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Home Forums Evidence for Biblical miracles The ten plagues

  • Historical Faith Society

    December 18, 2020 at 4:44 am
  • Thomas Donlon

    February 24, 2021 at 7:00 pm

    This question occurred to me earlier in the day while I was working. Perhaps I could try and figure this out for myself. But it would also be good for others to try and figure this out. (I’ve got a lot to try and figure out.) There is a scripture or so discussing the plagues that mentions why a second plague affecting agriculture was relevant. One of them had to do with hail and another with locusts and had to do with growing seasons. We know the time of the Exodus of the Israelites was the springtime and it is celebrated annually by Jews in the days of Passover and unleavened bread. (I also wonder about the feast of unleavened bread lasting for a given number of days … and wonder if this correlates with a journey of the Israelites subsisting off of that… (But this is a slight digression – though possibly very important for understanding the timeline of the initial travels of the Exodus.)

    So two destructions of crops (different points of the agricultural year) and a departure in the spring. How long do people think the duration of the ten plagues lasted?

    • Deborah Hurn

      March 5, 2021 at 10:47 am

      I guess the argument depends somewhat on naturalistic explanations of the plagues… I have a fair amount of info about that but I expect HFS has heard enough in that vein for a while 馃檪

      • Thomas Donlon

        March 5, 2021 at 12:47 pm

        Hi Deborah,

        The collectors edition of Red Sea Miracle 1 in one of the extra disks has a fairly in-depth analysis presenting various scholars giving their natural viewpoints about the ten plagues.

        Having just scanned some of the ten plagues, I find a back to back mention of disasters falling on Egyptian livestock. (Though sometimes in the Holy Bible when the word “all” is used I find indications that the word is used in a more general sense.) A co-worker at work has said to me, “You never listen to me.” And “You never believe me.” However it is just a way she talks.

        So maybe “All” the Egyptian’s livestock in the field died, and overtime they took some from the Israelites or bought some more. But literally it could not have a full “all” if some remained. Then there was a plague caused by dust thrown in the air causing boils on animals and people. Then hail killed the livestock in the field. So looking naturalistically (assuming a full “all” died) the plagues could have been far apart allowing the Egyptians to get livestock again. Or was it just a manner of speaking and some animals were left.

        But then after the hail storm there was a locust plague. That the scripture makes pains to note was in same growing cycle for the scripture says,

        “(The flax and barley were destroyed, since the barley had headed and the flax was in bloom.
        The wheat and spelt, however, were not destroyed, because they ripen later.)”
        (Exod. 9:31-32 NIV)

        Kind of makes me wonder why the author explained how some crops were still left from one plague to another, but didn’t explain how some animals, livestock were left from one plague to another. Though due to people’s attention span addressing just one problem makes it seem like both problems were addressed. So it probably works in story form, getting the point across. Movies also sometimes rely on something called “Suspension of disbelief.” Again though this doesn’t necessitate that something should be disbelieved, just that the writer needn’t have included all the details. Which means I’m left unclear about whether these plagues were back to back or whether substantial gaps between plagues took place. Longer gaps makes it easier and more natural for Pharaoh’s heart to harden.

  • Deborah Hurn

    March 5, 2021 at 9:07 am

    I have a question: Does anyone have a reference to how the ten plagues are ‘organised’ into three sets of three plus one different one? (a bit like the ten commandments are in three groups of three plus one different one). I did read something once, can’t find it now.

    • Thomas Donlon

      March 5, 2021 at 12:07 pm

      Hi Deborah,

      I know I heard something about that in the past several weeks as I was on a podcast binge of a scholarly Christian, who has a less literal view of the Bible than I do. I listened through a six part podcast series the guy (Pete Enns) did called Pete Ruins Exodus. It has transcripts available (which could be searched using CNTRL-F ) but I don’t think it was in that series. I listened to about two other interviews or podcasts he did including one with language scholar Rollins or Rollston (one of the critics of Petrovich who doesn’t believe the Hebrew language evolved before 900BC) but I don’t think it was in that podcast either. Looking back though I can’t locate the exact podcast I listened to in which he mentioned the pattern of threes in the ten commandments (plus the odd one out) and he didn’t describe it enough to make a compelling or memorable case and I haven’t studied the commandments yet with an eye towards finding a threefold pattern. I had been vacillating about whether to contact you about what he was talking about … but while I was pondering whether to do so … life distractions and general changing priorities made it drop out of my mind. So maybe if you’ve got some book by Peter Enns maybe it is in there.

      • Thomas Donlon

        March 5, 2021 at 12:14 pm

        In the interest of excessive clarity, I’ll state that in my above comment it isn’t Petrovich that believes the evolution of Hebrew only started after 900bc it was Rollston. He was much featured in Patterns of Evidence: Moses. Also let me be clear that on Peter Enns podcast with Rollston(sp?) Rollston wasn’t attacking Petrovich and I don’t believe he mentioned him and even if he alluded to Petrovich’s viewpoints I can’t remember him doing so.

        That should have been clear to all… but if someone didn’t know the positions of Petrovich and Rollston(sp?) they may have thought that I was saying the opposite.

