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Miscellany :-

These pages are for subjects that I find particularly interesting. Unfortunately, I've neither the time nor resources to research them more fully, but luckily, other people have made fascinating web-sites on these subjects. I hope you find the choice of material here as interesting as I do.

The Ten Plagues of Egypt :-

This article came about because of a television programme I saw on British TV sometime in the 1990's. It was shown by Channel 4 and was one in the series of Equinox science programmes. After I moved to the United States, in 2001, it was broadcast again in America.

The television programme explained that Doctor John S Marr MD., chief epidemiologist for the New York city department of health thought that he could give an explanation of the ten plagues that afflicted Egypt during the reign of Pharaoh was Ramasees II. These events occurred around 1260BC at Memphis, just south of modern day Cairo. The Egyptians lived near the Nile, the Israelites a little farther away. It was this difference in location that caused the Egyptians so much trouble but kept the Israelites out of harms way.

The biblical Book of Exodus tells how the Israelites escaped from Egypt. The Pharaoh had ordered the Israelites into bondage and the killing of all male children born to them. This is when Moses saw the burning bush in the desert and was told "And I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go." (Exodus 3:20)

1) Moses talked to the Pharaoh who refused to free the Israelites, and so Moses was told that "In this thou shalt know that I am the LORD: behold, I will smite with the rod that is in mine hand upon the waters which are in the river, and they shall be turned to blood. And the fish that is in the river shall die, and the river shall stink; and the Egyptians shall lothe to drink of the water of the river. 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. And Moses and Aaron did so, as the LORD commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood. 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. (Exdous 7:17-21)

Dr. Marr asked what could turn the water red and kill all the fish. The answer he came up with was Pfiesteria. This organism does not just produce the red algae bloom but also feeds on the fish. It can have a huge effect on humans, with scientists studying this organism suffering from narcosis (lethargy), sores, headaches, blurred vision, nausea/vomiting, difficulty in breathing, kidney and liver dysfunction, acute short-term memory loss, and severe cognitive impairment (serious difficulty in being able to read, remember one's name, dial a telephone number, or do simple arithmetic beyond 1 + 2 = 3). The organism has been found on the coasts of America, Africa and Asia.

Amoebic Pfiesteria

Amoebic form of Pfiesteria

Red Tide

The red bloom similar to that caused by Pfiesteria

What Pfiesteria does to a fish

What Pfiesteria does to a fish

2) And the LORD spake unto Moses, Go unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Let my people go, that they may serve me. And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs: And the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into thine house, and into thy bedchamber, and upon thy bed, and into the house of thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thine ovens, and into thy kneadingtroughs: And the frogs shall come up both on thee, and upon thy people, and upon all thy servants. And the LORD spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch forth thine hand with thy rod over the streams, over the rivers, and over the ponds, and cause frogs to come up upon the land of Egypt. And Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up, and covered the land of Egypt. (Exodus 8:1-6)

Dr. Marr suggests that as most of the fish were dead they couldn't eat anywhere near the amount of Bufo toad spawn they normally would have. This resulted in a huge increase in the toad population which quickly left the poisoned waters.

And the frogs shall depart from thee, and from thy houses, and from thy servants, and from thy people; they shall remain in the river only. And Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh: and Moses cried unto the LORD because of the frogs which he had brought against Pharaoh. And the LORD did according to the word of Moses; and the frogs died out of the houses, out of the villages, and out of the fields. And they gathered them together upon heaps: and the land stank. (Exodus 8:11-14)

3) And the LORD said unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch out thy rod, and smite the dust of the land, 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 smote the dust of the earth, and it became lice in man, and in beast; all the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt. (Exodus 8:16-17)

Lice was the common term for most types of insect. The toads had been poisoned by the water that they were born into and quickly died. Without them the insect population rose until it became an infestation. It is thought that the term in this instance referred to a type of midge of gnat. These insects are very poor fliers, they could infest the Egyptians but couldn't reach the Israelites.

