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The Ten Plagues of Egypt

 
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kmt_sesh
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2005 3:34 am    Post subject: The Ten Plagues of Egypt Reply with quote

Isisinacrisis and I were discussing the 10 plagues and I thought it might be a useful one to bring to the forum for everyone else to debate. Most of the Old Testament, including the Exodus, was not put into formal writing until around the 6th Century BCE, in the ancient Judaic kingdom of Judah. As great biblical scholars such as Dever and Finkelstein relate to us, the Old Testament was a formal recording of much more ancient fables, myths, and laws used to help establish the theocratic legitimacy of the early Judaic kings.

I mean not to offend anyone by presenting the secular history of the Bible. To me it detracts in no way from this tome, which is still the greatest literary work in the history of mankind. What I hope to do here is just present a more historical explanation for the 10 plagues. As isisinacrisis and I were discussing, all but one of the plagues are easily explained as entirely natural events. Let's look a little closer--you'll notice that I take them out of order just a bit to make them more sensical:

Plague 1: An excess of sediment in the flooding Nile has been known to render it almost blood red. Some of these sediments and minerals, in excessive concentrations, would be toxic and pose a health threat.

Plague 2: Amphibians such as frogs would have no choice but to escape the Nile to avoid poisoning, and head toward land en masse.

Plague 5: Cattle and other livestock drank from the same water, and so it's logical that many of them died from the toxicity of the sediment-choked Nile.

Plagues 3 & 4: With all these rotting carcasses lying about, it's no wonder there were armies of gnats and flies. When a body (human or otherwise) is left to putrefy in the open, insects are the first to come.

Plague 6: Diseases were commonplace in ancient Egypt, as is evident in their plethora of spells and charms to ward off sickness, and epidemics rose and fell throughout the entire dynastic period, so an outbreak of something like leprosy, the black death, or especially anthrax (the most likely epidemic in this case, many historians believe) must have terrified people.

Plague 7: Egypt is a very arid environment and has been one of the driest places on earth for thousands of years. Still, every ten years or so, stretching back into antiquity, even the deserts of Egypt were known to suffer torrential rainstorms. Imagine how shocking such flooding and thundering and even hailing would have been to the population. It would be long remembered.

Plague 8: An agrarian society, Egypt depended on its farming, and as any agrarian people know, there's always the potential for swarms of plant-devouring insects such as locusts. These little critters in ancient times could devour whole crops and send an entire population into a season of famine.

Plague 9: The eruption of Santorini in 1650 BCE that wiped out the Minoan civilization on Crete is known to have spread volcanic ash all the way from Turkey in the north to northern Africa in the south, and certainly much of the sky must have seemed blotted out; this otherworldly darkness must have seemed an ominous omen to the ancient peoples of that region.

Plague 10: Of all the plagues, only the death of the first born cannot be easily explained away. This may be the remnant of memory of some particularly nasty epidemic that did much worse than kill only the first born of most families, or, more likely, an embellished account of such an epidemic for the sake of literary emphasis.

Mind you, this theory is not mine alone. I am merely recounting what numerous historians believe today. I find it quite credible, and these events that "plagued" Egypt down through time were perfect fodder for the Judaic scribes of much later times to weave their fable. I think they did a tremendous job. After all, plenty of people today still believe that the 10 plagues of Egypt were fact, not fiction. I tend to disagree with them, that's all.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2005 11:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I never knew about toxic sediments in the Nile-usually those silts were very beneficial to the land. Unless it was a really huge concentration perhaps? It does explain the frogs, insects, diseases though-it's like a 'chain reaction' of one leading to another.

Does anyone remember last year there was a huge locust plague in Egypt? Many people said it was of biblical proportions but the locusts didn't feed voraciously as they usually do, so it wasn't destructive.

I have heard somewhere that the 10th plague may have been a metaphor for someone murdering the pharaoh's son, or a plot to do so? I can't remember exactly the details of this though...
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 18, 2005 1:24 am    Post subject: Volcanic plagues Reply with quote

Ash fall from an eruption could have turned the Nile red as well as iron-rich sediments. It would have the same dove-tail effect as well.

One suggestion for the flaming hail is a pumice fall - stones falling like hail but very hot because they were recently molten and erupted from a volcano.


In the 1970s the eruption of Santorini was a very popular as a possible cause of the plagues of Egypt, as well as the parting of the Red Sea. Alas, the timing is all wrong as modern age-dating shows that eruption was in the range of 1630-1670 BC (as I recall). This is too early if we assume the Exodus took place during the reign of Ramses II.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 18, 2005 2:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Ash fall from an eruption could have turned the Nile red as well as iron-rich sediments. It would have the same dove-tail effect as well.

One suggestion for the flaming hail is a pumice fall - stones falling like hail but very hot because they were recently molten and erupted from a volcano.


