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SBL e-journal

Marc Zvi Brettler

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2015

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Source Criticism: It's in the (Plague of) Blood

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TheTorah.com

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https://thetorah.com/article/source-criticism-its-in-the-plague-of-blood

APA e-journal

Marc Zvi Brettler

,

,

,

"

Source Criticism: It's in the (Plague of) Blood

"

TheTorah.com

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2015

)

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https://thetorah.com/article/source-criticism-its-in-the-plague-of-blood

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Source Criticism: It's in the (Plague of) Blood

An Inductive Approach

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Source Criticism: It's in the (Plague of) Blood

Jim Padget. Adapted cc 3.0 Wikimedia

Va’era’s Place in the Development of Source Criticism

I am fond of Parashat Va’era—it was my Bar Mitzvah parashah forty-four years ago. That may be bashert (predetermined good fortune)—after all, it is one of the most important Torah portions for understanding the utility of source-criticism.

Its initial verses claim that the patriarchs in Genesis did not know God by the name YHWH, which is flatly contradicted by many verses in Genesis where the ancestors and others use this name.[1] This has long been recognized as one key indicator of the multiplicity of sources in the Bible; the beginning of our parasha come from P, the Priestly source, which in Genesis knows God as Elohim (translated by convention “God”) or El-Shaddai, but never as YHWH. One of the ways that P marks the era beginning with Moses as special is by claiming that God’s true name was only revealed then.[2]

The Complex Plague of Blood

To my mind, another equally compelling indication of the existence of sources is found in the following chapter, in the blood plague in Exodus 7:14-25, which is reproduced here in the translation of Everett Fox.[3] His translation is very literal, and attempts to render each Hebrew word with a unique English word, and thus is especially useful for anyone attempting a source-critical analysis using an English Bible. As you read the text in Hebrew or English, please be open to seeing “bumps” or problems in the narrative.

