07 April 2013

The First Plague of Egypt: God forced the Egyptians to drink human blood

Okay, I could use some help with this one.
Remember the first of the famous ten plagues of Egypt? The plague of blood?
Well, I didn’t include it in God's killings since the text in Exodus didn't say that anyone died. But now I'm not so sure.

Here’s the story from Exodus 7.

God told Moses to tell Aaron to smite all the water in Egypt with his rod (the one that he previously turned into a serpent and then back into a rod in Exodus 7:9-12), which will change the water into blood.

And the LORD spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt, upon their streams, upon their rivers, and upon their ponds, and upon all their pools of water, that they may become blood; and that there may be blood throughout all the land of Egypt; both in vessels of wood, and in vessels of stone. v.19

And Moses and Aaron did so, as the LORD commanded. v.20

And it worked as planned. The fish died, the river stank, and the Egyptians had no water to drink.

And the fish that was in the river died; and the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river; and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. v.21

For seven days, apparently.

And seven days were fulfilled, after that the LORD had smitten the river. v.25

Which must have killed some people, since, even under the most favorable conditions, a person can’t survive for more than a few days without water.

And then there's this from the book of Wisdom.

Instead of a fountain of an ever running river, thou gavest human blood to the unjust ... shewing ... how thou ... didst kill their adversaries. Wisdom 11:7-9

Although it isn't entirely clear to me, this passage seems to refer to the first plague of Egypt.

Here's the helpful note from the Douay-Reims Bible.
God ... wrought a miracle to punish the Egyptians by thirst, when he turned all their waters into blood, (at which time the Israelites, who were exempt from those plagues, had plenty of water,) wrought another miracle in favour of his own people in their thirst, by giving them water out of the rock.
So the first plague involved human blood! 

Where did God get so much blood? Enough blood to fill the Nile River? 

Did God kill people just to use their blood in the first plague? Or did he create the human blood from scratch?

And since at least some of the Egyptians refused to drink the human blood that God provided, some of them must have died of thirst. 
In any case, in one way or another, some Egyptians died in the first plague. But how many?
Let me know if you have any suggestions for arriving at an estimate.


amulbunny's random thoughts said...

Beer was more readily drank than water in ancient times for good reason, excrement, pollution from bronze age industry. Beer wasn't the PBR or Sam Adams we love and cherish, but it was better than water.

Steve Wells said...

So God didn't give them blood, human or otherwise. He gave them beer.

Is that what you're saying amulbunny?

G said...

If you take this story on face value, I would not believe anyone, especially some of the Egyptians, would actually die of thirst, before drinking blood that consists of about 80% water.

TheEngineer said...

The average flowrate for the Nile river is 300,000,000 cubic meters per day. http://tinyurl.com/buyfxex
At this rate for 7 days, the required volume of blood is 2,100,000,000 cubic meters.

The average human has 5 liters of blood = 0.005 cubic meters. So, in order to provide 2.1 billion cubic meters of blood you need to kill 2.1x10^9/0.005 = 420 BILLION people.

I think this killing tops them all!

Stephen said...

Holy Cow!! The blood of 420 million people! If memory serves, that's more than Jesus releases with his swingin' sickle in Revelations.
Now, I have some questions about this blood. What type is it: A, B, AB, O? Is it Rh (+) or (-)? Is it anticoagulated? Seems to me God would want it to be heparinized (or maybe he used acid citrate dextrose) so it wouldn't clot. If it clotted the Egyptians would have thought it was some sort of pudding.
But seriously: if YaWeigh can open the "windows of heaven" and release more water than could possibly exist on earth, he could conjure up as much blood as he wants. But isn't it lucky there weren't any Jojoba's Witnesses then? They don't like blood much I hear.
Steve Weeks

Nathan said...

I read through Exodus over "Passover Houses With Lambsblood as a Reminder to Myself Not to Murder These People that I'll Re-sell Back into slavery 6 times a few books later (Judges). Sorry though, because of 1 man whose heart I divinely hardened I am killing all you little worthless innocent Egyptian firstborn babies and firstborn cattle (the cattle were previously killed in the 5th plague but God forgot cause his memory is bad) weekend."

Cool story!

Also noting that Exodus was written in the 6th century BCE. Famous real people that lived then were Confucius, Pythagoras, Buddha, etc.

These historical people that actually existed never heard about these plagues. God must have distracted them.

World population was roughly 100 million in the 6th century BCE. Out of 100 million people that were alive nobody wrote this historically true event down. God must have tricked them.

I think he was so drunk he told all the snakes and cattle thinking they would tell the humans...He was so smashed and embarrassed of his actions and pure stupidity that he only told 1 person out of the 100 million. It was his embarrassing secret. The next day he made all the people forget what had happened, especially focusing on the family members that lost their little innocent Egyptian babies.

After the 10th plague in Exodus 12:3-30 he promised to sober up.

This also explains the population explosion in 12:37. He wanted to change from his drunk ways.

He checked himself into AA for a couple days but relapsed in 12:48 where he was so drunk he said “A foreigner residing among you who wants to celebrate the Lord’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised"


Stephen said...

Nathan: Priceless!
Steve Weeks

Unknown said...