I hadn't considered that, but it's a very believable scenario, Diorite. Any excess in the buildup of minerals and sediments can render water unsafe to live in or to drink, but the corruption from volcanic debris is equally plausible.

Quote:
Alas, the timing is all wrong as modern age-dating shows that eruption was in the range of 1630-1670 BC (as I recall). This is too early if we assume the Exodus took place during the reign of Ramses II.


Bear in mind the dating of the Exodus to the time of Ramesses II comes from only one source: the Bible. More recent and advanced research argues for the time of his son and successor, Merenptah. In truth the Exodus has been placed in numerous periods in Egypt because all we have to go by is the chronology of the ancient Near East as gleaned from Biblical writings. It's a dubious proposition from the start, but for the sake of Biblical argument, it's all we have...which is another reason I doubt the veracity of the Exodus to begin with. Evidence for it exists nowhere but in the Old Testament.

The span of dates you provided, Diorite, for the Santorini eruption (though I think you meant to write 1670-1630 BCE) places this catastrophic event squarely within the Egyptian Second Intermediate Period, the very period dominated by the Hyksos. And that's very interesting to me.

We've discussed the Hyksos numerous times at Egyptian Dreams. This strange word is simply a later corruption of the Egyptian hk3 kh3swt, which means "foreign rulers." The Hyksos were Canaanites (or Western Asiatics if you prefer) who had been migrating to northern Egypt for quite a long time, and were gaining power and position at a time when Egypt itself was weakening and its government fracturing internally. The Hyksos remained in Lower Egypt and ruled from their capital at Avaris, but never controlled all of Egypt; a separate line of native rulers reigned at Thebes, in Upper Egypt.

The Hyksos were finally violently driven out at the close of the 17th Dynasty, after which dawned the New Kingdom. I mention all this because, to me, it ties in neatly with the Santorini event and the entire fable of the 10 plagues. It's my own belief (and not mine alone, of course) that the Exodus is a much-later Judaic retelling and extensive revision of the Hyksos occupation and expulsion. There's no evidence that the Hyksos were Hebrews, but they were from the same part of the Near East, and as the Judaic kingdom rose to power much later, no doubt there were remnants in the stories and legends of these people of the events of the Egyptian Second Intermediate Period. The Judaic rulers who commissioned the writing of the Pentateuch, of which the Exodus is part, drew upon these events for their own agenda.

This is all probably better suited to a thread all its own. I've been considering writing one about the Hyksos and the Exodus. Suffice it to say that the date given by material from the Bible for the Exodus is hardly rock-solid.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 18, 2005 11:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have heard that the Nile would have been contaminated with volcanic ash which would have rendered it toxic-but isn't volcanic ash grey, not red? Unless it was a combination of both ash and red soils from floods?

And the pumice hail theory makes sense too. Apparently the Santorini eruption was much bigger than the big Krakatoa eruption which is considered to be one of the most destructive in history. So it must have been one hell of a cataclysm...

I know that the dates of the Exodus are hotly debated and it's a controversial topic-but the dates that kmt-sesh mentioned seem to make sense. It's a fascinating subject, discussing all this...
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 18, 2005 7:15 pm    Post subject: Ash Reply with quote

Quote:
I have heard that the Nile would have been contaminated with volcanic ash which would have rendered it toxic-but isn't volcanic ash grey, not red? Unless it was a combination of both ash and red soils from floods?


It depends on the composition of the ash, in particular it's iron content. Most ash we see is white to gray, but when oxidized, it can turn bright red. I've seen white ash baked to bright red by an overlying lava flow. I presume that an iron-rich ash could very easily be oxidized in the Nile and turn red as well.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 18, 2005 7:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mind you, that is true. When i last went to a volcano (on an island near Mauritius-it's a very active one too) I did indeed see some solidified lava which had a brown-reddish tint...I even took a bit home with me, but I can't remember where I've put it now.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 19, 2005 2:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

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Apparently the Santorini eruption was much bigger than the big Krakatoa eruption which is considered to be one of the most destructive in history.


Santorini was a massive eruption. It decimated the Minoan civilization. Check out the first graphic on the page to which the link below will bring you:

http://volcano.und.nodak.edu/vwdocs/volc_images/europe_west_asia/santorini.html

That was the site of the eruption. Those spits of islands you see on the pretty map used to part of a much-larger island mass, reduced to rubble by the eruption. Geological as well as archaeological examinations of Thera and its neighboring islands have revealed how extensive and dstructive the Santorini event was.

On a side note, as I too often do in our discussions Very Happy , I have a book by Rodney Castleden called Disney Land Destroyed (Routledge, 1998) that expands on a theory first put forward early in the 20th Century. Castleden explains that Plato's mythical Disney Land very possibly was none other than Minoan Thera. We've all heard that many myths have some kernel of truth, and archaeological excavations on Thera show numerous similarities between the very advanced Minoan civilization that once thrived there and Plato's Disney Land.

Okay, back to our regularly shcedule program on the 10 plagues...
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