What are the Ten Plagues of Passover or 10 Plagues of Pesach ?
Note: Regarding all dates on this Ten Plagues / 10 Plagues web page, see the footnote near the bottom of this web page.
What Was The Purpose Of The 10 Plagues Of Passover?
The 10 Passover Plagues (Shemot or Exodus 7:14 - Shemot or Exodus 12:42) served as a statement by the G-d of the Hebrews to the Egyptians that the power of the One, True, purely spiritual G-d was far greater than any of the multiple G-ds of the Egyptians, including the Pharaoh or King of Egypt, who was believed by the Egyptians to be half-G-d and half-man. To demonstrate this, G-d unleashed the following 10 Plagues on Pharaoh and the Egyptian people in order to teach them lessons in humanity. All except the 3rd, 6th, and 9th plagues were announced to the Pharaoh by Moses on orders from G-d.
Except for the 3rd, 6th, and 9th plagues - which happened without the Pharaoh's knowledge - Moses attempted to persuade the Pharaoh to free the Hebrews from slavery to leave Egypt, but the Pharaoh initially refused to let the Hebrews go. The Pharaoh saw that it was very hard for him to free the Hebrews since at that time they provided a much-needed source of labor for maintaining and expanding the Egyptian economy and empire. Moses warned the Pharaoh that G-d would bring about a plague that would devastate the Egyptian economy and people which would have far worse consequences than if the Hebrews were not serving as slaves to maintain the economy. From the Pharaoh's point-of-view, the combination of a willingness to remove an essential source of labor and viewing himself as a deity on Earth - since Pharaohs were considered a deity on Earth in ancient Egyptian society - outweighed his belief that a plague would be far worse for the Egyptian economy and his political stability as a result. Consequently, Moses could not persuade Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go, and so G-d wanted to show Pharaoh and the Egyptian people that they were simply visitors in their land and did not control it; only G-d controlled all the land and bodies of water on Earth. G-d also wanted to show Pharaoh and the Egyptian people what it was like to be slaves to each of the 10 plagues in their "own land", so as to experience the hardships that the Hebrews were experiencing under Pharaoh's rule.
How was G-d going to demonstrate His superiority over the Pharaoh? G-d provided one such example of His superiority by instructing Moses to tell his brother Aaron in the presence of the Pharaoh to throw down his staff so that it would transform into a viper, and it did, but Pharaoh's magicians were able to re-create the same phenomenon by throwing down their staffs as well, whererupon they transformed into vipers. At that point, I would've run out of the room screaming if I was there and saw that, but that's another story for another website. However, Aaron's staff then swallowed up all the other staffs (I think I can hear G-d saying: "Gotcha!"). This event is told in Shemot or Exodus, Chapter 7. Although the first two plagues were demonstrated to Pharaoh, his magicians were able to re-create the same miracles, and so the Pharaoh said to Moses - perhaps in colloquial ancient Egyptian - "Dude, around here we rule!". Seriously, the Pharaoh was not impressed as a result of his magicians being able to match G-ds' feat and so he remained steadfast in his decision to keep the Hebrews as his slaves. However, when G-d unleashed the 3rd plague of lice, the Pharaoh's magicians could not reproduce this miracle (why would they really want to? In my opinion, two plagues were bad enough already. Think of the drop in property values.) The magicians then declared to the Pharaoh: "It is the finger of G-d" (or "It is G-ds' retribution" as the Egyptian occultists may also have been saying). However, Pharaoh was still steadfast in his refusal to let the Hebrews go. Plague after subsequent plague then occured and each time Pharaoh saw the destruction each plague caused and promised to let the Hebrews go, but as soon as the plague stopped, Pharaoh changed his mind and prohibited the Hebrews from leaving Egypt. Finally, after the 10th and final plague, the Death of the FirstBorn Son in each Egyptian family (or male member if there was no FirstBorn son), Pharaoh let the Hebrews leave Egypt, but even after they left Egypt, Pharaoh once again changed his mind and sent the Egyptian army out into the Sinai desert to recapture the Hebrews, which ultimately led to disaster for the Egyptian army at the Red Sea when G-d commanded Moses to strike his staff on the Sea which led to a "parting" (or tunnel openings) of the Red Sea for the Hebrews to cross. When the Hebrews reached the opposite shore, G-d then commanded Moses to strike the staff again on the Red Sea as the Egyptian army pursued them by following the Hebrews into the Red Sea. The waters came together, drowning the Egyptian army and the Hebrews were saved.
