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The Plagues

By Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David (Greg Killian)

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I. Introduction. 1

II. Rabbinic Insights 2

Rabbi Ari Kahn. 5

III. Plague Relationships 8

IV. Purpose of the Plagues 10

V. Plague Details 10

Snake from a staff 11

BLOOD.. 11

FROGS. 12

LICE.. 13

WILD BEASTS. 15

PESTILENCE - DEVER.. 15

BOILS. 16

HAIL and FIRE.. 18

LOCUSTS. 21

DARKNESS. 22

DEATH of the FIRSTBORN.. 24

VI. The Plagues and The Revelation. 25

FROM THE PSALMS. 26

BLOOD: 26

FROG(S). 27

GNATS: 28

BEASTS (flies): 28

LIVESTOCK PLAGUE: 30

BOILS: 30

HAIL: 31

LOCUSTS: 32

DARKNESS: 33

DEATH OF THE FIRSTBORN: 33

SEAL & SIGN: 34

VII. The Protective Abode. 35

VIII. Selected Essays 37

IX. The Plagues and the Decalogue. 40

X. The Time and Timing of the Plagues 42

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I. Introduction

 

In this study I want to look at the plagues that HaShem sent upon the Egyptians in the time of Moses. I would like to look at each of them in depth, and I would also like to compare them to the creation story and to the plagues in the book of Revelation.

 

During the Passover seder, we recite the plagues while removing a drop of wine from our cup. This process is what I would like to look at first:

 

When saying the following words “blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke,” spill three times from the wine in the cup. Do not remove wine by dipping a finger, but by spilling from the cup itself, and do so into a broken/chipped dish. (Have in mind that the cup symbolizes the aspect of malchut which contains an aspect of “anger and indignation.” By means of our faculty of binah (understanding) we pour out [that aspect of “anger and indignation” - by spilling from the wine in the cup into a broken dish which represents kelipah, i.e., that which is called accursed [the principle of evil]).

 

Blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.”

 

Another explanation:

Strong hand“ indicates two [plagues];

Outstretched arm,” another two;

Great manifestation,” another two;

Signs,” another two; and

Wonders,” another two.

 

These are the ten plagues which the Holy One, blessed be He, brought upon the Egyptians, namely as follows:

 

When saying the ten plagues, spill from the cup itself ten times, as stated above (and when spilling,

again have in mind what was said above). The wine remaining in the cup (will have become ‘wine that causes joy,’ thus) is not to be spilled, but other wine is added to it [to refill the cup].

 

Blood.

Frogs.

Lice.

Wild Beasts.

Pestilence.

Boils.

Hail.

Locust.

Darkness.

Slaying of the First-born.

 

Rabbi Yehudah referred to them by acronyms:

 

DeTzaCh

דצ״ך

(blood, frogs, lice);

AdaSh

עד״ש

(beasts, pestilence, boils);

BeAChaB

באח״ב

(hail, locust, darkness, first-born).

 

 The letters באח״ב עד״ש דצ״ך are the initials of the names of the ten plagues in Hebrew.

 

II. Rabbinic Insights

 

Parashiot Vaera-Bo 5756, “Rebbi Yehudah’s acronym”.[1]

 

REBBI YEHUDAH’S ACRONYM QUOTE: ...these are the Ten plagues (= Plagues) which the Holy One Blessed be He brought upon the Egyptians in Egypt. They are:

 


דם

Dam

Blood,

צפרדע

Tz’fardya

Frogs,

כנים

Kinim

Lice,

ערוב

Arov

Beasts,

דבר

Dever

Cattle Pestilence,

שחין

Sh’chin

Boils,

ברד

Barad

Hail,

ארבה

Arbeh

Locusts,

חשך

Chosheh

Darkness,

בכורות מכת

Makat B’chorot

Death of the Firstborn.

 

 

ד


דם

Blood,

צ

צפרדע

Frogs,

ך (כ)

כנים

Lice,

 

 

 

ע

ערוב

Beasts,

ד

דבר

Cattle Pestilence,

ש

שחין

Boils,

 

 

 

ב

ברד

Hail,

א

ארבה

Locusts,

ח

חשך

Darkness,

ב

בכורות מכת

Death of the Firstborn.

 

Rebbi Yehudah would make an acronym from the Hebrew words for the ten plagues: “D’TZ’CH - דצ״ך, A’D’SH - עד״ש, B’A’CH’V - באח״ב “. (Passover Haggadah; Sifri Parashat Ki Tavo) Rebbi Yehudah proposed an easily memorized acronym for the ten plagues: “D’TZ’CH - דצ״ך, A’D’SH - עד״ש, B’A’CH’V - באח״ב” (usually pronounced “DeTZaCH ADaSH B’ACHaV”). This simple mnemonic provides an easy way to remember the ten plagues. A very basic question may be asked concerning Rebbi Yehudah’s mnemonic. A mnemonic is necessary to help us recall a matter which is not recorded somewhere readily accessible -- such as the opinion of a Sage in the Mishna or Gemara, which did not originally exist in written form. The ten plagues, on the other hand, are written clearly in the Torah, and every child can recite them by heart. What need did Rebbi Yehudah see to create a mnemonic to help us recall the ten plagues?

 

Commentators throughout the ages have discussed this issue.[2]

 

Let us examine some of their suggestions.

 

II (1) The most obvious suggestion is that Rebbi Yehudah was not trying to help us remember the names of the plagues. Rather, he was emphasizing to us that the plagues are to be divided into three distinct sets. The first three plagues form one set, the second three form another, and the last four form a third. There are a number of ways in which these three groups are distinct.[3] Da’at Zekenim suggests that perhaps Rebbi Yehudah’s acronym is a mnemonic after all. However, it is not meant to remind us of the plagues themselves. It is intended to record for us the correct “chronological order” of the plagues.

 

Two different chapters in Tehillim 78:44-51; 105:28-36 review the plagues which struck the Egyptians. These chapters, however, list them in a different order than the Torah does. Since the Sages tell us that the Torah does not always relate events in chronological order[4], one may come to the mistaken conclusion that the order in Tehillim is the correct one. Rebbi Yehudah meant to assert, through his acronym, that the order in which they appear in the Torah is indeed correct. Da’at Zekenim quotes a novel explanation for Rebbi Yehudah’s acronym from Rebbi Yitzchak ben Asher II (RYBA), which is also cited in part by Hagahot Maimonei. RYBA makes two points. First, he remarks that if one writes the three sets of acronyms one on top of the other, the third letters of each grouping spell חשך “CHoSHeKH” (= darkness), backwards:

 

 

כ (ך) KH

צ TZ

ד D

 

ש SH

ד D

ע A

ב B

ח CH

א A

ב B

 

“D’TZ’CH דצ״ך, A’D’SH עד״ש, B’A’CH’V באח״ב

 

RYBA derives from this that darkness accompanied all of the other plagues. That is, during the plagues of Blood, Frogs, Lice etc., there was darkness, as well. Of course, the darkness of the actual plague of Darkness, when its time came, was much deeper.[5]

 

RYBA’s second remark is that the plagues which occupy the third position in each set, always came together. That is to say, the plague of Lice was accompanied not only by darkness, but by boils, as well.

 

Similarly, the plague of Boils was accompanied by lice and darkness, and the plague of Darkness, was accompanied by boils and lice. The reason that they are listed individually in the Torah is because as the turn for each of them came, that particular plague was the dominant one. Lice was dominant when the time came for the third plague, Boils by the sixth, and Darkness by the ninth. RYBA contends that the inter-connectedness of these plagues is attested to through a diagram containing the three three-letter words:

 

כנים - “KiNiM” (= Lice),

שחין - “SHeCHiN” (= Boils) and

חשך - “CHoSHeK” (= Darkness),

 

arranged one on top of the other. Interestingly, the names of the three plagues are spelled out in such a diagram both horizontally and vertically:

 

ח CH

ש SH

כ (ך) KH

ש SH

ח CH

נ N

כ (ך) KH

נ N

ם M

 

The authors of the Tosafot are themselves perplexed by RYBA’s explanation. Although these are intriguing observations regarding Rebbi Yehudah’s acrostic, there would seem to be no source for RYBA’s assertions in Talmudic literature. To make such assumptions solely on such vaporous “proofs” would seem to be taking too much for granted. Perhaps we may suggest a new source for RYBA’s claims. It may be that RYBA was alerted to his explanation by the differences between the Torah’s version of the plagues and the versions presented in Tehillim.

 

In Tehillim 105, nearly all of the plagues are listed in their proper order. Only the plague of darkness is out of place. It is listed first, instead of second to last. This may be what prompted RYBA to suggest that darkness actually accompanied “all” of the plagues. It is listed before the plague of blood, in Tehillim, because darkness was present right from the beginning. In fact, the entire year of the plagues may have been characterized by darkness. Perhaps this is why Rebbi Yehudah’s acrostic spelled חשך CHoSHeKH “backwards”, the way RYBA arranged it. Rebbi Yehudah was pointing out that the order in which Choshekh appears among the plagues must be “reversed” -- as it indeed is, in Tehillim! RYBA’s suggestion accounts for the order of the plagues in Psalm 105, at the same time explaining Rebbi Yehudah’s acronym.

 

The second half of RYBA’s explanation may be connected to another verse in Tehillim. In Tehillim 78, when specifying the plagues of the Egyptians in Egypt three of the plagues are omitted altogether. The three which are left out are none other than Lice, Boils and Darkness. If we accept the RYBA’s proposal that these three were not three distinct plagues, but rather they always came in conjunction, then it may be that they actually were not omitted. They are alluded to in verse 43, which tells us, “He performed “signs“ in Egypt, and “wonders” in the field of Tzo’an (= the Egyptian capital).” This verse can be seen as alluding to an unspecified group of mixed signs and wonders that struck the Egyptians all at once. Since Lice, Boils and darkness are not mentioned elsewhere in the psalm, the RYBA may have concluded that they are the plagues which are intended!

 

III. Some of the commentaries explain the meaning of Rebbi Yehudah’s acronym using the approach of Gematria, where every letter of the Hebrew alphabet is accorded a numerical value, and any Hebrew word has the “value” of the sum of its letters. Rav Shimshon of Ostropolier, a great Kabbalist of the 16th century, points out that the numerical Gematria value of “D’TZ’CH - דצ״ך, A’D’SH - עד״ש, B’A’CH’V - באח״ב” is 501. This is the same value as the Hebrew word “Asher” (= that). With this in mind, we may find many hints to the ten plagues in verses that use the word “Asher.” Rav Shimshon quotes, for example, Shemot 4:17, “(Hashem said to Moshe,) ‘Take this staff with you, that (“Asher”) you may perform with it the signs.’ “ Take the staff and perform with it the “Asher” (=501, or “D’TZ’CH - דצ״ך, A’D’SH - עד״ש, B’A’CH’V - באח״ב”) signs, the signs hinted at by the acronym equalling 501 that was engraved upon the staff!

 

Similarly, “You shall tell your son and grandson the way that (“Asher”) I punished the Egyptians”[6]. Tell them that I sent the Egyptians plagues with a numerical value totaling “Asher” (=501). Rav Shimshon was actually preceded in this Gematria by Hagahot Maimonei, who fits it into another verse: “All the plagues that (“Asher”) I have brought upon the Egyptians, I shall not bring upon you” (Shemot 15:26). All the plagues of Egypt, which total “Asher” (=501), HaShem shall not bring upon us. Finally, the Tosafists (in Hadar Zekenim) offer a unique Gematria approach to Rebbi Yehudah’s “D’TZ’CH - דצ״ך, A’D’SH - עד״ש, B’A’CH’V - באח״ב

 

The portion of the Haggada immediately following our acronym deals with a three-way argument as to how many plagues the Egyptians actually suffered. Although the Torah only mentions openly the ten plagues that affected the Egyptians in Egypt proper, the Torah hints that the Egyptians suffered at the Reed Sea “five times” as many plagues as they suffered while in Egypt. That means that they were plagued with “50” plagues at the sea, besides the ten that took place in Egypt. Such is Rebbi Yossi HaGlili’s opinion.

 

Rebbi Eliezer disagrees. He contends that in Egypt, each plague was actually a “four-fold” plague. That brings up the mainland total to forty plagues, and the sea-plague total to 5 x 40, or 200 plagues. Rebbi Akiva goes further, asserting that there the plagues of Egypt were “five- fold” plagues. The mainland total is now fifty plagues, making the sea-plague total of two hundred and fifty plagues! If we apply here the Talmudic dictum that, “These and those are both the words of HaShem“ (i.e., all the opinions are correct to some measure), we can add together all the figures that were suggested. This makes a grand total of a hundred plagues in Egypt itself, and five hundred more by the sea.

 

Rebbi Yehudah’s acronym was meant as a mnemonic for the total number of plagues that were suggested by the Sages in the section following his “sign“ in the recital of the Haggada. “D’TZ’CH - דצ״ך, A’D’SH - עד״ש, B’A’CH’V - באח״ב” adds up to a Gematria of 501, reminding us that the Egyptians suffered “500” plagues at the sea, plus another “1” hundred plagues in Egypt proper!

 

Parshat Vaera 5759

Paroh’s Heart

Rabbi Ari Kahn

 

One of the most intriguing elements of the Exodus story is the interplay between HaShem and Paroh. Though they never actually speak directly, it is clear that they are the major players in the story. Moshe for his part finds himself running back and forth between HaShem and Paroh, relaying messages and prophecies. HaShem has the upper hand, and if not for Paroh’s arrogance and delusions of grandeur, one could almost feel bad for him. Of course, the reader, observing from the outside, appreciates the absurdity of Paroh’s position: He doesn’t even know what he is up against, yet we see clearly from our vantage point that his hands are far too short to spar with HaShem.

 

The cards are completely stacked against Paroh, for not only can HaShem turn his beloved Nile into blood, but HaShem can play havoc with all of nature and the rules thereof. Paroh does not have a chance. The ultimate manipulation is where HaShem controls Paroh’s “heart“. At this juncture we understand how futile a battle with the Almighty really is. Paroh is strung along like a marionette on a string, performing as dictated by HaShem.

 

A simple, often-asked question presents itself[7]: How does HaShem punish Paroh, if he was not even acting on his own volition? Furthermore, why did the Divine Plan need to include this violation of natural law - the suspension of Paroh’s freedom of choice? As far as the second question goes, we appreciate that this can be posed regarding all of the plagues. There is a certain similarity between the plagues on the one hand and the limitation of Paroh’s freedom of choice on the other. One is a violation of nature, the other a violation of the nature of man.

 

This question presupposes the centrality of freedom of choice in Jewish philosophy. This assumption, that we indeed possess such freedom, is the cornerstone of normative Jewish thought. According to Rambam, life without such freedom would be meaningless, a veritable theological nightmare. If man were simply programmed to perform various actions he would have no responsibility for those actions, and life itself would be futile at best, inane at worst.

 

The Midrash articulates this question, noting that it opens the door for heretical thoughts:

 

Midrash Rabbah - Shmot 13:3 FOR I HAVE HARDENED HIS HEART (X, 1). Another explanation: R. Yochanan said: Does this not provide heretics with ground for arguing that he had no means of repenting, since it says: FOR I HAVE HARDENED HIS HEART?

 

The Midrash does provide an answer:

 

To which R. Shimon b. Lakish replied: Let the mouths of the heretics be stopped up. If it concerns the scorners, He scorns them[8]: when HaShem warns a man once, twice, and even a third time, and he still does not repent, then does HaShem close his heart against repentance so that He should exact vengeance from him for his sins. Thus it was with the wicked Paroh. Since HaShem sent five times to him and he took no notice, HaShem then said: ‘You have stiffened your neck and hardened your heart; well, I will add to your uncleanness’; hence FOR I HAVE HARDENED HIS HEART.[9]

 

According to this response, the hardening of the heart was itself the punishment, and not, as we assumed, merely the impetus for Paroh’s actions for which brought he was ultimately punished. The punishment Paroh actually receives is quite exact, measure for measure: Just as Paroh had closed his heart and ignored HaShem, now Paroh was punished by losing the sensitivity of his heart – which he had hardened himself.[10]

 

The Midrash speaks of five occasions when Paroh did not heed HaShem. An analysis of the biblical text shows that HaShem did not harden the heart of Paroh after the first five plagues. Quite the opposite: it is Paroh who hardens his own heart and ignores the unrivaled might of HaShem:

 

Blood And the magicians of Egypt did likewise with their enchantments; and Paroh’s heart was hardened, nor did he listen to them; as the Lord had said. And Paroh turned and went to his house, nor did he set his heart to this. (7:22,23)

 

Frogs But when Paroh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and listened not to them; as the Lord had said. (8:11)

 

Lice - Then the magicians said to Paroh, This is the finger of God; and Paroh’s heart was hardened, and he listened not to them; as the Lord had said. (8:15)

 

Swarms of flies And Paroh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go. (8:28)

 

Cattle And Paroh sent, and, behold, there was not one of the cattle of the people of Israel dead. And the heart of Paroh was hardened, and he did not let the people go. (9:7)

 

After the first five plagues we note a subtle yet essential shift in language.

