Hello, Lovelies! Welcome to this week’s extensive notes! Below you’ll find information on this week’s drink break and… lots and lots of sources from Rebecca (You’re welcome).
This week’s Drink Break is brought to you by the lovely CK of Mirths and Monsters! A family friendly, surreal, informative show that follows CK and his dog Finn…and occasionally Rey the Barry Manilow obsessed cat turns up…as they journey across the globe and sometimes through time, to investigate the real stories behind myths, monsters and more.
It’s unclear exactly what year the Israelites became slaves in Egypt, but we do know that it started when Joseph (yup, multi-technicolor dream coat) was working for Akhenaten. The land was under a 7 year famine and, thanks to Joseph’s planning, Egypt was not falling victim to this tragedy. It was during this time the nation of Israel came to Egypt because Joseph decided to take in his family (that’s a whole other story)
Sometime between then and Moses the Egyptians decided to enslave Israel… But that’s not why we’re here right now.
The Israelites, which started as a minority, were growing at a number that frightened the Pharaoh… so he ordered the death of all infant Hebrew sons.
Moses’ mother didn’t want that to happen (obviously), so she stuck baby Moses in a waterproof basket and let him go in the Nile.
Moses, who was eventually found in the reeds by the then Pharaoh’s daughter, Queen Mithra, was raised in the royal household. He lived there until, in a fit of rage, he killed a slave driver when he observed the slave driver beating an Israelite.
Moses fled. Became a shepherd. A burning bush told him to go back and free his people. And so it goes.
*Reference: Prince of Egypt, roughly 4 years of Awana, and 8 summers of VBS
When Moses was in Egypt, freeing his people, the current Pharaoh was Ramses II, who ruled from 1279 – 1213 BCE (~66 Years)
Ramses II started his rule in Thebes, which is roughly 500 south of the mediterranian, the ruins of which lie within Luxor. During his rule, Ramses relocated the capital of Egypt to the Eastern delta and named it Pi-Ramses. This would be the location historians believe the plagues took place.
Turn the Nile to Blood
Thus says the Lord, ‘By this you shall know that I am the Lord: behold, I will strike the water that is in the Nile with the staff that is in my hand, and it will be turned to blood. The fish that are in the Nile will die, and the Nile will become foul, and the Egyptians will find difficulty in drinking water from the Nile’. Exodus 7:17-18
The Nile runs through Egypt and into Africa, with a length of 4,160 miles, roughly 22% of which is in Egypt (915.2 miles).
Exodus 7:21 documents that the fish in the Nile died, it stank so bad the water could not be drank, and that there was blood basically everywhere
The Nile discharges at roughly 49,000 cu ft/s in Cairo (roughly 135.7 from Alexandria, which is by the delta that feeds into the Mediterranian Sea)
Blood has a viscosity of roughly 3-4 cP (centipoise) while water has roughly .890 cP (yes, viscosity decreases with increase in temperature, but considering we’re in the dessert, I got the closest comparison I could)
Assuming water, the Nile typically runs at 4 knots (roughly 4.6 mph). To completely replace the water in the section of the Nile in Egypt would take roughly 904 hours (length / MPH) or 37 days… for water
That’s not taking into account how quickly blood coagulates… which varies between 2-8 minutes. So… within a couple minutes the Nile would slow down significantly
Towards the end of Ramses II reign the climate was believed to have changed from a more tropical climate to a dry, desert-like one. It’s this change that is believed to have triggered a bloom of Burgandy Blood, an algae that is red in appearance.
Scientifically known as Planktothrix rubescens, this algae protects itself from being eaten by producing toxins and, while blooming, uses up an incredible amount of oxygen… to a point at which fish drown. (yes that’s the correct term shush Ashley and Tiffany).
Both end with the Nile being unusable.
And the Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh and say to him, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Let My people go, that they may serve Me. But if you refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all your territory with frogs. So the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into your house, into your bedroom, on your bed, into the houses of your servants, on your people, into your ovens, and into your kneading bowls. And the frogs shall come up on you, on your people, and on all your servants’. Exodus 8:1-4
As far as I can tell, the frog most common to the area was the Sclerophrys regularis (a.k.a. African Toad a.k.a. Egyptian Toad)
NOTE: This is the frog that currently inhabits the Nile. Due to the fact that we don’t know and time constraints, we’re going with this one for the model
Males: 2.44 – 3.63 in
Females: 2.76 – 5.11 in
So. Many Frogs.
Some scientists believe the bloom of algae triggered massive amounts of frogs. Tadpoles became stressed when their environment quickly changed, so they hatched. The toxic water caused them to leave the Nile and go on land. The word for “frog” was used for frogs and toads interchangeably, but that still means frogs are laying thousands of eggs at once. With the preditees becoming more and the predators (a.k.a. The fish) dying, the preditees became REALLY MORE.