I guess a god than can produce water from solid rock can produce blood as well. Plus, the only reference to the blood being "human blood" is in Wisdom. Maybe the blood was a mixture of human blood and animal blood. Maybe he stole some technology from the year 2040, when we will be able to produce blood using nanobots and 3D-printers.

Stephen said...

Further to the question of how long can a person live without water...
"Exposure to a hot environment and vigorous exercise both increase body temperature. The only physiological mechanism humans have to keep from overheating is sweating. Evaporation of sweat cools blood in vessels in the skin, which helps to cool the entire body. Under extreme conditions an adult can lose between one and 1.5 liters of sweat an hour. If that lost water is not replaced, the total volume of body fluid can fall quickly and, most dangerously, blood volume may drop. If this happens, two potentially life-threatening problems arise: sweating stops and body temperature can soar even higher, while blood pressure decreases because of the low blood volume. Under such conditions, death occurs quickly. Because of their relatively larger skin surface-to-volume ratio, children are especially susceptible to rapid overheating and dehydration."
Source: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-long-can-the-average

Egypt would be considered a hot place, no? So the number of deaths would likely be large, and disproportionately children. Nice. This might have significantly reduced the number of "first-born" children to die in the Passover by killing them off first. I'd guess that 50% of the population croaking (the second plague!) would be a reasonable estimate.

Ingesting a lot of blood can cause a person to vomit, leading to dehydration and eventually to the Pearly Gates. So a significant proportion of those Egyptians who tried to slake their thirst with blood probably would have died as well. Some of these would have been destined to die anyway, so it's hard to say if there would need to be another category of deaths.

I'd say 50% mortality would be fair. Now, what was the poulation of Egypt at that time? Should you subtract the Hebrews from the total population? Surely Yahoo provided his chosen folks with bottled water.

The *real* question is: How did Egypt smell after no one could bathe, except in blood, for a week?
Steve Weeks?

Steve Wells said...

Thanks TheEngineer for the calculation. I repeated the it using Wikipedia's value for the average flow of the Nile (2830 cubic meters / second) and came up with 342 billion victims. But what's 80 billion dead people to God? (I wonder where the Egyptian magicians got their blood when they repeated God's bloody trick.)

Steve Wells said...

Thanks Steve for the helpful analysis. And your 50% mortality estimate seems reasonable to me. So I guess I could use McEvedy and Jones's estimate of 3 million for the Egyptian population at the time the Exodus supposedly occurred, and guess 1.5 million victims. Of course that will change the number of victims in the seventh and tenth plagues, but so be it. I'll adjust them accordingly.

Ya Plagu Ga said...

I can think of two ways to explain the mechanics of the Plagues (maybe you can think of more?) --

1. The plagues were caused by natural disaster and evidence may be found in natural history (e.g. collapse of Bronze Age civilizations in the Mediterranean due to the Thera volcanic eruption); however, Biblical chronology does not measure up. At least one Christian has attempted to reconcile actual history and evidence with the Bible by adding 1,000 years to the Biblical timeline, which then squares things away as far as Exodus is concerned, although this argument is based on, ironically, an alleged typo in the original Hebrew text (so much for Biblical infallibility).

In any event, such an argument will conclude along the lines of "The evidence shows it really did/could have happened!" -- but the problem is precisely in the evidence. If the Thera eruption caused the Plagues, then that seems to point away from a divine, intentional origin specifically used by God to punish the Egyptians.

2. Because the Israelites' water was not affected, the Egyptians spent exorbitant sums of gold, silver and other valuables to buy water from the Israelites. This explains both how there were still Egyptians left and how the Israelites got away with so much booty (despite being in such a hurry to leave that they couldn't even wait for their bread to rise). But this reasoning raises two new problems. First, why would the Egyptians try to buy anything from their Israelite slaves? Wouldn't the Egyptians have simply expropriated the Israelites' water, since they were the Egyptians' property anyway, and it was also during a time of national emergency? Second, would the Israelites have been able to hoarded so much water not only for themselves, their livestock and their crops for one week, but also sufficient water for the Egyptians, their livestock and crops too? Assuming that the Egyptians held the vast majority of arable and irrigated land, and based on the fact that irrigation is the major consumer of water, the Israelites would have to hoard quite a bit. Maybe someone can do a mathematical model for such a possibility too and account for how much hoarding would be needed. Moreover, hoarded water will go stagnant and bad; did God bless their water so that it remained clear and potable for the whole week?

Bandido said...

It was not real blood but a red tide cause by a red algae which blooms usually during environmental distress which also explains the other plagues that were listed in the fantasy book. Nothing supernatural about

Anonymous said...

Here's an interesting detail regarding the plague of blood. In Exodus 7:14-21 we find Moses and Aaron changing all (yes, all) the water into blood, but look what happens in the very next verse:

"Then the king's magicians did the same thing by means of their magic."

As Foote and Ball remark in their "Bible Handbook", Moses and Aaron cleverly transmuted all the water there was, but their opponents still more cleverly transmuted all the water there wasn't!

Sir. Readsalot said...

"The admonitions of an Egyptian slave." Is an ancient Egyptian document that many people believe records The Exodus event.