What are the Ten Plagues ?
The Ten Plagues are known in Hebrew as "Eser HaMakot" or "Eser Ha-Makot" and are also known as The Plagues of Egypt; in Hebrew: "Makot Mitzrayim".
In the Exodus from Egypt story, also known as the Passover story or Pesach story, G-d unleashed a series of 10 Plagues in Egypt as a way of gaining the absolute faith in the Hebrews to G-d that G-d would free them from political and physical slavery in Egypt since the Hebrews had been in Egypt for 210 years and as slaves anywhere from 116 years to 86 years before their Exodus from Egypt and as a result, were exposed to and were tempted to worship the various G-ds of the Egyptians. To achieve this goal, G-d wanted to show both the Hebrews and the Pharaoh (King) of Egypt that the Pharaoh was powerless against the One True G-d who was not only more powerful than the Pharaoh - believed to be part-G-d and part-human in Egypt - and more powerful than any of the multiple Egyptian Idol G-ds, but omnipresent as well. But why so many plagues? Why not just one plague? G-ds' purpose for striking Egypt with a series of ten plagues was to continuously punish the Egyptians for their centuries-long oppression of the Hebrews as well as to demonstrate to all - both Hebrew and Egyptian alike - the invincible power of the One True G-d over Egypt, a world power at that time, and their multiple G-ds (Shemot or Exodus 12:12; Bamidbar or Numbers 33:4) so that it would be talked about for generations (Yehoshua or Joshua 2:9-11; 9:9; Yeshiyahu or Isaiah 4:8; 6:6). How did G-d do this? Each time G-d sent a plague, Pharaoh saw the almighty power and promised to let the Hebrews go to worship and pray in the desert, but soon after, G-d hardened Pharaoh's heart, and so Pharaoh changed his mind and refused to let the Hebrews go. This culminated in the 10th and final plague, when Pharaoh finally let the Hebrews go. Although Pharaoh ultimately changed his mind for a 10th and final time after the Hebrews had left Egypt, his army was eventually defeated when they drowned in the "Sea of Reeds" or the "Reed Sea" ("Yam Suf" in Hebrew), also by an act of G-d through Moses' taking his rod or staff in hand and stretching it over the waters of the sea, causing the parted walls of the "Sea of Reeds" or the "Reed Sea" to be brought together again while the Egyptian army was crossing through the sea in pursuit of the Hebrews, who had crossed through the parted walls after Moses had taken his rod or staff in hand and stretched it over the sea, making a splitting motion to part it. By defeating the G-ds of Egypt, G-d showed the Hebrews that G-d could be trusted to free them from political and physical oppression, and so the faith of the Hebrews in the One True G-d was strengthened as a result, and they became less tempted to turn to worshipping the G-ds of the Egyptians, who were shown to be weaker than the One True G-d.
How did the story of the 10 Plagues begin? In Shemot or Exodus 5:1-9, 7:8-13, G-d commanded Moses - leader of the Hebrews - and his older brother Aaron to go to Pharaoh and demand that the Hebrews be permitted to leave Egypt in order to observe a holiday of prayer and worship to their G-d. When Pharaoh heard this, he initially refused to let the Hebrews go, and so Moses and Aaron left the court of the Pharaoh. However, G-d sent Moses and Aaron back to Pharaoh's court to show Pharaoh a warning: the turning of the staff that Aaron held into a serpent. However, Pharaoh had two sorcerers (also known as either wizards or magicians) who were also adept at turning their staffs into serpents, but then Aaron's serpent swallowed the two serpents of the sorcerers and then turned back into a staff. What followed was the series of ten plagues that were meant to achieve the ultimate goal of political and physical freedom for the Hebrews and a stronger faith in the power of the One True G-d in the eyes of the Hebrews by seeing G-d defeat the Egyptian G-ds and the Pharaoh, a semi-G-d.
In Shemot or Exodus Chapters 7 to 11 inclusive, all the 10 Plagues are told. In a nutshell, the 10 Passover Plagues were as follows:
An alternate interpretation of the types of 10 Plagues that were unleashed by G-d are as follows, along with the same aforementioned references in the biblical Book of Shemot or Exodus, respectively: