Gateway to the Classics: Display Item
William Shepard

The Ten Plagues of Egypt

The king despised the words of Moses, and would not listen to them, and great plagues were sent by the Lord upon the Egyptians.

First the river ran with bloody water, and the Egyptians that ventured to drink of it were visited with great pains and torment. There was no other water to drink, for all the springs were dried up. But to the Israelites the river was sweet and fit for drinking, and noway different from what it used to be. Then the king, being in great fear and not knowing what else to do, gave the Israelites leave to go. But when the plague ceased, he changed his mind and would not suffer them to go.

God, seeing he was proud and wicked, sent a second plague upon the Egyptians. A great number of frogs overspread the land; the river also was full of them. And the frogs crept into their houses, and spoiled the vessels that they used, and were found in what they ate and what they drank, and came in great numbers upon their beds. Pharaoh again grew afraid, and ordered Moses to take the Israelites with him and be gone. Upon which the whole multitude of frogs vanished. But as soon as Pharaoh saw the land freed from this plague, he forbade the departure of the Israelites.

God punished him with a third plague. An innumerable quantity of lice appeared upon the bodies of the Egyptians and upon their cattle, and there was no way of destroying the vermin. Then Pharaoh gave leave to the Israelites to depart. But when the plague ceased, he said they must leave their children and wives behind them, as pledges that they would return. Whereat God was provoked, and sent another plague. He filled the country with a number of small flies, of a kind that had never been seen there before, and whose bite was poisonous to both man and beast. But when Pharaoh refused to yield to this plague, and would only allow the Israelites and their wives to go if they would leave their children behind them, God visited the land with still more grievous calamities. The bodies of the Egyptians broke out into terrible sores, and a great many of them perished. Their cattle also were afflicted and perished. Then hail was sent down from heaven, and the hailstones were larger than any that had ever been seen in that country, and they broke down the boughs laden with fruit and did other damage. After this a tribe of locusts consumed the seed which was not hurt by the hail, so that all hope of fruit of any kind was destroyed. Yet Pharaoh still contested with God, and would only let Moses take away the Israelites with their wives and children if they would leave their cattle behind them. Then a thick darkness arose and covered the land of the Egyptians, whereby their sight was obstructed and their breathing hindered, and it lasted for three days and three nights. And this was the ninth plague.

Then God told Moses that with one more plague He would compel the Egyptians to let the Israelites go. Moses told his people to get ready for the journey. In every household he commanded that a lamb should be killed as a sacrifice, and its blood sprinkled on the door-post. Then the lamb should be roasted and eaten, and whatever portion of it was left should be burnt.

That night God went through the land of Egypt, and the first-born in every Egyptian house was stricken dead. But God passed over every house that was marked with bloodstains, so that none of the Israelites died.

In commemoration of this event the children of Israel ever afterwards celebrated a yearly feast called the Passover, because God had passed over their households while visiting the tenth plague upon the Egyptians.

In every Egyptian house, in the royal palace as well as in the meanest hut, there arose a great sound of moaning and lamentation when it was found that the oldest child had been slain. And the people came to Pharaoh and begged him to let the Israelites go. Pharaoh himself was now anxious to be rid of them. So he called Moses to him, and said,—

"Go away out of the land, you and your people, and take your flocks and herds with you."