Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is hardened; he refuses to let the people go. 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. 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. 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. The fish in the Nile shall die, and the Nile will stink, and the Egyptians will grow weary of drinking water from the Nile.”’” 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.’”
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. 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. 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. Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart. And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the Nile.
Seven full days passed after the LORD had struck the Nile. (Exodus 7:14-25 ESV)
The Egyptians believed that the god Osiris was drowned in the Nile and that his body annually caused the flooding of the Nile which brought fertilization of the land. This annual flooding was needed for them to prosper and the regularity of this was known as Ma’at, the orderliness of the world. The Pharaoh, a god in their view, was responsible for maintaining Ma’at and the flooding of the Nile. So too was the god Hapi. Everything depended on the Nile’s annual flooding and life giving properties.
For Yahweh to turn the Nile and all other waterways into blood was a powerful demonstration of His sovereignty over all nations and the impotence of Egypt’s Pharaoh and Egypt’s gods. And even though the magicians’ ability to turn a small amount of water into blood was obviously insignificant compared to what Yahweh did through Moses, Pharaoh hardened his heart. For seven days the Egyptians were forced to dig for pure water. The danger could not be more obvious, the nation could not be more close to collapse. Simple reason told them they should listen to Yahweh.
People have a knack for ignoring the obvious, and according to Paul (Romans 1:18-26) the most obvious fact we ignore is God’s existence and who He really is. We repress the truth about God so that we don’t have to submit to Him as He requires. We shape an image of the God we want to serve, one we can control. That is at the root of all idolatry. Egyptians had gods they could manipulate to fertilize their land. We have a god who is supposed to take care of our every need and be most concerned about our happiness. We need a Moses to show us how insignificant our magic is.
Romans 1:25, “they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.”