 

Boils And the Lord hardened the heart of Paroh, and he listened not to them; as the Lord had spoken to Moshe. (9:12)

 

Hail And Paroh sent, and called for Moshe and Aharon, and said to them, I have sinned this time; the Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked… And when Paroh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders had ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart,[11] he and his servants. And the heart of Paroh was hardened, nor would he let the people of Israel go; as the Lord had spoken by Moshe. (9:27,34,35)

 

And the Lord said to Moshe, Go to Paroh; for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might show these my signs before him; (10:1)

 

Locusts But the Lord hardened Paroh’s heart, so that he would not let the People of Israel go. (10:20)

 

Darkness But the Lord hardened Paroh’s heart, and he would not let them go. (10:27)

 

Death of Firstborn And I will harden Paroh’s heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honored over Paroh, and over all his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord. And they did so. And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled; and the heart of Paroh and of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, ‘Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?’ (14:4,5)

 

Now it is HaShem who is hardening the heart of Paroh. This observation of the shift in language was made by Resh Lakish. The first five times Moshe approached him, Paroh ignored the display of HaShem‘s power. At that point, Paroh lost the ability to repent. This is part and parcel of the punishment, this loss of the ability to rectify his ways. The punishments he receives are for his earlier deeds, not for the later rebellion. The “final solution” which was plotted by Paroh at the outset of Sh’mot was sufficient reason for the punishment. This, coupled with the harsh, bitter slavery to which the Jews were subject, provides ample justification for the torturous treatment of Paroh and his henchmen.

 

This idea is expressed more succinctly in a different Midrash:

 

Midrash Rabbah - Shemot (Exodus) V:7 BUT I WILL HARDEN HIS HEART (IV, 21)-to exact retribution from them.

 

Again, Paroh and the Egyptians are not punished for their deeds subsequent to the hardening of their hearts. Rather, HaShem‘s intervention here is designed to bring about the punishment for their earlier cruelty. There is, however, a subtle difference between these two approaches.[12]

 

In the explanation of Resh Lakish, the hardening of the heart is the punishment, measure for measure. Thus, the question of the lack of free will is avoided: Men may only be punished for actions done of their own free choice, and here Paroh is indeed punished for crimes committed against the Jewish People by choice. The punishment: HaShem revokes Paroh’s free choice. In this second Midrash, HaShem hardens Paroh’s heart not as punishment, but in order to punish. Had Paroh suffered through the various indignities of the plagues without HaShem having manipulated his emotions and judgement, it is difficult for us to imagine Paroh not capitulating at some point to the awesome power of the Almighty. In fact, we can answer our previous question by turning the issue around: Surely it was the plagues which took away, or at least limited the free choice of Paroh. Surely a beaten, abused Paroh does not have the freedom to make a rational, dispassionate decision regarding belief in HaShem. In order to allow Paroh the freedom of choice to either accept or reject HaShem, his heart had to be hardened, effectively restoring the equilibrium to Paroh’s impaired, plague-ridden decision making process.[13]

 

This idea may help us understand at least one specific event, as well as a general concept that held sway throughout the biblical period. The Jews who stood on Mount Sinai were also certainly extremely impressed by the theophany. It is difficult for us to imagine that any person who witnessed the Divine Revelation was not forever transformed by it. Hearing HaShem declare “I am the Lord” and commanding “not to make graven images” must have had a lasting impact. Yet, a mere forty days later, we find the Jews worshiping a Golden Calf. This nearly impossible juxtaposition becomes more understandable when viewed through the prism of the free-will dilemma we witness in the case of Paroh: After witnessing the Revelation, the Jews lost a certain element of free choice. They were no longer at liberty to accept or reject HaShem in their lives: HaShem‘s involvement in their lives was clear, immediate, palpable. This being so, their subsequent belief and performance of commandments would have been tainted, of lesser value, victims of Divine leverage. The very same Revelation that brings man toward HaShem at the same time limits individual free will, making the actions of the individual, post-Revelation, meaningless. HaShem reestablished the equilibrium in His relationship with man by imbedding in his nature the desire to rebel against the word of HaShem. This is the key to the Golden Calf debacle.

 

In general, throughout the era of prophecy, the same dilemma existed: When man enjoys direct communication with HaShem, his freedom is effectively curtailed. A generation which has a prophet in its midst will necessarily be effected. Therefore, throughout the age of prophecy there existed a powerful urge to worship idols. Only in the Second Temple period, when prophecy became a thing of the past, does the urge for idolatry disappear[14]. By then it was no longer needed; the relationship between man and HaShem had changed and the need for individuals to choose belief and rejection of HaShem was restored.

 

So many of us hope for revelation, craving the simple, non-intermediate relationship with HaShem that such revelation would ensure. We forget that any revelation of this sort carries a heavy pricetag, rendering subsequent belief almost-meaningless unless accompanied by a counterbalancing temptation. Man believes that freedom of choice is an unalienable right. We forget that, at times, this right may be forfeited, as part of a punishment or as part of a larger scheme. The Torah reminds us of this with the lesson of Paroh.[15]

 

III. Plague Relationships

 

A Midrash points out that the plagues corresponded to the strategy of a general laying siege to a city. Thus, the plague of blood corresponded to the poisoning of the drinking water; the frogs, to the trumpeters that would sow fear among the inhabitants; the lice, to the arrows shot into the city; the wild animals to the mercenaries that would be sent; and so on.[16]

 

Midrash PESIQTA deRAB KAHANA Pisqa Seven VII:XI R. Levi bar Zechariah in the name of R. Berekhiah: "It was with the arts of royal siege-warfare that God came against them. First of all, [a besieging army] shuts up their water supply, then he brings against them thunders of war, then he shoots arrows, then he brings troops, then he storms them, then he pours burning oil, then he throws great stones against them, then he brings against them scaling troops, then he captures them, then he takes out their greatest figure and kills him. [So too is the order of God's siege of Egypt:] first he shut up their water supply: He turned their rivers into blood (Ps, 78:44). Then he brought against them thunders of war: This refers to the frogs.” (Said R. Yose bar Hanina, "The croaking was worse for them than the frogs themselves." "Then he shot arrows: This refers to the lice. Then he brought troops: This refers to the swarms of wild beasts. Then he starved them out: A very heavy murrain (Ex. 9:3). Then he poured burning oil: This refers to the boils. Then he threw great stones against them: This refers to the hail. Then he brought against them scaling troops: This refers to the locusts. Then he captured them: this refers to the darkness. Then he took out their greatest figure and killed him: This refers to the killing of the firstborn."

 

Now lets examine some of the relationships which exist within the plagues themselves.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Shemot (Exodus) XII:4 AND MOSES STRETCHED FORTH HIS ROD TOWARD HEAVEN (IX, 23). Three of the plagues came through the agency of Aaron, three through Moses, three through God, and one through the united efforts of all three. Blood, frogs, and gnats, being on the earth, were through Aaron; hail, locusts, and darkness, through Moses, because they were in the air and Moses had power over earth and heaven; the swarms, the murrain, and the plague of the firstborn through God, and the boils-- through all of them.

 

Abarbanel was the first to divide the plagues into groups. The plagues can be divided into the following groups:

 



 

 

The purpose of the first group:

 HaShem‘s existence.

 

These were initiated by Aaron, with the staff of Moses, and they involved water and land.[17]

 

DeTzaCh - דצ״ך

The purpose of the second group:

Divine providence.

 

These were initiated by HaShem, without the staff of Moses, and they involved those dwelling on the land:[18]

AdaSh - עד״ש

The purpose of the third group:

A universal G-d.

 

These were initiated by Moses, with his staff, and they revealed HaShem’s power to strike from the air:[19]

BeAChaB - באח״ב

 

 

 

1. Blood - דם

Shemot (Exodus) 7:14-25

4. Beasts - ערוב

Shemot (Exodus) 8:20-32

7. Hail/Fire - ברד

Shemot (Exodus) 9:13-35

Preceded by a warning

Preceded by a warning

Preceded by a warning

“…in the morning…” Shemot (Exodus) 7:15

“… in the morning…” Shemot (Exodus) 8:16

“…in the morning…” Shemot (Exodus) 9:13

“…you shalt know that I am HaShem Shemot (Exodus) 7:17

“…you will know that I, HaShem, am in this land.” Shemot (Exodus) 8:22

“… so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth.

Paroh hardened his heart. - Shemot (Exodus) 7:22-23

Paroh hardened his heart. – Shemot (Exodus) 8:28

HaShem hardened the heart of Paroh. – Shemot (Exodus) 9:27,34,35 – Shemot 10:1

Beduced the Egyptians in their own land to the insecure existence of strangers.[20]

Reduced the Egyptians in their own land to the insecure existence of strangers.

Reduced the Egyptians in their own land to the insecure existence of strangers.

2. Frogs - צפרדע

Shemot (Exodus) 8:1-15

5. Plague - דבר

Shemot (Exodus) 9:1-7

8. Locusts - ארבה

Shemot (Exodus) 10:1-20

Preceded by a warning

Preceded by a warning

Preceded by a warning

“Go in to Pharaoh…”

Shemot (Exodus) 7:26

“Go in to Pharaoh…”

Shemot (Exodus) 9:1

“…Go in to Pharaoh…”

Shemot (Exodus) 10:1

Paroh hardened his heart. – Shemot (Exodus) 8:11

Paroh hardened his heart. – Shemot (Exodus) 9:7

HaShem hardened the heart of Paroh. – Shemot (Exodus) 10:20

Robbed the Egyptians of their pride, their possessions, and their sense of superiority, reducing them to lowly submission.

Robbed the Egyptians of their pride, their possessions, and their sense of superiority, reducing them to lowly submission.

Robbed the Egyptians of their pride, their possessions, and their sense of superiority, reducing them to lowly submission.

3. Lice - כנים

Shemot (Exodus) 8:16-19

6. Boils - שחין

Shemot (Exodus) 9:8-12

9. Darkness - חשך

Shemot (Exodus) 10:21-29

No warning!

Shemot (Exodus) 8:16

No warning!

Shemot (Exodus) 9:8

No warning!

Shemot (Exodus) 10:21

Paroh hardened his heart

Shemot (Exodus) 8:15

HASHEM hardened the heart of Paroh. – Shemot (Exodus) 9:12

HASHEM hardened the heart of Paroh. – Shemot (Exodus) 10:27

Imposed upon the Egyptians actual physical suffering.

Imposed upon the Egyptians actual physical suffering.

Imposed upon the Egyptians actual physical suffering.

10.       Death - בכורות מכת - This was brought on by HaShem:[21]       - Shemot (Exodus) 12:29-33

HaShem hardened the heart of Paroh – Shemot (Exodus) 14:4-5

 

 


Plagues 1, 4, and 7 are all introduced by a meeting between Moses and Pharaoh “in the morning”. These plagues also specifically state that the purpose of the plague is to know HaShem . These plagues reduced the Egyptians in their own land to the insecure existence of strangers.[22]

 

Plagues 2, 5, and 8 all take place in Pharaoh’s palace. These plagues robbed the Egyptians of their pride, their possession’s, and their sense of superiority, reducing them to lowly submission.[23]

 

Plagues 3, 6, and 9 all take place without any warning being given to Pharaoh. These plagues imposed on the Egyptians actual physical suffering.[24]

 

But what is the purpose of this structure? The Maharal[25] believes that this shows the gradual ascendancy of Moshe in his domination over Pharaoh. In the first encounter, Moshe meets Pharaoh but cannot come into Pharaoh’s home. To smite him, Moshe first warns Pharaoh. In the second encounter, Moshe can enter Pharaoh’s home, but still must warn him. Finally, the third Plague in each set shows complete domination over Pharaoh, as Moshe does not have to inform Pharaoh prior to the Plague, and immediately executes the action without an encounter. This explanation of the Maharal makes sense on the one hand, but also begs the question: if after the first set of Plagues (Blood, Frogs, Lice), Moshe ALREADY demonstrates complete domination over Pharaoh, why is it necessary to return to the first stage once again in Plague #4 (Wild Animals) and begin again? Similarly, after once again showing complete domination in Plague #6 (Boils), why is it necessary for Moshe to begin again in Plague #7 (Hail)? Why the same pattern three separate times? However, if we examine the Plagues carefully, we will see that the PURPOSE of each set of Plagues is completely different, and, therefore, in each set, Moshe has to show his domination.

 

IV. Purpose of the Plagues

 

Shemot (Exodus) chapter 5 opens with Moses and Aaron visiting Pharaoh and demanding the release of HaShem‘s people. Pharaoh then says[26]:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 5:2 Pharaoh said, “Who is HaShem, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know HaShem and I will not let Israel go.”

 

Pharaoh’s statement then sets the stage for the ten plagues. There are two goals that HaShem wants to accomplish with the plagues. The first, and most obvious, is to get His people out of Egypt. The second is to get Pharaoh and the Egyptians to know “Who is HaShem“. It is important to note these two goals, in order to get some insights later on.

 

The plagues are a crash course in getting to “knowHaShem

 

HaShem wants us to declare His name in all the Earth. Exodus 3:15 introduces HaShem‘s name, HaShem, for the first time:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 3:15 HaShem also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘HaShem, the G-d of your fathers--the G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac and the G-d of Jacob--has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.

 

In the introduction to the first plague, HaShem states His goal with the plague of blood:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 7:17 “Thus said the Lord, In this YOU SHALL KNOW THAT I AM HaShem; behold, I will strike with the rod that is in my hand upon the waters which are in the river, and they shall be turned to blood.”

 

If we think about it, Pharaoh did something much cleverer than what appears simply on the surface. He takes his advisors and shows that not only do they have the same powers as HaShem, as demonstrated by Moses, but also have powers that Pharaoh himself does not have. Does this make Pharaoh beholden to his advisors? No. They are still under Pharaoh’s control. Thus, Pharaoh is saying that your HaShem has powers just like my advisors who have powers. Therefore,

 

Shemot (Exodus) 5:2 “Who is HaShem, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go?”

 

Just as I am not obligated to listen to my advisors despite their powers, I am not obligated to listen to HaShem, despite His powers. The purpose of the first set of Plagues is to give an answer to his question:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 5:2 “Who is HaShem, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go?”

 

V. Plague Details

 

The Midrash stresses that each of the plagues represented punishment for a particular wrong that the Egyptians did to the Jews: ‘They made them drawers of water--and so their river was turned to blood; they made them load their freight -- and the frogs destroyed it; they had the Jews sweep the streets--and the dust turned into lice; they made the Jews watch their children--and God flooded the country with wild animals that devoured the children ...’. The Egyptians made them cattle-herders, whereupon the pestilence killed the herds. They used them to prepare their baths--and then they developed boils which made it impossible for them to wash. The Jews were made stone-cutters -- and HaShem sent hailstones against the Egyptians. They were forced to tend the vinyards and fields--and the locusts consumed all that grew. The Egyptians sought to keep the Jews as prisoners--and were themselves shackled by the thick darkness that fell upon Egypt; their murderous designs upon the Jews brought the killing of the firstborn-- and their drowning of Jewish children was repaid by their death in the Sea of Reeds.[27]

 

Various other Midrashim also stress that the plagues struck measure for measure, as divine retribution for the suffering of the Jews. The plague of blood can be seen as a response to the shedding of Jewish blood and the drowning of the children in the Nile; in addition the Egyptians were deprived of water by this plague because they had forced the Jews to labor without even a chance to wash off perspiration and dirt. As a result, the Jews also suffered from vermin, and this led to the plague of lice. The frogs and wild animals were sent against Egypt because the Jews had been sent afield to gather all kinds of animals -- for the pleasure of the Egyptians and in order to disrupt the family life of the Jews. When the Egyptians held their sumptuous banquets, Jews had to stand at attention, with torches on their heads, to light up the scene; hence the plague of darkness came to repay the Egyptians for the inhuman treatment of their slaves.

 

The ten plagues certainly follow a pattern of increasing effect. Blood, the first plague, struck the water, while frogs moved from the water to the land. Lice emerged from the dust of the earth, and the fourth plague, arov, is understood by some classic commentators as swarms of insects. The fifth plague attacks the cattle and livestock of the Egyptians, and boils begin to attack the people’s own bodies. The next three plagues - hail, locusts, and darkness - come from or affect the heavens. After nine plagues, all the domains of nature had been shown to be controlled by the God of the Hebrews. When all the firstborn throughout Egypt are smitten on one night, then it is clear that HaShem is the master of life itself. There was nowhere else to turn; no part of creation could be regarded beyond the power of Hashem. Pharaoh’s somewhat bizarre request on that fateful night of liberation - “and may you bring a blessing upon me also” (ibid. 12:32) - reveals that Pharaoh had acknowledged HaShem‘s mastery over the entire natural order (see also 7:17, 9:14-17).[28]

 

Snake from a staff

 

Midrash Rabbah - Exodus IX:8 GET THEE UNTO PHARAOH IN THE MORNING; LO, HE GOETH OUT UNTO THE WATER (ib.). Only in the morning did he go out to the water, because this wicked one used to boast that he was a god and did not require to ease himself; therefore he used to go early in the morning to the water. God, therefore, told Moses to catch him just at the critical moment. AND THE ROD WHICH WAS TURNED TO A SERPENT SHALT THOU TAKE IN THY HAND-So that he shall be afraid of it.

