Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Exodus and The Book of Yasher: Chapter 3

As mentioned previously, one of the most common questions asked is how can such a major event, a defining event for the monotheism of today’s world, be overlooked so completely from the historical records. This has led many to falsely accuse the Old Testament, the Torah, of being a fable, a fabrication of nomadic tribes that sat around the campfire and concocted their own history. It is what the atheists, Anti-Semites, archeologists, etc. have used as their weapon to challenge the veracity of the Bible. And they have done an admirable job of overlooking the obvious, discounting the clues, and ridiculing the researchers that have even attempted to connect the dots on what is a poorly established historical truths that we are taught in school. For example, we are taught the Sphinx was constructed around 3500 BCE but those geologists that have examined it found the traceable waterlines of a much earlier flood engraved on into its stone; a flood that occurred four thousand years earlier. In Germany they have discovered stone implements and designs, quite intricate stone carvings by the way, that have been dated to 25,000 years ago, long before current historians and scientists claim we had the tools and skills to create such devices. So why are we so reliant on our current historical knowledge, provided by research that obviously is inaccurate, confused, and concealing, that we will let those that wish to repudiate, mock and ridicule the accuracy of the Torah to do so publicly within our schooling system?
In Rediscovering the Exodus, I am not asking you to take every word I have to say as undeniable truths. They are alternatives, suggestions, issues to be discussed honestly and openly, as we use the knowledge that we do have in an effort to understand events long ago for which we no longer have confirmation of eye witness accounts. We must let go of our 21st century thinking and try to perceive events through the eyes of what were primitive and tribal thinkers; men who saw miracles in every bolt of lightning and covenants in every rainbow. When you can open your minds at that level, then you will make the connection with your ancestors and see the world and the truths as they perceived them. That is the Karaite way. 

The Book of Yasher

Firstly, it must be recognized that there were other holy books in existence besides the Tanach that were passed down through the centuries. One of these is referenced twice in the Tanach and that is the Book of Yasher. It is not seen as a companion text but as a resource text from which both the Books of Joshua and Samuel have drawn their material. Therefore it is a very ancient text which preceded most of the books in the Tanach. The dilemma is that there are in existence several books with that title. Some are easy to identify as later Greek period frauds. Some are Latin period frauds and one is even an 18th century English fraud but then there are a select few that appear to be segments from a single text, ending well before the establishment of David’s Kingdom and therefore concerned only with the early events of Children of Israel. These are the texts from which the next few articles will be drawn because they paint a very intriguing and interesting picture of the Exodus that does correlate to historical events recorded in Egypt and Canaan. They also say much regarding our early priesthood, a priesthood that many claim only began with Aaron but which may have predated him by centuries if not millennia and from which Aaron was just one of many on a line of descendancy from earlier times. As one of the Kohanim, this in no way depreciates or deprecates my family’s historical background but what it does implicate, is that those now caught in the genetic tracing of our roots and claiming historical accuracy regarding the J1 controversy, most likely have it all wrong but that I will save for another article on another day. Using the Book of Yasher, known as the Book of the Upright, I will make an attempt to connect the dots but for those that are adamant that every word in the bible is to be taken literally, without interpretation ,then I’m afraid that what I have to discuss is only going to offend your religious values and you may wish to desist reading now. Because if you truly believe that the Hebrew slaves were constructing the cities of Pithom and Ramses as is recorded, not recognizing that when the stories of the Torah were finally written down, 700 years later, there were only these names in existence for the places where the slaves toiled and the earlier names had been forgotten and erased from memory, then you are failing to do as Anan ben David instructed; to seek with an open mind and find the answers that are good to you. But if you choose to recognize that that the recorders were merely using names familiar at the time to provide location, reference markers and scale of construction, then what I have to say I believe you will find enlightening. Remember, as Kohan, I have inherited a primary purpose and that is to teach and I have always dedicated my life to doing so.

