Moses and Aaron Return to Pharaoh

Exodus 7:1-13

Moses and Aaron do go back to Pharaoh to repeat their request on behalf of the people. At God’s command, Aaron throws down his staff, which promptly turns into a serpent. When Pharaoh’s magicians duplicate the feat, God ups the ante by causing Aaron’s staff to swallow their staves. Pharaoh, however, remains unimpressed, and continues to refuse God’s demands.


The symbolism of the sign God tells Aaron to perform as a show of His power to Pharaoh is particularly meaningful. The Hebrew word employed by the Torah, Tanin (ta-NEEN), can also be translated as crocodile. The Egyptian god Sobek, god of the Nile, was often depicted as a crocodile or a man with a crocodile head, so by turning Aaron’s staff into a crocodile which then ate the others, God was telling Pharaoh that He was superior to any power Egypt might believe in.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

God keeps giving Pharaoh opportunity after opportunity to change his mind, yet from the outset He told Moses that Pharaoh would keep refusing until God sends His wonders upon him. Why do you think God keeps sending Moses to ask for the Israelites’ freedom?


Comments ( 22 )

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  • Jose oziel de oliveira

    O cajado de Moisés foi transformado em Serpente !!!

  • Shlomenu muendo

    this was to tell Moses and everybody else who would read the Torah to know that God is more interested in His desire to have people listen to Him and do His will than let what He knows happen.He is more concerned about people than about what happens to this was to tell Moses and everybody else who would read the Torah to know that God is more interested in His desire to have people listen to Him and do His will than let what He knows happen.He is more concerned about people than about what happens to them

  • Herman Arentsen

    I think that HaShem would give opportunity to Pharo to come back from wrong decisions. He also had a free will to choose,in spite of a hardened heart he still had a free will to choose differently. But by wrong decisions a part of his will became contaminated by his jetser hara. Each time a little more , so that after a number of questions he could not change his heart. Moreover by the repeated questions of Moshe G-d had the possibility of showing His Greatness and Wonders, so that all the people in Egypt should know HIM..

  • Na'ahma

    Not exactly on point, but a comment anyway. I am, and expect to be for a while, an interested observer here. That is not to say I won’t be here! Oh no! While I am somewhat intimidated by the depth of knowledge here, my eyes are opened. And isn’t that the purpose? I am still pondering the question of why the three women are mentioned in Moshe’s lineage! It is my privilege to be here. Blessings and shalom!

    • Drew

      Shalom Naahma. And we have only just begun so to speak. 🙂
      The more time one spends in scripture one comes to realize that the more we know we realize how much we dont know.
      Pro 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal a thing; but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.

    • Welcome Na’ahma! We are so happy that you are joining us. Feel free to post comments and even your own questions. Our learning is strengthened through the conversations we have with others.

  • Magda

    Through Moses’ repeated approaching of Pharaoh, HaShem creates the opportunity to reveal his Magnitude and Power by doing the signs and wonders and give repeated examples of His Power over the gods of the Egyptians. Perhaps because He knows that His children learn best by visual and kinestetic learning (seeing and feeling His signs and Protection). ‘Hardening’ Pharaoh’s heart repeatedly might also be part of the ‘lesson’ in showing the Israelites (Moses) the harshness of their oppressor?

    • Thanks for joining our discussion! I agree that this definitely created an opportunity for God to reveal Himself, and His powers to the Israelites as well as to the Egyptians and the whole world! The plagues, which turned ‘nature’ on its head, was God’s way of showing that He is the one in control of the world since He is the one who created the world. The Exodus from Egypt, with all its revealed miracles, becomes the basis for the people’s knowledge of God for all future generations.

  • Christine

    I think Yah was testing Moshe even further in his development as leader. Moshe several times had referred to himself as having uncircumcised lips. Yah in His Grace, then allowed Aaron to speak, however Moshe still had to listen and obey Yah’s voice.

  • Kenneth

    Pharaoh’s actions show the intransigence of evil and that Deliverance will only come in God’s time and meanwhile perseverance and test of faith is required. Also, Moses is the example of the greater deliverance that comes at the end of the age of evil and the experiences of the true Israel of God throughout the ages will require us to wait until true freedom comes. Though the vision tarry, it will come… .

  • Kenneth

    Question: Regarding the word ta-NEEN. It is used 3 times and then at the river the word נָחָשׁ na-cha-sh is used 7:15. What is the significance of this?