Prior to all these plagues, G-d had predicted that Pharaoh would prove to be hard-hearted and would ultimately change his mind after each plague occurred, either because his magicians equalled the feat as in the case of the first two plagues, or after subsequent plagues, simply because he may have thought giving the Hebrews their freedom would jeopardize the Egyptian economy which depended on the fruits of slave labour to function normally and hence maintain political stability for the Pharaoh. So why was Pharaoh so stubborn, even after all these plagues would have dropped the value of the ancient Egyptian currency down to zero? Surely the economy was already in chaos after all these plagues! What was happening here was that G-d was gradually making the Pharaoh and Egyptians in general realize that it was only when Pharaoh agreed to let the Hebrews go that the plague which was destroying the land of Egypt stopped, but a new and different plague started each time Pharaoh changed his mind and ordered the Hebrews to return to Egypt to work as his slaves. This was G-d's way of eventually getting the Pharaoh and Egyptians to realize that there was only only one true G-d who was all-powerful over everything and who knew everything that occurred and would occur in the past, present, and future!
When Did The Ten Plagues Take Place?
According to Jewish tradition, the Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt following the 10th and final Plague took place on 15 Nissan, 2448 or March 25, 1313 B.C.E.
Two sources in Jewish religious literature mention the time when the 10 Plagues took place:
(1) According to the oldest record of Jewish chronology, the Seder Olam Rabbah, by Rabbi Jose ben Halafta (or Rabbi Yose ben Halafta, a 2nd century C.E. student of Rabbi Akiva and a "Tannah" I.E. a rabbi whose views are recorded in the Mishnah of the Talmud), in Chapter 3, it states that the plagues took 12 months, beginning in the Hebrew month of Iyar (or Iyyar) the year before the Exodus I.E. 1314 B.C.E., with a hiatus after the first plague of blood, and continuing through until the Hebrew month of Nisan (or Nissan) whereupon the Exodus occurred.
(2) According to Rabbeinu Bachya Ibn Pakudah [full name: Bahya ben Joseph ibn Pakuda, known to Talmud scholars (in Hebrew) as the Rabbeinu Bechaya, meaning "Our Teacher (I.E. Rabbeinu or Rabbi) Behaya", was a Jewish philosopher and rabbi who lived in Saragossa, Spain, in the first half of the 11th century. As a leading Talmudic scholar, he was an expert in ethics and philosophy. He also composed many poems that were introduced into the liturgy.], the first plague of blood began on the 1st of the Hebrew month of Av 2447, and continued one plague per month with darkness on the 1st of Nissan in 2448, culminating with the 10th and final plague of the death of the first-born 2 weeks later. Thus, based on the two aforementioned references from Jewish religious literature, the plagues began anywhere between seven and a half months to one year prior to the Exodus. In other words they began sometime in 1314 B.C.E.
Footnote regarding the dates on this Ten Plagues / 10 Plagues web page: all dates discussed on this website are based on the modern Gregorian calendar, however, these dates are but one secular scholarly deduction; there are many other secular scholarly deductions as well as traditional Jewish chronological dates in addition to modern Hebrew/Jewish calendar dates regarding the timeline of events in Jewish history. To see a table of some important events in Jewish history discussed on this website and their various dates deduced from traditional Jewish sources, the modern Hebrew/Jewish calendar, and secular historical timelines, check out our Jewish History Timeline web page.