Apr 17, 2021
JERUSALEM WEATHER

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In what might be seen as a miniature version of the fourth plague which had Egypt overrun by wild animals, much of Australia is suffering a plague of mice. Though tiny when taken on an individual basis, the results are just as devastating.

Plague of Mice

Widespread mice infestations are not uncommon in Australia, happening about once every ten years, appearing after sufficient rains generate bountiful harvest. but the land-down-under is currently experiencing its worst in over a decade. A “normal” infestation can see up to 7,500 mice per acre which generally aggregate around food sources. This year, the problem is much worse and the pests are threatening crops in inland eastern Australia, known as the wheat belt of the country. The mice destroy food crops and eat feed intended for cattle and sheep. 

“The mice have continued to breed through the spring, into the summer and now the real concern is that they’ll continue to breed into the autumn and cause a lot of trouble for the sowing of winter crops (in March/April),” CSIRO mouse researcher Steve Henry told AAP news.

“You can force a farmer to do something about rabbits or foxes but because they’re all-pervasive when in high numbers, everywhere you turn there’s a mouse … it’s just impossible to get on top of them.”

Mice Ruining Hopes of Recovery from Drought

The rural farming regions are just now recovering from a multi-year drought. Many farmers were fortunate enough to harvest before the mice showed up but the infestation is ruining the hopes of any harvest in the near future.

Many are resorting to the widespread use of poison however this tactic introduces the poison into the food chain. The poison becomes more concentrated in the predators that prey upon the mice with devastating effects. Experts recommend that farmers allow their livestock to graze the stubble of harvested fields in order to deprive the mice of that source of food. When food sources become scarce, mice eat their own young and the population quickly dwindles.

The government has set up the MouseAlert website to help track the problem and advise farmers who are trying to cope with the plague. 

During a previous mouse plague in 1984, a farmer was shown on the evening news using a flamethrower to wipe out mice eating his crops but a more moderate solution comes from the heavens in the form of a cold snap or rains which fill up their burrows. Alternatively, the swarms can consume all the food available and subsequently die out. 

Mice: The Plague Imported From Europe 

Mice start breeding when they’re six weeks old, and have a litter every 19 to 20 days after that. They can have up to 10 pups per litter, which means the rate of increase is really dramatic.As soon as they have a litter of pups they fall pregnant again. They gestate the next litter while feeding the previous one.

Mice are not native to Australia, being introduced by the first European colonists in 1788. Plagues of mice have been occurring ever since with increasing frequency since the rodent was introduced. Australia’s worst-ever mouse plague occurred in 1993 and caused an estimated A$96 million worth of damage to crops and attacked livestock in piggeries and poultry farms. They also destroyed rubber and electrical insulation, damaged farm vehicles, and ruined cars and buildings. 

Fourth Plague: Insects or Beasts?

Though some sources translate ערוב (arov, swarms) as insects. 

The Midrash understands the word to mean “a mixture.” In the Midrash, Rabbi Yehudah interprets the plague to be a mixed assortment of wild animals—a punishment for the Egyptians. It was considered fitting retribution as the Egyptians would force the Hebrews to hunt wild animals. The Egyptians would then torture the animals for their own sadistic pleasure. Rabbi Nechemiah, on the other hand, explains arov to have been swarms of hornets or mosquitoes.

The Midrash concludes that the Biblical verses tend to support the view of Rabbi Yehudah since, after the plague of the frogs, Egypt was piled high with stinking carcasses of dead frogs. This contrasts with the aftermath of the plague of arov. Following the plague, God “removed the arov from Pharaoh and his servants, and not one remained.” This was done because dead animals have valuable hides, which God did not want to leave for the Egyptians to use. Conversely, if arov was insects, God would not have removed the useless carcasses of insects.   

The fourth plague was so detestable that Pharaoh promised to allow the Hebrews to go out into the desert to serve God on the condition that they would not go too far. Moses prayed to G‑d, and the wild animals disappeared. But as soon as they had gone, Pharaoh withdrew his promise and refused Moses’ demand.

The vast majority of the great commentators (Targum Yonatan, Rashi, Ibn Ezra) agree with Rabbi Yehudah and explain that the plague of arov was a mixture of wild animals.

Alternatively, the Rashbam understands the word to actually mean a wolflike beast that attacks at night. He explains that the word עָרֹב (arov) is derived from עֶרֶב (erev), the Hebrew word for evening.

LOCUST PLAGUE UPDATE

Eastern Africa has been suffering a multi-year plague of locusts, with each year getting worse. In addition to the COVID pandemic, Somalia has suffered widespread flooding, generating a massive food-crisis. On Wednesday, Somalia declared a national state of emergency. 

Swarms are often tens of square kilometers in size.  A swarm of just one square kilometer eats the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people. The swarms also can travel 93 miles a day making efforts to control an outbreak even more difficult. Officials warned that further rains in the region could lead to an even larger outbreak.

Lesser swarms have been reported in Kenya, as well as smaller ones in Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan, and Somalia. Yemen, also wartorn, is struggling with an outbreak of locusts. 

Desert locusts are always present in the region but are typically solitary. Favorable breeding conditions generate swarms and their behavior changes as they form groups that can be miles long and contain a billion individuals. 

Last year, locusts destroyed 350,000 tons of grain and more than 3 million acres of pasture in Ethiopia.

 

BIBLICAL PLAGUE, MODERN EXODUS

Biblical Plagues Reappearing as Precursor to Redemption

This wave very much resembles the Biblical plague in this respect, coming as part of a wave of catastrophes that left the land of Egypt bereft of any food.

Locusts invaded all the land of Egypt and settled within all the territory of Egypt in a thick mass; never before had there been so many, nor will there ever be so many again. They covered the face of the whole land, so that the land was darkened, and they ate all the plants in the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left. Not a green thing remained, neither tree nor plant of the field, through all the land of Egypt. Exodus 10:14-15 

Meanwhile, ongoing infestations in Saudi Arabia pose a risk of a new group of adult swarms that are likely to move inland to the spring breeding areas of the interior.

 

According to Jewish tradition, the ten-plagues will reappear before the Messiah. Rabbi Yosef Berger, the rabbi of King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion, explained this aspect of the Messianic process to Israel365 News, quoting the Prophet Micah.

I will show him wondrous deeds As in the days when You sallied forth from the land of Egypt. Micah 7:15

“All of the miracles will reappear, all of the plagues, the entire story, in all its pain and all its glory,” Rabbi Berger said. “Our job in this generation is to speak about it, to pray for it, even while it is unfolding in front of our eyes.”

 

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