In Exodus, Pharaoh refused to let the Hebrew people leave Egypt. The 10 plagues were a divine demonstration of power and displeasure designed to persuade Pharaoh to "let my people go".
Water to bloodThe Bible says: the Nile turned to blood at the touch of Moses's staff. Equinox says: a red- blooming algae called Pfisteria, which makes fish bleed, could have been the cause.
FrogsPfisteria would have killed all the fish; no fish means more frog spawn, which means more frogs. And a polluted river would drive them on to the land in their millions.
LiceWithout moisture the frogs died, removing the only obstacle to an insect explosion - and the biblical story is long before "lice" were distinguished from other insects.
FliesThe Bible says: there came a grievous swarm of flies into the house of Pharaoh. Equinox says: fly swarms are not uncommon, and this plague was probably of stable flies, which bite.
Sick animalsEquinox concludes that two diseases decimated Egypt's livestock: African Horse Sickness and Blue Tongue, transmitted by tiny midges (the "lice" of the third plague.
BoilsA disease causing boils and blisters struck next - perhaps the ancient disease "Glanders", which is spread by stable flies. As a result, the crops went unharvested.
HailOnly last year hailstorms hit Israel and Jordan. They're not rare, but to the weakened Egyptians, whose crops were their whole livelihood, a hailstorm at this time would be a cruel blow.
LocustsAgain, locusts have been known to swarm since ancient times, stripping crops. But to the Egyptians, like the hail, a locust plague now couldn't come at a worse time.
DarknessThe Bible says a three-day darkness fell next .A sandstorm is the likely culprit: one in Cairo in 1997 blacked out the sky for three days. The sand would cover any food supplies remaining.
First-born dieMicro-toxins found in locust droppings contaminating the food were lethal; and in famine conditions the custom was to give the eldest double portions. End of story
The ten plagues may be divided into 4 sections, three groups of three and a final plague. The first three sections are each introduced by a warning to pharaoh that occurs in the morning. They are each ended by a plague that comes without warning. Within the three sections we also see a distinct progression with regard to the long term effect the plague has upon the land.
In section one we get temporary inconveniences that are applied to the Israelites and the Egyptians alike.
In the second section we get the separation between Israelite and Egyptian, we also get plagues that may have some long-term side effects.
In the third section Pharoah is told that God is going to destroy Egypt and the people saw this happen . The interesting point of section three is that the servants of Pharoah (and later the people of Egypt) start to get far more involved with proceedings.Each plague may also be viewed as an attack on one of the Egyptian Gods.
|Water into Blood||Pharoah was warned and allowed to watch||Yes||The Egyptions managed to work around the problem||Pharoahs heart was hardened||Hapi (the God of the Nile)|
|Frogs||Pharoah warned but was not with Moses when it happened||Yes||Pharoah named the time the frogs would go||Compromise but then Pharoah hardened his heart||Heqt (interestingly many frogs was usually viewed as a good thing)|
|Lice||No Warning||No. The magicians saw the lice as an act of God||We're not told but presumably||Pharoahs heart was hardened. He doesn't even speak to Moses.||Kheper (God of beetles and flies)|
|Flies||Pharoah warned but not with Moses when it happened||No. In fact they didn't even try||The flies were removed when Pharoah promised to let the Israelites go||Pharoah hardened his heart||Kheper|
|Murrain||Pharoah warned and told when it would happen||Again they didn't try||It was a one off action.. but the cattle stayed dead.||The heart of Pharoah was hardened.||Apis (Sacred Bull)|
|Boils||Pharoah not warned but was there when Moses did it||Magicians could not even heal themselves||We're not told but one would imagine scarring would result||The Lord hardened Pharoah's heart.||Imhotep (physician God) & Thoth (Magic and healing)|
|Hail||Pharoah and servants warned. Those that heeded the warning escaped.||Didn't try.||No respite, crops destroyed although some crops left.||Pharoah admits sin but then sins more by hardening his heart||Nut (Sky Goddess)|
|Locusts||Pharoah warned and his servants almost cause him to give in||Didn't try||Complete devastation, this years harvest gone.||Pharoah acts in haste and compromises. The Lord hardens Pharoahs heart.||Seth (God of Crops)|
|Dark||No Warning||Didn't try||Yes, three days only||Pharoah heart hardened by God. Tells Moses to "get out of sight"||Ra (Sun God)|
|First Born||Yes||No||No - firstborn dead||Israelites let go||Pharoah|
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