The Levite Priesthood

The book of Yasher has been divided into chapters even though its original format would have been one continuous dissertation that scrolled on paragraph after paragraph.  The current format makes it easy to reference certain sentences and therefore is a convenient tool for this discussion.  Those that obtain a copy of the particular Book of Yasher that I’m reading from will find these sentences easily. 
The Torah already indicates to us that Aaron is a recognized leader of the people.  He has authority, prestige and the people listen to him  He also serves as interpreter and spokesperson for Moses, indicating that either Moses did not speak the same language as the Hebrews, or else he could not immediately command the same respect that Aaron already had.  Either way, it provides us with a clue that Aaron, and the entire Levite Tribe have an inherited status far exceeding that of the other Children of Israel.     Part of this has already been discussed in my article A Karaite Reading of Exodus at http://hubpages.com/hub/Of-Karaite-Things but I will look to the Book of Yasher to provide a more in depth perspective than what can be gleaned only for the Torah.  In Yasher, specifically Chapter 65 verse 32 we find the following written. “But the children of Levi were not employed in the work with their brethren of Israel, from the beginning unto the day of their going forth from Egypt.”  What we can interpret from this sentence was that the Tribe of Levi were not part of the slave force.  That from the beginning, ie. beginning of recorded Egyptian history, or from the time of their arrival in Egypt, hundreds of years earlier, or even from being of a specific and recognized caste, they were elite and therefore not subject to manual labour, or treated as inferior to the native Egyptian population.   This is further emphasised in the next sentence 33 in which it is written, “For all the children of Levi knew that the Egyptians had spoken all these words with deceit to the Israelites, therefore the children of Levi refrained from approaching to the work with their brethren.”  What we can infer from this, is not only are they not subject to being treated as an inferior stock, but they have access to all the written laws and beliefs, ordinances and palace documents, so that they are well aware of what was happening to the Hebrew slaves but they ensured that they neither became embroiled in the issues nor attempted to intercede in any manner to stop the persecution.   The book then makes its most startling of comments in the next verse 34 which reads “And the Egyptians did not direct their attention to make the children of Levi work afterward, since they had not been with their brethren at the beginning, therefore the Egyptians left them alone.”  What this sentence clearly implies is that the Tribe of Levi was not identical to the Hebrew slaves.  It had different origins, different roots and in the eyes of the Egyptians, were not considered Apiru, Shazu or similar which made up the Hebrew stock.  And later in verse 37 where it is written, “And the children of Israel called Melol the king of Egypt "Meror, king of Egypt," because in his days the Egyptians had embittered their lives with all manner of work,” it is clear that servitude is what the Children of Israel were subjugated with but it was not in the time period of Ramses or his father Seti, but during the reign of the Pharaoh bearing a title that sounded like ‘Melol’.  A first clue as to placing the time of the Exodus and proving the veracity of the Biblical story.  Later on in Chapter 69 verse 9, the author of Yasher reaffirms his earlier statement thusly, “But the tribe of Levi did not at that time work with the Israelites their brethren, from the beginning, for the children of Levi knew the cunning of the Egyptians which they exercised at first toward the Israelites.”  This is a most surprising statement because if you read it correctly, not only are the Levites distinct and separate from the Hebrews but in fact, they persecuted the Hebrews no differently than did the other Egyptians.  From this we can surmise that that the Levites were actually an Egyptian caste that for reasons unknown threw their lot in with the Hebrew slaves at the time of the Exodus.  Conjecture would say that in some way, the Levites did something that offended Pharaoh and therefore lost any status that they once held in Egypt.  So they went from first being persecutors of the Hebrews to allies and leaders of this outcast group through some strange quirk of fate.  Exactly what this may have been, I will leave for the next article.  For now I believe I have left you with enough to contemplate and discuss as we rediscover the Exodus.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Exodus Story: Chapter Two

As mentioned previously, the Exodus could not have occurred in a vacuum, even thought there does not appear to be any other eye witness accounts or historical records from other kingdoms to confirm any such event of such a magnitude having occurred. But therein lies the first issue, the one concerning magnitude. What we perceive of having been a tremendous event of such significant numbers to represent the evacuation of all of Goshen, may not have been that significant at all. Although the Torah would suggest the exodus was measured in hundreds of thousands, we do know that the scriptures often used numbers metaphorically, often in an exaggerated nature in order to emphasize a point. Then again, they may have been describing the total after a generation’s birth in the desert rather than at the actual time of the Exodus. We do obtain a suggestion of the actual numbers from the Exodus based on the size of the Tabernacle. We know that it was built shortly after entering into Sinai in order to accommodate all men of suitable age for prayer. Moses was a strict authoritarian, so there would have been no excuses for the men not to attend the sacrifices and services. The children, women, etc. would have remained camped outside its perimeter fence along with any people that had not joined the covenant. Since we know that the perimeter fence was 100 cubits by 50 cubits, and we commit the first 20 cubits of its length to the priestly functions and altar, then we roughly have space to accommodate worshippers of approximately 10,500 square feet. Although it would be a tight fit, we can imagine 7500 men of 20 years and older standing upright within the confines of the inner court for prayer. If they had to prostrate themselves, then it would be with some difficulty but manageable. Even if we were to assign one woman to every man of that age, then we can safely assume there were at least 15,000 people of a mature age. And if that is the case, then we can also assume there would have been probably double that in children, from infants to teenagers accompanying them, or roughly 45,000 people at the time of the Exodus. Though 7500 men of age may sound like a large number, it would hardly be sufficient to go to war with, battling the tribes that inhabited the land. So there may have been a practical reason as well why Moses chose to stay in the desert. By allying themselves with the Midianites, he would have perhaps doubled this number, but against cities even that number would barely register as a threat. So Moses stayed a generation in the desert until he had sufficient numbers to continue on his way and then dismissed Jethro with his tribe back from whence he came. With this younger generation now grown to manhood, the numbers would have been closer to a twenty thousand man standing army, much more formidable, and with the offspring born in the desert, an insurance of future numbers to go to war with Moses was prepared to enter the land of Canaan. If they did stay in the desert for a single generation, then the total population would have been a multiple of the 45,000. Perhaps they averaged five children per family unit, then if that was the case they would be of a total number suggested by the Torah, numbering over 200,000.