 

From this midrash we learn that Pharaoh was proven to require relieving himself because of the snake. Additionally, he was also discovered during the plague of blood when he was unable to enter the Nile because of the blood.

 

BLOOD

 

The first plague, blood, struck at the Nile itself. Moreover, it demonstrated HaShem‘s supreme power because it did not merely represent HaShem‘s use of natural forces but an actual change in nature.[29]

 

Midrash Rabbah - Shemot (Exodus) IX:9 Why were the ‘waters’ first smitten, and with blood? Because Pharaoh and the Egyptians worshipped the Nile, and God said: ‘I will smite their god first and then his people,’ just as the common saying goes: ‘I will smite the gods and their priests will tremble.’ For so it says: The Lord will punish the host of the high heaven on high; and after that, and the kings of the earth upon the earth (Isa. XXIV, 21).[30] And the fish that are in the river shall die (VII, 18).[31]

 

Midrash Rabbah - Shemot (Exodus) IX:10 AND HaShem SAID UNTO MOSES: SAY UNTO AARON (VII, 19). R. Tanhum said: Why did not Moses smite the waters? Because God said: ‘It is not proper that the waters which protected thee when thou wast cast into the river should now be smitten by thee. No, they shall be smitten by none but Aaron.’ AND STRETCH OUT THY HAND OVER THE WATERS OF EGYPT-all[32] the waters in the Nile, the pools and the ponds. AND OVER ALL THEIR PONDS OF WATER THAT THEY MAY BECOME BLOOD-including what was in the pitchers. AND THERE SHALL BE BLOOD THROUGHOUT ALL THE LAND OF EGYPT. Even the spittle of the Egyptian became blood. Why did God punish them with blood? To pay them back in their own coin, for so He said to Abraham: ‘And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge’ (Gen. XV, 14). They did not allow the daughters of Israel to have ritual immersion after their menstruation, so that they should not increase; on this account were they smitten with blood. AND MOSES AND AARON DID SO, AS HaShem COMMANDED... AND THE FISH[33] THAT WERE IN THE RIVER DIED (VII, 20-21). R. Abin the Levite, the son of Rabbi, said: The Israelites became wealthy from the plague of blood.[34] How was that? If an Egyptian and an Israelite were in one house where there was a barrel full of water, and the Egyptian went to fill a pitcher therefrom, he would discover that it contained blood, but the Israelite would drink water from the same barrel. When the Egyptian said to him: ‘Give me some water with thy own hand,’ and he gave it to him, it still became blood. Even if he said to him: ‘ Let us both drink from one vessel,’ the Israelite would drink water, but the Egyptian blood. It was only when he had bought it from the Israelite for money, that he was able to drink water, and this is how the Israelites became rich.

 

It is interesting to note that not only did the Egyptians have to buy their water from the Jews, as we saw above in the Midrash, but they each paid a unique price. According to the torment that he inflicted on the Jew, that was his price. If an Egyptian did a lot of tormenting, then he paid more than the one who did minimal tormenting.

 

FROGS

 

The frogs represented an invasion, by HaShem‘s messengers, of all aspects of Egyptian life, down to bed chamber and oven. Incidentally, the frog’s readiness to die on their mission demonstrated the importance of carrying out HaShem‘s will, even at the price of one‘s own life.[35]

 

The frogs rise and cover the land. Pharaoh has less power here. He does not acknowledge a G-d that HE will pray to, but asks Moses and Aaron to pray to your G-d, as it says:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 8:4 “Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, Entreat the Lord, that he may take away the frogs from me, and from my people”

 

They do pray and the frogs are gone. Moses even asks Pharaoh at what time does Pharaoh “want” the frogs to leave, in Shemot (Exodus) 8:5, to demonstrate HaShem‘s domination over time. Nevertheless, this does not force Pharaoh to acknowledge that HaShem obligates him to do anything.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Shemot (Exodus) XV:27 God brought the ten plagues upon them in accordance with the regular plan of campaign; and of these, the frogs were the most grievous, as it says: And frogs, which destroyed them (Ps. LX,VIII, 45). They destroyed their bodies and emasculated them, for it says:And into thy bed-chamber, and upon thy bed (Ex. VII, 28). The frogs said to them: ‘The coinage of your gods is abolished, and shall your own coinage remain valid? ‘Hence ‘which destroyed them’, as it says: That he destroyed on the ground (Gen. XXXVIII, 9). Whence do we know that they spoke? Because it says: Concerning the frogs, which He had brought upon Pharaoh (Ex. VIII, 8)

 

Midrash Rabbah - Shemot (Exodus) X:4 AND HaShem SAID UNTO MOSES: SAY UNTO AARON: STRETCH FORTH THY HAND (VIII, 1). R. Tanhum said: God said to Moses: The water which protected thee when thou wert cast into the Nile shall not be smitten by thee; hence AND AARON STRETCHED OUT HIS HAND. Why did He visit them with frogs? Because the Egyptians, when subjecting Israel to slavery, ordered them to bring reptiles and creeping things; in retaliation did He bring frogs upon them. Whenever they used to fill a cup, it was found to be full of frogs. AND THE FROGS CAME UP, AND COVERED THE LAND OF EGYPT. R. Akiba said: It was only one frog, but this bred so rapidly that it filled the land of Egypt. R. Eleazar h. ‘Azariah said to him: ‘ Akiba! What business have you with Haggada? Leave homiletical interpretations and turn to Neg’aim and Ahiloth. True there was one frog at first, but this croaked for the others to come.’ ‘And the magicians did in like manner with their secret arts’-under the impression that it was only the work of witchcraft.

 

LICE

 

In the third Plague, there is something new. In Lice, Pharaoh again calls his advisors to duplicate the plague (as they did in the first two Plagues), but, for the first time, they cannot, Shemot (Exodus) 8:14. Another interesting pattern is that in each one of the third plagues in each of the three groups of Plagues, Pharaoh uses his advisors and call them in, but they cannot duplicate what HaShem has done. After they try, the advisors say:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 8:15 This is the finger of HaShem

 

They acknowledge HaShem‘s power, but, once again, this does not obligate them to believe. Nevertheless, they must agree in actuality and philosophically that HaShem‘s power indeed exists.

 

The lice represented the defeat of the all-powerful Egyptian priests and magicians; they could not duplicate this plague, acknowledged HaShem‘s power, and are not mentioned again. Moreover, this plague struck at the earth which had heretofore provided man with the clay and bricks needed for his misguided adventures, such as the Tower of Babylon[36] and, later, Pharaoh’s store-cities. This would explain why, according to some Midrashic opinions, the Jews at this point were no longer forced to continue their slave labor.

 

The Ramban[37] gives a reason why the advisors could not duplicate the Plague of Lice. He says that in the Plagues of Blood and Frogs, one kind of matter is transformed into a different kind of matter. Regarding the lice, HaShem says:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 8:12 “that it may become (VE-HAYA) lice throughout all the land of Egypt..”

 

The word “VE-HAYA” is similar to the word “VAYEHI” which always suggests a new creation from nothing, as it says:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 1:3 “And HaShem said, Let there (YEHI) be light”

 

and

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 1:6 “And HaShem said, Let there (YEHI) be a firmament”

 

Similarly, by the Lice, the verse says

 

Shemot (Exodus) 8:14 “And the advisors did likewise with their enchantments to bring forth (LEHOTZI) lice, but they could not”

 

The word “LEHOTZI” is similar to the act of creation in:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 1:24 “And HaShem said, Let the earth bring forth (TOTZAI) all kinds of living creatures”

 

The “Finger of HaShem“ uttered by the advisors signifies that they understand HaShem‘s power not only as the ability to transfer matter but also to be able to create Ex Nihilo, YESH MAI-AYIN, something from nothing. Thus, these three Plagues are a strong response to Pharaoh’s question of “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go?”. This does not turn Pharaoh into a Righteous Gentile nor obligates him to listen to HaShem, but it is a philosophical response that Pharaoh cannot refute. At this point, the advisors say only that it is a “Finger” of HaShem and not yet the entire “Strong Hand“ of HaShem. These Plagues do not “move” Pharaoh, but are merely a first step in the process of his belief, the philosophical knowledge that HaShem exists. But that does not affect the person’s actions or obligations. A person can acknowledge HaShem but harden his heart and cause no change.

 

It is belief in HaShem that is necessary, not mere intellectual understanding. If we only ask “Who is HaShem?” we could not possibly receive and adequate or satisfying response. The purpose of the second group of Plagues is to “knowHaShem, and not to merely understand that He exists. Pharaoh must be shown that he has a relationship to this Jewish G-d.

 

What happens from here onward, regarding the Plagues? It seems, on the surface, very similar, both in purpose and form. But there is one small change in HaShem‘s work which signifies a great change. In the fourth Plague, Wild Animals, according to the established pattern, Moshe greets Pharaoh outdoors and gives him a warning. But then HaShem says:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 8:17-18 “And I will set apart in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there; to the end that you may know that I am the Lord IN THE MIDST OF THE EARTH.”

 

That there is a G-d, philosophically, in the sky, you, Pharaoh, have understood for three Plagues already. Now Pharaoh must learn that HaShem‘s existence is here, in this world. How? HaShem is not merely showing His power, but His power is specific and directed. When Pharaoh opens his window, he will see a difference between the land of Goshen and the rest of Egypt. Pharaoh will then see that there is a direct connection between the sin and the punishment. Eventually, Pharaoh will admit this when he says:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 9:27 And Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said to them, I have sinned this time; the Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked.

 

Pharaoh will clearly see that there is good and evil, reward and punishment, and a pattern to HaShem‘s power. Before now, he knows that HaShem exists, but now Pharaoh will know that HaShem is “in the midst of the earth.”

 

Midrash Rabbah - Shemot (Exodus) X:7 AND HaShem SAID UNTO MOSES: SAY UNTO AARON: STRETCH OUT THY ROD, AND SMITE THE DUST OF THE EARTH (VIII, 12). R. Tanhum said: God said to Moses: ‘It is not proper that thou shouldst smite the earth which protected thee when thou didst kill the Egyptian.’ On this account did Aaron perform three plagues.[38] AND AARON STRETCHED OUT HIS HAND WITH HIS ROD (VIII, 13). Why did He bring gnats upon them? Because they made Israel the scavengers of their streets; on this account did their dust become gnats, so that when they dug, cubit by cubit, there was no earth there, as it says: ALL THE DUST OF THE EARTH BECAME GNATS. AND THE MAGICIANS DID SO WITH THEIR SECRET ARTS TO BRING FORTH GNATS, BUT THEY COULD NOT (VIII, 14). From here you can learn, said R. Eleazar, that a demon cannot create anything less than the size of a barley-corn; but the Sages say, They cannot create even the size of a camel, save that these [the larger creatures] they can assemble [by magic] whereas the others they cannot assemble.[39] THEN THE MAGICIANS SAID UNTO PHARAOH: THIS IS THE FINGER OF GOD (VIII, 15)As soon as the magicians realised that they were not able to produce gnats, they recognised that the deeds were those of a God and not witchcraft. They no longer claimed to compare themselves with Moses in producing the plagues.[40]

 

WILD BEASTS

 

The wild beasts robbed the Egyptians of the use of their lands; greed and deceit were dominant forces in Egyptian society, but now the fruits of their immoral practices would no longer be enjoyed by the Egyptians. At the same time, this plague reminded them that, as a result of their conduct, they could not expect the animals to fear them as they were supposed to.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Shemot (Exodus) XI:3 AND HaShem DID SO. AND THERE CAME GRIEVOUS SWARMS OF FLIES INTO THE HOUSE OF PHARAOH (VIII, 20). He was smitten first because he was the first to counsel the evil thing, as it says: And Pharaoh charged all his people (I, 22); after him, AND INTO HIS SERVANTS HOUSES. AND PHARAOH CALLED... AND MOSES SAID: IT IS NOT MEET SO TO DO,[41] because the Egyptians bow down to cattle as their god. WE WILL GO THREE DAYS JOURNEY INTO THE WILDERNESS (ib. 23)-so as to mislead them.[42] AND PHARAOH’S AID: I WILL LET YOU GO... AND MOSES SAID: BEHOLD, I GO OUT FROM THEE (ib. 24-5). Why BEHOLD? The prayer will be uttered immediately,[43] So that the swarms may depart from thee tomorrow; hence it says: AND THE SWARM MAY DEPART... TOMORROW. AND MOSES WENT OUT... AND HaShem DID ACCORDING TO THE WORD OF MOSES; AND HE REMOVED THE SWARM. Why did He bring swarms[44] upon them? Because they used to say to the Israelites: ‘Go, and bring unto us bears, lions, and leopards,’ in order to vex them.[45] He brought upon them all kinds of wild beasts-so said R. Judah. R. Ezra, however, contended that they were various kinds of hornets and gnats. R. Judah’s view seems the more likely for this reason. In the case of the frogs, it is written: ‘And the frogs died,’ because there was no benefit to be derived from their hides; but in the case of the ‘swarm’, when there was benefit to be derived from their hides, THERE REMAINED NOT ONE. Now, had they been hornets and gnats, they would have been left to putrefy.

 

PESTILENCE - DEVER

 

The pestilence[46] struck yet another blow at Egyptian pride, for it showed the Egyptians that they were no longer masters even of their own rightful possessions.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Shemot (Exodus) XI:4 AND PHARAOH HARDENED HIS HEART... AND HaShem SAID UNTO MOSES... FOR IF THOU REFUSE... BEHOLD, THE HAND OF HaShem IS UPON THY CATTLE (VIII, 28-IX, 2). Why did He bring a murrain upon them? Because they had made the Israelites shepherds of their herds and flocks, and had scattered their cattle over hills and desert places, in order to prevent Israel from multiplying.[47] Hence did God say: ‘I will bring them an excellent shepherd,’ as it says: BEHOLD, THE HAND OF HaShem IS UPON THY CATTLE. What is the meaning of AND THERE SHALL NOTHING DIE OF ALL THAT BELONGETH TO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL (IX, 4)? It means that any beast on which an Israelite had the slightest claim was saved even if it was in the hands of an Egyptian; by this did they know the judgment of Israel.[48] AND HaShem APPOINTED A SET TIME... AND HaShem DID THAT THING AND PHARAOH SENT (ib. 5-7). What is the meaning of: THERE WAS NOT SO MUCH AS ONE OF THE CATTLE OF THE ISRAELITES DEAD? Even such an animal, half of which belonged to an Israelite and half to an Egyptian, did not die.

 

A tenet of monotheism is the belief in an invisible God which cannot be seen and whose essence is in no way physical or human-like. The plague of dever was the only plague which was completely “invisible.” During each plague, the catalyst was visible and palpable (frogs, blood, wild animals, boils, etc.), but the microbe that infected and ravaged the Egyptian herds was not discernable to the human eye. In this respect, dever was a perfect lesson to the Egyptians regarding an invisible world. The plague is referred to as the “hand of God” because it educated the Egyptians that God has no discernable elements; his hand is UNSEEN and UNKNOWABLE. Associating dever with the “hand of God” illustrates a unique message encapsulated in the heart of this plague.

 

BOILS

 

In the Plague of Boils, there is no prior meeting with Pharaoh and no warning, as in every third Plague within each group. The advisors prove to Pharaoh the concept of the second group of Plagues, as it says:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 9:11 “And the advisors could not stand before Moses because of the boils; for boils were on the advisors, and on all the Egyptians.”

 

Not only does HaShem separate between the Jews and the Egyptians (Wild Animals) and between the cattle of the Jews and the cattle of the Egyptians (Cattle Disease), but this time HaShem also separates between those whom Pharaoh once claimed were the ones with power “on his side” opposing HaShem, and between Moses and Aaron. Thus, Pharaoh is convinced that there is a G-d and that this HaShem is “in the land.”

 

The boils demonstrated a further tightening of the noose: even the bodies of the Egyptians were now struck. In this way, this plague also brought retribution for the immoral ways in which they misused their bodies.

 

It is significant that after this Plague, it never again says that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. Rather it says that G-D hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Shemot (Exodus) 9:12, 9:35, 10:1, 10:20, 10:27). Why? Because Pharaoh already reached the stage of knowledge of HaShem philosophically and also of HaShem as Provident in the world. This is a great achievement, a stage that Yeshayah (Isaiah) says:

 

Yeshayah (Isaiah) 19:21 “And HaShem shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know HaShem in that day, and shall do sacrifice and meal offering...”

