So all the Egyptians dug around the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink of the water of the Nile. Seven days passed after the LORD had struck the Nile.
For the Ancient Egyptians, this was a terrible inconvenience. Flowing water made life much simpler. Rivers meant that the water was fairly reliably safe for human consumption.The same is not always true in the modern world. So, when God’s second sign/wonder/miracle in Egypt is to hit their drinking water supply, it is something of a big deal. The staff turning into a snake was something that only Pharaoh and his court really experienced first-hand. This is something that everyone in Pharaoh’s kingdom suffered. More, it just occurred to me on this reading that the Israelites had — several generations back — come from a lifestyle wherein digging wells to find fresh water was the norm. The Egyptians found herdsmen loathsome, so it is possible that the Israelites had been digging wells to water their livestock for the four hundred years between the end of Genesis and the beginning of Exodus. And it would be a simple thing to switch from using the well just to water your livestock to getting some water from it for yourself, too.
That Pharaoh’s magicians do the same thing seems useless to me. Were I Pharaoh, I would expect my magicians to turn the river back to water. That would be useful. That would be a sign that my magicians and their gods had the same or greater power than this Moses character and his God. But they do not undo what God has done, because their power is lesser and the best they can do is mimic the power of God.
What this has to do with me is that my God is the same God Who fouled an entire nation’s drinking water in order to get some people’s attention. When the Israelites leave Egypt, there will be Egyptians that go with them. Those folks go with the Israelites, I suspect, because they saw the power of Israel’s God — the very same God I worship today. He has not changed. He is still abundantly capable of working wonders.
There is something that seems symbolic in the Egyptians digging around what used to be a bountiful source of water in order to get just enough to scrape by. God is called Living Water and Jesus later says that anyone who thirsts should come to Him and He will give them to drink of water that will quench their thirst; the thirst of our souls. Some of the Egyptians, I am certain, became thirsty for more than just river water. Some of them, I am sure, came to crave the God Who could not only change the river, but could satisfy the thirst of their souls.
Father, thank You that You do not change and that You are still able to work wonders. Thank You, also, that You continue to do things to sharpen the thirst in our souls so that we might come to You for satisfaction. Please keep me mindful that the thirst of my soul can only be sated by You and let me not go after the world’s methods of dulling my thirst.