“This is what the Lord says: ‘By this you will know that I am the Lord: With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood. The fish in the Nile will die, and the river will stink; the Egyptians will not be able to drink its water.’”-Exodus 7:17-18
So the battle begins.
God tells Moses to head out to the Nile the next morning and meet Pharaoh there.
How did Moses know exactly where to meet Pharaoh?
As was common for Egyptian royalty, it was part of Pharaoh’s normal routine to go out the same spot at the Nile for his routine morning bath.
Pharaoh would not have been alone but accompanied by his royal court.
So once everybody was situated, in grand dramatic fashion Moses smites the water of the Nile with his Shepherd’s staff and the Nile turns blood red.
What’s interesting is that it wasn’t just the water of the great Nile that was transformed.
All the ponds, reservoirs, and the many branches of the Nile were also affected.
And even the water in people’s homes stored in cooking pots and storage containers turned red.
This stroke against Egypt affected everybody: Hebrews, Egyptians and travelers.
Nobody was spared.
Now I’m well aware of the prevailing assumption that the Nile River actually turned into real blood (as in the liquid substance that flows through our veins).
However, there is an alternate opinion I would like to share that I also think makes sense.
You see, many scholars believe that if the water had actually turned into blood, this phenomenon combined with reports that the same thing had occurred all over Egypt would surely have swayed Pharaoh.
But Pharaoh wasn’t shaken at all.
Well, it turns out that every year when the Nile’s tide rose, silt in the water would cause the river to turn red.
In addition, this nutrient-fortified silt would cause the rapid growth of tons of micro-organisms creating an effect commonly known as “Red Tide”.
These micro-organisms would eventually eat up all the oxygen in the water.
Millions of dead fish and a horrible stench.
So this would already be a phenomenon of which Pharaoh and the people of Egypt were familiar.
The following are three reasons why this might actually be what happened:
REASON 1-It fits the pattern of God amplifying nature in extraordinary ways
Notice that in each of the plagues or strokes against Egypt, the miracles that God did were amplifications of what normally occurred in nature, not complete aberrations of established order.
If God had really turned the water into real organic blood, we’re talking something freaky the likes of a George Romero-inspired (director of Night of the Living Dead) apocalyptic horror flick.
Having said that, even if the water hadn’t actually changed into real blood, it was still an incredible miracle because it occurred at Moses command, it did NOT take place during the rising season, and the water (drawn from the Nile) stored in vessels in people’s homes also became contaminated.
REASON 2-The Hebrew word for “blood” used can also mean “bloody” or “blood-like”
The Hebrew word used for “blood” in this incident is DAM and it does mean “blood”.
But it can also mean “bloody” or “blood-like”.
For example, it is the same word used for “blood” in the phrase “the blood of the grape” when referring to wine.
In other words, DAM can also refer to color just as much as it can be used to refer to literal blood.
And again, I reiterate what I stated earlier: literal blood seems out of place because ALL the other plagues used normal elements of nature.
REASON 3-People were able to “dig around the Nile” and gain access to drinkable water
I’m sure many of us have had the experience of digging a hole in the sand near the beach shore and having it quickly fill up with water as the water seeped through the sand.
Notice in verse 24, we’re told that everybody had to “dig around the Nile” to get water to drink.
The people of Egypt were basically using the sand to filter out the red silt and micro-organisms of the tainted water so they could drink it.
Now here’s the thing.
If the water was no longer water, but real blood, no amount of filtering would have done any good whatsoever.
Furthermore, we’re told this plague lasted seven days.
Seven days without any water to drink would have spelled death for hundreds of thousands of people including the Hebrews.
This was certainly not God’s intention.
Now personally, I’m fine either way.
Maybe God really did turn the water into real blood.
But I think the information I’ve presented here also makes sense.
In closing, again we’re told that Egypt’s sorcerers were able to successfully mimic what Moses had done.
However, what they did wasn’t too impressive if you ask me.
What would have been impressive is if they had actually REVERSED what Moses had done.