שמות ז:יד וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְ-הֹוָה֙ אֶל מֹשֶׁ֔ה כָּבֵ֖ד לֵ֣ב פַּרְעֹ֑ה מֵאֵ֖ן לְשַׁלַּ֥ח הָעָֽם:
Exod 7:14 YHWH said to Moshe: Pharaoh’s heart is heavy-with-stubbornness—he refuses to send the people free.
ז:טו לֵ֣ךְ אֶל פַּרְעֹ֞ה בַּבֹּ֗קֶר הִנֵּה֙ יֹצֵ֣א הַמַּ֔יְמָה וְנִצַּבְתָּ֥ לִקְרָאת֖וֹ עַל שְׂפַ֣ת הַיְאֹ֑ר וְהַמַּטֶּ֛ה אֲשֶׁר נֶהְפַּ֥ךְ לְנָחָ֖שׁ תִּקַּ֥ח בְּיָדֶֽךָ:
7:15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning, here, he goes out to the Nile, station yourself to meet him by the shore of the Nile, and the staff that changed into a snake, take in your hand,
ז:טז וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֵלָ֗יו יְ-הֹוָ֞ה אֱ-לֹהֵ֤י הָעִבְרִים֙ שְׁלָחַ֤נִי אֵלֶ֙יךָ֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר שַׁלַּח֙ אֶת עַמִּ֔י וְיַֽעַבְדֻ֖נִי בַּמִּדְבָּ֑ר וְהִנֵּ֥ה לֹא שָׁמַ֖עְתָּ עַד כֹּֽה:
7:16 and say to him: YHWH, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to you, saying: Send free my people, that they may serve me in the wilderness! But here, you have not hearkened thus far.
ז:יז כֹּ֚ה אָמַ֣ר יְ-הֹוָ֔ה בְּזֹ֣את תֵּדַ֔ע כִּ֖י אֲנִ֣י יְ-הֹוָ֑ה הִנֵּ֨ה אָנֹכִ֜י מַכֶּ֣ה׀ בַּמַּטֶּ֣ה אֲשֶׁר בְּיָדִ֗י עַל הַמַּ֛יִם אֲשֶׁ֥ר בַּיְאֹ֖ר וְנֶהֶפְכ֥וּ לְדָֽם:
7:17 Thus says YHWH: By this shall you know that I am YHWH: here, I will strike—with the staff that is in my hand—upon the water that is in the Nile, and it will change into blood.
ז:יח וְהַדָּגָ֧ה אֲשֶׁר בַּיְאֹ֛ר תָּמ֖וּת וּבָאַ֣שׁ הַיְאֹ֑ר וְנִלְא֣וּ מִצְרַ֔יִם לִשְׁתּ֥וֹת מַ֖יִם מִן הַיְאֹֽר:
7:18 The fish that are in the Nile will die, and the Nile will reek, and the Egyptians will be unable to drink water from the Nile.
ז:יט וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְ-הֹוָ֜ה אֶל מֹשֶׁ֗ה אֱמֹ֣ר אֶֽל אַהֲרֹ֡ן קַ֣ח מַטְּךָ֣ וּנְטֵֽה יָדְךָ֩ עַל מֵימֵ֨י מִצְרַ֜יִם עַֽל נַהֲרֹתָ֣ם׀ עַל יְאֹרֵיהֶ֣ם וְעַל אַגְמֵיהֶ֗ם וְעַ֛ל כָּל מִקְוֵ֥ה מֵימֵיהֶ֖ם וְיִֽהְיוּ דָ֑ם וְהָ֤יָה דָם֙ בְּכָל אֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם וּבָעֵצִ֖ים וּבָאֲבָנִֽים:
7:19 YHWH said to Moshe: Say to Aharon: Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their tributaries, over their Nile-canals, over their ponds and over all their bodies of water, and let them become blood! There will be blood throughout all the land of Egypt—in the wooden-containers, in the stoneware.
ז:כ וַיַּֽעֲשׂוּ כֵן֩ מֹשֶׁ֨ה וְאַהֲרֹ֜ן כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר׀ צִוָּ֣ה יְ-הֹוָ֗ה וַיָּ֤רֶם בַּמַּטֶּה֙ וַיַּ֤ךְ אֶת הַמַּ֙יִם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בַּיְאֹ֔ר לְעֵינֵ֣י פַרְעֹ֔ה וּלְעֵינֵ֖י עֲבָדָ֑יו וַיֵּהָֽפְכ֛וּ כָּל הַמַּ֥יִם אֲשֶׁר בַּיְאֹ֖ר לְדָֽם:
7:20 Moshe and Aharon did thus, as YHWH had commanded them. He raised the staff and struck the water in the Nile, before the eyes of Pharaoh and before the eyes of his servants, and all the water that was in the Nile changed into blood.
ז:כא וְהַדָּגָ֨ה אֲשֶׁר בַּיְאֹ֥ר מֵ֙תָה֙ וַיִּבְאַ֣שׁ הַיְאֹ֔ר וְלֹא יָכְל֣וּ מִצְרַ֔יִם לִשְׁתּ֥וֹת מַ֖יִם מִן הַיְאֹ֑ר וַיְהִ֥י הַדָּ֖ם בְּכָל אֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם:
7:21 The fish that were in the Nile died, and the Nile reeked, and the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile; the blood was throughout all the land of Egypt.
ז:כב וַיַּֽעֲשׂוּ כֵ֛ן חַרְטֻמֵּ֥י מִצְרַ֖יִם בְּלָטֵיהֶ֑ם וַיֶּחֱזַ֤ק לֵב פַּרְעֹה֙ וְלֹא שָׁמַ֣ע אֲלֵהֶ֔ם כַּאֲשֶׁ֖ר דִּבֶּ֥ר יְ-הֹוָֽה:
7:22 But the magicians of Egypt did thus with their occult-arts, and Pharaoh’s heart remained strong-willed, and he did not hearken to them, as YHWH had spoken.
ז:כג וַיִּ֣פֶן פַּרְעֹ֔ה וַיָּבֹ֖א אֶל בֵּית֑וֹ וְלֹא שָׁ֥ת לִבּ֖וֹ גַּם לָזֹֽאת:
7:23 So Pharaoh turned and came into his house, neither did he pay any mind to this.
ז:כד וַיַּחְפְּר֧וּ כָל מִצְרַ֛יִם סְבִיבֹ֥ת הַיְאֹ֖ר מַ֣יִם לִשְׁתּ֑וֹת כִּ֣י לֹ֤א יָֽכְלוּ֙ לִשְׁתֹּ֔ת מִמֵּימֵ֖י הַיְאֹֽר:
7:24 But all Egypt had to dig around the Nile to drink water, for they could not drink from the waters of the Nile.

