Number 1.3       
September 2007      


Moses, a god to Pharaoh

By Ben Parziale

The ten plagues in the land of Egypt have always been a topic of conversation for both Christians and Jews. These events bring about the eventual exodus of the Israelites from the land of Egypt. There are many interpretations concerning the ten plagues; however, in light of Exodus 7:1, I will discuss the role of Moses concerning the plagues from a Christian perspective.

Exodus 7:1 says, “And the LORD said unto Moses, ‘See I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet.’”  First, it should be noticed that this verse legitimizes Moses’ power and authority. As commentator Matthew Henry explains,

He was authorized to speak and act in God’s name and stead, and, under the divine direction, was endued with a divine power to do that which is above the ordinary power of nature, and invested with a divine authority to demand obedience from a sovereign prince and punish disobedience. Moses was a god, but he was only a made god, not essentially one by nature; he was no god but by commission. He was a god, but he was a god only to Pharaoh; the living and true God is God to all the world (104).

Moses is an agent of God, but only by divine ruling. Moses is declared by the LORD that he will act as a god to Pharaoh. Another verse reiterates Moses’ and Aaron’s positions of authority. Exodus 4:16 says, “And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God.” God tells Moses that Aaron his brother will be his spokesman, and that Moses will be like God to Aaron. Possibly, Henry missed this verse in his commentary. Moses will be “God” to both Aaron and Pharaoh, and not just Pharaoh alone. Or perhaps Henry makes that statement because Moses is only “God” to Pharaoh and because Pharaoh does not know or worship the God of the Israelites. On the other hand, Aaron does worship the God of Israel and knows that Moses’ words are from God.  Now it must be noticed that the word God in Exodus 7:1 and Exodus 4:16 is the translated from the Hebrew word elohim. This Hebrew word has a number of meanings, and in the singular form the word can mean: “god/goddess, godlike one, works or special possessions of God, or the (true) God” ( God declares Moses as elohiym and not YAHWEH. The text itself shows this. Exodus 7:1 proclaims God as “LORD” (YAHWEH) and not “God” (elohiym). The text wants to be clear in differentiating God from Moses and does not want the reader to be misled in thinking that Moses is God himself. Only the LORD God of Israel can be called YAHWEH, and even though Moses is declared by the LORD to be a god, he cannot be compared or considered equal to the LORD. Moses already knew who the LORD God of Israel was because God presents Himself to Moses in Exodus 3 from within the burning bush. However, I think God wanted not only Pharaoh but also the Israelites to know that Moses had been commissioned by the LORD to lead them out of Egypt.

The two aforementioned verses display two different relationships throughout Exodus. The first relationship is this: God speaks to Moses as prophet and then Moses speaks to Aaron as receiver. The second: Moses as god speaks to Aaron as prophet and then Aaron speaks to Pharaoh as receiver. Throughout the Exodus account, God never speaks or interacts directly with Pharaoh. God only speaks to Moses, and then Moses to Aaron. Henry expresses the relationship of Moses to Aaron concerning God’s word, writing, “‘He shall be thy prophet,’ that is ‘he shall speak from thee to Pharaoh, as prophets do from God to the children of men. Thou shalt, as a god, inflict and remove the plagues, and Aaron, as a prophet shall denounce them, and threaten Pharaoh with them’” (104). God shows his justice by not interacting with Pharaoh and sending a man to work with him instead. God calls Moses as His messenger, and he will act in God’s stead towards Pharaoh. Pharaoh’s irreverence towards God causes God to enact judgment upon Pharaoh and the land of Egypt. As Pharaoh will soon learn, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).

Throughout the plagues, God’s word to Moses proves true. Pharaoh looks to Moses as a god. Pharaoh comes to Moses and Aaron numerous times, asking them to take away the plagues. For example, in Exodus 8:8, it says, “Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, Entreat the LORD, the he may take away the frogs from me, and from my people.” Pharaoh calls for Moses and Aaron to dispel the plagues, thus displaying the relationship that Moses is a god to Pharaoh and that Aaron is his prophet. However, it must be pointed out that while Pharaoh acknowledges the LORD God of the Israelites, he does not respect or worship the LORD. He does not view the LORD as a legitimate God. This can be seen in Exodus 8:25, “And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land.” Pharaoh tells Moses and Aaron that it is “your” God, and that this God is only worshipped by Israel and not Egypt. Pharaoh refuses to view the LORD as the God of the universe.  Thus, Pharaoh beseeches Moses as a god who can control the plagues, and considers Moses more of a god than the LORD God of Israel.