    • Drew

      The nachash..The shining one from memory. Looking further 🙂

      • Interesting question! Just re-read the verses. The term na-kha-sh is used at the burning bush and then again in 7:15. It seems to be referring to Moses’s staff, that was turned to a na-khash at the bush. However, Aaron’s staff was used in front of Pharaoh, and that turned into a ta-NEEN. Though the commentator Rashi translates ta-NEEN as na-khash, perhaps the different terms are used to help differentiate between the two staffs that were being used.

      • Drew

        Exod. 7:9..a serpent In 4:3 the Hebrew term is nahash; here it is tannin, a more general term for a large
        reptile. Lekah Tov and Bekhor Shor plausibly suggest that tannin has special relevance to Pharaoh,
        who is addressed as follows in Ezekiel 29:3: “Thus says the Lord GOD: /I am going to deal with you,
        Pharaoh, king of Egypt, / Mighty monster [Heb. ha-tannin ha-gadol].”

        • Drew

          A primitive root; properly to hiss, that is, whisper a (magic) spell; generally to prognosticate: – X certainly, divine, enchanter, (use) X enchantment, learn by experience, X indeed, diligently observe.
          Strongs H5172

          • Drew

            Gen_3:1 Now the Shining One was more clever than any animal of the field that the LORD God had made. It asked the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You are not to eat from any tree of the garden’?”
            Gen_3:4 “You certainly will not die!” the Shining One told the woman.
            Gen_3:13 Then the LORD God asked the woman, “What did you do?” “The Shining One misled me,” the woman answered, “so I ate.”
            Gen_3:14 The LORD God told the Shining One, “Because you have done this, you are more cursed than all the livestock, and more than all the earth’s animals, You’ll crawl on your belly and eat dust as long as you live.

          • Drew

            And here he is in
            Eze 28:13 You used to be in Eden—God’s paradise! You wore precious stones for clothing: ruby, topaz, diamond, beryl, onyx, jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and carbuncle. Your settings were crafted in gold, along with your engravings. On the day of your creation they had been prepared!

          • Rashi (medieval commentator) explains that the na-khash, which we find in Genesis as well (as Drew mentioned) symbolizes slander. Moses’s staff is what turns into a na-khash, and Rashi points out that it is because he spoke ‘slander’ against the Children of Israel by saying that they would not believe him or listen to him (4:1). For this reason, one of his ‘signs’ was that his staff turned into a na-khash. Another of his ‘signs’ was that his hand became leprous; leprosy is the punishment for slanderous speech. It is Aaron’s staff that turns into a ta-neen. As mentioned above, the ta-neen could be referring to a crocodile, one of the gods of Egypt. Thus, in front of Pharaoh, it was appropriate for the staff to turn into a ta-neen.

          • Drew

            Thats so cool. Must put that away in the memory bank 🙂

  • Jerry

    It says that Hashem hardened Pharaoh’s heart, but it didn’t say He took away Pharaoh’s ability to choose. It’s an important distinction. While I can’t support the position scripturally, it may be that Hashem’s “hardening” of Pharaoh’s heart was simply giving Satan full access to him. This concept is somewhat supported by the story of Job. I don’t believe Hashem will CAUSE evil, but He may permit it. Being omniscient, Hashem knew Pharaoh’s choices in advance. Hence, each of the plagues was a twofold opportunity. First to give Pharaoh an opportunity to choose that which was right, and second for Hashem to display His awesome power.
    This is troubling to consider. Should G-d’s omniscience and His ability to set the stage be considered causative?

    • Thanks for a great comment. There are many opinions on what exactly happened when God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. First of all, it does not have to mean that God took away his free will, but rather made him more stubborn, able to withstand the torture. Pharaoh still had the ability to recognize God and let the Children of Israel go. We see that God also hardened the hearts of Pharaoh’s servants (10:1), yet they wish to let the Hebrews serve their God, lest Egypt be destroyed by the plagues (10:7). Another interesting idea, brought by the Sforno, a 16th century Italian commentator, explains that God had to harden Pharaoh’s heart in order to ‘even the playing field’ and to truly grant Pharaoh free will. God wanted to give Pharaoh the ability to repent, and to fee the Children of Israel for the right reasons (because he recognized God) and not for the ‘wrong’ reasons, like pressure from the people or fear. Therefore, God had to make Pharaoh resilient to these fears in order to enable him the free will to make the proper choice for the right reasons.

      • Angela B

        I agree, Yahweh wanted to have Pharaoh free the Israelites for the right reasons. In fact there's a portion of scripture that says something like this; "for this reason I have raised you up so that I may make my power known to all the earth"

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