 

When Egypt came (will come) to this stage of KNOWING HaShem in the fullest sense of the word, they actually sacrifice to Him.

 

In the Plague of Boils, there is, once again, a meeting outside and a warning (Shemot (Exodus) 9:13-14). But this time there is something “extra.” Not only will HaShem separate between Jew and Egyptian, as before, but this time there is a suggestion: “Send therefore now, and gather your cattle, and all that you have in the field; for upon every man and beast which shall be found in the field, and shall not be brought home, the hail shall come down upon them, and they shall die He who feared the word of the Lord among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his cattle flee into the houses; And he who regarded not the word of the Lord left his servants and his cattle in the field.”[49] Suddenly, we see that Divine Providence extends to the Egyptians as well. HaShem is not only a nationalistic G-d of the Jews, who separates between the Jewish nation and other nations, but HaShem is a universal G-d who separates between those Egyptians who believe and follow HaShem and those Egyptians who do not. The culmination of this idea takes place in the Plague of Darkness. In that Plague, Pharaoh is not permitted to see the Jewish people in their pain and suffering. The Rabbis explain[50] the tragedy that took place during that Plague. The Plague lasted three days in order to allow the Jews to bury their dead, and so that the Egyptians should not be joyous. How many Jews died? According to Rashi,[51] adopting the most “lenient” view of the Midrash, “only” 80% of the Jews died during that Plague. This was the most severe Holocaust in Jewish history.

 

Thus, we see that there is Divine Providence even within the Jewish people. Not only can non-Jews who merit be rewarded, but also Jews who are deserving are punished. There is a consequence to action, and a difference between Jews who fear HaShem and those who do not. Divine Providence is not between nations, but between Egyptian and Egyptian, Jew and Jew. Thus, the third group of Plagues addresses this question, the most difficult question of all: why should Pharaoh listen to the G-d of the Jews -- He is the Jewish G-d who prefers Jews? Since we will always lose, we must create the Final Solution to the Jewish Problem. The third group of Plagues answers that if one believes, he will see that HaShem is a universal G-d for all people, and those who fear HaShem will be rewarded while those who do not will be punished, irrespective of their nationality. But only if the Jews are allowed to freely fulfill their mission in this world, in their land, will the redemption come not only for the Jewish people, but also for the non-Jewish world as well. Only then will the prophecy be fulfilled which says “And the Lord shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day, and shall do sacrifice and meal offering..” (Yeshayah (Isaiah) 19:21). Until then, you, the Egyptians and the non-Jewish world, will not understand.

 

There is a verse that explains this idea clearly. As referred to earlier, the verse says “Only you have I known of all the families of the earth.” (Amos 3:2) But the continuation of that verse is “...therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” Specifically, BECAUSE HaShem has a special relationship with the Jewish people, HaShem‘s Providence is most strongly upon them, which implies that not only will the Jews receive the greatest rewards, but will also receive the greatest punishments. That is the double edged sword of being the Chosen People. And, thus, the Jews are also the most annoying people. Because HaShem‘s Providence is in both directions, and is most clearly revealed through the Jewish people, you, the Jews, have a connection between the philosophical idea of belief in HaShem and your actions called mitzvot.[52] Therefore, you are both a hated and suffering people, while, at the same time, a great and chosen people.

 

These three levels are what Pharaoh must learn from the very first meeting with Moshe. At the end, after the ninth Plague of Darkness, Pharaoh comes and says to Moshe something that only he can say. After the Plague of boils, Pharaoh said:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 9:27 I have sinned this time; HaShem is righteous, and I and my people are wicked.

 

This can be said only by a man who understands that there is Divine Providence. After the Plague of Darkness, Pharaoh says:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 10:16 I have sinned against the Lord your G-d, and against YOU.

 

He now understands what it takes the Jewish people many years to understand. He who sins against the Jewish people sins against HaShem, and he who sins against HaShem sins against the Jewish people. Pharaoh now understands why he must now send the Jewish people out of Egypt.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Shemot (Exodus) XI:5 AND HaShem SAID UNTO MOSES AND UNTO AARON: TAKE TO YOU HANDFULS OF SOOT OF THE FURNACE (IX, 8). A great miracle happened in connection with the boils. Both Moses and Aaron took handfuls, but the hands of Moses held not only his handful, but also that of Aaron, a proof that the lesser can contain the greater.[53] This plague was brought about by God, Moses, and Aaron, because Moses and Aaron took handfuls of soot and threw them heavenwards, and God converted them into boils[54] while still on high, and these descended upon them. AND IT SHALL BECOME SMALL DUST OVER ALL THE LAND OF EGYPT (ib. 9). Why did He bring boils upon them? Because they had appointed the Israelites to heat warm things for them and keep cool the things that were cold; on this account were they smitten with boils, so that they should not be able to touch their bodies.[55] R. Yahoshua (Joshua) b Levi said: A great miracle happened in the case of the boils; when a man casts an arrow heavenwards, it does not travel a hundred cubits, yet Moses threw heavenwards handfuls of soot from a furnace, a thing which has no substance, and they reached right up to the Throne of Glory. Another miracle was that what Moses held in one hand equalled two handfuls. Yet another miracle occurred in the case of the boils. An ordinary man who scatters one kab of dust scatters it only over four cubits, but Moses took one handful and scattered it over the whole land of Egypt.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Shemot (Exodus) XI:6 AND THEY TOOK SOOT OF THE FURNACE... BREAKING FORTH WITH BLAINS UPON MAN AND BEAST (IX, 10). What is the meaning of BREAKING FORTH? They were smitten with leprosy along with this. This word is used in: And if the leprosy break out abroad in the skin (Lev. XIII, 12). AND THE MAGICIANS COULD NOT STAND BEFORE MOSES, etc. (IX, 11). Why were they not able to stand before Moses? Because it was they who had counselled Pharaoh to cast into the Nile every male child that was born, so that Moses should die. Moreover, it was they who had condemned him to be slain for removing the crown from the head of Pharaoh to his own head, hence THE MAGICIANS COULD NOT STAND BEFORE MOSES. AND HaShem HARDENED THE HEART OF PHARAOH (ib. 12). When God perceived that he did not relent after the first five plagues, He decided that even if Pharaoh now wished to repent, He would harden his heart in order to exact the whole punishment from him. AS HaShem HAD SPOKEN UNTO MOSES-for so it is written: And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart (VII, 3).

 

HAIL and FIRE

 

In the introduction to the seventh plague, HaShem specifically states that the purpose of Pharaoh, and the seventh plague is:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 9:16 But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.

 

With the seventh plague HaShem starts to separate those who fear His name and those who do not:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 9:19-21 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 man 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 HaShem hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside. But those who ignored the word of HaShem left their slaves and livestock in the field.

 

The seventh plague is unique in several ways:

 

1.     It is the only plague where HaShem indicates that it is ALL of the plagues:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 9:14 For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thy heart, and on thy servants, and on thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like Me in all the earth.

 

2.     Shemot (Exodus) 9:30 contains a unique form of HaShem‘s name which is found nowhere else in the Torah:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 9:30 But I know that you and your officials still do not fear HaShem Elohim.

 

This combination of names is the equivalent of having ‘justice’ and ‘mercy’ at the same time. People are just not capable of these two things simultaneously.

 

3.     This is the only plague where HaShem mixes two substances that ordinarily can not be mixed:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 9:23-24 And Moshe stretched out his rod towards heaven: and HaShem sent thunder and hail; and the fire rained down upon the ground; and HaShem rained hail upon the land of Mitzrayim. So there was hail and fire flaring up amidst the hail, very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the land of Mitzrayim since it became a nation.[56]

 

The fire is literally inside the hail! The fire would melt the ice, turning it into water. The water would quench the fire leaving only steam. Such a combination could never, ordinarily, exist in nature.

 

4.     This is the only plague where HaShem gave the Egyptians and Pharaoh the option of not being hurt by it. Imagine a plague that does not hurt anyone who heeds HaShem‘s warning!

 

Shemot (Exodus) 9:18-22 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 man 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 HaShem hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside. But those who ignored the word of HaShem left their slaves and livestock in the field. Then HaShem said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that hail will fall all over Egypt--on men and animals and on everything growing in the fields of Egypt.”

 

By putting the above points together we can see that the combination of the two names of HaShem is like combining hail and fire. And even as HaShem gave the G-d fearers the “mercy” to avoid the plague; He gave those who did not fear HaShem: Justice. Truly this plague combined justice and mercy.

 

Ramban writes that unlike the first seven plagues, which were intended to punish Pharaoh and the Egyptians, the last three were designed primarily to demonstrate Hashem‘s power to the Egyptians. Also, they enabled Bnei Yisrael to tell their children and grandchildren that HaShem can do anything that He wishes with the universe:

 

os

Dam

Blood,

gsrpm

Tz’fardya

Frogs,

ohbf

Kinim

Lice,

curg

Arov

Beasts,

rcd

Dever

Cattle Pestilence,

ihja

Sh’chin

Boils,

src

Barad

Hail,

 

 

 

vcrt

Arbeh

Locusts,

laj

Chosheh

Darkness,

,fn

,urufc

Makat B’chorot

Death of the Firstborn.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Shemot (Exodus) XII:2 BEHOLD, TO-MORROW ABOUT THIS TIME I WILL CAUSE IT TO RAIN A VERY GRIEVOUS HAIL (IX, 18). Zabdi b. Levi said: He scratched a mark on the wall and said: ‘When the sun reaches this mark to-morrow, the hail will descend.[57] SUCH AS HAD NOT BEEN IN ALL THE LAND OF EGYPT-there had been nothing like it before either in the rest of the world or in Egypt. [Again], it does not say ‘it will not be’, as in the case of the plague of the firstborn where we are told: Nor shall be like it any more (Xl, 6), but SUCH AS HAD NOT BEEN, that is, had not been in the past, but there will be in the Time to Come.[58] When? In the days of Gog and Magog, as it is written: Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war (Iyov (Job) XXXVIII, 23), and similarly, An overflowing shower, and great hailstone, fire, and brimstone (Ezek. XXXVIII, 22).[59] NOW THEREFORE SEND, HASTEN IN THY CATTLE (IX, 19). See the mercies of God! Even in His wrath, He had mercy on the wicked and on their cattle, because He sent the plague of hail only on the produce of the land, even warning them to protect themselves and their cattle that they should not be smitten by the hail. HE THAT FEARED THE WORD OF HaShem AMONG THE SERVANTS OF PHARAOH (X, 20). Our Rabbis of blessed memory said: This refers to Iyov (Job).[60] AND HE THAT REGARDED NOT THE WORD OF HASHEM (ib. 21) refers to Pharaoh and his people.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Shemot (Exodus) XII:4 AND HaShem SENT THUNDER AND HAIL. Whereever it says ‘And the Lord’ it refers to Him and His heavenly Tribunal, just as when it says: And the Lord remembered Sarah (Gen. XXI, 1), it means, He and His counsellors.[61] When it says, therefore, AND HaShem SENT THUNDER AND HAIL, it means that He and His counsellors did so. AND FIRE RAN DOWN UNTO THE EARTH: they were punished as are the wicked in Gehinnom. When one of them sat down, he was scorched by the hail, and when he stood up, he was scorched by the fire.[62] SO THERE WAS HAIL, AND FIRE FLASHING UP AMIDST THE HAIL (IX, 24). A double miracle occurred. R. Judah and R. Nehemiah discussed this[63]: One said: It was like the split pomegranate whose seeds are visible from without.[64] The other said: It was like [the light in] the glass in which water and oil are mixed together, and the light burns within. Imagine two fierce legions who were always at war with one another, but when the king needed their services for his own battle, he made peace between them, so that both should carry out the orders of the king. In like manner, fire and hail are hostile to each other, but when the time came to war with Egypt, God made peace between them and both smote the Egyptians; hence AND THERE WAS HAIL, AND FIRE FLASHING UP (MITHLAKAHATH) AMIDST THE HAIL. What is the meaning of ‘mithlakahath’? It is two words: Meth lakahath (a corpse it took)--after the hail had smitten one to death, the fire took him away and burnt him. AND THE HAIL SMOTE THROUGHOUT ALL THE LAND OF EGYPT (IX, 25)--the hailstones on the ground formed battlements all round their cattle so that they were not able to get out. When an Egyptian brought a knife and slew an animal, a bird would swoop down from above and devour it, as it says: He gave over their cattle also to the hail, and their flocks to fiery bolts (Ps. LXXVIII, 48). What is the meaning of: ‘And their flocks to fiery bolts’? This refers to the birds, as it says: As the sparks’[65] fly upward (Iyov (Job) V, 7). AND THE HAIL SMOTE EVERY HERB OF THE FIELD, AND BROKE EVERY TREE OF THE FIELD (ib.). He destroyed their vines with hail, and their sycamore-trees with frost--ba-hanamal (Ps. LXXVIII, 47). R. Judah b. Shalom said: What is the meaning of’ba-hanamal’?[66] It came (ba), it alighted (nah), it cut off everything (mal).[67] R. Phinehas said: The hail came down like an axe cutting the trees. ONLY IN THE LAND OF GOSHEN (IX, 26). Why was it saved? Because its Patron was guarding it,[68] as it says: WHERE THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL WERE, THERE WAS NO HAIL (ib.).

 

Midrash Rabbah - Shemot (Exodus) XII:6 AND THE FLAX AND THE BARLEY WERE SMITTEN; FOR THE BARLEY WAS IN THE EAR... BUT THE WHEAT AND THE SPELT WERE NOT SMITTEN; FOR THEY RIPEN LATE (IX, 31). What is the meaning of THEY RIPEN LATE (AFILOTH)? R. Phinehas and R. Judah b. Shalom explained this differently. The first said that God wrought miracles (pel’aim)[69] with them; the second, that they were late in ripening.[70] Said R. Phinehas to him: ‘Does it not say “And the hail smote every[71] herb of the field “ (IX, 25)? Yet you maintain that they were not smitten because they were yet tiny? No, you must admit that God wrought miracles with them.’

 

Midrash Rabbah - Shemot (Exodus) XII:7 AND MOSES WENT OUT OF THE CITY FROM PHARAOH (IX, 33). Though he was still in the city‘s boundary, he delayed not in praying for them,[72] but ‘SPREAD FORTH HIS HANDS UNTO HaShem (ib.) and He accepted his prayer. AND THE THUNDERS AND HAIL CEASED, AND THE RAIN WAS NOT POURED UPON THE EARTH (ib.). God suspended them in midair; and when did they descend?[73] In the days of Yahoshua (Joshua) they descended upon the Amorites, as it says: And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel... that the Lord cast down great stones from heaven upon them (Josh. X,11). The remainder will descend in the days of Gog and Magog. AND WHEN PHARAOH SAW THAT THE RAIN AND THE HAIL AND THE THUNDERS HAD CEASED, HE SINNED YET MORE (IX, 34). So it always is with the wicked; as long as they are in trouble, they humiliate themselves, but as soon as the trouble passes, back they return to their perversity.[74] Thus Nebuchadnezzar, when he was in trouble, praised God, as it says: Now, I Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honour the King of Heaven; for all His words are truth (Dan. IV, 34), but as soon as he recovered his greatness, he began to boast: The King spoke and said: Is not this great Babylon, which I have built for a royal dwelling-place, by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty (ib. 27). Pharaoh also did the same: for when he saw that THE RAIN AND THE HAIL AND THE THUNDERS WERE CEASED, HE SINNED YET MORE (IX, 34)

 

LOCUSTS

 

The plagues of hail and locusts can be seen as a punishment for the failure of the Egyptians to properly use their G-d-given faculties. They had refused to see HaShem‘s hand in the world, or to hear His warnings; now they were forced to hear and see unmistakeable demonstrations of His power and will: the thunder that accompanied the hailstorm, and the heavy layer of locusts that hid the entire land. The proper use of our senses is of crucial importance to man. All human failings began with Eve’s seeing and Adam‘s listening to the wrong thing;[75] now the plagues prepared the Jews, and all of mankind, to see and hear HaShem‘s revelation on Mount Sinai.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Shemot (Exodus) XIII:4 AND THAT THOU MAYEST TELL IN THE EARS OF THY SON (X, 2). God revealed unto Moses the plague He would bring upon them, and Moses in his record gave a hint of it in the words, AND THAT THOU MAYEST TELL IN THE EARS OF THY SON, which refers to the plague of locusts, as it is said: Tell ye your children of it (Yoel (Joel) I, 3). AND MOSES AND AARON WENT IN... ELSE, IF THOU REFUSE TO LET MY PEOPLE Go, etc. (ib. 3-4). What is the meaning of BEHOLD, TOMORROW WILL I BRING LOCUSTS INTO THY BORDER (ib.)? That is, not into the border of the sons of Ham[76]; that is why it says: For when Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness (Isa. XXVI, 9); for on account of the locust plague did they know the extent of Egypt’s borders.[77] AND THEY SHALL COVER THE FACE OF THE EARTH... AND THY HOUSES SHALL BE FILLED... AND HE TURNED, AND WENT OUT FROM PHARAOH (ib. 5--6). Why did he do so? Because he saw them turning to one another, as if inclined to believe his words; he therefore went out to allow them to take counsel how to repent.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Shemot (Exodus) XIII:6 AND HaShem SAID UNTO MOSES: STRETCH OUT THY HAND (X, 12). Why did He bring the locusts upon them? Because they had made Israel sowers of wheat and barley; hence did He bring the locusts which devoured all that the Israelites had sown for them. AND MOSES STRETCHED FORTH HIS ROD, etc. (ib. 13). Why did God fix a time for the plagues--’tomorrow,’ and not bring them at once? So that they might feel remorse and do penitence.[78] AND THE LOCUSTS WENT UP... FOR THEY COVERED THE FACE OF THE WHOLE EARTH.... THEN PHARAOH CALLED FOR MOSES AND AARON IN HASTE, etc. (ib. 14-16). What is the meaning of: I HAVE SINNED AGAINST HaShem YOUR GOD, AND AGAINST YOU? I HAVE SINNED AGAINST HaShem YOUR GOD by not setting Israel free, AND AGAINST YOU by driving you out from my presence. Also, because I intended to curse you when I said: ‘So be the Lord with you. Now THEREFORE FORGIVE, I PRAY THEE, MY SIN ONLY THIS ONCE... AND HE WENT OUT FROM PHARAOH (ib. 17-18). rejoiced and said: ‘ Let us gather them and fill barrels with them.’ Then did God say: ‘Wretches! Will you rejoice with the plagues I have brought upon you?’ Immediately AND HaShem TURNED AN EXCEEDING STRONG WEST WIND-this is the westerly wind,[79] WHICH TOOK UP THE LOCUSTS. What is the meaning of THERE REMAINED NOT ONE LOCUST? Even those that had been pickled in their pots and barrels took wing and fled. [Yet even so,] BUT HaShem HARDENED PHARAOH’S HEART (ib. 20).

