The First Three Plagues

Exodus 7:14-8:15

At this point, the suffering of Egypt begins. God sends plague after plague against the Egyptians, demanding that the Israelites be permitted to serve God in the desert.

 

A number of patterns emerge throughout the plagues, revealing their grouping by threes. The first plague, blood, is accompanied by a warning at the banks of the Nile. The warning for the second plague, frogs, is given in Pharaoh’s palace. Pharaoh receives no warning whatsoever for the third plague, translated in the Israel Bible as gnats, but commonly known as lice. This warning pattern is repeated throughout the next six plagues (more about the tenth plague next week).

 

At first, the Egyptian magicians are able to duplicate the plagues, turning fresh water into blood and producing their own frogs. However, they are not able to recreate the lice, acknowledging for the first time that “this is the finger of God”.

 

The Israel Bible explains that the Nile is targeted for the first two plagues, blood and frogs, because it was the lifeblood of the Egyptian economy. Unlike Israel, which relies on rain for water and sustenance, Egypt depends on the Nile for its water (see Deuteronomy 11). When the Egyptians finally acknowledge God’s power with the plague of lice, His purpose — being recognized throughout the land — begins to be fulfilled.

 

Virtual Classroom Discussion

Sages and scholars throughout the centuries have discussed the symbolic meanings of the various plagues. Can you suggest why these particular plagues might have been sent against Pharaoh and his people? Why blood? Frogs? Gnats/lice? If we assume that God is sending punishments that fit the crime, why might He have chosen these plagues to punish the Egyptians?

 

Comments ( 11 )

The comments below do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and opinions of The Israel Bible™.

  • Plague one: water( of the Nile) turns into blood. The Nile is the life-spring of Egypt.
    Plague two: frogs from the Nile. From the river of life came these harmless but horrible creatures
    Plague three:Lice (gnats) Gnats turn up especially after rain. The gnat-eggs develop in water – the imago of the gnat comes out of it and needs blood of mammals and men., so it harms men and animals.
    These three , just as all the other plagues, that will follow, are directed against the idols the Egyptians worshipped (see the sedermeal celebration) It is as if HaShem does say: in MY hands is the life of Egypt. “In the blood is life”.

  • Drew

    In addition, Moses has skillfully woven the sources into three triads, each with a consistent pattern, followed by a capstone tenth plague. In introducing the first plague of each triad, God tells Moses the main lesson that triad will teach (7.17; 8.18; 9.14). The first two plagues of each triad are preceded by warnings to Pharaoh, while the third is not. Before the first plague in each group God sends Moses to Pharaoh in the morning, saying “station yourself before [Pharaoh],” and before the second he says “Go to Pharaoh” without specifying the time of day. All the plagues in the first triad are brought on by an action of Aaron; in the second triad, the first two are brought about directly by God and the third by Moses; in the third triad, all are brought on by an action of Moses.

    • Drew

      First three everyone is affected, then only the Egyptians. God is now really showing who is running the show.
      Thanks to whoever put the text down the bottom in Hebrew and English 🙂

      • Kenneth

        WOW. I agree this is great. I had not noticed this before. What is particularly important to me, I can now use my browser to read the Israel Bible and the associated comments and zoom larger print.

  • Mary

    The first plague is a most solemn warning form God to Egypt, giving a clear warning intimating plainly the doom awaiting those who defy the Almighty. Blood out of the body means death. Because of taking the fruit of the tree of knowledge, man became deadened. The Egyptians have built their empire outside of God’s choosing and are under strange gods. They depended on the Nile River for their economy, culture, and religion. Turning to blood shows they are depending on death in reality. Israel depends on the blessings of God for their sustenance.
    The frog was an object of worship among the Egyptians. They are ugly in shape, slimy feeling, croak in noise, and have a disagreeable smell making them peculiarly obnoxious. The abounding numbers point to the severity of this judgment. Because they were invading their homes, they were in their beds and in their cooking utensils. Their homelife now is invaded with God’s judgment.
    This third plague actually is a blow against their pampered bodies. We go from their living source, to their living quarters, and now to their persons as judgment. The dust is what we all return to through death. It is amazing that these lice sprang into life, which feed on your blood and stay on your clothes. Genesis 3:17 “Cursed is the ground for your sake.” Genesis 3:19 “For dust you are, and unto dust shall you return”. It shows man is under the curse by a holy God. Going back to the snake in the beginning, “You shall die,” there are agents in the unseen world which work to take us down in death. Death is our enemy! The magicians are impotent as we all are. They can tamper in their magical arts with blood and frogs all in uncleanness through God’s permission, but the Curse is beyond their ability and not given by God’s permission to them.
    To sum up, this is noteworthy to praise God: “Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God” (8:19). These are their last recorded words. We will see in the end they are obliged in recognizing the hand of God against them and their gods.

    • Hi Mary! Thanks for joining the discussion. I think your ideas here are so interesting.

    • Thank you Mary, this too is helpful.

  • Magda

    Water in blood: being independent of rainfall, Egyptians do not realize their dependence on G-d, therefore He strikes the Nile – their water source and thus key to agricultural and thus economic success (Israel Bible comment); Frogs: It also demonstrated that the Egyptian god, the River, was powerless against God. the River itself produced the frogs and the second plague thus demonstrated that it was also under God’s power (Malbim) (Stone Edition Chumash) Lice: The magicians of Pharao couldn’t use their demons – through whom they could reproduce the 1st 2 plagues, to reproduce the lice as they had no power over such tiny creatures, thus the magicians had to admit that Moses and Aharon didn’t use magic to perform these feats, but as agents as God (Rashi, Sanhedrin 67b) These plagues also infested ALL over Egypt – ALL the dust became lice, ALL the water turned into blood and the frogs were ALL over – another way in which Ha Shem affirmed his power over ALL.

    • This concept of God affirming his power over ALL is quite powerful, and strengthens the idea that God is using this opportunity to show the world that He is the God of the entire world and everything in it.

  • Drew

    Every plague was an attack on one of the gods

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