Ten plagues

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John Martin , The 7th Plague , engraving, 1828.

The ten biblical plagues (Heb. מַכּוֹת Makōt ) describe a series of catastrophes that, according to the biblical story, occurred around the 13th century BC. The land of Egypt plagued. Historically, this story, which has been handed down in the Bible, has not been documented, even if this was attempted by dating volcanic eruptions , which are believed by several scientists to be the original trigger for the plagues.

In the second book of Genesis of the Old Testament , the Exodus is reported: After Moses an encounter with his God YHWH had he been and Aaron returned from this to Egypt to the people of Israel from slavery to lead. However, the Pharaoh did not want to let them go. After each refusal, YHWH sends another plague. Then the Israelites marched through the Red Sea .

List of the Ten Plagues

Water turns to blood, James Tissot
  1. Blood ( דָּם dām ), water becomes inedible for seven days: “Moses and Aaron did as the Lord commanded them, and Moses raised his staff and struck the water that was in the Nile before Pharaoh and his great men. And all the water in the river was turned into blood. ”( 2 Mos 7:20  ESV )
  2. Frogs ( צְפַרְדֵּעִים ṣəfardəʕīm ) swarm in the land: “And the Lord said to Moses: Tell Aaron: stretch out your hand with your staff over the rivers, canals and swamps, and send frogs over the land of Egypt. And Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and frogs came up, so that the land of Egypt was covered. "( 2 Mos 8,1  LUT )
  3. Mosquitoes ( כִּנִּים kinnim “mosquitos”) plague people and cattle: “They did so, and Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff and struck the dust on the ground. And mosquitoes came and sat by the people and the cattle; all the dust of the earth became mosquitoes in all the land of Egypt. "( 2 Mos 8,13  LUT )
  4. Biting flies ( עָרֹב ʕārov “bugs”, “vermin”, probably dog flies ) fill all houses: “And the Lord said to Moses: Get up tomorrow morning and go before Pharaoh when he goes out to the water and say to him: Thus says the Lord: Let my people go, that they may serve me; if not, behold, I will cause biting flies to come on you, your great people, your people and your house, so that the houses of the Egyptians and the land on which they live will be full of biting flies. ”( 2 Mos 8:16  NIV )
  5. Cattle plague ( דֶּבֶר dever “bubonic plague”) kills all horses, camels, cattle, sheep: “The Lord said to Moses: Go to Pharaoh and say to him: Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews: Let my people go, that they serve me! If you refuse and continue to hold them back, behold, the hand of the Lord will come on your cattle in the field, on the horses, donkeys, camels, cattle and sheep, with a very serious plague. "( 2 Mos 9,1  KJV )
  6. Black leaves ( שְׁחִין אֲבַעְבֻּעֹת פֹּרֵחַ šəḥīn ʔăvaʕəbuʕot porēaḥ “ulcer that blows ”, unit translation : ulcers ) afflict man and cattle: “And they took soot out of the furnace and stood before Pharaoh, and Moses threw the soot into the sky. There broke on people and cattle, so that the magicians could not come before Moses because of the bad leaves; for there were just as bad leaves on the magicians as on all Egyptians. "( 2 Mos 9,10  LUT )
  7. Hail ( בָּרָד bārād ) kills man and cattle, destroys crops and trees: “Then the Lord said to Moses: Stretch out your hand to heaven, that it hails over the whole land of Egypt, over people, over cattle and over all the plants in the fields in Land of Egypt. "( 2 Mos 9,22  LUT )
  8. Locusts ( אַרְבֶּה ʔarbeh “swarm”, “wandering locusts”) cover the land and eat all the green: “Then the Lord said to Moses: Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt, so that locusts may come to the land of Egypt and devour everything that grows in the land, everything what the hail left over. "( 2 Mos 10,12  NIV )
  9. Darkness ( חֹשֶׁךְ ḥošex ) lasts three days: "The Lord said to Moses: Stretch out your hand to heaven, that such a darkness may be in the land of Egypt that it can be grasped." ( 2 Mos 10,21  LUT )
  10. Death of all firstborn ( מֵת כָל־בְּכוֹר mēt kōl-bəxōr ) of man and beast: “And Moses said: Thus says the Lord: At midnight I will go through the land of Egypt, and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the first son of Pharaoh who sits on his throne until the first son of the maid who crouches behind her mill, and all the firstborn among the cattle. "( 2 Mos 11,4  LUT )