Insignificant and Ignored

Would the Egyptians have bothered mentioning the Exodus of 15,000 slaves, the children not even being considered in the equation? Probably not; especially if their leader was a known renegade prince from the Great House as the Torah describes Moses. Like every other prince or Pharaoh that ran afoul of the gods of Egypt, their names were erased from history, literally chiselled out of the stone in which they had been engraved. And taking into consideration that the new dynasty wanted nothing more than to eliminate anything to do with the heretical 18th Dynasty that preceded their rise, it should be no surprise that there is no recorded history of this event. After all, the 18th Dynasty attempted to introduce monotheism into Egypt, a failed experiment as far as the Ramesids were concerned and it was their role to expunge if from the Book of Life. So any event where what they would have considered a continuation of the leprosy on their Ka, they would be thrilled if it voluntarily separated itself and passed quietly into the desert. The Pharaoh would have been grateful for this gift from the gods and would not have described it as anything more than the breaking of the curse or similar. There would have been no mention of Apiru, Shazu or any other slaves fleeing from the country as they had become undesirables, and beneath mentioning.
So the error of those looking for validation of the Exodus is the fact that they look for confirmation through the historical archives recording an event that actually concerned people. But as you can see, there was no reason or justification to record such an event other than by the Israelites themselves who saw it as the turning point in their lives. But what could not be overlooked were the catastrophic events described as the Ten Plagues. History would not have been able to ignore this had they occurred. If those truly were phenomena of nature then there would be a geological and possibly archeological evidence and recording of such events and these would be beyond dispute. In order to fully appreciate this it is necessary to have an understanding of what was occurring around this time. We must look towards the great Hittite Kingdom (1750-1200 B.C) which besides Egypt, dominated the known world. By 1750 B.C.E., the Hittites had taken control of a large part of Anatolia (Turkey) and established their first kingdom at Nesa, near Kultepe. The old city of Bogazkoy was declared the capital of the Kingdom and the name of the city was changed to Hatusa. Hattusili became the first king of the Hittites. Hittites used chariots against the Egyptian army for the first time in the history of wars and not too surprisingly, the Egyptians lost that war. Hittites used both cuneiform and hieroglyphic inscriptions so we must appreciate that this was not a barbaric civilization but a highly sophisticated one that had mastered the manufacturing of iron implements. By the latter part of the Late Bronze Age (c. 1400-1200 B.C.E.), Mycenaean civilization flourished in Greece and Crete but the Hittites controlled most of Anatolia and northern Syria while the Egyptian New Kingdom ruled not only in the Nile Valley but also in Palestine and southern Syria. Even though these three civilizations were in a perpetual state of war, commerce flowed over trade routes that crisscrossed both land and sea carrying cargo from Cyprus, Canaan, Egypt, Anatolia and Mycenaean Greece. Everything points to a bustling, burgeoning and flourishing multicentred civilization that looked unstoppable. In the scope of civilizations developing to this degree, the expulsion of a few thousand slaves was insignificat but even more so if there were other matters of a far graver concern.

