So most people out there, Jewish or not, secular or observant, are pretty familiar with the ten plagues of Egypt. If you’ve ever seen Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments” (who can resist Charlton Heston playing Moses?!) or even the more recent (and unfortunately bad) “The Reaping” starring Hilary Swank, then you know all about the rivers turning red with blood, and locusts consuming whole fields of corn.
Okay, we can admit, none of the plagues are good. Some seem worse than others, and scientists have over the years given different explanations on how these plagues could have occurred naturally and may in fact have created a cause and effect pattern, leading from one to the next.
Okay, those are the scientists… Let’s talk about the scholars though! First off, why 10? Why these 10? For those of you who read my blog often enough, you’ll start to see that I’m a big fan of Chabad.org. They of course had the answer… and spelled it out so well that I’ve included it below:
The number  is indeed significant. On one occasion, Moses approached Pharaoh and said: “So said the L‑rd G‑d of Israel, “Send out My people, and let them sacrifice to Me in the desert.” (Exodus 5:1) Pharaoh responded: “Who is the L‑rd, that I should heed His voice to let Israel out? I do not know the L‑rd, neither will I let Israel out.” (Exodus 5:2)
But in fact, Pharaoh was very familiar with the concept of G‑d. The Egyptians worshipped deities of all sorts, and Pharaoh even considered himself a god. But he did not believe in an omniscient, all-powerful G‑d who created absolutely everything out of nothingness. We know that G‑d created the world with His speech; to be precise, with ten utterances [to learn more about this, click here]. But Pharaoh denied these ten divine utterances.
And so, the ten plagues corresponded with the various elements that G‑d created in the world, each one demonstrating that a seemingly stable and independent aspect of creation—something which could easily be attributed to “nature”—was entirely in G‑d’s hands. Thus, the plagues proved that G‑d truly is the omniscient, all-powerful Creator.
The first plague, which eliminated drinkable water, established that G‑d rules over the water.
During the plague of frogs, the creatures even got into the stone ovens, which proved that G‑d rules over all physical man-made creations.
With the third plague, lice, which was accomplished by striking the dirt, it became known that G‑d rules over all the dust of the land.
4. Wild Animals
The fourth plague, where the wild animals destroyed anything in their way, demonstrated that G‑d rules over all of the animals of the land.
Through spreading disease amongst the animals, it became known that G‑d controls all of the air we breathe.
The boils all over the Egyptian bodies established that G‑d can cause any living person or animal to suffer or to be healed.
The plague of hail, which rained in the form of fire in ice, declared that G‑d controls the element of fire.
When locusts consumed all the crops, it became clear that G‑d rules over the earth’s vegetation.
By dropping thick darkness over the Egyptians for several days, G‑d demonstrated that only He can change that which is found in the sky.
10. Death of the Firstborn
Through the death of only the Egyptian firstborn, it became known that G‑d rules over the angels and the spiritual worlds.
Well, I think it’s fair to say that there really was ‘rhyme and reason’ behind the plagues and the purpose of them. Hopefully, we can learn from their mistakes, and move forward, to a time where this will remain only a history lesson and never become current events.