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The story of Moses and the ten plagues of Pharaoh is the stage of the Christian, Hebrew and Muslim religion and is written in the Old Testament book of Exodus. According to the myth, the Egyptians had enslaved the Israelites. Then, the God of Israel sent Moses to set them free. When the Pharaoh denied, the God bored the Egyptians with the so-called ten plagues of Egypt. In this way he enforced him to set the people of Israel free.
The ten plagues according to the Bible are:
Ten plagues of Egypt: the truth behind the myth/ the scientific approach
The myth in question appeared to be the triggering factor for scientists and archeologists to start studying the phenomena which are described in the Old Testament, in order to explain them from a biological point of view. In this way, they managed to discover the ancient city of Pi-Ramesh, where, according to research, the events of the Old Testament took place. The findings that were discovered in the city inform us that it was at its prime until the period when Ramses B’ was the Pharaoh (3000 BC.). From then on, there are no findings, so we conclude that the town was evacuated for an inexplicable reason. After that, scientists tried to establish a connection between The Ten Plagues of Egypt and several natural phenomena.
1. The water of the river Nile turned into blood and, as a consequence, the fish of the Nile died and left Egypt without drinkable water.
According to the scientific approach, the Nile didn’t turn red because of blood, but it got this reddish color from toxic algae, which are a type of aerobic toxic Cyanobacteria (Oscillatoria rubescens). These bacteria multiply under specific favorable conditions (temperature, vitriolic and phosphoric salt) and when they die, they produce this red color. Based on this specific characteristic, the researchers discovered that at the time the ten plagues happened, there was a sudden rise in temperature, which caused the river waters to become stagnant. That is the main reason for the first plague. The bacteria reduced the oxygen and resulted in the death of the fish and the pollution of the river water, which was no longer drinkable.
2. Frogs covered the entire dominion.
Then, the number of the frogs rose rapidly, because tadpoles tend to grow much faster under environmental pressure (lack of oxygen). According to the Bible, the frogs surfaced and died.
3. The air of Egypt got filled with gnats.
Gnats multiplied, because the fish and the frogs, which were their predators, were dead.
4. Swarms of horseflies raided on the Egyptians’ houses.
The dead fish and frogs attracted swarms of horseflies. Also, since the frogs, the predators of the horseflies, had died, their number got out of control.
5. A serious epidemic inflicted all the herds of Egyptians.
The gnats proliferated and spread the virus ‘Blue Tongue’. This virus is responsible for a contagious disease which is an ailment of ruminants that spreads through the insect’s saliva.
6. Men and animals got foul of hives, large spots and sores.
The horseflies, in their turn, became the carrier of the virus ‘Glanders’, which causes an infection that is manifested with blisters and abscesses on the skin.
7. A heavy hailstorm destroyed everything.
The researchers tried to relate the three following plagues with the eruption of the Santorini volcano. The seventh plague describes very heavy hailstorms which takes place when clouds and solid particles meet. So, when the Santorini volcano erupted, tons of ash were blasted off and reached Egypt; scientists can tell this by the pieces of pumice stones coming from the Santorini volcano which were discovered near the area of Pi-Ramesses. Therefore, the tons of ash could be responsible for the strong hailstorm described in the seventh plague.
8. The whole Egypt fell into dark due to the swarms of locust.
After that, the eruption of ash caused weather abnormalities, which led to heavy rainfalls and increased humidity. This climate in particular attracts swarms of locusts, which move through gas streams from the coldest areas to the warmest and more humid ones.
9. For three days Egypt was completely into darkness.
The tons of ash led to the ninth plague, as all this ash covered the entire Egypt and even blocked the sun. However, some scientists disagree with this interpretation, because it is estimated that the Exodus and the eruption of the Santorini volcano do not coincide historically, but the former happened 200 years earlier than the latter.
10. The firstborn sons of Egyptians died, so did the firstborn animals.
As for the tenth plague, there are two different explanations. According to the first one, the death of the Egyptians’ firstborn boys and animals is due to a type of fungus which was detected in grains and contaminated them. The firstborn boys used to work at the grain plantations, so they were probably the first victims. The second explanation, however, is more religious-oriented, because, according to the Egyptian tradition, the firstborn boys represented the future of the people and their death symbolized that there was no future for Egypt from then on. In this way, the Hebrew god Jehovah is shown as superior to the Pharaoh.
Nevertheless, despite the research, no one can be completely sure as to whether the ten plagues of Egypt have ever happened. Others believe that it is just a myth that aims to convince people about the existence of God, something that was extremely important at that time, considering that people were encouraged to go on living by believing in a superior deity, which was supposed to look after them and help them. Moreover, there are certain people who believe that the plagues did happen and were caused by natural phenomena, whereas there are others who are convinced that the plagues are in fact catastrophes having taken place through the entire Egyptian history and were simply related and made into one myth by oral tradition. Finally, there are those that need no evidence in order to believe in the plagues, but are content with their faith in God’s power. We can surely say that scientists will keep looking for answers until they manage to decode even the smallest detail of this mystery.