World Catastrophe

But at around the same time of the Exodus,during the 13th century B.C.E. the great Bronze Age civilizations of the Aegean and Near East suddenly collapsed without any indication or advance warning. The destruction of the palace at Knossos which had been originally dated c. 1400-1380 B.C.E. by Sir Arthur Evan, a dating that had stood without question for a long time, has now fallen under recent review of evidence from Knossos. It is now considered more likely that the palace continued to exist under Mycenaean rule well into the 13th century B.C.E. Again making the timing of its destruction more in line with the timing of the Exodus.  
Similarly, if we were to examine the events of a century later, all these great civilizations had begun to unravel simultaneously with evidence of their cities burned, their once extensive trade becoming virtually nonexistent, and large groups of people migrating from one place to another without any known justification. The Aegean raiders that sailed to the near east only to become the Philistines of the Torah are no more or less a displaced people as Moses and his people wandering in the desert were. And when the legacy of this catastrophe ended and the world awakened from under this spectre of terror, it had metamorphosed into brave, new world. Within the magnificent Late Bronze Age two new peoples eventually arose, which we know of as the classical Greeks and biblical Israelites. From a catastrophe came two people that would ultimately define Western civilization.
So let's assume there was a major earth shattering event (still to be defined) that destroyed the archaic Greek civilization, caused the Hittites to disappear as a force to be reckoned with, caused a mass migration of peoples throughout Europe and had its effects seen and felt in ancient Egypt. Then surely there would be some physical evidence of this cataclysm spread across the Mediterranean and thereby confirming it was of a magnitude never seen before by humans; in other words, a divine punishment in the eyes of these ancient people. For more evidence we only have to look at what archaeologists refer to as Troy VI which has been dated to 1800-1275 B.C.E. Troy VI was concurrent with the Great Hittite Kingdom and established its kingdom on the ruins of Troy V near Canakkale in the northwest region of Anatolia only to disappear at the same time the Hittite Kingdom appears to have been knocked off its pedestal. The city kingdom was abandoned following a migration of Indo-European groups from the Balkans into the region after a major earthquake devastated the city around 1200 B.C. But the coincidence of a mass migration for Balkan people at the same time this great city of legend was being destroyed would suggest that the migration had been forced upon these people by the same event that destroyed Troy. What may have been an earthquake in Troy, may have been a tidal wave in Greece, or an eruption elswhere on the continent.  Combine these events and you have mass devastation. So as we can see, what was occuring in Anatolia, was also occuring in Greece and the Balkans, and from what we know from the Torah, was affecting Egypt as well. We also know that during this same time period, there were major population displacements and replacements throughout the region, including Cyprus and the Levant all while the Hittite empire was collapsing.These were not random events but caused by a single source yet to be determined.
Every event must have its epicentre, so where would this earth shattering event have taken place? From the Torah we know that the looking from Goshen, there was a pillar of light at night and a pillar of smoke by day that guided Moses initially to the Northeast, towards Yam Suf, or the Sea of Reeds. This would suggest that we should look to the northeast which draws our eyes to present day Turkey, the home of the once mighty Hittites. Karprinar is a volcanic filed located in central Turkey and it consists of five cinder cones, two lava fields and several explosion craters and maars. The 300-m-high Meke Dağı, is surrounded by the crater lake known as Meke Golu and it is one of the largest cinder cones in Central Anatolia.  A volcanic field of this size if it was erupting all at once, may have also triggered the Mediterranean Ring of Fire to ignite all around the north and east of the sea. And with that much ash, smoke, and sulfur being spewed into the air, it had to have a long term effect as well. And we do get some comment from Egypt that something had changed drastically in that it was recorded that from the time of Ramses III (c. 1182-1151 B.C.E.) until that of Ramses VII (c. 1133-1127 B.C.E.), the price of an emmer of wheat rose to eight times its earlier price. Not until the reign of Ramses X (c. 1108-1098 B.C.E.) did the price drop, but even then it remained twice what it had been at the beginning of the 12th century. During this time, the government also frequently failed to pay grain and other food rations owed to artisans that worked on the royal tombs. These craftsmen staged strikes at least six times between about 1154 B.C.E. and 1106 B.C.E. because their grain allotments were months in arrears. It is obvious that there had been a major alteration to the climate, the soil, etc. which for quite some time (the biblical 7 X 7) or 49 years affected the crops resulting in poor harvests. Whatever the change, it predated Ramses III and would again have likely occurred in the 13th Century B.C.E.  From the change of soil, moisture,, etc., it is suggetive of soil contamination from massive ash clouds.
The truth is we don't know yet the exact location or magnitude of this catastrophic event. But with science we are learning more and more each day that it did happen. And its just a matter of time until science does prove the Exodus and the plagues happened exactly as they were recorded.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

In Search of The Real Exodus: Chapter One

One of the most pivotal events in Jewish history is the Exodus.  No other event played such a defining role in the establishment of a people.  Yet, the entire story appears to be absent from the cultural histories of those nations in the immediate vicinity at the time the event likely occurred.  This has led many to claim that the plagues and the actual events of the Exodus never occurred otherwise this vacuum could not exist.  Faith can take one only so far before doubts begin to creep into one’s belief system.  But without the Exodus, the justification for monotheism, the rational origins for Judaism, Christianity and Islam are suddenly placed in a precarious situation.  And as bizarre as this might seem to religious fanatics, we may have to rely on science to prove that the events of the Exodus.  What has always been perceived and accused of being the anathema of religion may in fact prove to be its savior.   By understanding what science has recorded and teaches us about the time period, through means of extrapolation we can rediscover the Exodus.

