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Ten Plagues on Egypt

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The Ten Plagues of Egypt (Hebrew: מכות מצרים, Makot Mitzrayim), also called the Ten Plagues (Hebrew: עשר: המכות, Eser Ha-Makot) or the Biblical Plagues, were ten calamities that, the God of Israel, Yahweh, inflicted upon Egypt to persuade Pharaoh to release the Israelites from its captivity. These events are reported in the biblical Book of Exodus. According to the Book of Exodus, God proclaims that all the gods of Egypt will be judged through the tenth and final plague:

"On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD." - Exodus 12:12

Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh

The Plagues of Egypt are mentioned in Maggid section of the Passover Hagadah.[1] In the Hagadah the plagues are listed. In many versions of the Hagadah it is told the story of four children: A wise one, a wicked one, a simple one and one that does not know how to ask. The Plagues of Egypt are also briefly mentioned in the Quran (7,133–136).[2]

History

God comissioned Moses to take Israel from Egypt. Israel was warned that this would come about only through God´s supreme power[3] The Jewish people were not only oppressed with hard bondage, in the manufacture of bricks and mortar but also their souls were led captive under Egyptian idolatries.[4] Moses with Aaron as his spokesman appeared before Pharaoh to communicate the divine order that he was to allow the departure of the Israelites,[5] so that they could worship God freely. After an initial refusal by the Pharaoh, God sent Moses and Aaron back to show him a miraculous sign of warning – Aaron's rod turned into a serpent. Pharaoh's sorcerers also turned their staffs into snakes, but Aaron's then proceeded to swallow theirs before turning back into a staff.

The ten plagues

The plagues listed in the Bible are[note 1]:

  1. Water, which turned to blood and killed all fish and other aquatic life (Exodus, 7:14–25)
  2. Frogs (Exodus, 8:1–8:15)
  3. Lice (Exodus, 8:16–19)
  4. Flies(Exodus, 8:20–30)[note 2]
  5. Disease on livestock (Exodus, 9:1–7)
  6. Unhealable boils (Exodus, 9:8–12)
  7. Hail and thunder (Exodus, 9:13–35)
  8. Locusts (Exodus, 10:1–20)
  9. Darkness (Exodus, 10:21–29)
  10. Death of the first-born of all Egyptian humans and animals. To be saved, the Israelites had to place the blood of a lamb on their door.(Exodus, 11-12)

Description of the plagues

In this section we present a summary of the Biblical account of the plagues which is found in chapters 7–12 of Exodus.

The first plague: the plague of blood (דָם): Ex. 7:14–25

"This is what the LORD says: By this you will know that I am the LORD: With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood. The fish in the Nile will die, and the river will stink; the Egyptians will not be able to drink its water." - Exodus 7:17-18

Upon the refusal by Pharaoh to release the people of Israel, all the water of that was in the Nile turned to blood. This plague was humiliating because the Egyptians were so dependent upon the Nile for water that they worshiped it as a god.[5]

The second plague: the plague of frogs (צְּפַרְדֵּעַ): Ex. 7:25–8:15

"Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will send a plague of frogs on your whole country. The Nile will teem with frogs. They will come up into your palace and your bedroom and onto your bed, into the houses of your officials and on your people, and into your ovens and kneading troughs. The frogs will come up on you and your people and all your officials.’”" - Exodus 8:1-4

The third plague: the plague of lice or gnats (כִּנִּים): Ex. 8:16–19

"Then the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the ground,’ and throughout the land of Egypt the dust will become gnats.” They did this, and when Aaron stretched out his hand with the staff and struck the dust of the ground, gnats came on people and animals. All the dust throughout the land of Egypt became gnats." - Exodus 8:16-17

The fourth plague: the plague of flies (עָרוֹב): Ex. 8:20–31

"This is what the LORD says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you do not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies upon you and your officials, on your people and into your houses. The houses of the Egyptians will be full of flies, and even the ground where they are." - Exodus 8:20-21

The Plague of Flies

Swarms of flies came on Egypt in an unusual amount to feed on dead frogs. Pharaoh offered to let the people sacrifice to their God, only in Egypt, but Moses protested that his sacrifice would be with an animal that the Egyptians thought improper to sacrifice and insisted that they should go three days' journey into the wilderness. Pharaoh consented, provided that they were not go too far, and then Moses interceded for the plague ceased.[6]

In the first three plagues, no explicit exception is made concerning the Hebrews yet there is no mention made of that has also afflicted the Israelites. But in the case of the fourth plague God refers explicitly to the Egyptians.[7]

The fifth plague: the plague of murrain on cattle (דֶּבֶר): Ex. 9:1–7

"This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: "Let my people go, so that they may worship me." If you refuse to let them go and continue to hold them back, the hand of the LORD will bring a terrible plague on your livestock in the field—on your horses and donkeys and camels and on your cattle and sheep and goats. But the LORD will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and that of Egypt, so that no animal belonging to the Israelites will die." - Exodus 9:1-4

