Plague of Blood – Magician’s Imitation

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March 7, 2015

2 min read

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The Torah states that after God turned the water to blood, the Egyptian magicians performed the same feat. But doesn’t the Torah state explicitly that all the water of the kingdom was turned to blood (Exodus 7:19)? What water was left for the magicians to change?

The Aish Rabbi Replies

It’s a very good question. There are several different possible answers:

(1) It’s possible that not all the water in the country turned to blood. There are varying opinions in the Midrash and commentators regarding this – possibly that the water stored in the Egyptians’ utensils did not change, that only the drinkable water was transformed, or that only visible water turned to blood but not water stored in underground aquifers. (This is implicit from the fact that the Egyptians dug alongside the Nile to retrieve drinking water (Exodus 7:24).) There is another opinion in the Midrash that only the Nile itself turned to blood. There was thus available water for the magicians to transform. (See Shemot Rabbah 9:11, R. Sa’adiah Gaon, Ibn Ezra 7:22, R. Bechaye 7:22, Chizkuni 7:20, Ohr HaChaim 7:22.)

(2) Since the Jews were not affected by the plague, the magicians were able to transform the water sold to them by the Jews (Shemot Rabbah 9:9) or retrieved from the Land of Goshen (Targum Yonatan 7:22, Me’am Lo’ez 9:14).

(3) There is a different possible approach that the water turned to blood for only a short time, shortly after reverting to water. Thus, there was water available for the magicians to transform. In fact, as the Torah describes, the main damage caused by the plague was the death of the fish – which ruined the Egyptians’ primary water supply (see espec. v. 21). And further, the witchcraft-practicing Egyptians may have been happy to drink blood, but they couldn't drink foul water (Chizkuni 7:20, see also Da’at Zekainim 7:18).

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