Do you want to understand the history of the 7 Plagues of Egypt? To understand why they came and how their appearance upset Egypt?
As enthusiasts of Egypt, we are here to guide you through this biblical account that led to the separation of two peoples: the Hebrew and Egyptian peoples.
Contrary to what we often hear, there were 10 and not 7 Plagues of Egypt:
- The transformation of the Nile's water into blood
- The frog invasion
- The invasion of lice, fleas and midges
- The horde of wild animals
- The animal fever
- The spread of boils
- The locust invasion
- The hailstorm
- The total darkness
- The ultimate scourge
After this reading, the 10 Plagues that ravaged ancient Egypt in the Bible will no longer hold any secrets for you!
Let's discover all this together!
The three "Soft Plagues"
As children, many of us had read in the Bible how the Hebrew people living on the Gosen plateau in Egypt suffered under the cruel rule of the Egyptian pharaohs.
Raised as the brother of the pharaoh of Egypt, Moses, understood after a visit to the Hebrew camp that he was adopted at a very young age. He then learns that he belongs to the Hebrew people oppressed for centuries by the Egyptians.
Moses subsequently meets God in the desert who asks him to go and defend the cause of the Jews, the ancient inhabitants of Israel, to his former brother, the pharaoh.
Thus, at the beginning of this story, Moses asks the pharaoh to let the Hebrew people return to their native land in Canaan. However, the man who has ruled Egypt with an iron hand for years refuses.
As a result, ten plagues are sent by God to the Egyptians in a divine display of power and discontent designed to persuade the pharaoh to reverse his decision.
1) The transmutation of the Nile river water into blood
The first of Egypt's ten Plagues is the transformation of the waters of the Nile into blood.
When the pharaoh resisted freeing the people of Israel, Moses and his brother Aaron gave him a warning: it is clear that God would punish him and the Egyptian people.
Moses walked with Aaron to the river bank. There Moses raised his staff and struck the water, turning it into blood. All the people of Egypt and the pharaoh saw this miracle and were amazed. The transformation of the river into a torrent of blood had two consequences: the fish of the Nile died, and a pestilential smell invaded the banks of the river.
Although impressive, the first of Egypt's ten Plagues doesn't scare the Egyptians any more than that (as they have already seen the Nile's water turn red due to the proliferation of certain algae).
Moreover, it then became impossible for the Egyptians to drink the water from the Nile. Two solutions were then imposed on the people: dig deep into the ground to find water or wait for the floods by praying for the blood to disappear.
Unfortunately for the Egyptians, no underground springs were discovered. Moreover, the floods of the Nile and all the waters of Egypt, wherever they are, have turned into blood.
As a result, fish die by the thousands in rivers and lakes. For a whole week (before the curse ends) people and animals suffer from a terrible thirst. However, the pharaoh did not give in, not believing in the divine origin of this miracle.
2) The frog invasion
As the first plague was not enough to convince the pharaoh to let the Hebrew people go, a second plague is looming for Egypt.
Moses decides to go to the bank of the Nile, where he extends his hand. Immediately, frogs flocked in and entered all the houses (which also included kitchens and bedrooms). Thus, wherever an Egyptian looked, he would find huge and slimy frogs as far as his eyes could see.
The pharaoh then became frightened and asked Moses to pray to his god to deliver Egypt from the plague of frogs. He promises that in return, he will free the Hebrew people immediately. Moses prays and the frogs all pass away in an instant. But immediately, the pharaoh breaks his promise and refuses to let Moses' people go.
The frog's plague is certainly one of the plagues which drove the greatest number of Egyptians to madness.
3) The invasion of lice, fleas and midges
After the deception of the pharaoh: something that seemed to be foreseen by the god of Moses is going to happen. The many dead frogs will attract millions of lice, fleas and midges.
These will be so numerous that they will form gigantic black clouds that will darken the Egyptian sky. People and animals deprived of sunlight suffer from terror and anxiety. As for the pharaoh, he resists the ease of freeing the children of Israel and still does not yield to Moses' request.
The three "Violent Plagues"
In spite of the first three plagues of Egypt, the pharaoh refused to let the Hebrews go and (on the contrary) hardened their living conditions. He sees in these three events a simple chance: they may be surprising natural hazards, but they are certainly not a divine punishment. Moses and God must therefore strike Egypt even harder.
4) The horde of wild animals
The fourth plague that struck the Egyptians consisted in God sending hordes of wild animals throughout the country which destroyed everything in their path. Only the province of Goshen (where the children of Israel lived) was safe from this plague.
The savage hordes devastated many Egypt's agricultural crops (what plunged the kingdom into famine). Once again, the pharaoh promised to let the Hebrews go. Following this promise, Moses prayed to God, and the wild animals disappeared. Yet, as soon as the latter were gone, the pharaoh withdrew his promise again and refused Moses' request.
In the film "Exodus", Moses is portrayed as a man repentant of his condition as an ancient prince of Egypt, changed and ready to take up arms to defend his true people.
5) Animal fever
The fifth plague was one of the most terrible: a deadly fever killed most of the Egyptians' animals. The people of Egypt were afflicted by this plague because they saw not only the cattle of the fields but also the horses of the pharaoh (considered the pride of the nation) and some sacred animals considered to be the terrestrial incarnations of their gods die!
Miraculously, the people of Moses were spared this plague for the fifth time. This strangeness made the pharaoh even more unreasonable. He rushed to the porch of his palace and shouted to the Hebrew god in heaven: "Your people will never leave Egypt, no matter how much suffering you inflict on my people!".
6) The spread of boils
Then followed the sixth punishment: boils. God ordered Moses to remove the ashes from the Egyptian furnaces where the Hebrews were forced to work. God then asked Moses to scatter the ashes towards heaven. The wind blew and the ashes caused boils on the skins of men and beasts throughout the land of Egypt.