      • Deborah Hurn

        March 5, 2021 at 11:18 pm

        Thomas, I found the audio and transcripts for the Pete Enns series Pete Ruins Exodus, skimmed the first one, and realised that he was into (as he says) the “thirty-thousand-foot view”. This is broad-brush story-telling and not historical apologetics. But as he also explains early in the episode (and no doubt many times elsewhere), he doubts the biblical records are historical. He says he takes a ‘theological’ approach, but I can’t see much theology either. I would say maybe ‘popular’, using lots of colloquial paraphrasing… it’s partly thematic and allegorical. A fun read I guess. Not a resource for facing off against biblical sceptics and critics. This would be why Richard Elliott Friedman and others like him recommend Enns’ book ‘Exodus for Normal People”. All on the same page, pretty much. The foundational problem to biblical history is the standard chronology. To lift Richard Dawkins book title “god Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything” (note how he gives capitals to every word except ‘God’), I would counter, “The Bible is Accurate: The Standard Chronology Poisons Everything”.

        • Thomas Donlon

          March 7, 2021 at 6:17 pm

          Deborah, thanks for your review on Peter Enns material. My unease with some of his explanations is very similar to yours. A fairly close friend of mine got into his podcasts lately and recommended them. Though I’m not hoping to adopt views that Peter is espousing, he does sometimes have a sense of the larger meaning of scripture … and it probably won’t hurt me to be exposed to ideas that might be prevalent among main stream academics. Having said that I’ve lost the habit of listening to his material. Do you have any other good academic sources that you might suggest to some academic amateur like myself? And I’m using the phrase “academic” in a generous sense, because I’ve got HUGE gaps in academic aptitude and Multiple HUGE gaps in knowledge of all sorts of ancient Biblical areas of knowledge.

          On another note: and I’m not asking you to engage Petrovich on this, but rather reply to me… I have some vague recollection that there might be some alternate explanation for the term “Hebrew” in addition to the common one that Petrovich put forth about being a descendant of Eber or something. David Rohl has pointed out that the Israelites didn’t refer to themselves as “Hebrews” rather it was an epithet used by people such as the Philistines. (Doug Petrovich, if reading this, ought not to respond or I might make fun of him for repeating himself.) I’m just looking for verification from a different source and am wondering if my foggy recollection of an alternate explanation of the word “Hebrew” might be accurate or just be the result of misinformation I heard or maybe unfortunately random neurons got activated by some unknown event like a gamma ray hit on some synapse in my brain.

          As an aside, I may let some of Petrovich’s comments slide in order to focus on a more strategic goal of focusing discussion on the reliability of the standard Egyptian chronology. How might I introduce the topic to Petrovich in a way that he might see other alignments with the Bible and Egyptian chronology? He mentioned being hurt by David Rohl. But this isn’t unique is it? Scripture says, “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” (Prov. 19:11 NIV) If an unbeliever insults us because of belief in God shouldn’t it rather be a source of joy? “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” (1 Pet. 4:14 NIV) And didn’t Jesus suggest we should jump for joy? (Matthew 5:12, Luke 6:23)

          Doug may in due time adjust some of his adjectives in regard to how he describes himself. You did your part in giving advice. And like when you give advice to me, I think it is usually or always right.

          In World War II US general Douglas MacArthur wisely avoided trying to take every enemy held Island. He engaged in what was called an “Island hopping strategy.” When Petrovich writes he sometimes says things that …. well you know … I don’t have to lay them out. But I’d like to overlook his linguistic foibles and see what common objectives are in play for the Kingdom of God and how to be best help readers to the HFS site.

          My wisdom and insight into all the objectives that are best is sketchy and incomplete. I’m just asking you Deborah to help keep a clear focus and you see some things I don’t understand…

          • Deborah Hurn

            March 7, 2021 at 8:58 pm

            Thomas, maybe what you are remembering is that ‘Hebrew’ comes from the common verb 注指讘址专 avar ‘cross over’. See below for the various words in Strongs (working back to the root). The usual significance given to this is that Abram and family ‘crossed’ the Euphrates to get to Canaan. I am not sure how significant this is. Migration from Mesopotamia was probably very common, so it seems doubtful that Abram got his tribal name this way and others didn’t. One text in favour of this ‘crossing’ being a life-changing (and therefore possibly name-changing) event is in Joshua’s speech (note also Jacob’s name change on crossing the Jabbok):

            Jos 24:2-3 KJV  And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.  (3)  And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac.

            But Joshua’s point is more theological, i.e. that a water-crossing was significant in each phase of Hebrew history, because he goes on to also mention the crossing of the Red Sea and the Jordan (vv. 6, 8). Thus Hebrew history has been a series of ‘crossings’, even for the Judaeans who centuries later had to cross the ‘Flood’ again to return to Babylon in exile, and again to return under Nehemiah. All the same, I think the idea that Hebrew came from Eber is more likely, as tribes were known by their progenitor. Eber was a Semite (from Shem), and the name Hebrew therefore distinguished his branch from other Semites which included the Syrians (Asshur) and Aramaeans (Aram) and the original Arab nations (Gen 10:21-31).





            Patronymic from H5677; an Eberite (that is, Hebrew) or descendant of Eber: – Hebrew (-ess, woman).

            Total KJV occurrences: 34





            The same as H5676; Eber, the name of two patriarchs and four Israelites: – Eber, Heber.

            Total KJV occurrences: 15





            From H5674; properly a region across; but used only adverbially (with or without a preposition) on the opposite side (especially of the Jordan; usually meaning the east): – X against, beyond, by, X from, over, passage, quarter, (other, this) side, straight.

            Total KJV occurrences: 90





            A primitive root; to cross over; used very widely of any transition (literally or figuratively; transitively, intransitively, intensively or causatively); specifically to cover (in copulation): – alienate, alter, X at all, beyond, bring (over, through), carry over, (over-) come (on, over), conduct (over), convey over etc.

            Total KJV occurrences: 557

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