Exodus 8:20 reads,

"And the Lord said to Moses, 'Rise early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh as he comes out to the water.' Then say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me.'"

What was the occasion for Pharaoh to go to the water?


2 Answers 2


The Egyptians worshiped the Nile as a god of fertility under the name Hapi.

Pharaoh went out to the river to worship the "Nile, it was their god of fertility. It may also have been for a morning walk, or to examine the height of the river Nile.

Images of god Hapi from Google.


  • Interesting, especially about the ablution. Thing is, wasn't the Nile River red at this point due to it being turned into blood?
    – Philip
    Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 9:15
  • Phillip , No the Nile river was no longer red, as it happened earlier(Exod 7;15-25) The next plaque was the frogs swarming in the Nile river and everywhere. Exodus 8: 1;4 Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 17:10

The short answer to the question is: we are not told. However, several things can be gleaned from the text: Pharaoh was going to the water: This suggests two things

  1. The river was not in flood and because Pharaoh had to move to the river.
  2. The fact that Pharaoh was predictably going to the river suggests one of two possibilities. Either (a) Pharaoh was going to the Nile to have his regular morning ritual ablution (Compare Benson's notes. This is unlikely but not impossible - compare Ex 2:5), or, (b) it was an annual festival, 120 days after the initial river flood when the Nile receded and the new fertile soil was apparent.

If this latter more probable idea is true, Pharaoh would have been accompanied by a significant retinue of attendants and officials making Moses' message have much greater impact.

Several commentaries reach a similar conclusion:

Ellicott observes:

He cometh forth to the water.—It is conjectured that this was on the occasion of the great autumn festival, when, after the retirement of the Nile within its banks, and the scattering of the grain upon the fresh deposit of mud, the first blades of corn began to appear. It is not improbable that Khepra, “the creator,” was then especially worshipped.

Barnes suggests:

Cometh forth to the water - See the Exodus 7:15 note. It is not improbable that on this occasion Pharaoh went to the Nile with a procession in order to open the solemn festival, which was held 120 days after the first rise, at the end of October or early in November. At that time the inundation is abating and the first traces of vegetation are seen on the deposit of fresh soil.

  • This sounds very reasonable. I have deleted my negative comment above and retracted my close vote. (+1).
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 23, 2020 at 7:21
  • Interesting, especially about the ablution. Thing is, wasn't the Nile River red at this point due to it being turned into blood?
    – Philip
    Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 9:15
  • @Philip - the Nile reverted to being water at the conclusion of the first plague. This is evidenced by the fact that frogs came from the Nile during the second plague. If the plague of blood had still existed, the frogs would have died.
    – Dottard
    Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 9:51

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