 

DARKNESS

 

The plague of darkness put an end to all constructive human activity and, in particular, isolated every individual from his fellow-beings; in this way the Egyptians were shown the effect of a total breakdown of the social order, which they had been courting by their unrestrained self-seeking and disrespect for other human beings. Whilst they were made to realize that the rule of evil is bound to bring darkness upon the world, the Jews who looked to God for their salvation enjoyed the use of light to prepare for their redemption in accordance with HaShem‘s instructions.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Shemot (Exodus) XIV:1 AND HaShem SAID UNTO MOSES: STRETCH OUT THY HAND (X, 21). Thus it is written: He sent darkness, and it was dark; and they rebelled not against His word (PS. CV, 28). Our Rabbis said: Because they did not accept the word of God as that of a Lord and master.[80] Another explanation: God said to the angels: ‘ The Egyptians deserve to be smitten with darkness.’ Immediately they all agreed unanimously, not one dissenting.[81] What is the meaning of ‘He sent darkness, and it was dark’? We may illustrate by the case of a master whose slave sinned against him, whereupon he commanded someone to give him fifty lashes. But the man went and administered a hundred lashes, adding fifty of his own. Thus did the Holy One, blessed and exalted[82] be He, send darkness upon the land of Egypt; but the darkness added something of its own. This is the meaning of ‘He sent darkness, and it was dark’. EVEN DARKNESS WHICH MAY BE FELT (ib.). How thick was this darkness? Our Sages conjectured that it was as thick as a denar,for when it says EVEN DARKNESS WHICH MAY BE FELT, it means a darkness which had substance.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Shemot (Exodus) XIV:2 AND MOSES STRETCHED FORTH HIS HAND TOWARD HEAVEN; AND THERE WAS A THICK DARKNESS (X, 22). Whence did that darkness come? R. Judah said: From the darkness above, for it says:He made darkness His hiding place, His pavilion round about Him (Ps. XVIII, 12). R. Ezra said: It came from the darkness of Gehinnom, for it says: A land of thick darkness, as darkness itself; a land of the shadow of death, without any order (Iyov (Job) X, 22).[83] Woe to the house whose casements open to the darkness, as it is said: And where the light is as darkness (ib.). Their light itself[84] came from darkness.[85] Hence does it say: In the day when he went down to the netherworld I caused the deep to mourn (he-ebalti) and cover itself for him (Ezek. XXXI, 15). This is written hobalti.[86] R. Judah b. Rabbi said: With what are the wicked covered in Gehinnom? With darkness. Hezekiah said: With what does one cover a tub? With an earthenware lid of the same substance; just as the tub is of earthenware, so the lid is of earthenware, equally will it be with the wicked, as it is said: And their works are in the dark (Isa. XXIX, 15). God, therefore, covered them with the deep, which is darkness, for it says: And darkness was upon the face of the deep (Gen. I, 2). This refers to Gehinnom--a proof that the darkness which came upon the Egyptians was from Gehinnom.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Shemot (Exodus) XIV:3 Why did God, blessed be His Name,[87] before whom there is no respecting of persons, and who searches the heart and tries the reins, bring darkness upon them? Because there were transgressors in Israel who had Egyptian patrons and lived in affluence and honour, and were unwilling to leave. So God said: ‘If I bring upon them publicly a plague from which they will die, the Egyptians will say: “Just as it has passed over us, so has it passed over them.”‘[88] On this account did He bring darkness upon the Egyptians for three days, so that they [Israelites] should bury their dead without their enemies seeing them, and for this they should praise God. What is the meaning of THICK DARKNESS? R. Abdimi of Haifa said: The darkness was doubled and redoubled.[89] Our Rabbis said: There were seven days of darkness. During the first three days, one who was sitting and wished to stand could do so, and the one who stood could sit down if he wished. Concerning these days does it say: AND THERE WAS A THICK DARKNESS IN ALL THE LAND OF EGYPT THREE DAYS; AND THEY SAW NOT ONE ANOTHER (X, 22-3). During the last three days, he who sat could not stand up, he who stood could not sit down, and he who was lying down could not raise himself upright; and concerning these days it says: NEITHER ROSE ANY FROM HIS PLACE FOR THREE DAYS. During the three days of thick darkness, God gave the favour of the people in the eyes of the Egyptians, so that they lent them everything. An Israelite used to enter the house of an Egyptian, and if he perceived there gold and silver vessels, or raiment, and on asking for them received the reply: ‘We have nothing to lend you,’ would say: ‘Behold, they are over there.’ The Egyptians would then say to themselves: ‘Had they desired to deceive us, they could have easily taken them during the darkness period when we would not have noticed, but since they did not touch the things there without our notice, they will not retain these things’; and so they lent them the things, so as to fulfil that which is said: Afterward shall they come out with great substance (Gen. XV, 14). Hence it is written: BUT ALL THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL HAD LIGHT IN THEIR DWELLINGS (ib.). It does not say: ‘ in the land of Goshen’ but IN THEIR1 DWELLINGS. to show that wherever a Jew went, light accompanied him and illumined what was within the barrels, boxes, and treasure-chests. Concerning them does it say:Thy word is a lamp unto my feet (PS. CXIX, 105). These were the six days of the darkness, which occurred in Egypt, while the seventh day of darkness was a day of darkness of the sea, as it says: And there was the cloud and the darkness here, yet gave it light by night there (Ex. XIV, 20). So also God sent clouds and darkness and covered the Egyptians with darkness, but gave light unto Israel, as He had done unto them in Egypt; hence does it say: The Lord is my light and my salvation (Ps. XXVII, 1). In the Messianic Age also, God will bring darkness [to sinners, but light to Israel,] as it says, For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the peoples; but upon thee the Lord will shine (Isa. LX, 2).[90]

 

DEATH of the FIRSTBORN

 

The killing of the firstborn, finally, represented the climax of the retribution visited upon Egypt. It had been announced before all the plagues[91]: ‘So speaks HaShem, Israel is my firstborn ... and you refuse to let him go; behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’ This was carried out by HaShem alone, but the Jews had to deserve it by dedicating themselves to HaShem.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Bamidbar (Numbers) XI:3 What is the exposition of the text, ‘Because of dread in the night’? They were unable to offer the Passover sacrifice,[92] for it is written, ‘ No uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.’ But if the Israelites had not offered the Passover sacrifice they would have died on the Passover night as the firstborn of the Egyptians had died; for it says, And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and there shall be no plague upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt (Ex. XII, 13).

 

An aspect of war is alluded to in the Ritva's interpretation of the sword and is based upon an account cited by several midrashim.[93] Hearing of Moshe's threat to annihilate the firstborns, the intended victims mobbed Pharaoh's palace, demanding the release of the Jewish slaves to avert this catastrophe. Unmoved by the threat to his very own child, Pharaoh refused their pleas. Frustrated by this rejection, the firstborns rebelled, launching an insurrection which caused over 60,000 Egyptian casualties before the plague of the firstborn even began. Having slain their countrymen, the firstborns could not escape their inevitable fate.

 

Although this episode would appear incidental to the actual plague, it was anything but.  As part of His general intervention in nature, science, and human psychology, HaShem intervened in internal Egyptian politics as well, fomenting a mutiny that exacted a heavy toll on the Egyptians (one may conjecture that more were killed in this civil war than in the central plague of bechorot).  Internal Egyptian political developments must be seen as divinely ordained elements of redemption.  We recite in Tehillim 136: HaShem punished the Egyptians through their firstborns, suggesting that the firstborns were not only the victims of the plague of bechorot but the instruments of destruction as well.  Makat bechorot was a dual layered plague, first HaShem incited a civil war spearheaded by the first born and then he murdered those very agents.

 

VI. The Plagues and The Revelation

 

Now lets look at the relationship between the plagues of Egypt and the plagues in the book of the Revelation. There is a clue in the TaNaK that our future redemption will be like our past redemption:

 

Micah 7:14-17 Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance, which lives by itself in a forest, in fertile pasturelands. Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in days long ago. “As in the days when you came out of Egypt, I will show them my wonders.” Nations will see and be ashamed, deprived of all their power. They will lay their hands on their mouths and their ears will become deaf. They will lick dust like a snake, like creatures that crawl on the ground. They will come trembling out of their dens; they will turn in fear to HaShem our G-d and will be afraid of you.

 

The Targum Yonatan ben Uziel contains a very definite description of each plague, where it is in Tenach and how it will happen. Likewise the Midrash also gives us some insights:

 

Midrash PESIQTA deRAB KAHANA Pisqa Seven

[Resuming the discussion begun at VII:XI with the information just now given:] R. Levi in the name of R. Hama bar Hanina: "He who exacted vengeance from the former [oppressor] will exact vengeance from the latter. Just as, in Egypt, it was with blood, so with Edom it will be the same: I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.[94] Just as, in Egypt, it was with frogs, so with Edom it will be the same: The sound of an uproar from the city, an uproar because of the palace, an uproar of the Lord who renders recompense to his enemies.[95] Just as, in Egypt, it was with lice, so with Edom it will be the same: The streams of Bosrah will be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch.[96] Smite the dust of the earth that it may become lice.[97] Just as, in Egypt, it was with swarms of wild beasts, so with Edom it will be the same: The pelican and the bittern will possess it.[98] Just as, in Egypt, it was with pestilence, so with Edom it will be the same: I will plead against Gog with pestilence and with blood.[99] Just as, in Egypt, it was with boils, so with Edom it will be the same: This will be the plague wherewith the Lord will smite all the peoples that have warred against Jerusalem: their flesh will consume away while they stand upon their feet.[100] Just as, in Egypt, it was with great stones, so with Edom it will be the same: I will cause to rain upon Gog ... an overflowing shower and great hailstones.[101] Just as, in Egypt, it was with locusts, so with Edorn it will be the same: And you, son of man, thus says the LORD God: Speak to birds of every sort ... the flesh of the mighty will you eat ... blood will you drink ... you will eat fat until you are full and drink blood until you are drunk.[102] Just as, in Egypt, it was with darkness, so with Edom it will be the same: He will stretch over Edom the line of chaos and the plummet of emptiness.[103] Just as, in Egypt, he took out their greatest figure and killed him, so with Edom it will be the same: A great slaughter in the land of Edom, among them to come down will be the wild oxen.[104] Said R. Meir, "[The letters of the word for wild (reemim) may be read as Rome, thus,] 'Among them to come down shall be Rome."   

 

 

FROM THE PSALMS

 

Psalm 78:41-51 Again and again they put HaShem to the test; they vexed the Holy One of Israel. They did not remember his power--the day he redeemed them from the oppressor, The day he displayed his miraculous signs in Egypt, his wonders in the region of Zoan. He turned their rivers to blood; they could not drink from their streams. He sent swarms of flies that devoured them, and frogs that devastated them. He gave their crops to the grasshopper, their produce to the locust. He destroyed their vines with hail and their sycamore-figs with sleet. He gave over their cattle to the hail, their livestock to bolts of lightning. He unleashed against them his hot anger, his wrath, indignation and hostility--a band of destroying angels. He prepared a path for his anger; he did not spare them from death but gave them over to the plague. He struck down all the firstborn of Egypt, the firstfruits of manhood in the tents of Ham.

 

Psalm 105:26-36 He sent Moses his servant, and Aaron, whom he had chosen. They performed his miraculous signs among them, his wonders in the land of Ham. He sent darkness and made the land dark--for had they not rebelled against his words? He turned their waters into blood, causing their fish to die. Their land teemed with frogs, which went up into the bedrooms of their rulers. He spoke, and there came swarms of flies, and gnats throughout their country. He turned their rain into hail, with lightning throughout their land; He struck down their vines and fig trees and shattered the trees of their country. He spoke, and the locusts came, grasshoppers without number; They ate up every green thing in their land, ate up the produce of their soil. Then he struck down all the firstborn in their land, the firstfruits of all their manhood.

 

BLOOD[105]:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 7:14-24 Then HaShem said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is unyielding; he refuses to let the people go. Go to Pharaoh in the morning as he goes out to the water. Wait on the bank of the Nile to meet him, and take in your hand the staff that was changed into a snake. Then say to him, ‘HaShem, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the desert. But until now you have not listened. This is what HaShem says: By this you will know that I am HaShem: 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.’” HaShem said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt--over the streams and canals, over the ponds and all the reservoirs’--and they will turn to blood. Blood will be everywhere in Egypt, even in the wooden buckets and stone jars.” Moses and Aaron did just as HaShem had commanded. He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood. The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt. But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharaoh’s heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as HaShem had said. Instead, he turned and went into his palace, and did not take even this to heart. And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile to get drinking water, because they could not drink the water of the river. Seven days passed after HaShem struck the Nile.

 

Revelation 8:8-9 The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, A third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.

 

Revelation 16:3 The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead man, and every living thing in the sea died.

 

Revelation 11:3-6 And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.

 

Blood - Life is in the blood. When it congeals it is dead. Pharoah and his army are covered with congealed blood of the Nile:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 15:8-10 By the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up. The surging waters stood firm like a wall; the deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea. “The enemy boasted, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake them. I will divide the spoils; I will gorge myself on them. I will draw my sword and my hand will destroy them.’ But you blew with your breath, and the sea covered them. They sank like lead in the mighty waters.

 

The Jews were saved by the live blood (and water.) The blood was created by Moses (God figure) by the walking stick (tree of life, shepherd’s staff, crucifixion staff.)

 

FROG(S)

 

Shemot (Exodus) 8:1-14 Then HaShem said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what HaShem says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will plague your whole country with frogs. 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 go up on you and your people and all your officials.’” Then HaShem said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your staff over the streams and canals and ponds, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt.’” So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land. But the magicians did the same things by their secret arts; they also made frogs come up on the land of Egypt. Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Pray to HaShem to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let your people go to offer sacrifices to HaShem.” Moses said to Pharaoh, “I leave to you the honor of setting the time for me to pray for you and your officials and your people that you and your houses may be rid of the frogs, except for those that remain in the Nile.” “Tomorrow,” Pharaoh said. Moses replied, “It will be as you say, so that you may know there is no one like HaShem our God. The frogs will leave you and your houses, your officials and your people; they will remain only in the Nile.” After Moses and Aaron left Pharaoh, Moses cried out to HaShem about the frogs he had brought on Pharaoh. And HaShem did what Moses asked. The frogs died in the houses, in the courtyards and in the fields. They were piled into heaps, and the land reeked of them.

 

Revelation 16:12-13 The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.

 

Frogs - They could not sleep day and night; they are unclean.

 

Psalm 105:30 Their land teemed with frogs, which went up into the bedrooms of their rulers.

 

Revelation 16:13 Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet.

