Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, ‘Show a miracle for yourselves,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your rod and cast it before Pharaoh, and let it become a serpent.’ ” (Exodus 7:8-9)
As evidence that God had sent Moses and Aaron, the same sign that had been demonstrated at the burning bush would be used as a sign to Pharaoh and his courtiers — a rod would be transformed into a snake or serpent. However, the Hebrew word used here is different from the word that is translated as serpent in Exodus 4:3. The word in this verse is tannin and is defined as being a “large reptile, a sea or river monster,” understood by most commentators to be a dragon or a crocodile.
Throughout the Scripture this word is most rendered as “dragon” or “sea monster.” In fact, there are even some versions of the Bible that render the word in this verse as “crocodile.” What makes that so interesting is that the crocodile was a symbol of Egypt. Whatever the tannin was, a serpent or a crocodile, we can be certain that it was intended to identify with Pharaoh. Consider these verses in Ezekiel.
“Son of man, set your face against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and prophesy against him and against all Egypt; speak, and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon [tannim] that lies in the midst of his streams…” (Ezekiel 29:2-4)
Even though the man would have different than the one Moses encountered, the point is made — the tannin is symbolic of Pharaoh. Consequently for Aaron’s tannin to swallow up the tannim conjured by the Egyptian sorcerers is intriguing. Obviously, God was demonstrating that He was much more powerful than a group of magicians but perhaps it was saying something else. Maybe it was to suggest that the condition of Pharaoh’s heart and his unwillingness to humble himself before God would devour him much like the tannim of Jannes and Jambres were devoured by the tannin of Aaron. In some ways, Pharaoh was more responsible for the destruction of Egypt than the Almighty. In other words, had he relented, things might have turned out differently.
The fact of the matter is, we are oftentimes are own worst enemy. If our heart is not tender and inclined to heed the word of God, our will can eat us up and, eventually, destroy us. I’m not so convinced that God places a curse on those who disobey as I am that those who disobey bring a curse upon themselves. We help shape our future when we make a choice to either walk humbly before God or to stand proud and defiant in opposition to His will. My prayer is that we will all soften our hearts toward God’s word and purpose that great and mighty things can be accomplished in our lives.
Blessings and Shalom,