Archeology in the past 30 years has reduced the historical probability of the Exodus from slim to none. There is not a lick of proof of the destination of Exodus. Even though we should have extensive amounts of evidence of an invasion of Hebrews into Canaan, we have none. No proof for the Exodus itself. We have evidence of nomads crossing the desert, but nothing of 2 million (or 20,000 if you prefer the variant reading) wandering about this area.
We have no proof, no archeological fact, not a single historical writing that the beginning of the Exodus occurred—the Ten Plagues. Using the very familiar “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” Christians often claim that the reason there is no evidence is that the Egyptians would not record these events as embarrassing, or as a cover-up for their incompetence.
The problem is—these events would have too large of an impact--politically, militarily, economically and socially, to have covered them up. Have you ever read the story of the Plagues and thought about the results in the society? Egypt would have been wiped off the map! The Ten Plagues could not have happened as recorded in the book of Exodus.
First of all, the length of time between plagues is not recorded. Did this happen over one year? Did it happen over a period of years? Depending on the convenience of the apologists, opinions differ. The impression given is that this happened in a short period of time. We have seven days between the first and second plague. There is the implication that within the same harvest time some grain is not wiped up, and subsequently it is wiped out. On the other hands, animals keep re-appearing, after having been allegedly killed off on previous plagues, which would imply this was over longer periods of time.
If it happened in a short time, as we will see, all Egyptians would be dead. If over a longer period of time, more archeological evidence and writing would have happened and didn’t. Either proposition is difficult.
Secondly, there is a question as to how far-reaching these plagues were. When it says “every” is that just exaggeration for “quite a bit”? Were they localized? The problem with this proposition is that God intended this to be a demonstration of His glory. A local sickness, killing a few cows, or a bad summer storm would not be remarkable. If the Christian wants this tale to be the jumping-off point for the establishment of Israel, it would have to be more than a few bugs.
To say, “This was so grand that God provided a way for 2 Million people to exit Exodus” and then follow up with “but it wasn’t all that as recorded in the book” is to want one’s cake and eat it too!
Finally, there are substantial reasons to determine these stories are allegories—never happened. For purposes of this particular blog, I am addressing those Christians that hold these were historical facts, and asking them to think about the implications.
Water to Blood The Nile, every stream, every river, every pond, even water stored in vessels turns to blood. 7:19. (All verses from Exodus.)
First of all this would mean the loss of drinking water. The Bible notes this problem. 7:24. How does one transport the water from rivers and streams inland? The effort must be made to dig new wells, then transport it. This could not be done in any short time at all. We still have images of victims of Hurricane Katrina, and the water problem of New Orleans. This is in an industrialized nation, with motor vehicles, planes, boats, and organizations specifically designed to respond to these types of needs. We have stored water, and could transport water from other locations. ALL of the water in Egypt turned to blood. They had no reserves. There would be a loss of life due to dehydration.
Secondly, while there would be alternative drinking sources (milk, juice, even wine) concentration would be placed on re-obtaining water itself. This would bring any industry to a halt, as people would be concentrating on the water problem, and not the work at hand.
But most important would be the loss of marine life. The fish (and other sea creatures) died. 7:21. Later, this will have in impact as to a food source. Environmental water systems, such as rivers, ponds and streams, have a necessary balance. By wiping out all of the fish, this balance would be irrevocably upset. It is not as if the blood turned back to water, and fish all of a sudden re-appeared. They were gone. It would take decades, if ever, for marine life to replenish and re-habit the rivers.
Birds that relied upon the fish for food would migrate or die. Crocodiles that relied upon the birds and fish for food would look to alternative sources. Every creature, dependant on marine life, would find alternatives, leave, or die.
Arguably, this would be enough to cripple Egypt. And we are on the first one!
Frogs, flies, boils and darkness While none of these plagues would be necessarily deadly; they would bring the economy of Egypt to a halt. There would be no building projects. No working in the fields. No fishing (as if there were fish), no transportation, no commerce, no trading. Interspersed among the other plagues, the fact that the nation was immobilized would result in only a few deaths, but would be crippling to its economy.
Anyone caught in the August 2003 blackout of North East America is familiar with how industry can come to an immediate halt. Again, even in an industrialized nation, a little thing like no electricity caused entire states to come to a standstill, and caused a ripple effect across America, regarding transportation and industry. Imagine the results in 15th Century BCE Egypt!
Death of Livestock The beginning of the terrible plagues. Every Egyptian cow, horse, donkey, oxen, camel and sheep are killed. This would cause devastating problems in a variety of areas. In transportation, every thing would have to be done on foot. Any heavy lifting or tilling of the ground would come to a standstill. The bodies would have to be buried (under dead frog carcasses, if they were still around).
But most importantly would be the loss of meat. While the Egyptians could live on grains, fruits and stores, animals would be necessary for protein input. (Don’t forget, we already lost all our fish.) Wild game would be the only option, and would start to be hunted with a vengeance.
There are no babies to grow into the next generation of animals, no cycle of life happening. The Egyptians would be forced to turn to outside sources to obtain new animals—both fully grown, as well as young to replenish the stock.