Announcing the fifth plague, God clearly distinguishes between the Egyptians and the Hebrews.[7]

The sixth plague: the plague of boils (שְׁחִין): Ex. 9:8–12

"Then the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Take handfuls of soot from a furnace and have Moses toss it into the air in the presence of Pharaoh. It will become fine dust over the whole land of Egypt, and festering boils will break out on people and animals throughout the land.” So they took soot from a furnace and stood before Pharaoh. Moses tossed it into the air, and festering boils broke out on people and animals. The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils that were on them and on all the Egyptians. But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said to Moses. " - Exodus 9:8-12

The seventh plague: the plague of hail (בָּרָד): Ex. 9:13–35

"Then the LORD said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me, or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up[a] for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. You still set yourself against my people and will not let them go. Therefore, at this time tomorrow I will send the worst hailstorm that has ever fallen on Egypt, from the day it was founded till now. Give an order now to bring your livestock and everything you have in the field to a place of shelter, because the hail will fall on every person and animal that has not been brought in and is still out in the field, and they will die.’” Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the LORD hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside. But those who ignored the word of the LORD left their slaves and livestock in the field. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that hail will fall all over Egypt—on people and animals and on everything growing in the fields of Egypt.” When Moses stretched out his staff toward the sky, the LORD sent thunder and hail, and lightning flashed down to the ground. So the LORD rained hail on the land of Egypt; hail fell and lightning flashed back and forth. It was the worst storm in all the land of Egypt since it had become a nation. " - Exodus 9:13-24

The eighth plague: the plague of locusts (אַרְבֶּה): Ex. 10:1–20

"This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: 'How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will bring locusts into your country tomorrow. They will cover the face of the ground so that it cannot be seen. They will devour what little you have left after the hail, including every tree that is growing in your fields. They will fill your houses and those of all your officials and all the Egyptians—something neither your fathers nor your forefathers have ever seen from the day they settled in this land till now." - Exodus 10:3-6

The Plague of Locusts

The ninth plague: the plague of darkness (חוֹשֶך): Ex. 10:21–29

"Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness will spread over Egypt—darkness that can be felt." So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. No one could see anyone else or leave his place for three days. Exodus 10:21-23

The tenth plague: Death of the firstborn (מַכַּת בְּכוֹרוֹת): Ex. 11:1–12:36

"This is what the LORD says: 'About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again.'" - Exodus 11:4-6

Aftermath

God punished their enemies, drowned Pharaoh´s army with its chariots and cavalry in the Red Sea. The people of Israel was led by God on Mount Sinai where they witnessed the revelation and received the Ten Commandments, the Decalogue.[8]

Notes

  1. In some Jewish interpretations the fourth plague are mentioned as "Wild Beasts" and the fifth as "Pestilence" as on "Maggid: Telling the Story of the Exodus". http://www.chabad.org/holidays/passover/pesach_cdo/aid/1737/jewish/Maggid.htm. Retrieved 03-27-2012. 
  2. According to The Illustrated Bible Dictionary the fly was probably the Stomoxys Calcitrans as on Douglas, J. D., ed. (1980). The Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Inter-Varsity Press/Tyndale House Publishers. p. 1234-1236. ISBN 0-8423-7525-2. 

References

  1. "Maggid: Telling the Story of the Exodus". http://www.chabad.org/holidays/passover/pesach_cdo/aid/1737/jewish/Maggid.htm. Retrieved 03-27-2012. 
  2. “Then We sent upon them the storm and the locusts, and the lice, and the frogs, and the blood — clear Signs; but they behaved proudly and were a sinful people.” (7:134); online on http://www.alislam.org/quran/search2/showChapter.php?submitCh=Read+from+verse%3A&ch=7&verse=132
  3. Douglas, J. D., ed. (1980). The Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Inter-Varsity Press/Tyndale House Publishers. p. 1234-1236. ISBN 0-8423-7525-2. 
  4. Smith, William, ed. (1979). Smith´s Bible Dictionary. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers. p. 248. ISBN 0-87981-033-5. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Unger, Merrill F (1988). R. K., Harrison. ed. The New Unger´s Bible Dictionary. Chicago: Moody Press. p. 1014-1018. ISBN 0-8024-9037-9. 
  6. Douglas, J.D.; Teney, Merril C, ed. (1987). The New International Dictionary of the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House. p. 793-794. ISBN 0-310-33190-0. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Archer, Gleason L (1982). Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Regency Library/Zondervan Publishing House. p. 114. ISBN 0-310-43570-6. 
  8. Barnavi, Eli, ed. (1992). A Historical Atlas of the Jewish People. New York: Schocken Books. p. 4. ISBN 0-8052-4127-2.