The Ten Plagues of Egypt in the Bible

By Alice Bassett
Kelli Harris
Edited by Kelli Harris

Published November 29, 2021.

Sculpture depicting Moses and the 10 plagues of Egypt

The book of Exodus in the Old Testament tells of 10 plagues that ravished the Egyptian people. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact year that these occurred, but it is speculated that they happened between 1570 and 1440 BC.

The 10 Plagues of Egypt, in order: 1. Blood 2. Frogs 3. Lice or Gnats 4. Flies 5. Death of Livestock 6. Boils 7. Hail 8. Locusts 9. Darkness 10. Death of Firstborns

There are two main reasons why God sent the plagues to Egypt. The first is that the Pharaoh of Egypt refused to let the enslaved Israelites go after over 400 years of slavery. God not only wanted to display His strength to the Pharaoh and intimidate him into freeing the slaves, but also as a sign of reassurance to Israelites that their God was the absolute god.

The second was because the Egyptians did not follow God Himself, but instead worshipped gods and goddesses of the land, sky, and sea. The Lord wanted to prove to the Egyptians that he was the only God worth serving.

What Happened During Each of the Ten Biblical Plagues

God sent Moses and Aaron as his envoys, to carry out the plagues in his name. Every time a plague happened, Moses and Aaron relayed the message that the Pharaoh needed to let God's people go, and every time the Pharaoh refused another plague ensued.

The Pharaoh had hired magicians to recreate the plagues that God sent down. Each time the magicians use magic and trickery to mimic the plagues it solidified the Pharaoh's belief that God was powerless, and he refused to let God's people go. With every refusal, God sent Moses and Aaron back with another plague, and so the 10 curses of Egypt occurred.

The First Plague: Blood

With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood. Exodus 7:17

The first plague was that of turning the Nile river into blood. This was done so that the Egyptians could not drink the water nor eat the fish as they all died and began to rot.

The Second Plague: Frogs

If you refuse to let them go, I will send a plague of frogs on your whole country. Exodus 8:2

One week after the Nile had been turned into blood the Lord demanded the release of his people. Once more the Pharaoh refused, causing an infestation of frogs to cover the land. The Pharaoh told Moses that if God removed these frogs his people would be free to worship him. Once removed, however, the Pharaoh refused to uphold his end of the deal.

The Third Plague: Lice or Gnats

All the dust throughout the land of Egypt became gnats. Exodus 8:17

After being refused again, the Lord instructed Aaron to turn all of the dust in Egypt into gnats (or in some recollections, lice). Even the Pharaoh's magicians could not replicate this, instead, naming it the work of the hand of God. The Pharoah, however, refused to listen.

The Fourth Plague: Flies

If you do not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies on you and your officials, on your people and into your houses. Exodus 8:21

The Lord sent flies to cover all of Egypt, except for the land of Goshen. Goshen was given to the Israelites by the Pharaoh. The Lord did not want the worst of the plagues of Egypt to affect the Israelites, and so while the whole of Egypt was teeming with flies, the land of Goshen saw none.

The Fifth Plague: Death of Livestock

...the hand of the Lord will bring a terrible plague on your livestock in the field—on your horses, donkeys and camels and on your cattle, sheep and goats. Exodus 9:3

A similar instance occurred to that of the plague of flies, with all of the livestock of the Egyptians dying in the fields, but those of the Israelites being untouched. Even when the Pharaoh discovered that the Israelites' livestock had been spared, he stood fast and refused to release them.

The Sixth Plague: Boils

...festering boils will break out on people and animals throughout the land. Exodus 9:9

A plague of boils broke out upon all of the Egyptian people, and their livestock too. The magicians could not even attempt to recreate this with magic, as their boils were so painful that they couldn't stand. But again, the Pharaoh was resolute.

The Seventh Plague: Hail

...I will send the worst hailstorm that has ever fallen on Egypt, from the day it was founded till now. Exodus 9:18

The Lord warned the people of Egypt to bring any of their livestock that had survived the plagues before to shelter, as he would release a hail storm like none that Egypt had ever seen before. A great many did not listen to this warning, and sure enough, the following day a tremendous storm of hail and lightning was seen on all of Egypt, except for the land of Goshen.

The Eighth Plague: Locusts

If you refuse to let them go, I will bring locusts into your country tomorrow. Exodus 10:4

At this point, even the Pharaoh's advisors and magicians were advocating for the release of the Israelites, but the Pharaoh stood fast. This caused a plague of locusts to envelop all of Egypt, laying waste to any crops that survived the previous plagues.

The Ninth Plague: Darkness

Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness spreads over Egypt—darkness that can be felt Exodus 10:21

For three days in Egypt, there was a darkness that enveloped all of Egypt. The Egyptians could not leave their homes and had to feel their way around. The homes of every Israelite, however, had light.

The Tenth Plague: Death of Firstborn

This is what the Lord says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die Exodus 11:4-5

The tenth and final plague was the one that broke the Pharaoh's resolve. Every firstborn son of every household, including livestock, would die when the Lord sent the angel of death over their houses. The Israelites were spared only if they carried out an act of service to prove their faith. Every family had to sacrifice a lamb to God and mark their door with its blood in order for the angel of death to pass over their homes and spare them.

Relevance of the 10 Plagues Today

The final plague, and ultimately the reason that the Israelites were set free, is why we have the holiday of Passover today. It teaches us that it is not enough to be Christian only in name. As the Israelites had to sacrifice a lamb to God, so we as Christians have to proclaim our faith to receive favor from the Lord.