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 11:10 But all creatures in the seas or streams that do not have fins and scales--whether among all the swarming things or among all the other living creatures in the water--you are to detest.

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 11:41 “‘Every creature that moves about on the ground is detestable; it is not to be eaten.

 

GNATS:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 8:16-19 Then HaShem 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 upon men and animals. All the dust throughout the land of Egypt became gnats. But when the magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, they could not. And the gnats were on men and animals. The magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen, just as HaShem had said.

 

Revelation 11:3-6 And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.

 

BEASTS (flies):

 

Shemot (Exodus) 8:20-21 Then HaShem said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning and confront Pharaoh as he goes to the water and say to him, ‘This is what HaShem says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you do not let my people go, I will send swarms of beasts on you and your officials, on your people and into your houses. The houses of the Egyptians will be full of beasts, and even the ground where they are.

 

Revelation 11:3-6 And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.

 

Gnats - A fly has a very short life span. Also, the word can mean maggots or gnats, which could be found in wine.

 

Matityahu (Matthew) 23:24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

 

Yeshayah (Isaiah) 51:6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail.

 

Flies - connected to gnats, maggots:

 

Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) 10:1 As dead flies give perfume a bad smell, so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.

 

The Hebrew word zebub refers to Baal- Zebub was worshipped zebub (Satan and demons.) See:

 

II Melakim (Kings) 1:2-17 Now Ahaziah had fallen through the lattice of his upper room in Samaria and injured himself. So he sent messengers, saying to them, “Go and consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, to see if I will recover from this injury.” But the angel of HaShem said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Go up and meet the messengers of the king of Samaria and ask them, ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going off to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?’ Therefore this is what HaShem says: ‘You will not leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!’” So Elijah went. When the messengers returned to the king, he asked them, “Why have you come back?” “A man came to meet us,” they replied. “And he said to us, ‘Go back to the king who sent you and tell him, “This is what HaShem says: Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are sending men to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore you will not leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!”‘“ The king asked them, “What kind of man was it who came to meet you and told you this?” They replied, “He was a man with a garment of hair and with a leather belt around his waist.” The king said, “That was Elijah the Tishbite.” Then he sent to Elijah a captain with his company of fifty men. The captain went up to Elijah, who was sitting on the top of a hill, and said to him, “Man of God, the king says, ‘Come down!’” Elijah answered the captain, “If I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men!” Then fire fell from heaven and consumed the captain and his men. At this the king sent to Elijah another captain with his fifty men. The captain said to him, “Man of God, this is what the king says, ‘Come down at once!’” “If I am a man of God,” Elijah replied, “may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men!” Then the fire of God fell from heaven and consumed him and his fifty men. So the king sent a third captain with his fifty men. This third captain went up and fell on his knees before Elijah. “Man of God,” he begged, “please have respect for my life and the lives of these fifty men, your servants! See, fire has fallen from heaven and consumed the first two captains and all their men. But now have respect for my life!” The angel of HaShem said to Elijah, “Go down with him; do not be afraid of him.” So Elijah got up and went down with him to the king. He told the king, “This is what HaShem says: Is it because there is no God in Israel for you to consult that you have sent messengers to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron? Because you have done this, you will never leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!” So he died, according to the word of HaShem that Elijah had spoken. Because Ahaziah had no son, Joram succeeded him as king in the second year of Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah.

 

Matityahu (Matthew) 10:25 It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!

 

Matityahu (Matthew) 12:24-27 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” Yeshua knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

 

Luqas (Luke) 11:14-20 Yeshua was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed. But some of them said, “By Beelzebub, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.” Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven. Yeshua knew their thoughts and said to them: “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebub. Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you.

 

Baal, in Greek, is ‘master of the house’. It would seem that flies refer to demons let loose:

 

Rev. 18:1-2 After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor. With a mighty voice he shouted: “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird.

 

Flies have a short life span: In Rev. 12:12, Satan has a short time that he is loose.

 

LIVESTOCK PLAGUE:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 9:1-7 Then HaShem said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what HaShem, 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 HaShem 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 HaShem will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and that of Egypt, so that no animal belonging to the Israelites will die.’” HaShem set a time and said, “Tomorrow HaShem will do this in the land.” And the next day HaShem did it: All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one animal belonging to the Israelites died. Pharaoh sent men to investigate and found that not even one of the animals of the Israelites had died. Yet his heart was unyielding and he would not let the people go.

 

Revelation 11:3-6 And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.

 

Livestock - Symbol For Gentiles. Note the sheep of Israel do not get plagues:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 9:4 But HaShem will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and that of Egypt, so that no animal belonging to the Israelites will die.’”

 

Gentiles can have sheep also:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 9:3 The hand of HaShem 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 they would be sheep without a master.

 

BOILS:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 9:8-16 Then HaShem 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 men 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 men and animals. The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils that were on them and on all the Egyptians. But HaShem hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as HaShem had said to Moses. Then HaShem said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what HaShem, 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 for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.

 

Revelation 16:1-2 Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go, pour out the seven bowls of HaShem‘s wrath on the earth.” The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly and painful sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image.

 

Boils is in Iyov (Job). Satan sends Boils upon Iyov (Job):

 

Iyov (Job) 2:7 So Satan went out from the presence of HaShem and afflicted Iyov (Job) with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.

 

But Satan cannot touch the elect during the Tribulation or Passover period. G-d reverses this and used it on the followers of Satan.

 

HAIL:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 9:13-35 Then HaShem said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what HaShem, 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 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 man 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 HaShem hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside. But those who ignored the word of HaShem left their slaves and livestock in the field. Then HaShem said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that hail will fall all over Egypt--on men and animals and on everything growing in the fields of Egypt.” When Moses stretched out his staff toward the sky, HaShem sent thunder and hail, and lightning flashed down to the ground. So HaShem 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. Throughout Egypt hail struck everything in the fields--both men and animals; it beat down everything growing in the fields and stripped every tree. The only place it did not hail was the land of Goshen, where the Israelites were. Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron. “This time I have sinned,” he said to them. “HaShem is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. Pray to HaShem, for we have had enough thunder and hail. I will let you go; you don’t have to stay any longer.” Moses replied, “When I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands in prayer to HaShem. The thunder will stop and there will be no more hail, so you may know that the earth is HaShem‘s. But I know that you and your officials still do not fear HaShem God.” (The flax and barley were destroyed, since the barley had headed and the flax was in bloom. The wheat and spelt, however, were not destroyed, because they ripen later.) Then Moses left Pharaoh and went out of the city. He spread out his hands toward HaShem; the thunder and hail stopped, and the rain no longer poured down on the land. When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts. So Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go, just as HaShem had said through Moses.

 

Revelation 8:6-7 Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them. The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down upon the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.

 

Hail - Destruction of food. This relates to story of Joseph where there was a famine in the land with no harvest (no resurrection) for the wicked. Hail destroys the grain and brings it to the ground.

 

LOCUSTS:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 10:12-20 And HaShem said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over Egypt so that locusts will swarm over the land and devour everything growing in the fields, everything left by the hail.” So Moses stretched out his staff over Egypt, and HaShem made an east wind blow across the land all that day and all that night. By morning the wind had brought the locusts; They invaded all Egypt and settled down in every area of the country in great numbers. Never before had there been such a plague of locusts, nor will there ever be again. They covered all the ground until it was black. They devoured all that was left after the hail--everything growing in the fields and the fruit on the trees. Nothing green remained on tree or plant in all the land of Egypt. Pharaoh quickly summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “I have sinned against HaShem your God and against you. Now forgive my sin once more and pray to HaShem your God to take this deadly plague away from me.” Moses then left Pharaoh and prayed to HaShem. And HaShem changed the wind to a very strong west wind, which caught up the locusts and carried them into the Red Sea. Not a locust was left anywhere in Egypt. But HaShem hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go.

 

Revelation 9:1-12 The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss. And out of the smoke locusts came down upon the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were not given power to kill them, but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes a man. During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them. The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. They had tails and stings like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months. They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon. The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come.

 

Locusts -

 

Yoel (Joel) 1:4 What the locust swarm has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other locusts have eaten.

 

Yoel (Joel) 2:25 ‘I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten--the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm--my great army that I sent among you.

 

Locusts eat things down to the ground so there is nothing left to pick up, Yoel (Joel) 1:4. In Yoel (Joel) 2:25 God sends His great ARMY as locusts as a metaphor.

 

DARKNESS:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 10:21-29 Then HaShem 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. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived. Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and said, “Go, worship HaShem. Even your women and children may go with you; only leave your flocks and herds behind.” But Moses said, “You must allow us to have sacrifices and burnt offerings to present to HaShem our God. Our livestock too must go with us; not a hoof is to be left behind. We have to use some of them in worshiping HaShem our God, and until we get there we will not know what we are to use to worship HaShem.” But HaShem hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he was not willing to let them go. Pharaoh said to Moses, “Get out of my sight! Make sure you do not appear before me again! The day you see my face you will die.” “Just as you say,” Moses replied, “I will never appear before you again.”

 

Revelation 8:12-13 The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night. As I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying in midair call out in a loud voice: “Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!”

 

Revelation 16:10-11 The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. Men gnawed their tongues in agony And cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.

 

DEATH OF THE FIRSTBORN:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 11:4-10 So Moses said, “This is what HaShem says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son 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. But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal.’ Then you will know that HaShem makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. All these officials of yours will come to me, bowing down before me and saying, ‘Go, you and all the people who follow you!’ After that I will leave.” Then Moses, hot with anger, left Pharaoh. HaShem had said to Moses, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you--so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.” Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but HaShem hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country.

 

Revelation 9:13-21 The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the horns of the golden altar that is before God. It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of the mounted troops was two hundred million. I heard their number. The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this: Their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulfur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulfur. A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths. The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury. The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood--idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.

 

Revelation 20:11-15 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

 

Revelation 21:8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars--their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

 

SEAL & SIGN:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 11:7 But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal.’ Then you will know that HaShem makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.

 

Revelation 7:3-4 “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.

 

DEFINITION:

 

Darkness -

 

Amos 5:20 Will not the day of HaShem be darkness, not light--pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?

 

Now, lets take a look at what the Midrash tells us about the future plagues.

 

Midrash PESIQTA deRAB KAHANA - Pisqa Seven VII:XI [Resuming the discussion begun at VII:XI with the information just now given:] R. Levi in the name of R. Hama bar Hanina: “He who exacted vengeance from the former [oppressor] will exact vengeance from the latter.

 

Plagues

Future Plagues

Blood,

Just as, in Egypt, it was with blood, so with Edom it will be the same: I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke (Job 3:3).

Frogs,

Just as, in Egypt, it was with frogs, so with Edom it will be the same: The sound of an uproar from the city, an uproar because of the palace, an uproar of the Lord who renders recompense to his enemies (Is. 66:6).

Lice,

Just as, in Egypt, it was with lice, so with Edom it will be the same: The streams of Bosrah will be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch (Is. 34:9). Smite the dust of the earth that it may become lice (Ex. 8:12).

Beasts,

Just as, in Egypt, it was with swarms of wild beasts, so with Edom it will be the same: The pelican and the bittern will possess it (Is. 34:11).

Cattle Pestilence,

Just as, in Egypt, it was with pestilence, so with Edom it will be the same: I will plead against Gog with pestilence and with blood (Ez. 38:22).

Boils,

Just as, in Egypt, it was with boils, so with Edom it will be the same: This will be the plague wherewith the Lord will smite all the peoples that have warred against Jerusalem: their flesh will consume away while they stand upon their feet (Zech. 14:12).

Hail,

Just as, in Egypt, it was with great stones, so with Edom it will be the same: I will cause to rain upon Gog ... an overflowing shower and great hailstones ‎‎(Ez. 38:22).

Locusts,

Just as, in Egypt, it was with locusts, so with Edorn it will be the same: And you, son of man, thus says the LORD God: Speak to birds of every sort ... the flesh of the mighty will you eat ... blood will you drink ... you will eat fat until you are full and drink blood until you are drunk (Ez. 39:17-19).

Darkness,

Just as, in Egypt, it was with darkness, so with Edom it will be the same: He will stretch over Edom the line of chaos and the plummet of emptiness (Is. ‎‎34:11).

Death of the Firstborn.

Just as, in Egypt, he took out their greatest figure and killed him, so with Edom it will be the same: A great slaughter in the land of Edom, among them to come down will be the wild oxen (Is. 34:6-7). Said R. Meir, “[The letters of the word for wild (reemim) may be read as Rome, thus,] ‘Among them to come down shall be Rome.

 

VII. The Protective Abode

 

There are numerous examples of the last part of the Tribulation as darkness when Israel or Gentiles are put into a protective abode (Succah) during the darkness. A few examples:

 

1. Lot’s house (night)

 

Gen. 19:1-16 The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.” “No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.” But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom--both young and old--surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him And said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.” “Get out of our way,” they replied. And they said, “This fellow came here as an alien, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door. But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door. The two men said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here--sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, Because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to HaShem against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.” So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters. He said, “Hurry and get out of this place, because HaShem is about to destroy the city!” But his sons-in-law thought he was joking. With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.” When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for HaShem was merciful to them.

 

2. Shemot (Exodus) homes (night):

 

Shemot (Exodus) 12:6-13 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or cooked in water, but roast it over the fire--head, legs and inner parts. Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is HaShem‘s Passover. “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn--both men and animals--and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am HaShem. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.

 

Shemot (Exodus) 12:28-33 The Israelites did just what HaShem commanded Moses and Aaron. At midnight HaShem struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead. During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship HaShem as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.” The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. “For otherwise,” they said, “we will all die!”

 

3. Rahab’s house (night)

 

Josh. 2:3-9 So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.” But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, the men left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.” (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.) So the men set out in pursuit of the spies on the road that leads to the fords of the Jordan, and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut. Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof And said to them, “I know that HaShem has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you.

 

4. Jonah’s (vine) (night):

 

Jonah 4:5-8 Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then HaShem God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”

 

5. Parable

 

Matt. 25:1-13 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. “Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ “But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

 

6. Parable

 

Matt. 14:22-36 (note vs 25, night, mid-point into Tribulation) Immediately Yeshua made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, But the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night Yeshua went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Yeshua immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Tzefet (Peter) replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Tzefet (Peter) got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Yeshua. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Yeshua reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

 

VIII. Selected Essays

 

The Ten Plagues

by Rav Shlomo Aviner

 

There were precisely ten plagues. “Ten and not nine, ten and not eleven[106]. The number ten signifies a whole comprised of individual parts, all of the various possibilities available on any theme: “The world was created with ten sayings”; with all the different possibilities of divine revelation in the creation. “There were ten generations between Adam and Noach”; every variety of the general-historical appearance of mankind. “Avraham was tested with ten tests”; every method possible to reveal his individual personality and to activate his psychological potential. “Our forefathers tested HaShem with ten tests in the wilderness”; every type of “insult” which detaches the Jewish man from the divine light. Despite everything - HaShem is with us and does not despise us for it. And here we have the same idea: “HaShem plagued the Egyptians with ten plagues”; every form of attack on a national lifestyle which denies the divine orientation of the world[107].

 

The plagues did not all appear at once as a sudden and immediate act. There isn’t just one plague but ten, and they take place over quite a long period of time. The plagues appear gradually. The world was also created gradually: “The world was created with ten sayings”, even though it could easily have been created with one saying. From the perspective of Divine power there is nothing to prevent the world being created at once. But there is a universal human inability to absorb such a creation cognitively, emotionally and practically. Suddenness breeds crises that one is not always able to endure. The plagues in Egypt didn’t all come at once either. Nor did they begin with the most severe - the plague of the firstborns. Instead gradually, step by step, the destruction of Egypt and Israel’s conception becomes clear - to Egyptians and Israelites alike. This psychological upheaval did not happen in a single day or even in a month - the hearts became more and more efficient at absorbing this fundamental change in international history. It takes time to get used to this new appearance of HaShem in the world. “Can the Earth begin in a day, a nation be conceived in a moment?” The course of creation proceeds slowly but surely. “Will I bring on labor and not give birth? Will I bring on labor and then stop it?” The gradual process comes to aid the acceptance of the phenomenon in the human world. So to the forming of Am Yisrael in our time is gradual and not by miraculous leaps - that is the way HaShem redeems his people. Just as the process of childbirth has its stages, a gradual progression and ever-increasing labor pains - so it is with the birth of the Jewish Nation[108]. (From “Tal Chermon”)

 

Bo

by Shlomo Riskin - Efrat, Israel

 

How are we to understand the ten plagues?

 

Perhaps it would be fair to say that the Torah records three major destructions in the annals of human history. The first two destructions are pre-Abrahamic events: the flood which devastated the entire world, and the confusion of languages which resulted from the Tower of Babel debacle. There was also a third destruction, which is not usually noted as such, and that was the ten plagues which devastated Egypt. And fortunately that devastation was followed by re-birth and re-creation: the splitting of the Red Sea.