4) And the LORD said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh; lo, he cometh forth to the water; and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Let my people go, that they may serve me. Else, if thou wilt not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies upon thee, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thy houses: and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground whereon they are. And I will sever in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there; to the end thou mayest know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth. And I will put a division between my people and thy people: to morrow shall this sign be. And the LORD did so; and there came a grievous swarm of flies into the house of Pharaoh, and into his servants’ houses, and into all the land of Egypt: the land was corrupted by reason of the swarm of flies. (Exodus 8:20-24)

It is thought that this could be the Stable Fly (Stomoxys calcitrans). These insects are a little larger than house flies, bite and live off of blood.

Stable Fly

Stable Fly

5) Behold, the hand of the LORD is upon thy cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep: there shall be a very grievous murrain. And the LORD shall sever between the cattle of Israel and the cattle of Egypt: and there shall nothing die of all that is the children’s of Israel. And the LORD appointed a set time, saying, To morrow the LORD shall do this thing in the land. And the LORD did that thing on the morrow, and all the cattle of Egypt died: but of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one. (Exodus 9:3-6)

It is thought that this disease was either Blue Tongue or African Horse Sickness. Most other animal diseases would have infected humans in some way. As these diseases are carried by midges or gnats (the third plague) the animals belonging to the Israelites wouldn't have been affected. Blue tongue disease (also called catarrhal fever) is a viral disease of sheep and less frequently of cattle, goats, buffaloes, deer and antelopes. There are no reports of any human being having caught the disease, so it seems to be confined to some species of animals. The pathogenic virus is from a member of virus family called reoviridae. The disease has been observed in Australia, the United States, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. It is transmitted by biting midges, and major symptoms are high fever, excessive salivation, swelling of the face and tongue and cyanosis of the tongue. The incubation period is about 1 week, and all symptoms usually develop within one month. Swelling of the lips and tongue due to the viral infection gives the tongue its typical blue appearance, though this sign is confined to only a minority of the animals. The disease may occasionally be lethal, but in sheep mortality may be as high as 70%.

Blue Tongue Disease

Blue Tongue Disease

6) And the LORD said unto Moses and unto Aaron, Take to you handfuls of ashes of the furnace, and let Moses sprinkle it toward the heaven in the sight of Pharaoh. And it shall become small dust in all the land of Egypt, and shall be a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast, throughout all the land of Egypt. And they took ashes of the furnace, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses sprinkled it up toward heaven; and it became a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast. And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils; for the boil was upon the magicians, and upon all the Egyptians. (Exodus 9:8-11)

The boils and blains could have been Glanders (Burkholderia mallei). Glanders is a very virulent, infectious disease spread by bacteria. Symptoms can develop in one to five days. Symptoms include pus forming sores, lung and blood infections. Other symptoms include fever, muscle aches, chest pain, muscle tightness, headache, tearing of the eyes, light sensitivity and diarrhea. Because of its virulence Glanders has been investigated as a biological weapon by many countries. Glanders can be spread by stable flies, the fourth plague.

7) Behold, to morrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even until now. Send therefore now, and gather thy cattle, and all that thou hast in the field; for upon every man and beast which shall be found in the field, and shall not be brought home, the hail shall come down upon them, and they shall die. He that feared the word of the LORD among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his cattle flee into the houses: And he that regarded not the word of the LORD left his servants and his cattle in the field. And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch forth thine hand toward heaven, that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, upon man, and upon beast, and upon every herb of the field, throughout the land of Egypt. And Moses stretched forth his rod toward heaven: and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and the fire ran along upon the ground; and the LORD rained hail upon the land of Egypt. So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. And the hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt all that was in the field, both man and beast; and the hail smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field. Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, was there no hail. (Exodus 9:18-26)

Although rare in Egypt, they do have hailstorms. Places like Syria and Palestine also occasionally get them. The hailstorm that this part of Egypt experienced was very violent but localized. It ruined a large proportion of the crops and those that were gathered were stored damp.

