As with all stories and dramas there are the good guys and the bad guys—the protagonist and the antagonist. For the drama of the Exodus the good guys are easy to find, Moses and Aaron, and the antagonist is obvious, Pharaoh. However, there are a few other bad guys that are not so easy to pick out. But that’s their mode of operation. They prefer being secretive, hidden, and under the radar. Their craft was magic and their methods were top secret. Some might say they were powerful, however, before the power of God their actions became pathetic. These men were the magicians of Egypt.
Egypt. An ancient land with advanced culture and complex religious belief. At the time of the Exodus, Egypt was at its peak and was one of the major world powers. But also at its peak was the Egypt’s complex and mysterious religious system. When God brought judgment down on Egypt, He wasn’t just judging Pharaoh. He was proving His power above the many false gods of Egypt. And that included the magic men of Egypt. So let’s take a look at some of the plagues and how the magicians of Egypt fit into the whole story.
“Then the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘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.”’ 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. Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs.”
“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.”
“And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Say to Aaron, “Stretch out your hand with your staff over the rivers, over the canals and over the pools, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt!”’ So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt. But the magicians did the same by their secret arts and made frogs come up on the land of Egypt.”
“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Say to Aaron, “Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, so that it may become gnats in all the land of Egypt.”’ And they did so. Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff and struck the dust of the earth, and there were gnats on man and beast. All the dust of the earth became gnats in all the land of Egypt. The magicians tried by their secret arts to produce gnats, but they could not. So there were gnats on man and beast.”
I’m no expert on sorcery, so therefore I’m not sure why the magicians could not create gnats. Nevertheless, that’s not the point. Whether they could or could not continue to replicate the things of God doesn’t really matter, they were not powerful enough to reverse what God had done. Each time they did something, they just made things worse. Also the magicians never came up with something unique on their own. They merely imitated what God had done.
If the gods of Egypt were real, the magicians of Egypt should have been able to spare their people the pain and agony that came with the plagues. Instead they just added to the chaos and made everything worse! Brilliant, right?! I’m sure the Egyptians were really excited when they learned that their own magic men were adding more frogs to their crazy lives and more blood to their water.
So what’s your conclusion? Where the magician’s magic powerful or pathetic?
Yet despite all their shortcomings, one thing the magicians had over Pharaoh was that at the end of the day they eventually acknowledged the hand of God. Pharaoh, in his hardness and stubbornness of heart, never reached this point. But the magic men of Egypt did. After the third plague they conceded that this was no magic that could be duplicated, but the power of God.
“Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, ‘This is the finger of God.’”
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