I have often considered this hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. What does it mean? Pharaoh was as prideful as any man could possibly be. The command of the Lord, “Let my people go,” conflicted with his pride. For Pharaoh to let the sons of Israel go, as the Lord commanded, he would have to admit that he was not sovereign. Pharaoh could not see the God of an enslaved people as being very powerful. God planned to show his sovereignty over all of creation through ten plagues on Egypt. It has been said by many commentators that each plague represents sovereignty over a god in Egypt.
The Lord commanded the miracle of the staff being changed into a serpent but for Moses to be as God to Pharaoh and Aaron to be as Moses’ prophet, (Ex.7:1,2) it is Moses who commands Aaron, before Pharaoh, to throw down his staff, that it may become a serpent. The serpent was considered a powerful creature in Egypt, for this reason a serpent is represented on Pharaoh’s crown. To control the serpent meant that the Lord, who Moses and Aaron represented, was more powerful than Pharaoh. Pharaoh’s magicians did likewise but Aaron’s staff, which was controlled by the Lord overpowered their staffs.
The Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is stubborn.” Though the Lord is sovereign, hardening the heart of Pharaoh, this would indicate that Pharaoh is at fault. The Lord used Pharaoh’s pride to harden his heart but Pharaoh was the one holding on to his pride. Moses, through Aaron, was to tell Pharaoh, The Lord, the God of the Hebrews says, “Let my people go.” When Pharaoh would not listen, Moses was to threaten him with a plague. The nile was the life blood of Egypt; therefore, the first plague turned the nile into blood but instead of providing life it brought death. The water in wood and in stone would indicate that this was more than a natural disaster, it was a miracle of God. This being done by the lifting up of the staff demonstrated that it was God doing the miracle, not Moses and Aaron. Pharaoh had no concern for this because his heart was hard. Pharaoh was king in Egypt but he did not care about his people as the Lord cared for his people. The Egyptians had to provide for themselves by digging for water. One week passed after this first of the ten plagues.