Why was Moses Taken by Surprise?

A couple of days ago I received a really good question from one of the page readers. After watching the demonstration video about Moses and the magician, he asked why Moses was taken by surprise by God’s miracle/sign when he already experienced the very same thing when God commanded him to take his staff and turned it into a serpent before sending Moses to stand in front of Pharaoh?

Well, very good question indeed and there are a couple of explanations. I would like to focus on the one concerning the original Hebrew. First, let’s compere between two Biblical passages:

“The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent…”(Exodus 4:2-3)

Afterwards, Moses and Aaron stood before Pharaoh:

“Then the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Prove yourselves by working a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh that it may become a serpent.” (Exodus 7:8-10)

As you probably noticed, in both cases the staff turned into a serpent and that fact raises the question mentioned above. For some reason (and there are couple of speculations as to why) most of the Bible translations, not just in English, have translated both Biblical passages to read it was a serpent.

But in the original Hebrew, ONLY the first time, when God and Moses were alone, did the staff transform into a serpent (“Nachash” {נחש} in Hebrew).

The second time, when both Moses and Aaron stood before Pharaoh the staff turned into a crocodile (‘Tanin’ {תנין} in Hebrew) – which was considered one of the gods of Ancient Egypt and was deliberately chosen to show Pharaoh and his wise men they are worshiping a false god!

Since the staff turned into a crocodile and not a serpent as he anticipated, it is clearer why Moses was taken by such surprise!