In Shemot Chapter 4:1-9, Hashem gives Moses three signs that he can show Bnei Israel to prove that he is being sent as Hashem's messenger:

  1. The staff turning into a snake and back again
  2. Moses' hand turning white with tzara'at and back to normal
  3. Turning water from the Nile into blood

Later, in Shemot Chapter 7: 8-12 and 7:19-20, Hashem instructs Moses and Aaron to perform the first and third sign in front of Pharaoh. Why doesn't Hashem instruct them to perform the second sign as well?

  • 1
    Don Y Abarbanel addresses this issue mg.alhatorah.org/Dual/Abarbanel/Shemot/4.9#m4e0n0
    – Nahum
    Jan 8 at 15:41
  • I should point out that altho they seem to be the same with the latter merely an enlarged version of the third sign however they aren't necessarily the same as the former only happened with some blood on dry land without causing any distress whereas the latter involved their drinking water and kicked off the pressure brought to bear on egypt with the makkos
    – Nahum
    Jan 8 at 16:04
  • I remember learning somewhere that the second sign was performed by Moshe in front of the Zekeinim, but not in front of Paroh
    – ezra
    Jan 8 at 16:34
  • Ditto for the first one with the initial one turning into a נחש and then back into a staff whereas the latter one becomes a תנין and consumes all the other תנינם
    – Nahum
    Jan 8 at 16:41
  • 1
    Just came across this sefaria.org/Gevurot_Hashem.27.3?lang=bi&with=all
    – Nahum
    Jan 18 at 13:40

2 Answers 2


The following excerpt is part of a larger piece where Don Y. Abarbanel shows that the symbolic meaning of the middle sign was specific to Israel and therefore inappropriate for Pharaoh

Shemos 4:9

ואין ספק שמרע"ה עשה לפני פרעה הנס הא' מאלה שהוא נס הנחש והאחרון מהם שהו נס הדם אבל לא עשה האמצעי שהוא נס היד. והסבה בזה היא לפי שנס הנחש היה רומז לפרעה כמו שביארתי ונס הדם מהימי היאור היה רומז לקריעת ים סוף וטביעת המצרים בו מפני היות שניהם נוגעים לפרעה ולעמו עשאם לעיניו השומע ישמע והמשכיל יבין. אמנם נס היד שהי' בערך ישראל וצרעת עונותיהם ורפואת תשובתם לא עשאו לפני פרעה כי לא היה נוגע בו והיה גנאי לישראל

And there is no doubt that Moshe our teacher, may peace be upon him, did before Pharaoh the first sign of these, which was the sign of the snake, and the last of them, which was the sign of the blood, but did not do the middle one, which was the sign of the hand. And the reason for this is since the sign of the snake was an allusion to Pharaoh, as I explained, and the sign of the blood is about the waters of the Nile, which was an allusion to the splitting of the Sea of Reeds and the drowning of the Egyptians in it, because both of them were concerning Pharaoh and his people, they were done before their eyes. Those who listen will hear and the intelligent will understand. Indeed, the sign of the hand, which was about Israel and the plague of their punishments and the healing of their repentance he did not do before Pharaoh because it was not relevant to him but was a disgrace for Israel.

(Much thanks to Hal Miller for graciously providing his expert translation. You can purchase his work at https://halamiller.wixsite.com/author/abarbanel)


This sign is controversial since it involves the left hand and the ritual impurity of Moses. Maybe Moses did show them this sign, but the Torah just did not record it. There's things that happen that the Torah doesn't record - like the unknown 38 years of Israel just wandering in the desert.

  • 3
    Any sources to back up all of this?
    – Shmuel
    Jan 8 at 16:39

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