A careful reading reveals the following problems:

1. Did Only the Nile Turn to Blood or All the Water in Egypt?

Let me start at the end, with v. 24, which suggests that only the Nile water was affected by the plague. That flatly contradicts v. 19b, which claims that the blood plague affected all the water in Egypt: “There will be blood throughout all the land of Egypt—in the wooden-containers, in the stoneware,” where the last phrase suggests that even water stored in various containers turned into blood!

If the reader is not absolutely committed to the unity of the text, this contradiction suggests that multiple sources are present—in this case, one source that has a plague that affects the Nile only, while in the other, all Egyptian water is contaminated. This observation alone helps to determine that particular verses belong together, especially vv. 17-18, 20b, 21, and 24, where the plague affects the Nile only, while in v. 19 it affects all the Egyptian water-sources. However, the presence of sources should not be determined by one problem alone, and it is thus significant that a careful reading indicates other problems that intersect with this one.

2. Nile or “Niles”

The previous contradiction corresponds to the contrast between the word ye’or (יאור), the Egyptian word for the Nile, in the former verses, in contrast to its plural ye’orehem (יאוריהם), “Nile canals,” in v. 19—in the former the word is a proper noun, while in the latter the very same word is treated as a common noun, and is in the plural. This sort of distinction—where slightly different words or forms of words are used—also may mark separate sources.

3. God Tells Moses to Bring on the Plague Twice

Moses is told to initiate the plague twice—once in v. 14, and then again in v. 19. The directive is then followed twice in the same verse, once by Moses and Aaron (20a; the first half of v. 20), and again by “him” (=Moses) in 20b.[4]

Some commentators, attempting to read the entire passage as a unit, suggest that vv. 14-18 is God commanding Moses to warn Pharaoh, whereas v. 19 is the command to perform the plague, but this is not compelling. The transition between verses 18 and 19 is choppy, and we would have expected verse 19 to be followed by a notice that Moses fulfilled God’s command, which is indeed present—but only several verses later, in v. 20b.

4. Moses or Moses and Aaron

20 is especially helpful for distinguishing the two stories. It reads: “Moshe and Aharon did thus, as YHWH had commanded them. He raised the staff and struck the water in the Nile, before the eyes of Pharaoh and before the eyes of his servants, and all the water that was in the Nile changed into blood.” The singular “he,” following “Moshe and Aharon” is problematic, and hints that in one source, reflected in the beginning of the verse, Moses and Aaron are working in tandem, while another portrays a single actor: Moses (see vv. 14-18).

5. Is the Staff for Hitting or Stretching?

According to the first, Moses strikes the Nile with his staff (v. 17), while in the second account, in v. 19, the action is initiated when Aaron takes his staff, but does not use it to strike the water, but instead stretches out his hand.

6. The Plague Occurs Twice

The plague is described twice—once in 20b-21a (“and all the water that was in the Nile changed into blood…”) and again in 21b (“and all the water that was in the Nile changed into blood.”)

7. What is the Plague?

We are used to thinking of this as the blood plague—and indeed that is how it is typified in v. 19. But in vv. 14-18, the blood is the cause of the real problem: the contamination of the Nile as a result of fish that die in the bloody Nile. Thus, these verses really describe two slightly different plagues: blood versus stinky fish.

If we put together the clues noted so far—doublets, namely episodes recited unnecessarily twice, and contradictions—we can see that the text as we have it is comprised of two complete, largely parallel documents. As you can see below, in one source, Moses alone is the protagonist, and in that source, which narrates a stinky fish plague, only the Nile is affected, while in the other Moses and Aaron work together, and all Egyptian water is affected by blood.