The pharaoh's relatives, soldiers and servants began to die. The pharaoh's wife herself died from the sixth plague. But once again, all the pharaoh's sadness only made him oppress even more the Jewish people.
The four "Terrible Plagues"
Despite the first six plagues that led to famine, the death of livestock and the death of thousands of Egyptians, the Hebrew people are still enslaved by Egypt. The pharaoh is now convinced that the Hebrews will remain slaves of the Egyptians forever and only death can free them from their condition.
7) The torrent of hail
Moses announced to the pharaoh that a hailstorm of unprecedented violence was going to fall from the sky and that no living being, no tree and no grass would escape its fury. However, Moses warned the Egyptians that a solid roof could still protect people from this plague. The majority of the Egyptians listened to Moses. Nevertheless, a few unwise and stubborn ones left their cattle with their servants in the fields.
When Moses stretched out his staff, hail poured down with a rare violence. Men and animals exposed to his rage died on the spot. The fields were ravaged by hail and the trees fell.
Thus, the slim hopes of a satisfactory harvest despite the previous plagues collapsed.
The myth of the 7 Plagues of Egypt (as opposed to the 10 in the Bible) is today anchored in collective thinking, notably by John Martin's famous painting "The 7 Plagues of Egypt", made in 1823.
Disoriented, the pharaoh sent for Moses and acknowledged the suffering he had inflicted on the Jewish people. Moses then raised his staff and the storm ceased.
The Hebrew people were finally able to return to their homeland and negotiations for their return began. The pharaoh's heart was still filled with anger, however.
8) Locust invasion
Time passed and Egypt slowly recovered. Then came the eve of the departure of the Hebrews. Moses and Aaron visited the pharaoh to apologize for the suffering of the Egyptian people.
However, instead of accepting the apology and blessing the journey of Moses and his people, the pharaoh imposed on Moses that only the men could leave while their wives, children and property would remain in Egypt.
Moses and Aaron refused this offer, which plunged the pharaoh into a black anger. Moses warned him, however, of the new and unspeakable suffering that Egypt would suffer if the pharaoh did not change his mind once again. Nevertheless, the pharaoh remained inflexible, his heart eaten away with hatred and thirst for revenge.
Grasshopper invasions were recurrent at this time in Egypt, but the eighth plague in Egypt brought a much larger swarm of insects than normal. This leaves no crop untouched.
As soon as Moses left the pharaonic palace, he raised his stick to the sky. As a consequence, the wind brought swarms of locusts which devoured everything that had escaped the previous plagues. Never in the history of mankind had there been some swarms of locusts as devastating as this one.
The pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron again and implored them to pray to God to stop the insects' invasion. Moses agreed and God drove the locusts with the wind into the sea. When the calm returned, the pharaoh's stubbornness also returned. He again refused to free the people of Israel.
9) The total darkness
In order for the pharaoh to agree to free the Hebrew women and children, Moses asked God for a new plague. God responded by suddenly creating a thick and impenetrable veil of darkness that extinguished all light on earth as well as in heaven.
The Egyptians were soon frightened and stood or sat still in their places. There was only light in Goshen where the children of Israel lived.
However, unlike the previous plagues, not all Jews were protected from this plague. Indeed, over the years some of them had tried to integrate into the Egyptian way of life. Indeed, they did not want to leave Egypt: they were all found dead when the light returned.
Once again, the pharaoh tried to negotiate with Moses and Aaron. He allowed them to leave with all their people, but on condition that they leave their flocks to make up for the misfortunes suffered by the Egyptians. Moses and Aaron informed him that they would accept nothing less than total freedom for men, women, children and all their respective properties.
The pharaoh then became very angry (to change from the previous eight times!) and ordered Moses and Aaron to leave his palace and never to return to ask him to free their people. The pharaoh warned them that if they returned to him for whatever reason, he would kill them with his own hands.
Moses replied that he would never again come of his own accord to the palace of the ruler of Egypt. Indeed, God would send another and final plague on Egypt. After this last plague, the pharaoh himself would come to the leaders of the Hebrews to beg them to leave Egypt without delay!
10) Egypt's final plague
Two weeks before the Exodus out of Egypt, God said to Moses: "In three days' time, let every family take a lamb, kill it and mark each door with its blood". God then turned to Aaron: "By this sacrifice you will save the houses of the children of Israel, while the Egyptians will be terribly struck". Thus begins the final plague of Egypt.
Moses explained all this to his people, to whom it took a lot of faith and courage to carry out this command, because the lambs were important possessions to them. But before a direct command from God, all the Hebrews obeyed and sacrificed their sheep.
When the preparations were completed, God waited until midnight and then commanded the final punishment of Egypt. This punishment struck the firstborn of the whole country, who died instantly. No Egyptian child escaped: from the first son of the pharaoh to the first-born of the captives held in the prisons, all of them were taken away.
Thus, in every Egyptian house, loud and sad groans of terror resounded. Then, the pharaoh called Moses and Aaron and said to them: "Go, leave Egypt, take your wives, your children, your possessions and your cattle. Go away and never come back!". The Hebrew people were free.
The death of the first-born is by far the most terrible plague. It plunges the pharaoh into such sadness that he will decide to pursue the Hebrews and kill them. Moses will create a path through the waters of the Red Sea to allow his people to escape from the vengeful intentions of Egypt's ruler.
The 10 Plagues of Egypt
These 10 Plagues now have no more secrets for you! The reasons for their appearance and the consequences for ancient Egypt are now clear.
If you are interested in the tales and legends of ancient Egypt, perhaps you will like our Egyptian jewelry's collection.
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