Moses performed the signs God had given him before Pharaoh, turning his staff into a snake. But Pharaoh’s magicians were able to do the same ‘trick’ through sorcery, leading us to wonder why God would give Moses an inadequate sign? What was the point? How ashamed Moses must have felt, seeing the magicians’ staffs turn to snakes as well!
Yet again, when Moses turned the Nile’s water into blood or caused frogs to emerge from the river and cover the land, Pharaoh’s magicians were able to replicate the miracle themselves.
This recurring theme may be intended to remind us how Judaism is more based on intelligent thinking than on miracles and wonders. Miracles shouldn’t impress us. Relying too heavily on miracles is dangerous, since a bigger trick might eventually convince us to change course.
These signs given to Pharaoh were intended to prompt him to think about what he was doing, but not to prove God’s sovereignty beyond any doubt. He was supposed to come to that conclusion through his own thinking. But instead of giving Moses a chance to rationally convince him to do the right thing, he allowed himself to be swayed by his magicians’ flashy illusions instead.
God has given us free choice, which includes the ability to make the wrong choice. Of course, God also gives us hints and indications with the hope that we will choose the right path.