At this point, we would see a huge influx of Egyptian goods being traded to outside countries for their animals. An outpouring of gold, weapons, pottery, farm goods, rope, anything to replace these animals. While there would already be some trafficking of animals, nothing on the scale to provide animals for all of Egypt! Traders would be desperately attempting to get animals from neighboring countries, to sell to the Egyptians for ten times the price.
This is not a matter of weeks, or months, but rather years to attempt to replace a portion of these animals. Imagine being an Egyptian farmer in the interior of Egypt, and you just lost 10 sheep. How do you replace them? By the time you walk to the border, every other person has arrived before you, bartering for sheep. The price is exorbitant; more than you can ever afford. Within a day or two, there are no longer any sheep even for sale.
But you hear a rumor of more sheep coming in. So you wait a week. As more traders come in, more people arrive, and the princely sums paid the first days appear to be bargains now. Another week, another week. Every sheep is snatched up if even a bleat is heard. Egyptians start traveling farther to cut-off the traders.
After a few months, you realize that you will not be able to afford sheep this year. No more coming in, all have been bought. You go back and hope for next year. Or the year after that, maybe. But you probably won’t live that long—look what is coming next.
Hail Wipes out many of the animals that were just obtained from other countries, some servants, and much of the crops. 9:25. Again, the prices of animals would skyrocket from already unobtainable prices. Traders already completely depleted would see repeat customers begging for more.
Other nations could not help salivating at the ripe plum Egypt had become for capture. Extremely diminished, if any cavalry. No chariots to speak of. People desperate. Rioting over a caught sparrow. All efforts concentrating on survival, not production.
And for the animals that are left, what do you feed them? People have no meat, and now have no grain to eat. Stealing would be rampant. Any laws would break down at this point, and enforcement would be impossible. Stores would be rampaged and emptied. The officials indicate how bad this is by claiming that Egypt is destroyed. 10:7
Now the traders would be aware that it was grain that was in high demand. All the animal auction tents would be immediately converted to grain auction tents. The prices would go up.
And people would starve.
Locusts A killer. Every single plant is gone; nothing green is left. 10:15. (Note: this would have done within the same harvest as the hail. 10:12)
The few animals left would have nothing to eat. They would die. What would the people eat? There is no marine life. No wild animals now. No cattle, sheep, or even pigeons. But more importantly, no grain. No fruits. No vegetables.
The only food source possible would be from outside sources or roots dug up. The riches of Egypt, gold statutes, gold plates, weapons, anything of value would literally pour out of Egypt. Due to the amounts that could be charged for just a handful of wheat, the poor would die. The rich would soon be the poor.
Those in the interior of Egypt would not have access to the trading from other countries. They would be limited by transportation. Traders at the exterior of Egypt could not get stores from nearby countries fast enough to keep people from starving. We would see a mass migration away from Egypt at this point—people leaving to go into any other country just to eat grass and live.
Reflect where we are at. There was a lack of water for a period, causing dehydration. Then frogs, gnats and boils, causing sickness, and limiting commerce. A loss of animals, causing a loss of food source, and significant transportation problems. Any animals replaced are killed. All vegetation wiped out. No food, sickness about, weakness within the people the social structure, the economy, the military and economy.
Tenth Plague The firstborn of every family dies. Including the firstborn of the livestock. (Where do these animals keep coming from? And to the point of having firstborns?) Every single home in Egypt has someone die. 12:30.
This would be completely demoralizing. We have had mass deaths already from sickness and starvation. An additional death in every household. The nation would crumble. Frankly, taken literally, I would not see how there would be that many people even alive in Egypt at this point, as it was.
Oddly, the book records that the Hebrews asked the Egyptians for gold, silver and clothing, and since the Egyptians were favored toward the Hebrews, they just gave it up. 12:35-36. After reading what the plagues were doing, does this make any sense at all?
Army wiped out Although technically not a plague, it is an important event that happened immediately on the heels of these national tragedies, that would further demonstrate how Egypt would no longer be in existence if the Plagues happened as recorded.
Pharaoh pursues the Hebrews with all of his army, all the chariots and horsemen (where DO those horses keep coming from?), and his captains. 14:9. And they are wiped out. 14:28.
At this point, there is no military defense to a crippled nation. Remember, the Philistines were right next door, and were so warlike not even YHWH wanted to take them on. 13:17. And to top this all off, the Egyptians lose a slave labor force.
Can anyone take this literally? We have massive death, economic ruin, military exterminated, society destroyed, and yet what do we see when reviewing the Egyptian history? Nothing. Not a thing. Not a blip, not a burp, not even a hiccup. No massive graves. Egyptian goods stay in Egypt. The military remains a powerful force. Marine life, harvest, livestock all remain as they were.
Even assuming the Egyptians desired to eliminate the history by not recording it, the effects would be evident. If God did it to demonstrate his Glory, then he immediately removed all traces of it happening. Removed all the bodies. Replaced all the animals. Took the gold/silver from the traders and replaced it in Egyptian coffers. Restored the military. Re-established the society.
Is that what Christians are saying happened? A miracle that, once recorded in people’s minds, all effects were miraculously removed?
OR, is it more likely this is a story. A legend. In stories and legends, we don’t have to worry about the effects. We can introduce animals, or remove animals as necessary. We can “wipe out an entire crop” and not worry about what the actual results of such actions would be. It is a story.