Everything You Need to Know AboutThe Plagues of Egypt & Exodus

While the story is a popular one, you rarely hear people discuss its origins or the actual reason the plagues were brought upon the people of Egypt according to the Bible.

1The Pharaoh was innocent and God murdered people just to show off.

Many falsely blame the Pharaoh for the 10 plagues, saying the suffering was caused because he wouldn’t let free the Hebrews. But according to the Bible, God “hardened his heart” to prevent the Pharaoh from being able to free the slaves.

According to the Bible, in Exodus 10:1, God did this so he could continue to personally torture the innocent citizens of Egypt as a means to show off his powers. It is actually God, not the Pharaoh, who is the incredibly evil villain in this horror story.

And the Lord said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.
Exodus 4:21

And the Lord said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before him:
Exodus 10:1

2This 10 plagues story is not unique to, and pre-dates, the Abraham religion.

The “10 plagues” is a common story. A version of it is in the poem “The Admonitions of Ipuwer” found in the Ipuwer Papyrus, written between 1900-1300 BCE. The later version in Exodus was not written until between 1000-600 BCE.

These two version are almost identical except the Ipuwer Papyrus story is set during the First Intermediate Period (c. 2200-2040 BCE), and the Exodus story is set approximately during 1446 BCE.

IPUWER: Indeed the river is blood, yet man drink of it. Men shrink from human beings and thirst after water.

EXODUS: And all the waters that were in the river were turned into blood… The Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river; and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. (7:20-21)

IPUWER: Indeed, gates, columns, and walls are burnt up… Behold, the fire has gone up on high, and its burning goes forth against the enemies of the land.

EXODUS: The fire ran along upon the ground. (9:23)

IPUWER: Indeed, trees are felled and branches are stripped off.

EXODUS: And the hail smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field. (9:25)

IPUWER: Neither fruit nor herbage can be found… everywhere barley has perished.

EXODUS: And there remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the fields, through all the land of Egypt. (10:15)

IPUWER: The land is not bright because of it.

EXODUS: And there was a thick darkness in all of the land of Egypt. (10:22)

IPUWER: Indeed, all the animals, their hearts weep; cattle moan because of the state of the land.

EXODUS: And all the cattle of Egypt dies. (9:6)

IPUWER: Indeed men are few, and he who places his brother in the ground is everywhere…

EXODUS: And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die… (11:5)

The Ipuwer just mentions that people died, Exodus changes this to make the story about murdering children.

3The story is just an exaggerated account of natural events.

Swarm of locust

What reads to us like a series of escalating plagues brought down by a supernatural force upon Egypt is actually just an exaggerated account of common natural events.

1. Water turned to blood
The water did not turn into blood, it simply became red and resembled blood. The water can naturally turn red when the red soil of Ethiopia washes into it, or through an event known as red tide. Red tide is caused when a large amount of algae accumulates rapidly and release harmful toxins that discolor the water. In the cause of Ipuwer Papyrus, the red tide could have very easily been triggered by the eruption of Santorini.

The volcano was 500 miles north of the Nile delta but its eruption was large enough that its ash would have completely blocked out the sun above the delta plunging it into darkness. This would have been accompanied by the kind of unusual weather seen after volcanic eruptions, lightening and perhaps hail. This would explain two of the 10 plagues, darkness and hail.

2. Frogs
The contaminated water would have caused all the frogs to retreat to the dry lands of Egypt.

3&4. Lice & Flies
The rotting corpses of all the dead frogs and fish washing up on shore from red tide would obviously attract swarms of lice and flies.

5. All livestock were diseased
The abundance of lice and flies, along with the contaminated water and rotting frogs, would spread diseases and sicken the livestock.


6. Boils broke out
Again, disease will travel with flies, lice, and dead frogs lying around.

7. A hailstorm
As previously mentioned the eruption of Santorini would have caused this.

8. Locusts
A massive swarm of locusts is actually a regular thing in Africa and happens about once a year when water from the rare rainfall brings life to new vegetation. The locusts travel downwind and devour all the plant life on the way. These swarms are so massive it usually takes them three hours just to pass by. As recorded in the Encyclopedia Britannica, the swarm of locus in 1889 that flew across the Red Sea was 2,000 square miles in size.

9. A thick darkness
A swarm of locusts would have blocked out the sun and so would the eruption of Santorini.

10. Murdering of all firstborns
The Bible says every single firstborn son, who were too young to be guilty of any crimes, were killed in their sleep. This one actually did not happen, there is no record of such an event in Egypt’s history.

The great exodus

4There was no exodus.

Many don’t realize that the “great exodus” is just a story. There is no historical evidence for the exodus and there was never a great population increase in Israel at the end of the fabled exodus. Surveys of ancient settlements, pottery remains and so forth, make it clear that there was no great influx of people around the time of the exodus story (given variously as between 1500-1200 BCE).

5There were also no Hebrews in Egypt to take part in the exodus, nor be punished by a pharaoh.

Historically the earliest record of Hebrews in Egypt was 2,000 years after the Great Pyramid was completed. They did not build the pyramids, were not slaves, and were not around for the Biblical plagues nor exodus.

The earliest Hebrews in Egypt were soldiers from the Persian Empire, stationed on the Nile island Elephantine around 650 BCE. They fought alongside the pharaoh’s soldiers in the Nubian campaign, and later became the principal trade portal between Egypt and Nubia. Their history is documented in the Elephantine Papyri, discovered in 1903.

Building the pyramids

6Slaves didn't build the pyramid.

It is estimated that 10,000 men built the Great Pyramid over a span of 30 years. Archaeological evidence shows that they lived in good housing at the foot of the pyramid, and when they died, they received honored burials in stone tombs near the pyramid in thanks for their contribution. They also ate well, received medical care, and were well paid.

Egypt had no shortage of labor, especially during the months when there was no work to be done in the fields. The builders were recruited from poor communities and worked shifts of three months, distributing the pharaoh’s wealth out to where it was needed most.


Not only did neither story actually happen, but it’s popularized pseudo-history of ancient Egypt is disrespectful to both Hebrews and Egyptians. It depicts the Hebrews as helpless slaves and Egyptians as evil slave masters. When in fact the earliest Hebrew immigrants were respected allies to the Pharaoh and provided Egypt with a valuable service of both trade and defense.