Aaron’s Rod and the Battle of the Crocodiles
“And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the Lord had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent.
11 Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. 12 For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods. 13 And he hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said” (Exod. 7:10-13).
During the time of the Exodus, the Egyptians worshipped a crocodile god named Sobek, which is translated tanniym in Hebrew and Souchos in Greek.
When the day came, c. 1491 BC, for Moses and Aaron to appear before Pharaoh to command him, in the name of the Lord God, to let the Hebrew people go, the Bible says that Pharaoh demanded a miracle to prove what was being asserted. In response, Aaron’s rod turned into a tanniym, a marine or land monster.
Ezekiel 29:3 defines what the monster was. “Speak, and say, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself” (Ezek. 29:3).
The monster of Exodus 7:10, the dragon of Ezekiel 29:3 is the crocodile of the Nile River. Ezekiel told the Pharaoh of Egypt of his generation that God was going to put a hook in his jaws and capture him. These were words of judgment based on a historical precedent.
Centuries before Ezekiel spoke to the Pharaoh of Egypt, Moses and Aaron spoke to the Pharaoh of Egypt saying, “Let my people go.” The Pharaoh demanded a sign from Moses and Aaron and a dramatic sign was provided. Aaron cast his rod down and it became a monster, a dragon, a crocodile.
The magicians of Pharaoh cast their rods down and they too became monsters, dragons, crocodiles.
But then, something terrible and spectacular happened. Aaron’s crocodile began to attack and eat the crocodiles manifested by the Egyptian magicians. “Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods” (Exod. 7:12).
The symbolic behavior was shocking, for it meant the God of Moses and Aaron was greater than Sobek, the crocodile god of the Egyptians. That was saying something astonishing when it is understood how significant Sobek was.
Sobek was the creator of the world. In Egyptian mythology, the Nile River was created from his sweat. Sobek was known as “Lord of the Waters.”
Sobek was the god of strength and power. He protected the Egyptian army, the pharaohs, and the Egyptian people by his strength and courage. Crocodiles are ferocious and fearless creatures. Because of Sobek, the Pharaohs of Egypt could overcome any obstacle and evil magic.
Sobek was the god of virility and fertility. His very name means “to impregnate.”
Sobek was the god of wisdom. Because of this, crocodiles were kept in palace ponds. People could visit these bodies of water, write a question on a papyrus, and toss it to the crocodiles. Because of the reverence for Sobek, large and small crocodiles were mummified. In 2016, a 2,500 year old mummified crocodile was examined in the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities. Scientists were surprised by what they found.
Sobek was embodied in the Pharaoh, as many monuments, drawings, and temples of antiquity indicate.
For the crocodile of Aaron to consume the crocodiles of the magicians of Pharaoh was for Pharaoh himself to be consumed.
Despite the shocking display of power by Moses and Aaron, the Bible says that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. He did not learn the lesson. As a result, he and his people would suffer ten terrible plagues before the Hebrew people would be allowed to leave the land of bondage and suffering.
There are some practical spiritual lessons to be learned from the story of Aaron’s rod.
First, those who will not respond to the wise commandments of God will be compelled to witness His terrifying power. Adam and Eve did not listen and obey the commandments of the Lord, and came to know the terror of the Law, the strength of sin, and the force of evil.
Second, the unbelief of the Natural Man is to be anticipated. The Lord knew that Pharaoh would demand a miracle sign. Such signs are demanded by the Natural Man to cover up godless unbelief.
Third, the rod that was to be held forth as a sign for other miracles to follow, became the object of a miracle itself. Aaron cast his rod to the ground and it turned into a Tanniym (tan-neen), a crocodile, mightier than the god Sobek of the Nile River.
Fourth, God is reluctant to destroy people. He is longsuffering towards men. This initial display of His awesome power did not hurt anyone but crocodiles. While the miracle was designed to strike fear into Pharaoh’s heart, and to soften it in gospel obedience, the heart of Pharaoh was hardened.
God’s judgment comes upon sinners gradually, and then with the overcoming power of death, as time was to tell. The night came when the Angel of Death passed over the Land of Egypt. Let people at least be warned by terrible, but lesser displays, of the power of Almighty God. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.
Moses was learned in all the wisdom of Egypt. He knew the value the people had for Sobek, the crocodile god. It was only fitting that he struck at the source of Egypt’s strength and power to show them they were relying on nature, and not the God of nature. Man was worshipping the creature more than the Creator.
Not only was Pharaoh put to shame, so were his magicians. Only God can create life. The men of Pharaoh were fakers. Whatever they produced was an illusion, and was soon destroyed. The power of men, however impressive, is no match for the power of God. Lying spirits will be exposed and destroyed.
In all matters, the Lord will have the victory and the pre-eminence. God will be God, let His people rejoice in His might, His majesty, His power, and His glory, forever and ever. Amen.