Biblical Archaeology Review 9:3, May/June 1983

How Moses Turned a Staff into a Snake and Back Again

By Leon Shalit

Something happened to me not long ago that may explain a bit of Moses’s magic. I wonder if your readers have any new light to shed on this natural explanation for a Biblical “miracle.”

As BAR readers will no doubt recall, when Moses and Aaron his spokesman confront Pharaoh and ask him to allow the Israelites to leave Egypt, Moses demonstrates his power by having Aaron, pursuant to God’s instructions, cast a staff onto the ground. The staff immediately turns into a serpent. Pharaoh summons his wise men, sorcerers and magicians, who are able to perform the same trick. However, Aaron’s staff-turned-snake swallows the staffs-turned-snakes of the Egyptians (Exodus 7:8–12).

The incident I wish to relate occurred while I was gardening at a friend’s house in a seaside village in Israel.

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