THE TEN PLAGUES OF EGYPT
Adonai said to Moshe, “Say to Aharon, ‘Take your staff, reach out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, canals, ponds and all their reservoirs, so that they can turn into blood. There will be blood throughout the whole land of Egypt, even in the wooden buckets and stone jars.’” Exodus 7:19
Many non-believers, often called atheists, have debunked the Ten Plagues of Egypt as myths and legend, while others have suggested each has a scientific explanation and, therefore, could not have been the Work of Yahveh. In this blog I will explain the connection between the natural causes of each of the plaques and the Work of Yahveh.
First, a general explanation. Most miracles may be explained through scientific causes; that’s what miracles are – God’s working through the natural order He created for specific purposes at specific times. Certainly there are events which cannot be explained through the natural order of things, but these are few and far between.
G.K. Chesterson, in his classic, Orthodoxy1, wrote “The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them.” In this teaching, I take the position that miracles exist, because there is evidence to support them. C.S. Lewis suggests, in his book, Miracles2, that modern historians and Bible critics have a cultural bias that stops them from even allowing for the possibility that miracles exist. Do all of the plagues of Egypt have a natural cause connection? Certainly not, but they all may be called miracles of God.
Plague One – Blood. In the Scripture quote, above, we read of Yahveh telling Moshe & Aharon to turn the waters of the Nile River, no matter where they are, into blood. How may this be explained?
In both ocean and fresh waters, a phenomenon, called the red algae3 bloom, will turn waters a deep red. This frequently occurs in lakes around North America, during hot summer days. The algae contain a toxin, which will accumulate in shellfish and other creatures which eat the algae. As fish eat these creatures, they too will be contaminated and die. However, there is no credible study which may explain the origins of this plague, at this time. The accumulation of the red algae bloom, when Yahveh ordered it, would be considered a miracle on its own.
Plague Two – Frogs. One week later, Yahveh ordered all the frogs of the River Nile to exit the river and flood the cities and villages along the river. This miracle could be explained scientifically, as the frogs would be affected by the red algae bloom and would escape its impact. However, as we know, Yahveh uses the laws of nature to fulfill His purposes.
Plague Three – Bugs. Within the week, following pharaoh’s intransigence, Yahveh had untold numbers of biting bugs infect all of Egypt, including the area occupied by the Hebrews – Goshen. This was the last plague the Hebrews would experience. This miracle may be explained as the natural consequence of the death of the main predator of these gnats and lice – frogs.
Plague Four – Wild Animals. After another week, wild animals began to wander throughout Egypt, eating the produce and attacking the animals and their handlers left out in the fields. Once again this may be explained scientifically. In their study of epidemiological problems, caused by climate disturbance, J.S. Marr and C.D. Malloy4 claim this plague represents a swarm of flies created by a sudden change in climate. But don’t be swayed; this was Yahveh’s work. Remember, the Israelites were spared the onslaught of these wild animals.
Plague Five – Pestilence. The fifth plague, hoards and hoards of pestilence, saw many of the Egyptian horses and cattle attacked and killed. This calamity had a severe impact on the Egyptian economy, as another of their staples was destroyed. This disease was thought to be rinderpest, a highly contagious virus, believed to have originated in Asia and transported to Egypt via the trade routes. And this happened exactly when Yahveh ordered it to occur. It must be noted that the Israelite cattle and herds were spared this pestilence.
Plague Six – Boils. If you have ever experienced a boil, imagine your body being covered with them. This was the sixth plague which hit the Egyptians. Although not usually life threatening, boils would have created great consternation, as they attacked both young and old. In their 1996 paper, Marr and Malloy suggest these boils originated from the stable fly, which plagued Egypt with the wild animals. Other studies claim the boils were caused by small pox, as scares were found on many excavated mummies. However, nothing affected the Israelites.
Plague Seven – Hail. The hail, described in Scripture (Exodus 9), was unlike anything experienced before. Not only was the hail heavy, but fire flashed up with it, when the hail hit the ground. Any animal or person not sheltered would have been severely damaged by this horrendous phenomenon. This plague has been explained by a nearby volcanic eruption, on the Island of Santorini, Crete. The resultant ash mixed with a simultaneous thunderstorm in Egypt, causing the observed fiery hail. But, nothing fell on the Israelites in Goshen, which was right in the path of an ash cloud.
Plague Eight – Locust. Perhaps there were still some crops in the fields, following the harmful hail. Whatever was left was soon devoured by the millions of locusts, which attacked Egypt about a week later. Locusts are voracious eaters and no plant could stand in their way. Siro Trevisanato5, a Canadian molecular biologist, claims the volcanic eruption in Santorini, created the climatic conditions which favoured the locust and precipitated their swarming in Egypt, right when Yahveh called for them to swarm. Need I remind you the Israelites crops were spared?
Plague Nine – Darkness. Imagine a darkness that you could feel, holding you down and extinguishing any light you had in your home. This was the darkness experienced by the Egyptians, in this the ninth plague. Fear and terror were the main emotions felt by the Egyptians, as Yahveh held them down for about a week. There is no clear explanation for this event, considering that all of Goshen had light but the rest of Egypt was in darkness.
Plague 10 – Death of the First Born. The final plague, death of the first born son, affected not only the Egyptians but also their non-Hebrew slaves and their animals. Thus, the first born son, regardless of age, of every Egyptian family, their slaves and their animals, died during this night of terror. Bennett and Klich6, epidemiologists, claim, in their review of the literature, the algae bloom of the first plague might have infected the grain in the fields. These then killed the first born, who usually ate the first grain gathered. However, the Israelis ate the grain that would have been infected and they were spared. Once again an unexplained miracle.
These, then, were the Ten Plagues of Egypt, exercised against Egypt, for the hardness of pharaoh’s heart. Although many of the miracles may be explained scientifically, as Yahveh uses His laws of nature, the miracles may be found in their timing; they arrived when Yahveh ordered them.
Although nothing like this has been experienced since, the plagues mentioned in Book of Revelation, will have similar effects. May Yahveh bless all those who walk with Him.
1 Chesterson, G.K., Othodoxy, 1908, Open Book, New York.
2 Lewis, C.S., Miracles, 1960, Harper Collins.
4 J.S. Marr and C.D. Malloy, An epidemiological analysis of the ten plagues of Egypt, Caduseus, 12(1): 7-24, 1996.
5 Trevisanato, S. The Plagues of Egypt: Archaeology, History and Science Look at the Bible, Gorgias Press, 2005.
6 Bennett, J.W. and Klich, M., Mycrotoxins, Clinical Microbiological Reviews, Ameican Society for Microbiology, 2003, Pp. 1-32.
May the God of Avraham, Isaac and Jacob bless you richly.
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