The Nile River played a very significant role in Egyptian life. It was their water source, their mode of transportation, their food source, and sadly, it was a god they worshipped.
This first plague God strikes down the god they believe supplied all their needs. So, God strikes down the Nile River and makes it utterly worthless. Their god was rendered useless.
We must come to terms with the fact, as the Bible records it, that the Nile River became blood. It did not just turn red as some would want us to believe. The Bible means what it says and it clearly says blood.
Exodus 3:19–20 (ESV)
19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go.
The ten plagues are judgements against Egypt and against Egypt’s gods. Basically, the Egyptians had many gods. Some estimate 80 or more major gods. These could all be categorized into god’s of the Nile River, the Land and the Sky. The first two plagues deal with the Nile River. The next four, against the gods of the Land, and the final four dealing a death blow to the gods of the sky. These culminate, of course in the death of the firstborn.
God shows His absolute superiority over these false gods of Egypt. Remember these false gods were really fueled by demonic activity that had set themselves against the true God of Scripture.
Deuteronomy 32:16–18 (ESV)
16 They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods;
with abominations they provoked him to anger.
17 They sacrificed to demons that were no gods,
to gods they had never known,
to new gods that had come recently,
whom your fathers had never dreaded.
18 You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you,
and you forgot the God who gave you birth.
This passage associates pagan gods with “demons” and warns God’s people not to be involved with idolatry.
The Hebrew text here uses what is called synonymous parallelism, in which two or more lines communicate the same idea using different words. In this case, the parallels include “strange gods” and “demons that were no gods.” Grammatically, the demons and the foreign gods are the same. The text clearly connects pagan worship with evil spirits. The false gods are in contrast with the true God, the “Rock” in verses 15 and 17.
Leviticus 17:7adds another important connection: “They shall no more offer their sacrifices to demons, after whom they have played the harlot” (NKJV). Here, these demons (the ESV has “goat demons”) are other gods worshiped by the surrounding cultures. Again, demons are equated with pagan gods in this passage.
It is no coincidence that demonic activity is associated with religions that embrace a multitude of gods and goddesses. A desire to have supernatural contact with the “spirit world” often focuses people on supernatural power apart from the power God offers through a relationship with Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit. The devil desires to be worshiped (Matthew 4:9), and demons teach false doctrine in order to deceive.
1 Timothy 4:1 (ESV)
4 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,
Those who worship false gods are, wittingly or unwittingly, pledging their allegiance to evil spirits who desire to usurp God’s rightful place in our hearts.
To the Christian, an idol is “nothing” (1 Corinthians 8:4). That is, demons and their deceit have no true power over us. Any power they wield pales in comparison with the power of Christ.
Mark 5:7–8 (ESV)
7 And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” 8 For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”
1. Pharoah Is Required to Obey God Like Everyone Else
14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is hardened; he refuses to let the people go. 15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning, as he is going out to the water. Stand on the bank of the Nile to meet him, and take in your hand the staff that turned into a serpent. 16 And you shall say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you, saying, “Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness.” But so far, you have not obeyed.
As Moses and Aaron go back to Pharoah, notice God’s demands have not changed. God’s demands are nonnegotiable. Pharoah is confronted with the same God with the same command…
“Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness.” But so far, you have not obeyed.
God’s commands are always the same. They are the same when we are concerned. God does not play favorites in that He lets some sin slide. All sin is paid for whether by the sinner in God’s judgement or by Jesus Christ on behalf of God’s elect.
Acts 16:30–31 (ESV)
30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
Psalm 33:11 (ESV)
11 The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.
I’ve heard people say things like…God and I have an agreement. This is the inclination of fallen sinful man, he thinks God will treat him differently than everyone else. Even Pharoah must obey God or suffer the wrath of God.
God does not negotiate nor does He play favorites…all must come to Him through faith in Jesus Christ or pay for their own sin, no exceptions.
2. By This You Shall Know That I Am the Lord
17 Thus says the Lord, “By this you shall know that I am the Lord: behold, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall turn into blood. 18 The fish in the Nile shall die, and the Nile will stink, and the Egyptians will grow weary of drinking water from the Nile.” ’ ”
God tells Moses and Aaron the purpose of the plagues…you shall know that I am the Lord. These plagues will devastate Egypt’s gods showing without a doubt who the real God is. God will show His authority, sovereignty, power, majesty and care through these devastating signs.
Jesus took the same strategy during His earthly ministry. He too performed signs to prove that He is Lord.
Matthew 11:4–6 (ESV)
4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
Isaiah 26:19 (ESV)
19 Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
Isaiah 29:18 (ESV)
18 In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.
Isaiah 35:5–6 (ESV)
5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;
Isaiah 61:1–2 (ESV)
61 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;
3. Great Suffering in Egypt
19 And the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, their canals, and their ponds, and all their pools of water, so that they may become blood, and there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, even in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.’ ”
20 Moses and Aaron did as the Lord commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood. 21 And the fish in the Nile died, and the Nile stank, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. There was blood throughout all the land of Egypt
There was blood throughout the land of Egypt. God’s divine judgement is not idle threat.
We note too… 20 Moses and Aaron did as the Lord commanded.
The river of blood began to stink. The blood and the dead fish were beginning to putrify and smell. The symbolism is that God had killed the Nile River and its blood was everywhere. The water could not be drunk and Egypt was suffering greatly. They had put their trust in the wrong god. Their god was dead and stinking.
This was real blood…
Psalm 78:42–44 (ESV)
42 They did not remember his power or the day when he redeemed them from the foe,
43 when he performed his signs in Egypt and his marvels in the fields of Zoan.
44 He turned their rivers to blood, so that they could not drink of their streams.
Psalm 105:29 (ESV)
29 He turned their waters into blood and caused their fish to die.
I don’t know if we fully realize the significance of this first plague. The Nile River was their livelihood. With the Nile contaminated, it was no longer a fresh water source, no transportation, no irrigation, their crops would die, their other food sources were directly tied to the Nile. This was devastating to them.
We might think of it like this, no water, no food, no gas for cars, no future crops, no hope.
One application to us is that we must place our hope and trust in the God of the Bible and not in any thing we may be tempted to trust. They trusted the Nile rather than God.
Do we have any Nile Rivers in our lives, things we might trust in other than God? What is it you might be tempted to trust other than God? Bank Account, Job, Your Intelligence, Abilities, Government, etc.? God can very quickly remove our false gods, our idols but if that’s the case, it won’t be pleasant.
4. Satan Duplicates God’s Miracle
22 But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts. So Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said. 23 Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart. 24 And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the Nile.
Whether this was done by some sort of trick or by demonic power we are not told. Where this water came from, we are not told. Perhaps there was well water Egyptians dug along the Nile for water to drink or some other source but the issue remains that Satan had the power to copy God’s miracle.
Like last time, this copy by the magicians was enough to harden Pharoah’s heart even more.
Revelation 16:2–6 (ESV)
2 So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.
3 The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing died that was in the sea.
4 The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. 5 And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say,
“Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was,
for you brought these judgments.
6 For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets,
and you have given them blood to drink.
It is what they deserve!”
This too is what Egypt, who did not worship the true God but reserved her praise for demonic powers deserves. This is the just judgement for all who worship false gods.
Here is the sad but true state of Pharoah and of the sinners at the end of the age, through all these judgements, they will not repent.
Revelation 16:9 (ESV)
9 They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.
As we consider these shocking truths, we must consider have I repented of my idolatry?