The Ultimate Scientist

There are those that no matter how you try to explain to them that events of Torah were described through the perceptions of people that lived during the time and therefore we of a more modern and learned time must interpret their words carefully but they were biased by the limitations of their knowledge and they refuse to accept this.  Their response is that everything in the Torah has to be accepted literally and if you cannot accept this, then you are not a true believer.  These are the same people that if you show them a uranium dated rock as being three billion years old, accuse you of being in league with the Devil as their world is only less than 6000 years old.  Interestingly enough, the Devil isn’t in the Torah but they’re willing to accept him as being so.
The reality is that their reliance, and our reliance shouldn’t be based on the words of men, for as I stated, those perceptions could only be manifested through their current level of knowledge which we know was minimal at best, but instead based upon that which God has taught us.  As we begin to understand the universe that God created, we begin to appreciate the beautifully designed plan that He worked from.  God created the rules of physics, the laws of nature, to achieve His master plan.  Like an architect, He had a blueprint from which He designed everything around us and only now do we even have an inkling of how He achieved this great design.  It is in this context that we must view the events of the Exodus, as naturally occurring events which followed a sequence of events dictated by physical laws.   And as we now know, energy can be converted into physical mass.  In other words, that which did not exist as a solid object, can be created when enough energy is released and converted.  Had we had the equipment at the time of Moses, we would have been able to measure the EDMs and EMPs that probably preceded each event.  One could even suggest that Moses was given the gift of sensing these energy spikes prior to the event, like the rheumatism in one’s bones making them sensitive to an oncoming storm.  Only Moses would be able to say for certain, but nevertheless, the fact that we know enough now about energy transformation and conversion, and can appreciate that God is pure energy and the source of all that is, then science does tell us that everything was possible.

