The ten plagues recounted in the Biblical book of Exodus may have actually occurred, according to scientists featured on a National Geographic Channel miniseries.
The Biblical plagues were: water turning to blood; frogs; lice; flies; livestock plague; boils; hail; locusts; darkness; and the slaying of the firstborn.
Many archaeologists believe that the Biblical story took place at the Egyptian city of Pi-Rameses, under the rule of Pharaoh Rameses II.
“Pharaoh Rameses II reigned during a very favorable climatic period,” said paleoclimatolagist Professor Augusto Magini of Heidelberg University.
“After Rameses’ reign, the climate curve goes sharply downwards. There is a dry period which would certainly have had serious consequences.”
The changing climate may have caused the Nile to dry up, says Stephan Pflugmacher of the Leibniz Institute for Water Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Berlin. This could have produced blooms of Burgundy Blood algae, so-named because it stains the water red when it dies.
These changes in the Nile may have sped up frog development, forcing the amphibians out of the water and eventually killing them. The removal of a major predator could have led to plagues of insects, giving rise to diseases in humans and cattle.
Other plagues may be explained by the eruption of Mt. Thera in the Mediterranean, which spread volcanic ash and debris well into Egypt — causing a plague of darkness. According to biologist Siro Trevisanato, this ash could have led to strange weather such as violent hail, and would have produced the wet conditions favored by locusts.
A fungal outbreak may have poisoned grain stocks, other researchers have suggested. This may have disproportionately killed firstborn males if those men had first pick of the crops.
According to Robert Miller of Catholic University of America, searching for such scientific explanations misses the whole point of the story.
“I’m reluctant to come up with natural causes for all of the plagues,” he said.
“The whole point was that you didn’t come out of Egypt by natural causes; you came out by the hand of God.”
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