For Christians, Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of Moses in several ways. First of all, Christians view Jesus as the God in the flesh and not just a god.  John 1:1-3 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him and without him was not any thing made that was made.” The chapter continues and states in verse 14, “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” Christians believe Jesus is the Word that became flesh and is fully divine. Jesus said in John 10:30, “I and my Father are one.” Not only this, but Jesus declared to his disciples, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matthew 28:18). It is interesting to note that in John 20:28, Thomas says that Jesus is “My Lord and my God.” The Greek word for “Lord” in this verse is kurios. This is the same Greek word used in the Septuagint to translate the Hebrew word YAHWEH, which is found in Exodus. Also, the Greek word for “God” in John 20:28 is theos, which is the same word that the Septuagint uses to translate the Hebrew word elohiym ( Thus, in a grammatical sense, Jesus can be understood as God in the flesh for Christians.

Secondly, Jesus is the fulfillment of Moses in that he is the prophet to follow Moses. Deuteronomy 18:15 and 18 state, “The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall

hearken;… I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.” Christians see this achieved in John 5:46-47, “For had ye believed Moses ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” Jesus declares to the Pharisees that Moses spoke of his coming. Philip tells his brother Nathanael in John 1:45 that he had found Jesus “of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write.”  Jesus, however, made it clear that prophets are without honor in their own countries (Matthew 13:57, Mark 4:24, John 4:44).  Just as the prophets (Moses, Elijah, and Jeremiah) were not accepted in their own countries or by the people of their times, Jesus was also not accepted: “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). Thus, Jesus was the fulfillment of Moses as the prophet to come.

Thirdly, Jesus performed signs and wonders just as Moses did. Moses brought about the ten plagues upon the land of Egypt, parted the Red Sea, and struck a rock so the people of Israel could drink water. Moses performed these things so that the Israelites would know that Moses was appointed by God to bring them out of Egypt. Jesus also performed many miracles so that people would believe that he was the Son of God.  Jesus also proclaims to the Jews in the Gospel of John that even if they do not believe in him they should believe his works. “But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in Him” (John 10:38). In fact, the Gospel of John speaks about its own account of the signs of Jesus while he was on earth. “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:30).  The gospels themselves speak of the signs and wonders that Jesus did, so as to persuade their readers that Jesus was sent by God.  

Lastly, Jesus brought the new covenant. “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). The new covenant is now through Jesus and not Moses.

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they break, although I was a husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the  house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD, for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 8:8-13).

For Christians, Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant, through the shedding of his own blood and through his death the world can be redeemed. Christ said at the Passover meal, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). The old covenant of Moses was only able to redeem Israel, but the new covenant under Christ is for the salvation of the entire world. The last plague upon Egypt was the death of the firstborn, and Jews consider this event to be the Passover. By sacrificing a lamb without blemish and by putting blood on the doorposts, the angel of God would “pass-over” that family by not killing the firstborn. For Christians however, Jesus finalized the purpose of the Passover. Jesus was the firstborn of God who was killed, and he was also the sacrificial Lamb without spot or blemish. According to Gospels, Christ was crucified during Passover, thus signifying his purpose on earth. Jesus died once and for everyone. “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;… For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:12-14). For Christians, Jesus is the complete fulfillment of the Passover and the old covenant. 

As we can see, Moses was a god by divine ruling to Pharaoh, and Moses gave the law and covenant to the Israelites. According to Christians, however, Jesus is the complete fulfillment of Moses and God’s covenant with Israel. Moses performed signs and wonders and led the Israelites out of Egypt. Jesus did signs and wonders as well, so that people might believe that he was the Son of God to redeem them from their sins. For Christians, Jesus was God in the flesh and proved to be the one Moses had prophesied about centuries earlier.

Works Cited

Henry, Matthew.  Commentary on the Whole Bible, Complete and Unabridged in One Volume. (Hendrickson Publishers, LLC) 1991.

© 2007, Society for Scriptural Reasoning