The authors describe and dramatize natural processes and experiences with the plagues in order to tell the story of the exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt against a great background. The intention is to convey to the reader that God is setting heaven and earth in motion to make the Exodus to the Promised Land possible.

Scientific theories

Whether the authors condensed many individual experiences into a horror scenario or whether the Old Testament describes a serious catastrophe (such as the Minoan eruption ) in which an ecological chain reaction took place is controversial and is interpreted in different ways. Some research sees a realistic possibility that at least the first nine plagues would follow each other in the order presented.

  1. Water : The red color of the water and the death is probably due to the red tides (type of algae, e.g. of the genus Alexandrum), which at the same time can produce such amounts of poison that massive fish deaths and mussel poisoning occur.
  2. Froschlurche : The Nile was the lifeline of the Egyptian pharaoh empire . Extreme floods and periods of drought repeatedly unbalanced the sensitive ecosystem, and sediment from Abyssinian lakes colored the Nile red: the Nile became a source of epidemics. Even today, microorganisms can be detected in the Nile that can trigger fish death and stress reactions in frogs. A volcanic eruption could also have brought not only acid rain but also toxic substances to Egypt. The amphibians fled ashore in droves, where they soon perished from the heat and dehydration.
  3. Mosquitoes : Due to the death of fish and amphibians caused by algae, the natural regulation of mosquito brood no longer took place. As a result, they developed freely in the waters of the Nile and then became a plague on land.
  4. Stable flies ( insects ) fly species are the dog-fly and warble fly that invaded in schools throughout the country.
  5. Animal fever carried by the insects and inflammation through open stab wounds.
  6. Ulcers ( black leaves ): Like animals, humans were also affected by the insect infestation.
  7. Hail : Volcanic activity brings with it ash and sulfur and also changes the weather system. But even completely independently of this, hailstorms can occur in Egypt in January and February today. Strong thunderstorms with hailstorms left an impressive swath of destruction.
  8. Locusts : Locusts were and are not uncommon in the countries of the Orient, after the swarms of locusts all that remained was wasteland. Due to the death of the fish and amphibians, they too were able to reproduce unhindered.
  9. Darkness : The darkness was caused by volcanic ash, a blazing wind, or a dramatic sandstorm. Swarms of locusts also darken the sky.
  10. Firstborn : For a long time, researchers saw the plague as a religious symbol: the firstborn of all evil is to be exterminated with stump and handle - a phrase that has been known in the Nile region since ancient times. In the mid-1990s, the New York City Department of Health's leading epidemiologist, John S. Marr , and his colleague Curtis Malloy published a hypothesis that deaths could be derived from the eating habits of the time. The first-born son always got the first and largest meal before the other siblings, including the first-born animal, which was usually the most dominant. As a result of the previous catastrophe, a mold ( Aspergillus flavus , Stachybotrys atra or ergot , Secale cornutum ) had formed in the moistened grain, which could not dry out due to the low level of sunlight, especially on the surface of the food stored in jugs at the time, its toxic metabolic products, the so-called macrocyclic trichothecenes , could have triggered a deadly immune response in the affected child or animal. Since the Israelites had fixed rules for food hygiene in their Passover meal, which also included unleavened bread as an important part , they were hardly or not at all affected by the poisoning.

