1314 The Ten Plagues
© Charles Chandler
The Atenists at Avaris objected. In an attempt to demonstrate their numbers, and their solidarity, they decided to engage in a large-scale act of civil disobedience. So they collected as much animal blood as possible, and then in one night, they dumped it all into the Nile, such that when Horemheb awoke, he saw a river running red with blood, suggestive of the scale of the carnage that would result if he did not heed the demands of the Atenists. This was recorded as the 1st Plague.1 Unfortunately, this wasn't the healthiest thing to do. Animal blood doesn't keep well, and the bacteria so germinated don't just go away when flushed downstream. The frogs came out of the river in search of other sources of water (2nd Plague),2 and many of them died. Then the land was overrun by gnats,3 lice, and flies,4 whose population is the responsibility of the frogs to control (3rd and 4th Plagues). The insects turned to livestock as their only source of moisture. The immune systems of the animals had been weakened by dehydration, making them more vulnerable to diseases spread by the insects, especially as the insects continued to feed even on sick animals (5th Plague).5 But the worst was yet to come. Some insects feed on both animals and people, including the fleas that can carry bubonic plague (6th Plague).6,7 The situation might have been exasperated by an epidemic of influenza, brought on by the practice of keeping pigs and ducks in close proximity.8
The response of the people, under the circumstances, was appropriate.
  • They eliminated pork from their diets.9,10:5
  • They became experts on diagnosing the plague, and adamant about quarantining anybody showing symptoms,11,12,13,14,15 or who had come into contact with somebody who could have been infected.16
  • They learned to disinfect things that could have been contaminated, by passing them through fire and/or boiling water.17
  • They developed a powerful aversion to animal blood.18,19,20,21,22
  • They added specific prohibitions to their dietary code against using the meat from a sick animal, or from any animal that wasn't freshly killed and properly cleaned.23,24:508~514
  • They determined that winged insects were unhealthy.25
  • Priests were prohibited from being in the same room as a dead body, for fear of airborne contagions.26
  • People who were pronounced "unclean" were required to cover the lower part of their faces,27 consistent with modern knowledge of how influenza, leprosy, and pneumonic plague can be spread by phlegm from a cough.
  • They decided not to have sex with people not observing the same precautions,28,29:b1:§7,10:5 or even to do business with them.30
While Egyptian medical practices were the most advanced in the world at the time, these specific practices haven't been found in any Egyptian document. So this information was lost to the Egyptians due to the damnatio memoriae, while the Hebrews preserved it. Regardless, the mayhem was enough to the get attention of the pharaoh.


1. Exodus 7:17 (J,E)

2. Exodus 8:6 (P)

3. Exodus 8:17 (P)

4. Exodus 8:24 (E,J)

5. Exodus 9:6 (E)

6. Exodus 9:8-9 (P)

7. Panagiotakopulu, E. (2004): Pharaonic Egypt and the origins of plague. Journal of Biogeography, 31 (2): 269-275

8. Scholtissek, C.; Naylor, E. (1988): Fish farming and influenza pandemics. Nature, 331 (6153): 215

9. Deuteronomy 14:8 (D1)

10. Tacitus, P. C. (109): The Histories.

11. Leviticus 13 (P)

12. Numbers 5:2-3 (P)

13. Numbers 12:10-15 (E)

14. Numbers 19:11 (P)

15. Deuteronomy 24:8-9 (D1)

16. Numbers 31:19 (P)

17. Numbers 31:22-23 (P)

18. Genesis 9:4 (P)

19. Leviticus 7:26-27 (P)

20. Leviticus 17:10-14 (P)

21. Leviticus 19:26 (P)

22. Deuteronomy 12:23 (D1)

23. Leviticus 22:20-25 (P)

24. Maimonides (1204): The Mitzvot.

25. Deuteronomy 14:19 (D1)

26. Leviticus 21:1-3 (P)

27. Leviticus 13:45 (P)

28. Numbers 31:16 (P)

29. Josephus, F. (105): Against Apion.

30. Joshua 23:7 (DH)

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