Chronology of the Plagues

From Exodus Chapter 7 we read:
לְעֵינֵי פַרְעֹה, וּלְעֵינֵי עֲבָדָיו; וַיֵּהָפְכוּ  וַיַּעֲשׂוּ-כֵן מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה, וַיָּרֶם בַּמַּטֶּה וַיַּךְ אֶת-הַמַּיִם אֲשֶׁר בַּיְאֹר, כָּל-הַמַּיִם אֲשֶׁר-בַּיְאֹר, לְדָם. 20
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.
וְלֹא-יָכְלוּ מִצְרַיִם, לִשְׁתּוֹת מַיִם מִן-הַיְאֹר; וַיְהִי הַדָּם בְּכָל-אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם  וְהַדָּגָה אֲשֶׁר-בַּיְאֹר מֵתָה, וַיִּבְאַשׁ הַיְאֹר 21 And the fish that were in the river died; and the river became foul, and the Egyptians could not drink water from the river; and the blood was throughout all the land of Egypt
As strange as this first plague may seem to be, rivers turning to blood on demand, it is not that unusual.  We know from events like the eruption of Krakatau, when there is a major disturbance to the bedrock, there is often the release of corrosive toxins such as iron oxide.  It is iron oxide which give Mars the nickname, the Red Planet.  As with Krakatau, fish died in the hundreds of thousands and this devastation extended for hundreds of miles.  If there was a major earth shattering event that made Krakatau look like a relative non-event, the release of iron oxide in Egypt would not have been that unlikely. 
Since an event of this nature also occurred during the eruption of Mt. Saint Helen’s where fish were found floating dead on the surface of the riverways hundreds of kilometres from the volcano, and that the drinking of water in the area was forbidden until such time that the impurities could be filtered from the reservoirs, then we have on a much smaller scale, a repetition of biblical events. 
And from Exodus Chapter 8 we read:
- אֱמֹר אֶל-אַהֲרֹן נְטֵה אֶת-יָדְךָ בְּמַטֶּךָ, עַל-הַנְּהָרֹת עַל-הַיְאֹרִים וְעַל-הָאֲגַמִּים; וְהַעַל אֶת וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה -הַצְפַרְדְּעִים, עַל-אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם.
1 And the LORD said unto Moses: 'Say unto Aaron: Stretch forth thy hand with thy rod over the rivers, over the canals, and over the pools, and cause frogs to come up upon the land of Egypt.'
 , הַצְּפַרְדֵּעַ, וַתְּכַס, אֶת-אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם וַיֵּט אַהֲרֹן אֶת-יָדוֹ, עַל מֵימֵי מִצְרָיִם; וַתַּעַל.
2 And Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up, and covered the land of Egypt.
  וַיַּעֲשׂוּ-כֵן הַחַרְטֻמִּים, בְּלָטֵיהֶם; וַיַּעֲלוּ אֶת-הַצְפַרְדְּעִים, עַל-אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם.
3 And the magicians did in like manner with their secret arts, and brought up frogs upon the land of Egypt
As soon as the water became contaminated by the metal toxins, amphibians have a choice to make. Either stay in the water or run to the next water source in the hope that it would be cleaner.  If they chose to stay they would die, and even the most primitive of neuro-responders have built in fight or flight receptors that tell them when they in dire consequences.  So the swarming of the frogs over the land would have been a normal sequelae and the Egyptian magicians would have been able to think they could reproduce it as well since they could walk to any water source and see similar events unfolding.  In modern times we have seen a similar event though are memories are short lived and people seem to forget.  After Mount St. Helen’s erupted, the toxins from the volcano had settled into most of the water courses and as a result, there were frogs stretching throughout Washington State that were making a run for it but with nowhere to go.  People reported that they could not drive down the roads without literally squashing them in the thousands and this became a driving risk as the roads became slick with frog blood and remains.  In the local newspapers the stories talked about people finding their lawns covered in frogs, and in their search for water, the amphibians were invading the houses. 
Later in Chapter 8 we read:
וְסָרוּ הַצְפַרְדְּעִים, מִמְּךָ וּמִבָּתֶּיךָ, וּמֵעֲבָדֶיךָ, וּמֵעַמֶּךָ:  רַק בַּיְאֹר, תִּשָּׁאַרְנָה.
7 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.'
  וַיֵּצֵא מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן, מֵעִם פַּרְעֹה; וַיִּצְעַק מֹשֶׁה אֶל-יְהוָה, עַל-דְּבַר הַצְפַרְדְּעִים אֲשֶׁר-שָׂם לְפַרְעֹה.
8 And Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh; and Moses cried unto the LORD concerning the frogs, which He had brought upon Pharaoh.
  וַיַּעַשׂ יְהוָה, כִּדְבַר מֹשֶׁה; וַיָּמֻתוּ, הַצְפַרְדְּעִים, מִן-הַבָּתִּים מִן-הַחֲצֵרֹת, וּמִן-הַשָּׂדֹת.
9 And the LORD did according to the word of Moses; and the frogs died out of the houses, out of the courts, and out of the fields.
 וַיִּצְבְּרוּ אֹתָם, חֳמָרִם חֳמָרִם; וַתִּבְאַשׁ, הָאָרֶץ.
10 And they gathered them together in heaps; and the land stank.
The significance of these four sentences is paramount to our understanding of events.  What we read in sentences 8 through 10 are in contradiction to what Moses stated he would do in sentence 7.  His promise to Pharaoh was to make the frogs depart, essentially return to the river where they would be confined once again.  But even as he prayed to God, the resultant solution was not as he had promised but instead was massive deaths of the creatures.  Moses did not have complete control nor full understanding of the events occurring.  Because the fact was that the water was still contaminated and the frogs could not return to the waters.  And as we all know about amphibians, without water to maintain their hydration, the oxygen diffusion skin ratios, etc., they die.  And they died in such numbers that the Egyptians made mountains of their remains.  And rather than burn them, it would appear that they permitted these corpses to remain in their piles until they stank.