Eruption of the Thera volcano

One possible cause that could explain all the plagues is the eruption of the Thera volcano on the island of Santorini in the 17th or 16th century BC. The time of the volcanic eruption is dated differently (see also the dating table of the Minoan eruption ), some more recent 14 C dates speak for the years 1620 to 1600 BC. Chr. (Equivalent to the Middle Bronze Age, 2000-1550 BC..): The 2006 successful radiocarbon dating of the branch of a buried by the volcano ejection olive tree on Thera, which in November 2002 in Bimsschicht was found on the island revealed an age of 1613 v. Chr. ± 13 years.

At that time, a cloud of pumice and other debris was spread across the eastern Mediterranean. A chain reaction could have proceeded as follows:

  1. Water : Red pumice dust from the first phase of the eruption is carried to Egypt, colors the water red and spoils it.
  2. Frogs : Since the water has spoiled, the frogs have to leave the river.
  3. Mosquitoes : Because the animals in the Nile are dead, the mosquito larvae no longer have any enemies.
  4. Biting flies ( vermin ): The flies can lay their eggs on the dead frogs and thus multiply.
  5. Cattle plague : It was probably caused by consuming spoiled water from the Nile.
  6. Ulcers ( black leaves ): Caused by the spoiled water of the Nile or by the multiplication of insects, which transmitted diseases.
  7. Hail : The volcanic eruption brings ash and sulfur with it and also changes the weather system.
  8. Grasshoppers : Maybe a coincidence, maybe the grasshoppers were also forced to migrate by volcanic ash and ended up eating everything.
  9. Darkness : The darkness may have been caused by volcanic ash.
  10. Firstborn : Grain poisoning by ergot . Due to the primacy of the firstborn and the simultaneous lack of food, they may have eaten more of the poisoned grain than lower-ranking family members.

As part of scientific research (see also Historical Exodus Research ), for example, Egyptian temple inscriptions about the sea ​​peoples' invasions around 1200 BC are also used. Used. In addition to the volcanic eruption, other causes for the biblical catastrophe described are believed to be possible. In particular the pastor Jürgen Spanuth and the archaeologist Eberhard Zangger examined corresponding hypotheses .

Distribution of pyroclastic currents during the eruption of the Thera.

Representation in art

Lamentation over the coffin of the firstborn at the court of the Pharaoh, painting by Charles Sprague Pearce , 1877

In 1858, Théophile Gautier described the discovery of a mummy carrying a scroll with hieroglyphics in his book The Novel of the Mummy . These hieroglyphs told the life story of the mummy, of the life of a beautiful woman who was embalmed into a mummy at the end of her life. As a young woman, she had witnessed the biblical ten plagues.

In 1921 Jakob Steinhardt created a small edition of ten woodcuts on Japanese paper with the title “The Ten Plagues”.

In the movie The Mummy it is said that when Imhotep is resurrected, he will bring the ten plagues over the land. His resurrection of the mummy finally brings with it the following plagues:

  • Locusts (here: after the mummy has been awakened)
  • Water that turns into blood (here: the drinks in a bar and the water of an indoor fountain)
  • Biting flies
  • Ulcers (here: the "army" of the mummy)
  • Hail (here: probably a comet or fire hail)
  • Darkness (here: a solar eclipse)

Georg Friedrich Handel deals with the ten plagues in the second part of his oratorio Israel in Egypt .

In the film The Cabinet of Horrors of Dr. Phibes with Vincent Price avenges himself with the plagues on the doctors, whom he blames for the death of his wife.

The movie Magnolia ends with a shower of frogs .

The English label 4AD released a compilation in 2006 with ten songs that deal with the plagues, with artists such as Scott Walker , Imogen Heap and Rufus Wainwright .

The film The Reaping has the ten plagues as the main theme. The little town of Haven is haunted by all the plagues, and the blame is placed on a little girl. The film provides a good visualization of the plagues, although they are out of order here.

In the film Exodus: Gods and Kings , the plagues caused by God are explained by an adviser to Pharaoh Ramses II using almost the same theories as summarized in the Scientific Theories section above.