8) And Moses and Aaron came in unto Pharaoh, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me? let my people go, that they may serve me. Else, if thou refuse to let my people go, behold, to morrow will I bring the locusts into thy coast: And they shall cover the face of the earth, that one cannot be able to see the earth: and they shall eat the residue of that which is escaped, which remaineth unto you from the hail, and shall eat every tree which groweth for you out of the field: And they shall fill thy houses, and the houses of all thy servants, and the houses of all the Egyptians; which neither thy fathers, nor thy fathers’ fathers have seen, since the day that they were upon the earth unto this day. And he turned himself, and went out from Pharaoh. (Exodus 10:3-6)

And Moses stretched forth his rod over the land of Egypt, and the LORD brought an east wind upon the land all that day, and all that night; and when it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts. And the locusts went up over all the land of Egypt, and rested in all the coasts of Egypt: very grievous were they; before them there were no such locusts as they, neither after them shall be such. For they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left: and there remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the field, through all the land of Egypt. (Exodus 10:13-15)

The crops that were left standing were ravaged by the locusts. Not an unusual occurrence in Egypt.

Locusts Locusts

Locusts

9) And the LORD turned a mighty strong west wind, which took away the locusts, and cast them into the Red sea; there remained not one locust in all the coasts of Egypt. But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go. And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt. And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days: They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days: but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings. (Exodus 10:19-23)

A desert sandstorm

A desert sandstorm

Duststorm

A duststorm - this one is near Kandahar, Afghanistan

Whatever was left of the crops after the hail and locusts were now buried under the sand. These massive sandstorms are called "cashimh".

10) And Moses said, Thus saith the LORD, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts. And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more. But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast: that ye may know how that the LORD doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel. (Exodus 11:4-7)

Mycotoxins that grew because of the way the damp grain was stored and that grew from the droppings of the locusts seem to be responsible for the last and most devastating of the plagues. The reason the firstborn were killed was that in Egyptian society the firstborn got the pick of the food. As there wasn't much left of anything, these would have had more than anyone else. The mycotoxins they inhaled or ingested would have caused hemorrhaging of the lungs. Other symptoms can include skin pain, pruritus, redness, vesicles, necrosis and sloughing of epidermis. Effects on the airway include nose and throat pain, nasal discharge, itching and sneezing, cough, dyspnea, wheezing, chest pain and hemoptysis. Toxin also produces effects after ingestion or eye contact. Severe poisoning results in prostration, weakness, ataxia, collapse, shock, and death.

Mycotoxin forming Aspergillus flavus spores on corn

Mycotoxin forming Aspergillus flavus spores on corn

More Information

Bible Online

African Horse Sickness

Bayer

Office International des Epizooties (OIE)

Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC)

Blue Tongue Disease

Animal Disease Diagnostics Laboratory

Western Cape Department of Agriculture

Glanders

Bayer

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC)

Mycotoxins

Medical NBC

North Carolina State University - College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Pfiesteria

Academy of Natural Sciences

Center for Applied Aquatic Ecology

Environmental Toxicology

Harmful Algal Blooms

University of Delaware

Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Plagues of Egypt

Dr. Marr

Essortment

Goat Path

New Advent

Plagued by Doubt

Thru the Bible

Stable Fly

North Dakota State University

Public Health Entomology Research & Education Center

Saskatchewan - Agriculture, Food and Rural Revitalization

West Virginia University - Stable Fly Biology and Management

Miscellany | 6 Degrees | Afghanistan | Biological Warfare | DW Canoe Race | The Donner Party | The Eastland | The Edmund Fitzgerald | K Class Submarines (Page 1), (Page 2) | McClellan | Murder | Plagiarism | Product Placement | Racial Insults | Ten Plagues of Egypt | UK & US Flags

HomePage | Optical Illusions | War Stories | QBasic | Dads Navy Days | Bristol | Bristol, USA | Bristol, Canada | Terre Haute | Miscellany | Web Stuff | About Ray | Site Map | Site Search | Messages | Credits | Links | Web Rings

This page created 21st November 2003, last modified 27th April 2005