal belief is these were real snakes and with two great attacks and gulps there were no longer three but one. Satan’s sovereignty was swallowed by God in an instant.
In this preview of the coming attractions, God showed the world who was completely in charge.
It was in this copy and imitation that Pharaoh may have been given just enough confidence that his heart was further hardened and he still refused to let God’s people go.
God swallowed the serpents…
1 Corinthians 15:53–55 (ESV)
53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
Pharoah refused to let God’s people go and this was exactly what God had foretold Moses, in fact, this was exactly what God wanted. He would display His power for the world to see. God’s people would come out of Egypt on God’s terms which was through the judgement of Egypt and the victory over Satan and his demons.