The song " Creeping Death " by the metal band Metallica deals with the exodus from Egypt and the ten plagues associated with it. The first, sixth, seventh, ninth and tenth plagues are mentioned verbatim.

In the Negro Spiritual When Israel was in Egypt's land , documented in the 19th century, Moses threatens Pharaoh with the tenth plague, the death of all firstborn children, should he not let the people of God go.

See also


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Werner Keller : And the Bible is right . License issue. Naumann and Göbel, Cologne 2000, ISBN 3-625-10515-2 , p. 104ff.
  2. ^ Siro Igino Trevisanato: The Plagues of Egypt. Archeology, History and Science Look at the Bible. Euphrates, Piscataway NJ 2005, ISBN 1-59333-234-3 .
  3. Joachim Friedrich Quack : Are there written sources on the Thera outbreak in Egypt? In: Harald Meller , François Bertemes , Hans-Rudolf Bork , Roberto Risch (eds.): 1600 - Cultural upheaval in the shadow of the Thera outbreak? 4th Central German Archaeological Day from October 14 to 16, 2011 in Halle (Saale) (conferences of the State Museum for Prehistory, Hall 9), Halle 2013, pp. 221-233 ( [1] on archiv.ub.uni-heidelberg.de)
  4. www.visionjournal.de ( Memento from December 19, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  5. www.schimmel-schimmelpilze.de
  6. Barbara J. Sivertsen : The Parting of the Sea: How Volcanoes, Earthquakes, and Plagues Shaped the Story of Exodus . Princeton University Press, 2009, ISBN 978-0-691-13770-4 (online: excerpt from the topic ( Memento from January 22, 2013 in the Internet Archive ))
  7. Newly dated - 100 years are missing from the ancient calendar . Scientists are well ahead of the Santorini eruption. Heidelberg Academy of Sciences, April 27, 2006, accessed on May 2, 2011 .
  8. Walter L. Friedrich: Fire in the sea . The Santorini volcano, its natural history and the legend of Atlantis. 2nd Edition. Spektrum Akademischer Verlag, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-8274-1582-9 , p. 86 .
  9. ^ Friedrich WL, Kromer B., Friedrich M., Heinemeier J., Pfeiffer T., Talamo S. (2006): Santorini eruption radiocarbon dated to 1627–1600 BC. In: Science 312 (5773), pp. 548-548; doi: 10.1126 / science.1125087
  10. Charlotte L. Pearson, Peter W. Brewer, David Brown, Timothy J. Heaton, Gregory WL Hodgins, AJ Timothy Jull: Annual radiocarbon record indicates 16th century BCE date for the Thera eruption. Science Advances. August 15, 2018, Vol. 4, no.8, eaar8241
  11. Volker Jörg Dietrich: Greece in fire - from Prometheus to the fire devil. Summary of the lecture of February 26, 2013, pp. 25–44 PDF; 15.9 MB, 20 pages here pp. 35–39
  12. Věra Klontza-Jaklová: dating disaster of Santorini. Brief summary of the state of the art and prevailing trends. Research and methods from the Mediterranean to Central Europe. Anodos - Supplementum 4, January 2008 13-57.13 ( [2] on researchgate.net)
  13. Eberhard Zangger: A new battle for Troy. Archeology in Crisis. Droemer Knaur, Munich 1994
  14. T. Novikova1, GA Papadopoulos, FW McCoy: Modeling of tsunami generated by the giant Late Bronze Age eruption of Thera, South Aegean Sea, Greece. Geophys. J. Int. (2011) 186, 665–680 doi: 10.1111 / j.1365-246X.2011.05062.x ( [3] on watermark.silverchair.com)
  15. Jakob Steinhardt, The Ten Plagues. Retrieved April 29, 2016 .
  16. Metallica: Creeping Death (lyrics) . LyricWiki , September 26, 2012, accessed April 2, 2013 .