כָּל-עֲפַר הָאָרֶץ הָיָה כִנִּים וַיַּעֲשׂוּ-כֵן, וַיֵּט אַהֲרֹן אֶת-יָדוֹ בְמַטֵּהוּ וַיַּךְ אֶת-עֲפַר הָאָרֶץ, וַתְּהִי הַכִּנָּם, בָּאָדָם וּבַבְּהֵמָה: , בְּכָל-אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם.
13 And they did so; and Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod, and smote the dust of the earth, and there were gnats upon man, and upon beast; all the dust of the earth became gnats throughout all the land of Egypt.
I prefer this translation of the next plague being that of gnats, and not lice as some versions have been translated. But even more so, I would suggest that the Egyptians made little distinction between gnats or mosquitoes and subsequently there are few words to describe these insects in the ancient hieroglyphics.   For an appreciation of the event as translated being gnats then we merely have to look at more recent situations such as the volcanic eruptions of Mount Pelee in 1851 and again in 1902.  After the eruptions, swarms of flying ants descended upon the villagers and viciously attacked the people.   The ants caused the people to flee, consumed their plantations and were reported to have killed babies through their bites and acid stings.  Gnats fly, lice don’t.  Either way, gnats or mosquitoes, their lives were made miserable.  Of course we also know, that mosquitoes in Egypt bring other plagues, such as malaria, Nile Fever, etc.  Something to consider.
, מִפְּנֵי הֶעָרֹב וַיַּעַשׂ יְהוָה, כֵּן, וַיָּבֹא עָרֹב כָּבֵד, בֵּיתָה פַרְעֹה וּבֵית עֲבָדָיו; וּבְכָל-אֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם תִּשָּׁחֵת הָאָרֶץ.
20 And the LORD did so; and there came grievous swarms of flies into the house of Pharaoh, and into his servants' houses; and in all the land of Egypt the land was ruined by reason of the swarms of flies.
The flies should be seen as a natural consequence of rotting corpses of all the frogs, fish, and everything else that may have been affected from the toxic nature of the water.  And as any entomologist will inform you, flies go through cycles in which they become active biters as well, a carnivorous phase when they are seeking out living creatures on which to feed. 
The events of Chapter 9 become far more serious:
וַיַּעַשׂ יְהוָה אֶת-הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה, מִמָּחֳרָת, וַיָּמָת, כֹּל מִקְנֵה מִצְרָיִם; וּמִמִּקְנֵה בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, לֹא-מֵת אֶחָד.
6 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. 
The loss of all the Egyptian cattle is contradicted in sentences 19 and 20 of the same chapter and therefore we realize that the events of sentence 6 was intended as an exaggeration, emphasizing that the Egyptians suffered more than the Israelites but then it was unlikely the Israelites had as extensive a farming industry as the Egyptians, and being in Goshen, the ocean breezes and the fresh moving river waters as they came into the basins of salt water would have meant that the insect populations were far less than those inland.
וַיִּקְחוּ אֶת-פִּיחַ הַכִּבְשָׁן, וַיַּעַמְדוּ לִפְנֵי פַרְעֹה, וַיִּזְרֹק אֹתוֹ מֹשֶׁה, הַשָּׁמָיְמָה; וַיְהִי, שְׁחִין אֲבַעְבֻּעֹת, פֹּרֵחַ, בָּאָדָם וּבַבְּהֵמָה.
10 And they took soot of the furnace, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses threw it up heavenward; and it became a boil breaking forth with blains upon man and upon beast.
וַיֵּט מֹשֶׁה אֶת-מַטֵּהוּ, עַל-הַשָּׁמַיִם, וַיהוָה נָתַן קֹלֹת וּבָרָד, וַתִּהֲלַךְ אֵשׁ אָרְצָה; וַיַּמְטֵר יְהוָה בָּרָד עַל-אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם
We can assume that whatever the clouds were that were passing overhead they definitely weren’t raincloud.  In fact the plagues to follow next suggested that the Egyptians were looking a volcanic ash and far more of it than that which was spewing from the volcano in Iceland that grounded all European air traffic for a week.  It may have come in waves, it may have come all at once, but whatever the case, its high acidic content caused severe rashes and burns to all that it touched.  This is right in line with reports of hundreds of people following the eruption of Mount St Helen’s that had to be taken to the hospital for treatment of acid burns from the fallout.  And just as Moses suggested, it was a contact dermatitis because if the farmers took their beasts inside and sheltered them, then they did not develop the sores. 
It is when we start discussing the plagues associated with the soot and the hail that people start to reject the concept of a geophysical event, since they appear out of order with the locusts and darkness that follow afterwards.  But the question I will raise is where does it insist that the events as they were being retold were guaranteed as being chronological?  As a retelling of the plagues, God wanted us to remember what devastation he had brought down upon Egypt but I see no insistence that they must be recalled in a specific order for a specific reason.  Nor is there anything to suggest that events could not have overlapped in some respects.  It is only the third party narrator that says Moses went back and forth between events to pray to God thereby separating the plagues into distinct timeframes, but who’s to say that each time he prayed represented, a day or days, or even weeks. Perhaps these intervals of prayer were several times within a single day.  The point of the redactor was to emphasize that as intermediary, Moses communicated often with God and God would speak directly to him.  Timing was not the issue here but the evidence of divine intercession.
23 And Moses stretched forth his rod toward heaven; and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down unto the earth; and the LORD caused to hail upon the land of Egypt.
