Science has constantly tried to explain the ten plagues that struck Egypt. Were they divine punishments or natural phenomena?
According to the Bible, the god Yahweh unleashed ten plagues to free the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt. But, before they could embark on the journey led by Moses, the people had to be freed by the Pharaoh, who refused to grant them freedom. It is said that God unleashed a total of ten plagues until the Pharaoh changed his mind. These plagues have been narrated in several ancient writings, and scholars, historians, and scientists have been keen to discover the truth behind their tempest. Some research attempts to unravel the explanation behind the ten plagues of Egypt and believe they have possible answers.
According to scientists, natural phenomena could be hidden behind the storms that struck Egypt at that time. Biologist Siro Trevisanato, in his book The Plagues of Egypt: an Archaeological, Historical, and Scientific View of the Bible, offers a scientifically based explanation. According to him, it was actually the Thera volcano that triggered this series of storms.
Moses struck the Nile River with his rod, unleashing the fist plague: turning its waters into blood. After this happened, "the fish of the Nile died, and the Nile stank so that the Egyptians could not drink its water," says the Bible.
But the sudden appearance of reddish waters in the Nile could have been caused by the ashes of the Thera that acidified the river, turning its waters red. At least so concludes Trevisanato, who argues that, in fact, sediments of volcanic origin have been found at the bottom of lakes that make up the Nile Delta. But there is another theory that the reddish waters may have been caused by red algae blooms such as Haematococcus Pluvialis and Euglena sanguine.
The second plague consisted of enormous quantities of frogs that swarmed in the homes of ancient Egypt. With this one, researchers have two versions of what could have happened. Giving continuity to the eruption of the Thera volcano, a theory claims that due to the contamination of the waters, the frogs abandoned their home and sought refuge out of the water. Also, it is believed that the algae also caused the exit of these amphibians from the water causing the death of hundreds of fish.
Imbalance and chain reaction
From here, a series of events would occur as a chain reaction. The abandonment of the frogs from their natural habitat would also have caused an imbalance in the food chain. Recall that frogs feed on insects, so if there are no frogs in the waters, the surrounding insects would spread more easily. Thus, the third plague would arrive; the infestation of lice and fleas. According to the Hebrew word for this third plague, 'Keenum' could mean lice, fleas, or mosquitoes.
The fourth plague is interpreted as a horde of wild animals, although according to recent research, it could have been a swarm of stable flies Stomoxys calcitrans. The bite of these flies, in turn, could have unleashed the fifth plague; the massive deaths of livestock animals.
A pandemic more common than expected
The sixth plague presented itself in the form of painful phlegmons on human skin and was most likely an outbreak of smallpox. There is evidence that smallpox has been attacking Egyptian communities for at least 3,000 years. This is known from scars found on mummies dating from that period.
Later, the seventh plague struck Egypt with heavy hail accompanied by thunder and lightning. But volcanoes appear again at this stage of history to explain the plagues of Egypt. A volcanic eruption some 3,500 years ago on Santorini may explain the appearance of the dramatic hailstorm. Possibly the volcanic ash was mixed with large thunderstorms over Egypt.
Locusts, the eighth plague, then made their appearance, encouraged by the environmental conditions created by the volcanic eruption. And then, darkness reigned because the sky blackened by volcanic ash as described by the ninth plague.
Finally, the tenth and last storm that struck the Egyptian people was the death of the firstborn. Moses tells the Pharaoh that all the firstborn will perish. Perhaps the red algae bloom released mycotoxins and poisonous substances that lodged in the cereal grains, contaminating them. The firstborn could have been the first to gather the harvest and feed on it, thus fall victim to the mycotoxins, perishing along the way.
Text and photos courtesy of Ecoosfera