In the Exodus, how many signs are there? How many wonders? How many great acts of judgment? We speak of the ten plagues, but the Scriptures talk of signs, wonders, and acts of judgment. In 4:17 Moses was told to take the staff with which He will do the signs (4:22). The staff/serpent gig is clearly a sign. So, Pharaoh receives not ten, but eleven signs. Still, the staff/serpent sign is clearly not one of the “wonders” that God “strikes” Egypt with (Exodus 3:19).
What we commonly call the ten plagues are linked together as a set—ten wonders, ten great acts of judgment. Yet, this first wonder, and second sign, of water being turned to blood clearly forms an inclusio, that is, a form of literary brackets, with an eleventh wonder, the parting to the Red Sea. The first wonder foretells of the last. The previous Pharaoh commanded, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live (Exodus 1:22).” That very river turns to blood. The firstborn of Egypt die in the “final” wonder that brought them out of Egypt. Pharaoh’s heart grows hard again (remember this is God’s doing, cf. Exodus 4:22; 9:16; 14:8). He pursues Israel to the Red Sea, and there, his host is drowned.
This isn’t just justice. It’s poetic justice. The wrath that falls on Egypt has a beauty, a wonder, a rhythm, and a poetry to it. It has motifs and themes. It swells and moves. It is God’s orchestration. A symphony unto His own glory. This is no mindless rage. Wisdom unsurpassed has penned notes of wonder long ago for glory. One day, this motif will reach it’s pre-composed crescendo, and we will sing for its glory.
The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing died that was in the sea.
The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say,
“Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was,
for you brought these judgments.
For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets,
you have given them blood to drink.
It is what they deserve!”
And I heard the altar saying,
“Yes, Lord God the Almighty,
true and just are your judgments!”