 

The first thing we must understand is that, from a biblical perspective, Egypt undermined the very purpose of G-d’s original creation - and thereby in effect destroyed G-d’s world - by its policy of slavery. Undoubtedly the reality of slavery predates the enslavement of the Israelites, but in many ways the enslavement of Jacob‘s descendants was rather unique.

 

Clearly any form of slavery is dehumanizing, a stain on the soul of humanity. But the enslavement of the Israelites constitutes a particularly horrendous form of dehumanization. We have to remember that the Israelites were never captured, they never fought a war with the Egyptians. On the contrary, the government of Egypt invited them to stay on in Goshen. Strangers yes, with their own customs perhaps, but they were model citizens - loyal. One might even say that the Israelites’ historic memory had merged with the historic memory of Egypt since both peoples remembered Joseph as a great hero and a symbol of how one man (and HaShem) could divert a national disaster, saving civilization from collapse.

If we have problems imagining how a new Pharaoh could arise who did not recognize Joseph, instituting murderous racial laws and sweeping legislation legalizing slavery against Joseph‘s family, all we have to do is go back several decades to when a new Pharoah arose in Germany. And, despite the fact that no greater patriotic community existed in all of Europe - the Jews of Germany were, after all, war heroes on behalf of the Fatherland in World War 1, and committed devotees of the poetry of Goethe and the music of Beethoven - nevertheless the new Pharaoh issued edicts that resulted in the enslavement of an entire people by the Nazi regime. And it was not even merely slavery; the dehumanization inexorably led to the crematoria of Auschwitz and Treblinka. Darkness descended over Europe just as darkness had once descended over Egypt.

 

How, if we consider the account of creation that opens the Book of Genesis, we find that G-d’s crowning achievement - the “last for which the first was made” - was the fashioning of the human being at the end of the sixth day. What began that day with the appearance of living creatures and cattle and all that walks on the earth culminates in the Divine declaration: “Let us make the human being in our image and likeness... G-d created the human being in His own image. In the image of G-d, He created him/her.” [Gen. 1:26 -27].

 

If the essence of the human being is the fact that he was created in the image of G-d, then slavery stands directly opposite to the path of creation, the antithesis of G-d’s purpose for humanity. The enslavement of the Israelites constitutes a perversion of creation. In a word, enslaving a person removes his fundamental image of G-d, his ability to be free, his G-d-given right to become a partner with the Divine in perfecting the created world. Subjugation turns human being from subject to object, from chief to chattel.

 

In actuality, the perversion of HaShem‘s creation began when Pharoah assumed the role of HaShem, and instead of encouraging the divinity within human beings he enslaved them. Hence in a fascinating usage of terms, when Moses pleads to be released from Jewish leadership because “Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips, and how will Pharaoh ever listen to me?” [Ex. 6:30], the Almighty responds, “I have made you a G-d unto Pharaoh...” [Ex. 7:1]

 

Rashi’s comment that in this context ‘G-d’ (elohim) means a “judge and an executor of judgment to punish Egypt with plagues and afflictions,” [7:1] may be alluding to the single most important reason why the Egyptians were made to suffer the destructive power of the ten plagues. Moses will become the true representative of a G-d unto Pharoah, the only fitting punishment for Pharaoh who wanted to be a G-d unto his slaves. By becoming a G-d, an executor of judgment and affliction against Egypt, Pharoah’s desire to twist humanity into his own image, rather than allowing humanity to bloom in the image of G-d, will be stunted. The tables are being turned. Instead of Pharaoh functioning as a G-d, Moses the stutterer, because that is G-d’s will, shall become a G-d unto Pharaoh.

 

And since Pharoah attempted to destroy HaShem‘s creation by his policy of slavery, HaShem will now - measure for measure - destroy Pharaoh’s creation of Egypt. And indeed that is what we find. All ten plagues, from blood to the death of the first-born, can be seen in some way expressing the shadow, or antithesis, of G-d’s original intention when He created the world. The plagues become the mirror image of creation.

 

The opening of Genesis deals with the primal waters: “Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the spirit of G-d hovered over the face of the waters.” [Gen. 1:2] Water, the source of life, is the source of creation . In the first plague, the waters of Nile, source of Egyptian prosperity, is now turned to blood, symbol of death.

 

HaShem then said: Let the waters swarm with swarms (sheratz) of living creatures... (Bereshit (Genesis) 1:20) The second plague has the river swarm forth frogs to devastate the Egyptians.

 

HaShem then created grass, evolving from the earth: “Let the earth put forth grass, herb yielding seed, and fruit-tree bearing fruit after its kind...” [Gen. 1: 11] The third plague has the very same earth evolve ghastly gnats.

 

HaShem created the beast of the earth after its kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creepeth upon the ground after its kind...” [Gen. 1:25] The fourth and fifth plagues bring a mixture of noxious animals and murrain on the cattle to subvert HaShem‘s creations.

 

The earth which was, after water, the source of evolved physical creations, has now, with the sixth plague, brought about the dust all over the land of Egypt which became boils affect man and beast (Shemot (Exodus) 9:9). HaShem created a, heavens in the midst of the waters, dividing the waters from the waters (Genesis) 1:6-8. Moses extended his hands up to that very same firmament and caused it to rain down giant hail stones (Exodus 9:18,22) which only brought destruction in their wake and produced the seventh plague.

 

In creation it was the earth which gave birth to living creatures (Bereshit (Genesis) 1:24), and Moses now causes the face of the earth to be covered by debilitating locusts, with the eighth plague.

 

The very first utterance of the Almighty pursuant to creation is ‘Let there be light’ (Bereshit (Genesis) 1:3), and the ninth plague is the black viscous darkness which encompasses Egypt.

 

And of course the final plague is the most apparent antithesis to creation: the death of the first born. Pharoah attempted to usurp HaShem‘s place and subvert creation; HaShem Himself, through Moses, brings anti-creation, destruction, upon Egypt. But at the same time, the Almighty plants the seeds for re-creation, producing the cure before the disease. The birth of Moses is Biblically described: And the woman conceived and bore a son, and saw that he was good (Shemot (Exodus) 2:2), resonating with the Divine declaration of ‘it is good’ after every act of creation. The Midrash picks up on this theme, commenting on the verse: When Moses was born, the house became filled with light. Perhaps the primordial light of creation now the instrument for re-creation. At the Red Sea, the waters split, creating in their stead dry land. Here, too, we have a moment of re-creation, a replay of the initial waters, which were gathered to one side and from which the dry land initially emerged (Bereshit (Genesis) 1:9,10). Pharoah attempted to destroy HaShem‘s world; through Moses and the people of Israel, the world is to be recreated and perfected under HaShem‘s dominion.

 

IX. The Plagues and the Decalogue

 

Water is turned into blood. Shemot  7:20

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods.

Frogs

 

Shemot 8:5

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

Dust becomes gnats.

Shemot 8:17

Thou shalt not steal.

Beasts

 

Shemot 8:24

Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Livestock all dies.

Shemot 9:6

Thou shalt not murder.

Festering boils.

 

Shemot  9:10

Honor thy father and thy mother

Hail mixed with fire.

Shemot 9:23

Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.

Locusts everywhere. Shemot 10:13

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy G-d in vain

Darkness.

 

Shemot 10:22

Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.

Death of the firstborn. Shemot 12:29

I am HaShem thy G-d, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

 

 

 

 

IX. The Plagues and Creation

 

There is a relationship between the plagues that HaShem sent on Egypt, and the inverse order of creation:

 

The perversion of HaShem‘s creation began when Pharoah assumed the role of HaShem - and instead of encouraging the divinity within human beings he enslaved them. Hence in a fascinating usage of terms, when Moses pleads to be released from Jewish leadership because:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 6:30 “Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips, and how will Pharaoh ever listen to me?”

 

The Almighty responds:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 7:1 “I have made you a –G-d unto Pharaoh...”

 

Rashi’s comment that in this context ‘G-d’ (elohim) means a “judge and an executor of judgment to punish Egypt with plagues and afflictions,” may be alluding to the single most important reason why the Egyptians were made to suffer the destructive power of the ten plagues. Moses will become the true representative of a G-d unto Pharoah, the only fitting punishment for Pharaoh who wanted to be a G-d unto his slaves. By becoming a G-d, an executor of judgment and affliction against Egypt, Pharoah’s desire to twist humanity into his own image --rather than allowing humanity to bloom in the image of HaShem-- will be stunted. The tables are being turned. Instead of Pharaoh functioning as a G-d, Moses the stutterer, because that is HaShem‘s will, shall become a G-d unto Pharaoh.

 

And since Pharoah attempted to destroy HaShem‘s creation by his policy of slavery, HaShem will now - measure for measure - destroy Pharoah’s creation of Egypt. And indeed that is what we find. All ten plagues, from blood to the death of the first-born, can be seen in some way expressing the shadow, or antithesis, of G-d’s original intention when He created the world. The plagues become the mirror image of creation.

 

The commentators point out a further aspect of the ten plagues. They can be perceived as a parallel to--or echo of--the ten Divine pronouncements which brought the world into existence (See Ethics of the Fathers 5:1). The redemption of the Jews from Egypt would, thus, appear to be a counterpart to the creation of the world. The process of creation showed God as the master of nature; the Shemot (Exodus) showed him as the ruler of history, bending the laws of nature to His purposes.

 

From a different vantage point, we can view Creation as a process of building, and the plagues as acts of destruction necessary for creation. The 17th century commentator Maharal points out that the ten pronouncements created the world, whilst the ten plagues brought about the creation of the Jewish people.

 

Our Sages ask why the world was created by ten pronouncements rather than one; they reply that this was done so that evildoers would be punished for ruining a world created by ten pronouncements, and the righteous would be rewarded for sustaining such a world.[109] God knew that man, given the power of free choice, would do harm to the world. He, therefore, created it in ten stages--and the downfall of the evildoers through the ten plagues would serve to redress the harm done to every stage. Moreover, there would be men eager to do right--and they would be given the ten commandments to sanctify the world in every respect. The revelation of HaShem‘s Kingship, as a result of the ten plagues, thus opened the way for the further disclosure of HaShem‘s will, through the ten commandments.[110]

 

 


 

 

1. Water is turned into blood. Shemot (Exodus) 7:20

Bereshit (Genesis) 1:2 “Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the spirit of G-d hovered over the face of the waters.”

Water, is the source of life, it is the source of creation. In the first plague, the waters of Nile, source of Egyptian prosperity, is now turned to blood, symbol of death.

 

2. Frogs everywhere. Shemot (Exodus) 8:5

Bereshit (Genesis) 1:20 G-d then said: Let the waters swarm with swarms (sheratz) of living creatures...

The second plague has the river swarm forth frogs, living creatures, to devastate the Egyptians.

 

3. Dust becomes gnats. Shemot (Exodus) 8:17

Bereshit (Genesis) 1:11 G-d then created grass, evolving from the earth: “Let the earth put forth grass, herb yielding seed, and fruit-tree bearing fruit after its kind...”

The third plague has the very same earth that produced grass and fruit, now produces ghastly gnats.

 

4. Beasts everywhere. Shemot (Exodus) 8:24

5. Livestock all dies. Shemot (Exodus) 9:6

Bereshit (Genesis) 1:25 G-d created the beast of the earth after its kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creepeth upon the ground after its kind...”

The fourth and fifth plagues bring a mixture of noxious animals and murrain on the cattle to subvert HaShem‘s creations.

 

6. Dust becomes festering boils. Shemot (Exodus) 9:10

7. Hail mixed with fire. Shemot (Exodus) 9:23

Bereshit (Genesis) 1:6-8 G-d created a -heavens in the midst of the waters, dividing the waters from the waters.

The earth which was, after water, the source of evolved physical creations, has now, with the sixth plague, brought about the -dust all over the land of Egypt which became boils affect man and beast. Moses extended his hands up to that very same firmament and caused it to rain down giant hail stones which only brought destruction in their wake, and produced the seventh plague.

 

8. Locusts everywhere. Shemot (Exodus) 10:13

In creation it was the earth which gave birth to living creatures (Bereshit (Genesis) 1:24).

Moses now causes -the face of the earth to be covered by debilitating locusts, with the eighth plague.

 

 

9. Darkness. Shemot (Exodus) 10:22

Bereshit (Genesis) 1:3 G-d said, “Let there be light.”

The very first utterance of the Almighty pursuant to creation is, “Let there be light”, and the ninth plague is the black viscous darkness which encompasses Egypt.

 

 

10. Death of the firstborn. Shemot (Exodus) 12:29

Bereshit (Genesis) 1:1 For the sake of the things called first, G-d created the heavens and the earth.

And of course the final plague is the most apparent antithesis to creation: the death of the first born. Pharoah attempted to usurp HaShem‘s place and subvert creation; HaShem Himself, through Moses, brings anti - creation, destruction, upon Egypt. But at the same time, the Almighty plants the seeds for re-creation, producing the cure before the disease.

The birth of Moses is Biblically described: And the woman conceived and bore a son, and saw that he was good (Ex 2:2), resonating with the Divine declaration of -it is good after every act of creation. The Midrash picks up on this theme, commenting on the verse: when Moses was born, the house became filled with light - perhaps the primordial light of creation now the instrument for re-creation. At the Red Sea, the waters split, creating in their stead dry land. Here, too, we have a moment of re-creation, a replay of the initial waters, which were gathered to one side and from which the dry land initially emerged (Bereshit (Genesis) 1:9,10). Pharoah attempted to destroy HaShem‘s world; through Moses and the people of Israel, the world is to be recreated and perfected under HaShem‘s dominion.

 

1. Water is turned into blood. Shemot (Exodus) 7:20

 

10.Then G-d said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Bereshit (Genesis) 1:26

 

 

2. Frogs everywhere. Shemot (Exodus) 8:5 (frogs increase in number and fill...?)

9. G-d blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” Bereshit (Genesis) 1:22

 

 

3. Dust becomes gnats. Shemot (Exodus) 8:17 (sky teems with creatures?)

8. And G-d said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” Bereshit (Genesis) 1:20

 

 

4. Beasts everywhere. Shemot (Exodus) 8:24

 

7. And let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. Bereshit (Genesis) 1:15

 

 

5. Livestock all dies. Shemot (Exodus) 9:6 (plants give livestock life.)

6. Then G-d said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. Bereshit (Genesis) 1:11

 

 

6. Festering boils. Shemot (Exodus) 9:10 (boil means “to burn”)

 

5. And G-d said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. Bereshit (Genesis) 1:9

 

 

7. Hail mixed with fire. Shemot (Exodus) 9:23 (Hail from the sky?)

 

4. G-d called the expanse “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning--the second day. Bereshit (Genesis) 1:8

 

 

8. Locusts everywhere. Shemot (Exodus) 10:13 (Locusts in the expanse?)

3. G-d said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.” Bereshit (Genesis) 1:6

 

 

9. Darkness. Shemot (Exodus) 10:22

2. G-d said, “Let there be light.” Bereshit (Genesis) 1:3

 

 

10. Death of the firstborn. Shemot (Exodus) 12:29           

1. In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth. Bereshit (Genesis) 1:1


 


X. The Time and Timing of the Plagues

 

The punishment of the Egyptians lasted one year--exactly as long as that of Noah’s generation that perished in the Flood, and as long as the punishment of evildoers in Gehinom after death. On the fifteenth day of the Jewish month Nisan, exactly one year before the Exodus, Moses had the vision at the burning bush (Shemot [Exodus] 2:2), and then returned to Egypt to appear before Pharaoh. The plagues followed -- each lasted seven days, and was preceded by twenty-four days of warning, or (according to another opinion) the warning lasted seven days and the plague twenty-four (Tanchuma). Listen to what Rashi say

 

Shemot (Exodus) 7:25 Seven full days passed-Heb. וַיִּמָּלֵא, literally, seven days were filled. Since the word וַיִּמָּלֵא is singular, Rashi explains: The number of seven days that the Nile did not return to its original state [was filled], for the plague would be in effect for a quarter of a month, and for three quarters [of the month], he [Moses] would exhort and warn them.-[from Tanchuma, Va’era 13, Exod. Rabbah 9:12, as explained by Mizrachi and Gur Aryeh].

 

The Midrash also speaks of this timing:

 

Midrash Rabbah - Exodus IX:12 AND SEVEN DAYS WERE FULFILLED, AFTER THAT THE LORD HAD SMITTEN THE RIVER (VII, 25). R. Judah and R. Nehemiah discussed this. One of them said that God warned them for twenty-four days prior to bringing the plague upon them, the actual plague lasting seven days; while the other said that for seven days did He warn them, the actual plague lasting twenty-four days. According to the one who maintains that for twenty-four days He warned them, the words AND SEVEN DAYS WERE FULFILLED refer to the actual plague; and according to him who maintains that for seven days He warned them, the words AND SEVEN DAYS WERE FULFILLED, AFTER THAT THE LORD HAD SMITTEN THE RIVER refer to the warning given for another plague.

