The Ten Plagues of Egypt were ten divine disasters that God visited upon Egypt in the last year of the enslavement of the Israelite people in that country. Each of them was a direct strike at part of the Egyptian religious system and everything Egyptians held sacred. These plagues, and Egyptian response to them, form part of the story of the Exodus of Israel.
- 1 Background and Likely Synchrony
- 2 The Ten Plagues in Detail
- 3 Further History of the Exodus of Israel
- 4 Related References
- 5 See Also
Background and Likely Synchrony
In either 1491 BC or 1446 BC, a new leader had come to the children of Israel from the Sinai desert, where he had lived for forty years. His name was Moses. Originally this Moses had grown up in the court of Pharaoh (probably Amenemhet III of the Twelfth Dynasty), but had had to flee after he killed an Egyptian and then discovered that his rash act was widely known.
Now, forty years afterward, Amenemhet was dead and another king, likely Neferhotep I of the Thirteenth Dynasty, was on the throne. Moses came to this king to demand the release of the Israelite people. Neferhotep refused, even after watching a demonstration that Moses seemed to have at his command a power greater than that of all the court magicians. Faced with this refusal, Moses prayed to God, and God assured him that Egypt would suffer for this intransigence.
The Ten Plagues in Detail
The Plague Upon the River
First came a plague upon the Nile River. Moses struck the water with his shepherd's staff, and the river turned to blood. The river was the thing that made Egypt a great nation--and furthermore, the Egyptians worshiped it as a god. And yet this strike was only the beginning.
The Plague of Frogs
Next came dozens of frogs to invade Egyptian houses. Frogs were symbolic of Isis, goddess of fertility. The problem with the frogs was not so much their pestiferous presence but their mass death--a bad omen indeed.
The Plague of Lice or Gnats
Lice, representing the god of the earth itself, were despicable creatures to the Egyptians, as they remain today.
The Plague of Flies
The Plague Upon the Cattle
A cattle plague killed Egyptian cattle only, leaving Israelite cattle alone. Cattle were sacred to at least two Egyptian gods, Hathor and Apis. The disease itself, called murrain in the King James Version, had symptoms quite similar to those of anthrax.
The Plague of Sores
Sores, or boils, were regarded universally as a punishment for sin. This was a direct humiliation of the court magicians—especially since this was the first plague that they could not explain away, nor duplicate.
The Plague of Hail and Fire
This plague was a direct slam on the Egyptians' habitual boast that they could direct the weather with their chants and mantras. The most likely explanation is a thunderstorm with hail. The "fire" was most likely lightning, a thing no Egyptian had yet seen. (The vain speculation that this hail and fire was volcanic ash and lava has no Scriptural warrant.)
The Plague of Locusts
This was another slam against the agricultural shamanism of the Egyptians. Various insects, like the grasshopper or the cicada, are also known as locusts when they swarm. This was a greater swarm than the Egyptians had ever dealt with, and virtually destroyed their crops. The Bible gives no clue as to the taxonomical identity of these locusts, and very likely they are a unique class of creature, created specially for this event, like Jonah's "great fish."
The Plague of Darkness
Egypt was plunged into a darkness lasting three days (a recurrent motif in the Bible symbolic of the time that Jesus Christ would lie dead before His Resurrection). This was a slam against the king of Egyptian gods, called Ra or Re or Amun-Re.
The Plague Upon the First-born
- Main Article: Passover
This Plague is the basis of Passover, the most important of all the Pilgrimage Feasts of the Hebrew calendar. The first-born, especially a son, always held special privileges and responsibility in any culture, and the Egyptian culture was no exception. Here we have another hard clue as to which Pharaoh might have been involved with Moses, in that the first-born even in the royal house died that fateful night.
Further History of the Exodus of Israel
The death of his son broke Neferhotep's spirit, and he permitted the Israelites to depart at last. The Israelites left in great haste, partly at the urging of the Egyptian people. Later, however, Neferhotep changed his mind and gave chase. In that chase, and in particular at the Red Sea crossing, Neferhotep lost his life.
Conventional history tells us that Neferhotep I reigned nine years in Egypt, and that his successor was not a son of his, but rather his brother, Sobekhotep IV. If Neferhotep I was indeed the Pharaoh of the Exodus, then he had no son because his son died in the Tenth Plague. Furthermore, no archaeologist has ever claimed to have found the mortal remains of Neferhotep. Presumably Neferhotep lies to this day beneath the waters of the Gulf of Suez.
- Authors unknown. "The Ten Plagues." Biblical Holidays. Retrieved July 7, 2007.
- James Ussher, The Annals of the World, Larry Pierce, ed., Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2003 (ISBN 0890513600), pghh. 174-191
- Acts 7:30
- Leon J. Wood, A Survey of Israel's History, rev. ed. David O'Brien, Grand Rapids, MI: Academie Books, 1986 (ISBN 031034770X), pp. 97-98
- Jaroncyk, Ron. "Egyptian History and the Biblical Record: A Perfect Match?" Creation Ministries International, January 23, 2007. Retrieved June 25, 2007.
- Exodus 2:11-15
- Authors unknown."Entry for Neferhotep I." Digital Egypt for Universities. London, England: University College, 2000. Retrieved June 28, 2007.
- Exodus 10-14
- Exodus 7:14-25
- Exodus 8:1-15
- Exodus 8:16-19
- Exodus 8:20-32
- Exodus 9:1-7
- Exodus 9:8-12
- Exodus 9:13-35
- The Exodus Decoded. Produced by AP Hyksos Productions, Limited. Aired January, 2007, on The History Channel (United States) Associated Web site retrieved July 7, 2007.
- 19&version=NIV Exodus 10:13-14, 19
- Exodus 11:1-10
- Exodus 7:14-25
- Exodus 12:33-34