The source in which Moses contaminates the Nile alone (non-P):

שמות ז:יד וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְ-הֹוָה֙ אֶל מֹשֶׁ֔ה כָּבֵ֖ד לֵ֣ב פַּרְעֹ֑ה מֵאֵ֖ן לְשַׁלַּ֥ח הָעָֽם: ז:טו לֵ֣ךְ אֶל פַּרְעֹ֞ה בַּבֹּ֗קֶר הִנֵּה֙ יֹצֵ֣א הַמַּ֔יְמָה וְנִצַּבְתָּ֥ לִקְרָאת֖וֹ עַל שְׂפַ֣ת הַיְאֹ֑ר וְהַמַּטֶּ֛ה אֲשֶׁר נֶהְפַּ֥ךְ לְנָחָ֖שׁ תִּקַּ֥ח בְּיָדֶֽךָ: ז:טז וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֵלָ֗יו יְ-הֹוָ֞ה אֱ-לֹהֵ֤י הָעִבְרִים֙ שְׁלָחַ֤נִי אֵלֶ֙יךָ֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר שַׁלַּח֙ אֶת עַמִּ֔י וְיַֽעַבְדֻ֖נִי בַּמִּדְבָּ֑ר וְהִנֵּ֥ה לֹא שָׁמַ֖עְתָּ עַד כֹּֽה: ז:יז כֹּ֚ה אָמַ֣ר יְ-הֹוָ֔ה בְּזֹ֣את תֵּדַ֔ע כִּ֖י אֲנִ֣י יְ-הֹוָ֑ה הִנֵּ֨ה אָנֹכִ֜י מַכֶּ֣ה׀ בַּמַּטֶּ֣ה אֲשֶׁר בְּיָדִ֗י עַל הַמַּ֛יִם אֲשֶׁ֥ר בַּיְאֹ֖ר וְנֶהֶפְכ֥וּ לְדָֽם: ז:יח וְהַדָּגָ֧ה אֲשֶׁר בַּיְאֹ֛ר תָּמ֖וּת וּבָאַ֣שׁ הַיְאֹ֑ר וְנִלְא֣וּ מִצְרַ֔יִם לִשְׁתּ֥וֹת מַ֖יִם מִן הַיְאֹֽר: ז:כb וַיָּ֤רֶם בַּמַּטֶּה֙ וַיַּ֤ךְ אֶת הַמַּ֙יִם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בַּיְאֹ֔ר לְעֵינֵ֣י פַרְעֹ֔ה וּלְעֵינֵ֖י עֲבָדָ֑יו וַיֵּהָֽפְכ֛וּ כָּל הַמַּ֥יִם אֲשֶׁר בַּיְאֹ֖ר לְדָֽם: ז:כאa וְהַדָּגָ֨ה אֲשֶׁר בַּיְאֹ֥ר מֵ֙תָה֙ וַיִּבְאַ֣שׁ הַיְאֹ֔ר וְלֹא יָכְל֣וּ מִצְרַ֔יִם לִשְׁתּ֥וֹת מַ֖יִם מִן הַיְאֹ֑ר ז:כג וַיִּ֣פֶן פַּרְעֹ֔ה וַיָּבֹ֖א אֶל בֵּית֑וֹ וְלֹא שָׁ֥ת לִבּ֖וֹ גַּם לָזֹֽאת: ז:כד וַיַּחְפְּר֧וּ כָל מִצְרַ֛יִם סְבִיבֹ֥ת הַיְאֹ֖ר מַ֣יִם לִשְׁתּ֑וֹת כִּ֣י לֹ֤א יָֽכְלוּ֙ לִשְׁתֹּ֔ת מִמֵּימֵ֖י הַיְאֹֽר:
Exod 7:14 YHWH said to Moshe: Pharaoh’s heart is heavy-with-stubbornness—he refuses to send the people free. 7:15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning, here, he goes out to the Nile, station yourself to meet him by the shore of the Nile, and the staff that changed into a snake, take in your hand, 7:16 and say to him: YHWH, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to you, saying: Send free my people, that they may serve me in the wilderness! But here, you have not hearkened thus far. 7:17 Thus says YHWH: By this shall you know that I am YHWH: here, I will strike—with the staff that is in my hand—upon the water that is in the Nile, and it will change into blood. 7:18 The fish that are in the Nile will die, and the Nile will reek, and the Egyptians will be unable to drink water from the Nile. 7:20b He raised the staff and struck the water in the Nile, before the eyes of Pharaoh and before the eyes of his servants, and all the water that was in the Nile changed into blood. 7:21a The fish that were in the Nile died, and the Nile reeked, and the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile; 7:23 So Pharaoh turned and came into his house, neither did he pay any mind to this. 7:24 But all Egypt had to dig around the Nile to drink water, for they could not drink from the waters of the Nile.

