Then the Lord said, “If they do not believe you or pay attention to the first sign, they may believe the second. But if they do not believe these two signs or listen to you, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground. The water you take from the river will become blood on the ground.”-Exodus 4:8-9
The Nile River was an Egyptian deity and the very source of life in Egypt.
God tells Moses that if the first two signs, the metamorphoses of his own staff and hand do not convince the Hebrews, the spectacular transformation of the Nile into blood will eliminate any lingering skepticism.
Through this miracle, God was effectively declaring His superiority over the gods of Egypt.
Moving forward, we will also notice the central importance blood plays in the whole Exodus narrative.
-Moses has already spilled Egyptian blood, which is why he fled Egypt
-On the way to meeting Pharaoh, Moses life will be save by a rite carried out through blood
-The Ten Plagues will begin with a plague of blood and end with one in which blood is heavily involved
Actually, since the Book of Genesis, God makes it clear that blood will play a key role in his divine plan to save mankind.
Later on we will see that blood will be the basis of God’s sacrificial system, as it is only blood that can atone for sin.
The important point to remember is that by turning the water from the Nile River into blood, God was demonstrating His complete dominance over Egypt’s mystery religious system.
Also recall that the ancient mindset of those times was quite different than our modern way of thinking.
As modern believers, we now have the luxury of knowing that there is ONLY one God who rules over everything.
However, in those days, everybody believed that not only were there many gods, but they were regional and national deities who operated within specific territories.
For example, if one nation invaded a foreign territory during a war, they carried with them their god-idols and their priests into battle in the hopes that their gods would also be able to exercise power in this new land they had just entered.
Anthropological research shows that pretty much every ancient society believed this way.
Each nation had their own gods whose sphere of authority was restricted to their own respective lands.
When one nation battled against another, it was considered to be a battle between the two nation’s gods.
And whichever nation emerged as the victor was considered to have better and stronger gods.
Thus the defeated nation would renounce their gods and pay homage to the gods of the victorious nation.
This polytheistic way of thinking stayed with the Israelites for quite some time.
Later on when YHVH commands the Israelites that “you shall have no other gods before me“, it wasn’t viewed as some archaic or symbolic statement like how we interpret it today.
The Israelites took it very literally.
They absolutely believed in the existence of many gods.
And YHVH was telling them “NO”, you are NOT to worship them.
It would take some time for the belief in multiple gods to get cleansed from the thinking of the Israelites.
One reason why it may have been so difficult to accept this notion of having and worshipping only one god is that in those times the number of gods a nation possessed was an indication of that nation’s wealth and power.
In the beginning Israel felt god-poor and wasn’t too happy with the idea of only having one god.
“How come we only get one god, when all the other nations get to have scores of gods?” was the thinking of the time.
Are you beginning to get an idea of how different the thinking was in those times compared to ours today?
The mental shift from polytheism to monotheism was going to take some time to fully sink in.