“secret arts.” The Devil has real power, and witches and people who align themselves with him, even if they do not fully realize who he is and worship him as a pagan god or deity, or just a “power” that can be tapped into, can bring his power to bear. People who do not believe in the supernatural dismiss and discredit records such as Exodus 7:11 by saying that the whole record was made up, or the sorcerers had various tricks to make it look like their rods became snakes (a common explanation is that the Egyptians could put a snake in a coma-like state and then revive it—but there is no actual evidence for that and it does not fit the context). However, people who believe in the Bible should pay careful attention to this record and others like it because it shows the kind of evil power that genuine sorcerers who are in league with the Devil do have.
The Bible says that Aaron’s staff became a snake by the power of God, and the text says that the magicians “did the same thing by their secret arts.” In other words, the sorcerers also changed their staffs into snakes, but by their secret arts. That does not mean that the sorcerers (or the Devil) had the power to made dead wood into a living snake, but it means that the Devil could teleport the staffs away and teleport live snakes to replace them, or in some other powerful manner get the staff to become a snake. But then, like snakes sometimes do, Aaron’s snake ate the sorcerers’ snakes, showing the superiority of God over the Devil.
Skeptics often scoff and say that if the Devil was that powerful, we should see things like that today. To a degree we still do, and reports of powerful magic come out of Africa, India, Haiti, and places where belief in the supernatural is still strong and every other person doesn’t have a video camera. However, the Devil is crafty, and adopts his methods to the situation and culture in which he is operating. His best tactics include secrecy and misinformation, so coming out in the open for everyone to see is not in his best interest. The disbelief and doubt of the skeptics only assists him staying hidden and aides his evil purposes. He controls people from behind the scenes, as he has always done. The End Times will see a huge increase in manifestations of the Devil’s power, and when the Antichrist is alive on earth he will be accompanied by “all kinds of power and signs and lying wonders” (2 Thess. 2:9).
The wise Christian believes the words of Paul: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world-rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).