30 March 2009

The Seventh Plague of Egypt: Hail shall come down upon them, and they shall die

Drunk With Blood Audiobook
10. The seventh plague of Egypt: Hail

In the first of the famous ten plagues of Egypt, God forced Egyptians to drink blood (human blood according to the apocryphal book of Wisdom), and only blood, for seven days.  Since it is not possible to survive for long when only drinking blood, I estimated that one-half of the Egyptians (1.5 million) died in the first plague.

But God was only getting started. Here are the next five plagues:

Frogs. (8.1-7)
Lice. (8.16-19)
Flies (8.21-24)
All cattle in Egypt die. (9.3-6)
Festering boils on man and beast. (9.9-10)

The Bible doesn't say whether anyone died from these plagues. Frogs, lice, flies, dead animals as far as you can see, and boils covering every person and animal in Egypt. These things were probably unpleasant. But did it kill anyone? There's just no way of knowing.

But the Bible is clear about the seventh plague: hail.

Upon every man and beast which shall be found in the field … the hail shall come down upon them, and they shall die. ... So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous ... And the hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt all that was in the field, both man and beast. Exodus 9:19-25
So God killed everybody in Egypt who was out and about that day with fire and hail (except Israelites).
Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, was there no hail. 9:26
But how many people would that have been?

Well, the Egyptian population is estimated to have been 3 million at the time the Exodus supposedly happened (McEvedy and Jones 1978), and God already killed half of them in the first plague. So if maybe 10% of the surviving Egyptians were in the field at the time, about 150 thousand would have been killed by God's fiery hailstorm.

God's next killing: firstborn Egyptian children


busterggi said...

I've got to take you task again Steve for being too generous.

Ancient Egypt was an agricultural society, almost everyone worked outdoors. Better set that estimate at more like 60%, remember women & children also worked in the fields.

Now, isn't 500,000 a much more realistic figure?

By the way, if the Egyptians livestock had already been killed in the 5th plague was it really necessary to kill them again with the 7th plague?

Steve Wells said...

Good point, busterggi.

I've changed it to 300,000.

Blue Mako said...

"By the way, if the Egyptians livestock had already been killed in the 5th plague was it really necessary to kill them again with the 7th plague?"
And animal firstborns are killed in the last plague. And even after all that, Pharaoh apparently still had horses to draw those chariots...

I never did understand the frog plague, though. God's punishing Egypt by sending hordes of one of the least threatening animals there is?

Matthew Blanchette said...

Wow. So much for God the merciful...

busterggi said...

Apparently Yahweh doen's know basic physics. If you combine hail with fire you get warm rain.