 

By Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, the Jews no longer had to work, and in Nisan they were redeemed.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Devarim (Deuteronomy) VII:6 In Egypt He wrought miracles for you and your eyes saw it.’ Whence this? For it is said, The great trials (ha-massoth) which thine eyes saw (Deut. XXIX, 2). What is the force of ‘ ha-massoth ‘? It implies that the plagues weakened (me-massoth) the bodies of the Egyptians. What is the meaning of ‘ the signs ‘ (ib.)? The Rabbis say: The plagues became engraven on their bodies. For example, the words Dam (Blood), Zefardea’ (Frog), Kinnim (Vermin). What is the meaning of ‘And the wonders’ (ib.)? The plagues deceived them.[111] How? The plagues came every thirty days[112] and lasted for seven days[113] and then departed. The Egyptians had thus respite for twenty-three days between one plague and the next.’ This proves that [the plagues] deceived them.

 

Nisan 1:          Egypt was afflicted with the first plague: Blood. Exodus 7:19 Seder Olam 3 (Sapphire staff)

 

Iyar:                No plague.

 

Sivan:             No plague.

 

Tammuz:        No Plague.

 

Av 1:               Egypt was afflicted with the second plague: Frogs. Exodus 8:2 Seder HaDorot (Sapphire staff)

 

Elul 1:             Egypt was afflicted with the third plague: Lice. Exodus 8:16 Zikhron Yemot Olam (Sapphire staff)

 

Tishri 1:         Egypt was afflicted with the fourth plague: Beasts Exodus 8:24 Zihron Yemot Olam (HaShem)

 

Cheshvan 1:   Egypt was afflicted with the fifth plague: Cattle plague Exodus 9:3 Zihron Yemot Olam (HaShem)

 

Kislev 1:         Egypt was afflicted with the sixth plague: Boils. Exodus 9:9 Zichron Yemot Olam (HaShem)

 

Tevet 1:          Egypt was afflicted with the seventh plague: Hail and fire. Exodus 9:24 Zichron Yemot Olam (Sapphire staff)

 

Shevat 1:        Egypt was afflicted with the eighth plague: Locusts. Exodus 10:4 Zichron Yemot Olam (Sapphire staff)

 

Adar 1:           Egypt was afflicted with the ninth plague: Darkness. Exodus 10:21 Zikhron Yemot Olam. (Sapphire staff)

 

Nisan 15:        Egypt was afflicted with the tenth plague: Death of the firstborn. Exodus 33:3-4 (HaShem)

 

 

Midrash Rabbah - Shemot (Exodus) X:7 AND HaShem SAID UNTO MOSES: SAY UNTO AARON: STRETCH OUT THY ROD, AND SMITE THE DUST OF THE EARTH (VIII, 12). R. Tanhum said: HaShem said to Moses: ‘It is not proper that thou shouldst smite the earth which protected thee when thou didst kill the Egyptian.’ On this account did Aaron perform three plagues.[114] AND AARON STRETCHED OUT HIS HAND WITH HIS ROD (VIII, 13). Why did He bring gnats upon them? Because they made Israel the scavengers of their streets; on this account did their dust become gnats, so that when they dug, cubit by cubit, there was no earth there, as it says: ALL THE DUST OF THE EARTH BECAME GNATS. AND THE MAGICIANS DID SO WITH THEIR SECRET ARTS TO BRING FORTH GNATS, BUT THEY COULD NOT (VIII, 14). From here you can learn, said R. Eleazar, that a demon cannot create anything less than the size of a barley-corn; but the Sages say, They cannot create even the size of a camel, save that these [the larger creatures] they can assemble [by magic] whereas the others they cannot assemble.[115] THEN THE MAGICIANS SAID UNTO PHARAOH: THIS IS THE FINGER OF G-D (VIII, 15)As soon as the magicians realised that they were not able to produce gnats, they recognised that the deeds were those of a HaShem and not witchcraft. They no longer claimed to compare themselves with Moses in producing the plagues.[116]

 

From the Arizal:

 

 

plague

smiting sub-sefirah in the holy Nukva

evil sub-sefirah smitten

1.

blood

malchut

keter of Nukva

2.

frogs

yesod

brains of Nukva

3.

lice

hod

skull hair of Nukva and malchut of Zeir Anpin

4.

horde

netzach

yesod of Zeir Anpin

5.

pestilence

tiferet

hod of Zeir Anpin

6.

boils

gevura

netzach of Zeir Anpin

7.

hail

chesed

tiferet of Zeir Anpin

8.

locusts

bina

gevura of Zeir Anpin

9.

darkness

chochma

chesed of Zeir Anpin

10.

firstborn

keter

keter-chochma-bina of Zeir Anpin

 

 

* * *

 

1. Blood- the Egyptians believed that since the moon controls the tides of the ocean that it had power over the water. Therefore HaShem brought the plague of blood to show that there is a greater power than the moon that controls the water.

2. Frogs- the Egyptians believed that Mercury was responsible for controlling all living things in the water. Therefore again HaShem caused frogs to come out of the water and jump into the ovens and into the Egyptian’s stomachs, to prove that there is a greater power than Mercury.

3. Lice- Venus is supposed to manipulate all beauty in the world. HaShem thus brought lice, once of the most disgusting creatures, over Egypt to show that He is the master over all including the beauty of the world.

4. Wild animals- they believed that the sun had a controlling power on those animals that lived in the desert where the sun shines brightly. However, HaShem proved otherwise by causing many wild animals to leave their habitats and enter Egyptians cities. Thus, HaShem once again showed that he has the power to control the instincts of all animals and where they are to live.

5. Plague on the Animals- The Egyptians believed that Mars was responsible for blood and body warmth. The Yalkut Me’am Loez explains that during this plague all body heat was lost in the animals due to cold air therefore causing them to die. HaShem showed that he is the once who controls health and warmth.

6. Boils- it was believed that Jupiter was responsible in the balance of human body fluids. However, the boils caused an extreme imbalance of fluids on the skin hence causing a tremendous amount of pain to the Egyptians.

7. Hail- The Egyptians believed that there were gods that worked with Saturn that control all things that relate to ice, snow, or cold. However, when HaShem brought down a hail that contained fire from within, He proved that there were no such gods that existed.

8. Locusts- the Zodiac was supposed to have influence on all the animals and control where they wander. However, HaShem showed that He is more powerful than the Zodiac and allowed multitudes of locusts to cross Egypt’s border and consume everything that the hail had left over.

9. Darkness- Day and night was believed to be controlled through a power called the Outer Sphere. HaShem, on the other hand, proved that it is He who controls when it is day or night. Thus He brought seven days of darkness upon Egypt.

10. Death of the First Born- The intellectual sphere was believed to bless all first-born children at birth giving them special advantages through a direct link with this sphere. However HaShem confirmed that He is the one and only who controls life and the well-being of any first born child and thus killed all first-born Egyptian people and animals.

 

Y Y Y

 

This study was written by

Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David

(Greg Killian).

Comments may be submitted to:

 

Rabbi Dr. Greg Killian

4544 Highline Drive SE

Olympia, WA 98501

 

Internet address: gkilli@aol.com

Web page: http://www.betemunah.org/

 

(360) 918-2905

 

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[1] Torah insight by Mordecai Kornfeld

[2] The authors of Tosafot in Da’at Zekenim and Hadar Zekenim, Shemot 7:25; Rosh, beginning of Vaera; Hagahot Maimonei, end of Chametz U’Matzah, #2; Abudraham and KolBo, in Haggadah shel Pesach; Pardes Yosef, Shemot 7:25.

[3] Tosafot, Hagahot Maimonei and Abudraham

[4] Gemara Pesachim 6b

[5] see Shemot 10:21 and Rashi

[6] Shemot 10:2, beginning of Parashat Bo

[7] Ramban writes “the explanation of the question which everyone asks…” Ramban Sh’mot 7:3

[8] Mishlei 3, 34

[9] Midrash Rabbah - Shmot 13:3

[10] The Midrash introduces a play on words with LEV meaning heart, and KAVED meaning liver; Paroh’s heart became like a liver: FOR I HAVE HARDENED HIS HEART. What does ‘hikbadti’ imply? That HaShem made his heart like a liver (kaved) into which even if boiled a second time no juice enters; so also was the heart of Pharaoh made like a liver, and he did not receive the words of HaShem. Hence FOR I HAVE HARDENED HIS HEART, etc. Midrash Rabbah - Shmot 13:3

 

[11] This reads as if Paroh had hardened his own heart, but based on the next verse, the reading shifts and it seems to have been the work of HaShem. See the comments of the Chizkuni.

[12] See the comments of the Ramban 7:3 where he brings both explanations, and declares that they are both true!

[13] See the comments of the Sforno in 4:21 where this idea could be understood, though perhaps the thesis stated here goes beyond the Sforno’s intention.

[14] See Yoma 69b Shir Hashirim Raba 7:8

[15] The curious case of “Aher”, Elisha ben Avuya, the sage-turned-heretic and murderer, who ostensibly lost his ability for spiritual rehabilitation, will be considered at a later date.

[16] Tanchuma

[17] Midrash Rabbah - Exodus XII:4

[18] Midrash Rabbah - Exodus XII:4

[19] Midrash Rabbah - Exodus XII:4

[20] Rabbi S.R. Hirsch

[21] Midrash Rabbah - Exodus XII:4

[22] Rabbi S.R. Hirsch

[23] Rabbi S.R. Hirsch

[24] Rabbi S.R. Hirsch

[25] Gevurot Hashem [page 253], Chapter 57

[26] Much of this part of the study is taken from the book: “Studying the Torah“, by Avigdor Bonchek.

[27] Tanchuma

[28] Rabbi Dr. Michael S. Berger

[29] Midrash Hagadol; Maharal

[30] Thus punishing first the heavenly hosts worshipped by antiquity and then the kings.

[31] Mah.: It is often the custom of the Midrash to cite a phrase at the end of a section without an accompanying comment. This, however, is rather doubtful, and the quotation may be misplaced; cf. supra, VII, 5, p. 113, n. 4.

[32] Tan. reads: Smite what is in the Nile, etc. This involves a very slight change in the original (vfv instead of kfv )

[33] ‘And the fish,’ etc., seems irrelevant to what follows. Y.M. refers it to the preceding section: Fish are very prolific and therefore a symbol of fertility. Hence, because the Egyptians attempted to curb the natural increase of the Israelites, God punished thern by killing their fish.

[34] Gen. XV, 14 And afterwards shall they come out with great substance.

[35] Pesachim 53b

[36] Note that Nimrod brought the people together to make bricks, not to make a tower. They made bricks! (Genesis 11:3)

[37] In his Commentary on Exodus 8:15

[38] The blood, frogs, and gnats. The earth protected Moses, because in it he hid the slain Egyptian, cf. supra, I, 29.

[39] The meaning is that magicians can transplant existing things into new surroundings, but cannot create them.

[40] Having admitted to Pharaoh that it was ‘ the finger of God’.

[41] Pharaoh had told him to sacrifice in the land, V. 21.

[42] Supra, III, 8, end. So that they might then pursue Israel.

[43] ‘Behold ‘ is applicable to an object immediately visible, and hence to something that was to be done without delay.

[44] V. p. 138, n. 4.

[45] The object being, according to the Tanhuma, to remove them into the jungles, far from their homes, in order that they should not increase so plentifully. Radal reads: in order to make sport of them. It is possible that this Midrash is an echo of the sad tirnes after the fall of the Jewish State when thousands of Jews were made to fight wild beasts in the rena as a public spectacle.

[46] The midrash in Shemot Rabba parasha 10 cites R. Yehoshua ben Levi, who asserts that every plague was accompanied by dever - pestilence, further affirming an influential role for the plague of dever.

[47] Owing to enforced absence from their homes.

[48] That the beast, whose ownership they had contested, belonged to Israel.

[49] Shemot (Exodus) 9:19-21

[50] Midrash Tanchuma, Bishalach 1

[51] Shemot (Exodus) 13:18

[52] Devarim (Deuteronomy) 11:13-15

[53] Cf. Gen. R. V, 6.

[54] V. infra, XII, 4; XV, 27.

[55] Radal: So that their bodies could not stand either hot or cold. This is preferable.

[56] “The Jerusalem Bible”, Koren Publishers, Jerusalem.

[57] Cf. Gen. R. XXXIII (end). The word ka-’eth implies at exactly the same time.

[58] This translation disregards the punctuation of cur. edd., which makes the meaning very doubtful, and is in accord with Y.M.

[59] The prophecy is against Gog; cf. infra, XXIII, 6.

[60] Sot. X 11a: cf. supra, 1, 9.

[61] From the Gk. Gr.

[62] The hail was below and the fire above with the fire flashing up amidst the hail.

[63] V. S.S R. III, 11, ¤ 1.

[64] Jast. reads t,yrp, a word meaning ‘split.’ The reading t,ubrp he thinks is corrupt (v Low. Pfl., p. 364).

[65] The root reshef is used in both connections, hence the identification of ‘fiery bolts’ with birds that ‘fly upward’.

[66] This word occurs nowhere else in the Bible, and hence is eminently fitted to be made by the Rabbis a subject for ingenious comment.

[67] Mah. M.K. translates: it came down gently and cut off everything.

[68] Cf. supra, XI, 2.

[69] The miracle here was that the wheat and spelt were not smitten, although the fire and hail destroyed all else.

[70] As E.V. According to R. Judah, no miracle at all occurred. Being late to ripen their stalks were not hard enough to be smitten down.

[71] Which includes even those of late ripening.

[72] The particle eth for ‘ from ‘ is unusual, and the Midrash therefore understands it in the sense of propinquity: he went out, but was yet in contact with the city, as it were.

[73] Cf. Ber. 54a, Gen. R. XXII, 12.

[74] Supra, X, 6.

[75] See Bereshit (Genesis) 3:6

[76] Namely, not into the borders of Put, Ethiopia, and Canaan; cf. supra, X, 2.

[77] A thing which they had disputed among themselves prior to the solution provided by this plague. Zedek here means what is right, viz. the true borders of Egypt and Ethiopia.

[78] This shows that they were still not debarred from penitence.

[79] This translation is necessary because the Scriptural phrase may merely mean ‘ a sea wind ‘.

[80] They derive maru from maruth, authority, and translate (in direct opposition to E.V.): and accepted not His word as authority.

[81] This agrees with E.V., but makes ‘they’ (rebelled not,etc.) refer to the angels.

[82] An unusual addition, and points to a later date of composition.

[83] This refers to the nether-world; v. preceding verse.

[84] Text as emended (Rashash).

[85] All the advancement and success of the Egyptians were due to their dark magic; darkness was, therefore, their proper due.

[86] The verse then meaning: I led him (into Gehinnom); cf. Gen. R. XXXIII, I; Num. R. I, 1.

[87] Note the unusual form, also the additional descriptive phrases, and cf. p. 156, n. 3.

[88] Which proves that it is a natural phenomenon, and does not come from God.

[89] Excessively thick.

[90] Text as emended (Radal).

[91] Shemot (Exodus) 4:22-23

[92] Which had to be eaten in the night.

[93] See for instance PesiktaDe-Rav Kahane, pesikta 7

[94] Iyov (Job) 3:3

[95] Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 66:6

[96] Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 34:9

[97] Shemot (Exodus) 8:12

[98] Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 34:11

[99] Yehezechel (Ezekiel) 38:22

[100] Zechariah 14:12

[101] Yehezechel (Ezekiel) 38:22

[102] Yehezechel (Ezekiel) 39:17-19

[103] Yeshayahu (Isaiah) ‎‎34:11

[104] Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 34:6-7

[105] I am indebted to Ken Brown for his excellent ideas on the plagues.

[106] Sefer Yetzirah, Chapter 1

[107] Avot, Chapter 5:1-6

[108] (c) 1996. Ateret Cohanim - The Jerusalem Reclamation Project. All Rights Reserved.

 

[109] Ethics, 5:1

[110] Chidushei HaRim in Mayana shel Torah and the Sfat Emet. R. Yehudah Loew of Prague, The Maharal, in his work Gevurot HaShem, chapter 57.

[111] Connecting the word mofethim (‘wonders’) with the root pathah to deceive, and reading ha-mefathim.

[112] Cf. Ex. R. IX, 12.

[113] See Chizkuni on Shmot 12:15 (in the middle of his pirush) where he explains that chag ha’matzot is specifically seven days to correspond to the seven days that each plague lasted.

[114] The blood, frogs, and gnats. The earth protected Moses, because in it he hid the slain Egyptian, cf. supra, I, 29.

[115] The meaning is that magicians can transplant existing things into new surroundings, but cannot create them.

[116] Having admitted to Pharaoh that it was ‘ the finger of HaShem ‘.