Lent with the Book of Exodus (Ch 7)
February 20, 2024
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.
Exodus 7 (Tuesday of the First Week of Lent)

Yahweh said to Moses, “Behold, I have made you as God to Pharaoh; and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you; and Aaron your brother shall speak to Pharaoh, that he let the children of Israel go out of his land. I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh will not listen to you, so I will lay my hand on Egypt, and bring out my armies, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments. The Egyptians shall know that I am Yahweh when I stretch out my hand on Egypt, and bring the children of Israel out from among them.”

Moses and Aaron did so. As Yahweh commanded them, so they did. Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh.

Yahweh spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, “When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, ‘Perform a miracle!’ then you shall tell Aaron, ‘Take your rod, and cast it down before Pharaoh, and it will become a serpent.’”

Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh, and they did so, as Yahweh had commanded. Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh and before his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and the sorcerers. They also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same thing with their enchantments. For they each cast down their rods, and they became serpents; but Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he didn’t listen to them, as Yahweh had spoken.

Yahweh said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is stubborn. He refuses to let the people go. Go to Pharaoh in the morning. Behold, he is going out to the water. You shall stand by the river’s bank to meet him. You shall take the rod which was turned to a serpent in your hand. You shall tell him, ‘Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to you, saying, “Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness. Behold, until now you haven’t listened.” Yahweh says, “In this you shall know that I am Yahweh. Behold: I will strike with the rod that is in my hand on the waters which are in the river, and they shall be turned to blood. The fish that are in the river will die and the river will become foul. The Egyptians will loathe to drink water from the river.”’” Yahweh said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Take your rod, and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, over their streams, and over their pools, and over all their ponds of water, that they may become blood. There will be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.’”

Moses and Aaron did so, as Yahweh commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and struck the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood. The fish that were in the river died. The river became foul. The Egyptians couldn’t drink water from the river. The blood was throughout all the land of Egypt. The magicians of Egypt did the same thing with their enchantments. So Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he didn’t listen to them, as Yahweh had spoken. Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he didn’t even take this to heart. All the Egyptians dug around the river for water to drink; for they couldn’t drink the river water. Seven days were fulfilled, after Yahweh had struck the river.


He cast down his rod, and it became a serpent which devoured the serpents of Egypt. This signified that the Word should become flesh to destroy the poison of the dread serpent by the forgiveness and pardon of sins. For the rod stands for the Word that is true, royal, filled with power and glorious in ruling. As the rod became a serpent, so he who was the Son of God begotten of the Father became the Son of man born of a woman. Like the serpent, he was lifted up on the cross, poured his healing medicine on the wounds of humanity. Wherefore the Lord himself says, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” (Ambrose of Milan)
By the serpent is to be understood death, which was brought about by the serpent in paradise, according to the manner of speech which attributes the effect to the cause. Therefore the rod was turned into a serpent, and the whole Christ, together with his body which is the church, into the resurrection, that will take place at the end of time. This is signified by the tail of the serpent which Moses held, in order that it might be turned again into a rod. But the serpents of the magicians are like those who are dead in the world, for, unless by believing in Christ they have been as it were swallowed up and entered into his body, they will not be able to rise in him. (Augustine of Hippo)
Those who love Christ should not be troubled at our taking the transformation of the staff into a serpent as a reference to the incarnation. The serpent may seem an incongruous symbol for this mystery and yet it is an image Truth himself does not repudiate, since he says in the Gospel: As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up. And the meaning is clear. Holy Scripture calls the father of sin a serpent, so what is born of him must be a serpent too; sin must have the same name as its father. Now since the Apostle asserts that the Lord was made sin for our sake by clothing himself in our sinful nature, it cannot be inappropriate to apply this symbol to him. If sin is a serpent and the Lord became sin, it must be obvious to all that in becoming sin he became a serpent, which is simply another name for sin.
He became a serpent for our sake, so that he could consume and destroy the serpents of Egypt brought to life by the sorcerers. Once he had done this he was changed into a staff again, and by this staff sinners are chastised and those who are climbing the difficult ascent of virtue are supported. With good hope they lean upon the staff of faith, since faith is the assurance of things hoped for. Those who attain an understanding of these mysteries become gods in comparison with people who resist the truth, who are seduced by the deceitfulness of the material and contingent, and disdain as useless listening to Him Who Is. They value nothing but material benefits satisfying to their irrational instincts. On the other hand, those who receive strength from the Light and great power and authority over their enemies are like well-trained athletes, stripping to confront their opponents with courage and confidence. They hold in their hands the staff which is the teaching of faith, and by that staff they will conquer the serpents of Egypt. (Gregory of Nyssa)
Musical Selection (Psalm 2; Karl Kohlhase)




Look mercifully, Lord, upon your family,
that, as we discipline our desire for earthly things,
a longing for you may grow in our hearts.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever. Amen.