The source in which Moses and Aaron work together to contaminate the entire Egyptian water supply (P):

ז:יט וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְ-הֹוָ֜ה אֶל מֹשֶׁ֗ה אֱמֹ֣ר אֶֽל אַהֲרֹ֡ן קַ֣ח מַטְּךָ֣ וּנְטֵֽה יָדְךָ֩ עַל מֵימֵ֨י מִצְרַ֜יִם עַֽל נַהֲרֹתָ֣ם׀ עַל יְאֹרֵיהֶ֣ם וְעַל אַגְמֵיהֶ֗ם וְעַ֛ל כָּל מִקְוֵ֥ה מֵימֵיהֶ֖ם וְיִֽהְיוּ דָ֑ם וְהָ֤יָה דָם֙ בְּכָל אֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם וּבָעֵצִ֖ים וּבָאֲבָנִֽים: ז:כa וַיַּֽעֲשׂוּ כֵן֩ מֹשֶׁ֨ה וְאַהֲרֹ֜ן כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר׀ צִוָּ֣ה יְ-הֹוָ֗ה ז:כאb וַיְהִ֥י הַדָּ֖ם בְּכָל אֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם: ז:כב וַיַּֽעֲשׂוּ כֵ֛ן חַרְטֻמֵּ֥י מִצְרַ֖יִם בְּלָטֵיהֶ֑ם וַיֶּחֱזַ֤ק לֵב פַּרְעֹה֙ וְלֹא שָׁמַ֣ע אֲלֵהֶ֔ם כַּאֲשֶׁ֖ר דִּבֶּ֥ר יְ-הֹוָֽה:
7:19 YHWH said to Moshe: Say to Aharon: Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their tributaries, over their Nile-canals, over their ponds and over all their bodies of water, and let them become blood! There will be blood throughout all the land of Egypt—in the wooden-containers, in the stoneware. 7:20a Moshe and Aharon did thus, as YHWH had commanded them. 7:21b the blood was throughout all the land of Egypt. 7:22 But the magicians of Egypt did thus with their occult-arts, and Pharaoh’s heart remained strong-willed, and he did not hearken to them, as YHWH had spoken.

Each source is complete, consistent, and lacks redundancies and contradictions. The fact that the longer story can be separated into two complete, self-consistent stories is one of the strongest indications of the validity of the source-critical model—try dividing almost any story you may know into two or more complete stories—this is almost always impossible.

The interweaving of stories, as done here in Exodus 7:14-25, is less usual than placing longer blocks or complete episodes one after another, as in the creation stories in Genesis 1:1-2:4a and 2:4b-3:24. The redactor interweaves stories when it would be awkward from a narrative perspective to place them consecutively, as here, where a blood water plague would have been immediately followed by another blood water plague. Thus, the accounts were interwoven or collated—as in the flood narrative, where one flood (with a promise that another flood will never follow) could not be followed by a second flood story.

Characteristics of the Priestly Strand

Identifying a narrative strand as P or Priestly is often easier than identifying non-P, since P has several striking telltale characteristics, some of which appear in this story. The Priestly story (in blue) has Aaron, the founder of the Priesthood, as a significant protagonist, while the non-P story[5] depicts Moses alone in this role. This connects with the earlier account in P (6:12, 30), where Moses complains that he cannot speak well and God tells Moses that Aaron will be his prophet.

In addition, P is characterized by a desire for order, as represented in the first creation story in Genesis 1:1-2:4a. It is thus not surprising that this author defines all of the different types of water-bodies in Egypt: “over the waters of Egypt, over their tributaries, over their Nile-canals, over their ponds and over all their bodies of water” (v. 19).