Lice / Gnats
So the Lord said to Moses, ‘Say to Aaron, “Stretch out your rod, and strike the dust of the land, so that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt.”’ And they did so. For Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod and struck the dust of the earth, and it became lice on man and beast. All the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt. Exodus 8:16-17
And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Rise early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh as he comes out to the water. Then say to him, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Let My people go, that they may serve Me. Or else, if you will not let My people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies on you and your servants, on your people and into your houses. The houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground on which they stand. And in that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, in which My people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there, in order that you may know that I am the Lord in the midst of the land’. Exodus 8:20-22
Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go in to Pharaoh and tell him, “Thus says the Lord God of the Hebrews: ‘Let My people go, that they may serve Me. For if you refuse to let them go, and still hold them, behold, the hand of the Lord will be on your cattle in the field, on the horses, on the donkeys, on the camels, on the oxen, and on the sheep—a very severe pestilence. And the Lord will make a difference between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt’. Exodus 9:1-4
So the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Take for yourselves handfuls of ashes from a furnace, and let Moses scatter it toward the heavens in the sight of Pharaoh. And it will become fine dust in all the land of Egypt, and it will cause boils that break out in sores on man and beast throughout all the land of Egypt’ Exodus 9:8-9
Rolling together 3 – 6:
With the frogs being exposed to the arid climate, despite greatly reproducing, they eventually died, allowing other predatees (lice/gnats/flies) to become more. Bugs carry diseases and some, such as mosquitoes, can transmit these to humans and livestock.
There were bugs everywhere and people were sick and livestock was dying. Fantastic.
Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt—on man, on beast, and on every herb of the field, throughout the land of Egypt.’ And Moses stretched out his rod toward heaven; and the Lord sent thunder and hail, and fire darted to the ground. And the Lord rained hail on the land of Egypt. Exodus 9:22-23
So… apparently there was hail and RAINING FIRE.
There’s evidence of a volcano in Santorini (which is closer to Greece than Egypt) erupting around this time. However, it’s recorded as one of the most violent eruptions in history. An eruption like this could cause the fire and hail seen during the plagues. Pumice that was identified as coming from Sarantorini was unearthed in Egypt (which is a link Rebecca is skeptical about).
…if you refuse to let My people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your territory. And they shall cover the face of the earth, so that no one will be able to see the earth; and they shall eat the residue of what is left, which remains to you from the hail, and they shall eat every tree which grows up for you out of the field. Exodus 10:4-5
Swarms of locusts aren’t entirely uncommon in Africa today. These flying buggers are about as big as your finger (didn’t specify which) and can swarm in masses up to 150M locusts / km^2. These swarms can cover an area of 60 X 40 km and can travel 100-150 km a day.
Something this massive needs a food source which is why locusts are notorious for wreaking havoc on crops. One source found stated that a swarm can destroy enough crops that could feed up to 2500 people.
Interesting note, while swarms of locusts seem to be a regular occurance (think 100 year flood plain in Georgia), my research typically pointed to western Africa and less so much northern Africa a.k.a. Egypt.
However, it is argued that the climate left after the eruption of Sarantorini created an environment, hot and humid, that was conducive to a bunch of flying hungry swarms.
Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, darkness which may even be felt.’ So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. Exodus 10:21-22
This is where the timeline, scientifically speaking, can start to fall apart. In the Bible these plagues happened sequentially after Ramses II steeled his heart and would not let the people go.
It’s theorized that, due to the massive volcano, there was tons of ash and debris in the sky. This debris can block the sun and, given enough of it, give the illusion of nighttime. This darkness, in some cases, can last years, but it also happens almost immediately.
The First Born
Then Moses said, ‘Thus says the Lord: “About midnight I will go out into the midst of Egypt; and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the female servant who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the animals.
Then there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as was not like it before, nor shall be like it again. But against none of the children of Israel shall a dog move its tongue, against man or beast, that you may know that the Lord does make a difference between the Egyptians and Israel. Exodus 11:4-7
This is where the scientific explanation kinda falls apart.
One theory found stated that this plague could have been caused by a fungi in the grain and, since the first born male would eventually become the head of the family blah blah blah patriarchy, they would essentially be fed more. If they ate more of the fungi the more likely they would be to succumb to the effects… which in this case was death and not pink elephants.
That being said, this still doesn’t account for the first born who were infants at the time and weren’t eating the grain. But, given the fact that the entire environment just kinda went to hell around the Egyptians, it’s not a stretch to assume that infant mortality was higher during this time.
Interesting note: Ramses II had a brother, Nebchasetnebet, who was a few years older but died. So, if the death of the first born applied to everyone, Ramses II would not have been on that list.
We’re not here to defend whether or not this actually happened, the purpose of this research was to dive into the science of something Rebecca has learned about since she was a kid.
Even though we can look back and see a chain of events that explains why this happened, it’s definitely odd that they were all predicted by a dude with a staff who was shouting at the current pharaoh, and definitely eerie that they all happened when the dude said they would.
However, there is scientific evidence of a volcanic eruption happening during the time of Moses (yay geology!)
There’s also evidence showing that people suddenly left Pi Ramses, indicating what was once a prosperous city suddenly wasn’t. Speculation includes maybe mother nature made a point to man at the time that they just shouldn’t live there… or… suddenly the city’s labor left, completely upsetting their economy.
Timelines are muddy, partially because it was a long time ago and also partially tweeting in hieroglyphics on a wall took a really long time (I’m being funny. The literacy rates were lower and the Egyptian language wasn’t exactly easy to write)
That being said… That’s an awful lot of coincidence.