Without a doubt we are looking at the fire and ash that one associates with a volcanic eruption.  What the Egyptians perceived as thunder could have just as easily been the massive rumblings of a distant volcano.  The obvious question would be why a people so famous for their historical recordings would not report such a major geophysical event?   I will deal with the answer to that question in the next article because there is a logical explanation. 
Chapter 10 becomes the clean up mission prior to the Exodus.  By clean up I mean anything that hasn’t already been destroyed was not being destroyed, leaving Egypt with nothing of value.
וַיַּעַל הָאַרְבֶּה, עַל כָּל-אֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, וַיָּנַח בְּכֹל גְּבוּל מִצְרָיִם: כָּבֵד מְאֹד--לְפָנָיו לֹא-הָיָה כֵן אַרְבֶּה כָּמֹהוּ, וְאַחֲרָיו לֹא,  יִהְיֶה-כֵּן.
14 And the locusts went up over all the land of Egypt, and rested in all the borders of Egypt; very grievous were they; before them there were no such locusts as they, neither after them shall be such
As I mentioned, there may have been alterations to the chronological events as it was not necessary to record them in the exact order, but also, the possibility of locusts swarming after a major devastation of crops from the ash and fires would not be out of the question.  So in fact, this third plague of insect might be in its proper place.
 וַיֵּט מֹשֶׁה אֶת-יָדוֹ, עַל-הַשָּׁמָיִם; וַיְהִי חֹשֶׁךְ-אֲפֵלָה בְּכָל-אֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, שְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים.
22 And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days
We already saw earlier that there were clouds of acid ash descending upon people and the beasts.  Initially it would have looked like snowflakes but as the clouds of volcanic ash and debris increased in their magnitude and extent, they would have eventually formed an ash cloud that blotted out the sun.  Three days of darkness gives you an appreciation of just how large this cloud had to be and just as the ancients would panic about an eclipse that lasted for minutes, that fear would also be intensified as each of those days appeared to stretch on for an eternity.
The final and greatest plague occurs in Chapter 11:
וּמֵת כָּל-בְּכוֹר, בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם--מִבְּכוֹר פַּרְעֹה הַיֹּשֵׁב עַל-כִּסְאוֹ, עַד בְּכוֹר הַשִּׁפְחָה אֲשֶׁר אַחַר הָרֵחָיִם וְכֹל, בְּכוֹר בְּהֵמָה
5 and all the first-born in the land of Egypt shall die, from the first-born of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the first-born of the maid-servant that is behind the mill; and all the first-born of cattle.
We are all aware of the story of how fresh blood was to be painted on the lintel and door posts of the homes where the Hebrews dwelled.  Whereas the emphasis has always been placed on the ‘sign’ perhaps it should have focused on the blood itself.  Having suffered through what may have been days or weeks of catastrophic events, the penultimate plague could be nothing less than death.  Epidemiologist will tell you similar stories of how people were able to thwart plagues carried by insect vectors by similar means.  Insect vectors will be attracted to the easiest food source available.  The path of least resistance so to speak.  Moses through the word of God, knew how to avoid this last plague but not necessarily why.
What was unique about this last plague was the enormity of the events which followed, the apparent knowledge by one man of exactly how everything would play out, and the predictability of Pharaoh’s behaviour.  Firstborn is a common expression for those of the aristocracy and here it is most likely suggesting that the princes, nobles and wealthy of Egypt were not immune from the plagues.  This is further emphasized with the mention of the maid servant to emphasize that this was not merely the death of the poor and helpless.  And further emphasized when the term is used again for cattle.  Cattle don’t have firstborn.  Calves are usually born singly and as they mature are either put into production or slaughtered.  Therefore there is nothing recorded to identify what was the first calve of any cow, so it is obvious that the reference to firstborn means something else.  Once again, the reasonable suggestion is a reference to something ‘elite’.  In this case, a prize cow.  As we recall from the boils, Moses had suggested that all the farmers bring their prize cattle in doors and that would protect them.  Here the event is being contrasted to that earlier plague.  In other words there was nothing that could be done to protect the cattle from certain death. Even if brought in doors, without the blood on the entryway, they would surely die.

To Be Continued

But there is far more to be considered from a scientific perspective than just the plagues. There is geology and archaeology that still has to be considered in the backdrop of these world changing events. Because although the written word of mankind can be lost, altered or never written in the first place, there will always be a record of events recorded in some other manner. These I will explore in the next article and I hope that by the time I’m finished, there will be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Moses and the Exodus are far more than an interesting story of mythical proportions. For me to present the scenario of a volcano or similar being responsible for the Greatest Story ever told, then there has to be some proof of an eruption of enormous magnitude occurring at the time. There must be events to suggest that such catastrophes didn’t occur just in Egypt but in numerous other areas around the Mediterranean around the same time. Be assured, I would not have raised this topic if I didn’t have far more to say on this matter to support this train of thought. It’s just time to take a break and begin writing the next article.
Avrom Aryeh-Zuk Kahana