Conclusion

I must admit that at the age of thirteen, I was concerned about getting the vowels and cantillation right, and I did not see these contradictions. My traditional Jewish education did not encourage or even allow me to see as a possibility that the Torah text is composite, encompassing different documents with different theologies and styles. But once I was introduced to this possibility in a serious way, about five years later, it has been hard for me to read the text otherwise. When I see doublets and contradictions, I do not look for ad-hoc answers that reconcile each individual problem; instead, source-criticism is my powerful general tool for discerning and hearing the different voices and traditions embedded in the text. As result, in many ways, the Torah text is richer, and more meaningful to me now than it was forty-four years ago.

Appendix

The Entire Text of the Blood Plague with Sources Noted

(Non-P in Red, P in Blue)

שמות ז:יד וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְ-הֹוָה֙ אֶל מֹשֶׁ֔ה כָּבֵ֖ד לֵ֣ב פַּרְעֹ֑ה מֵאֵ֖ן לְשַׁלַּ֥ח הָעָֽם: ז:טו לֵ֣ךְ אֶל פַּרְעֹ֞ה בַּבֹּ֗קֶר הִנֵּה֙ יֹצֵ֣א הַמַּ֔יְמָה וְנִצַּבְתָּ֥ לִקְרָאת֖וֹ עַל שְׂפַ֣ת הַיְאֹ֑ר וְהַמַּטֶּ֛ה אֲשֶׁר נֶהְפַּ֥ךְ לְנָחָ֖שׁ תִּקַּ֥ח בְּיָדֶֽךָ: ז:טז וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֵלָ֗יו יְ-הֹוָ֞ה אֱ-לֹהֵ֤י הָעִבְרִים֙ שְׁלָחַ֤נִי אֵלֶ֙יךָ֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר שַׁלַּח֙ אֶת עַמִּ֔י וְיַֽעַבְדֻ֖נִי בַּמִּדְבָּ֑ר וְהִנֵּ֥ה לֹא שָׁמַ֖עְתָּ עַד כֹּֽה: ז:יז כֹּ֚ה אָמַ֣ר יְ-הֹוָ֔ה בְּזֹ֣את תֵּדַ֔ע כִּ֖י אֲנִ֣י יְ-הֹוָ֑ה הִנֵּ֨ה אָנֹכִ֜י מַכֶּ֣ה׀ בַּמַּטֶּ֣ה אֲשֶׁר בְּיָדִ֗י עַל הַמַּ֛יִם אֲשֶׁ֥ר בַּיְאֹ֖ר וְנֶהֶפְכ֥וּ לְדָֽם: ז:יח וְהַדָּגָ֧ה אֲשֶׁר בַּיְאֹ֛ר תָּמ֖וּת וּבָאַ֣שׁ הַיְאֹ֑ר וְנִלְא֣וּ מִצְרַ֔יִם לִשְׁתּ֥וֹת מַ֖יִם מִן הַיְאֹֽר: ז:יט וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְ-הֹוָ֜ה אֶל מֹשֶׁ֗ה אֱמֹ֣ר אֶֽל אַהֲרֹ֡ן קַ֣ח מַטְּךָ֣ וּנְטֵֽה יָדְךָ֩ עַל מֵימֵ֨י מִצְרַ֜יִם עַֽל נַהֲרֹתָ֣ם׀ עַל יְאֹרֵיהֶ֣ם וְעַל אַגְמֵיהֶ֗ם וְעַ֛ל כָּל מִקְוֵ֥ה מֵימֵיהֶ֖ם וְיִֽהְיוּ דָ֑ם וְהָ֤יָה דָם֙ בְּכָל אֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם וּבָעֵצִ֖ים וּבָאֲבָנִֽים: ז:כ וַיַּֽעֲשׂוּ כֵן֩ מֹשֶׁ֨ה וְאַהֲרֹ֜ן כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר׀ צִוָּ֣ה יְ-הֹוָ֗ה וַיָּ֤רֶם בַּמַּטֶּה֙ וַיַּ֤ךְ אֶת הַמַּ֙יִם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בַּיְאֹ֔ר לְעֵינֵ֣י פַרְעֹ֔ה וּלְעֵינֵ֖י עֲבָדָ֑יו וַיֵּהָֽפְכ֛וּ כָּל הַמַּ֥יִם אֲשֶׁר בַּיְאֹ֖ר לְדָֽם: ז:כא וְהַדָּגָ֨ה אֲשֶׁר בַּיְאֹ֥ר מֵ֙תָה֙ וַיִּבְאַ֣שׁ הַיְאֹ֔ר וְלֹא יָכְל֣וּ מִצְרַ֔יִם לִשְׁתּ֥וֹת מַ֖יִם מִן הַיְאֹ֑ר וַיְהִ֥י הַדָּ֖ם בְּכָל אֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם: ז:כב וַיַּֽעֲשׂוּ כֵ֛ן חַרְטֻמֵּ֥י מִצְרַ֖יִם בְּלָטֵיהֶ֑ם וַיֶּחֱזַ֤ק לֵב פַּרְעֹה֙ וְלֹא שָׁמַ֣ע אֲלֵהֶ֔ם כַּאֲשֶׁ֖ר דִּבֶּ֥ר יְ-הֹוָֽה: ז:כג וַיִּ֣פֶן פַּרְעֹ֔ה וַיָּבֹ֖א אֶל בֵּית֑וֹ וְלֹא שָׁ֥ת לִבּ֖וֹ גַּם לָזֹֽאת: ז:כד וַיַּחְפְּר֧וּ כָל מִצְרַ֛יִם סְבִיבֹ֥ת הַיְאֹ֖ר מַ֣יִם לִשְׁתּ֑וֹת כִּ֣י לֹ֤א יָֽכְלוּ֙ לִשְׁתֹּ֔ת מִמֵּימֵ֖י הַיְאֹֽר:
Exod 7:14 YHWH said to Moshe: Pharaoh’s heart is heavy-with-stubbornness—he refuses to send the people free. 7:15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning, here, he goes out to the Nile, station yourself to meet him by the shore of the Nile, and the staff that changed into a snake, take in your hand, 7:16 and say to him: YHWH, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to you, saying: Send free my people, that they may serve me in the wilderness! But here, you have not hearkened thus far. 7:17 Thus says YHWH: By this shall you know that I am YHWH: here, I will strike—with the staff that is in my hand—upon the water that is in the Nile, and it will change into blood. 7:18 The fish that are in the Nile will die, and the Nile will reek, and the Egyptians will be unable to drink water from the Nile. 7:19 YHWH said to Moshe: Say to Aharon: Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their tributaries, over their Nile-canals, over their ponds and over all their bodies of water, and let them become blood! There will be blood throughout all the land of Egypt—in the wooden-containers, in the stoneware. 7:20 Moshe and Aharon did thus, as YHWH had commanded them. He raised the staff and struck the water in the Nile, before the eyes of Pharaoh and before the eyes of his servants, and all the water that was in the Nile changed into blood. 7:21 The fish that were in the Nile died, and the Nile reeked, and the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile; the blood was throughout all the land of Egypt. 7:22 But the magicians of Egypt did thus with their occult-arts, and Pharaoh’s heart remained strong-willed, and he did not hearken to them, as YHWH had spoken. 7:23 So Pharaoh turned and came into his house, neither did he pay any mind to this. 7:24 But all Egypt had to dig around the Nile to drink water, for they could not drink from the waters of the Nile.

 

 

Published

January 12, 2015

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Last Updated

October 31, 2019

Footnotes

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Professor Marc Zvi Brettler is Bernice & Morton Lerner Professor of Judaic Studies at Duke University, and Dora Golding Professor of Biblical Studies (Emeritus) at Brandeis University. He is author, most recently, of How to Read the Jewish Bible (also published in Hebrew), co-editor of The Jewish Study Bible and The Jewish Annotated New Testament, and co-author of The Bible and the Believer. Brettler is cofounder of Project TABS (Torah and Biblical Scholarship) – TheTorah.com.