The Ten Plagues that struck Egypt as described in the Book of Exodus are the Biblical epitome of indisputable signs of divine intervention.
Today, it could be argued that a similar process of divine messages in the guise of natural disasters are happening in front of our eyes. If we only took the time to notice, we would see freak animal attacks, inexplicable natural events, threats from those seeking to eradicate God’s presence – all of these and more come together in modern day phenomenon akin to the Ten Plagues.
1. Water into blood (דָם): Exodus 7:14–24
On August 5, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) personnel released toxic wastewater into Cement Creek in a Colorado nature reserve. Workers accidentally destroyed the dam holding back the pond, spilling three million gallons of wastewater, including heavy metals and toxic elements, such as arsenic, into scenic Cement Creek, turning it bright orange.
Off the coast of California, an ongoing toxic algae bloom, one of the largest known, has turned parts of the water into an unusual color. The algae, Pseudo-nitzschia, gives the water a brown-green tinge and produces domoic acid, a powerful neurotoxin.
2. Frogs (צְּפַרְדֵּעַ): Exodus 7:25–8:15
Modern day Pharaohs can breathe a sigh of relief. This plague seems to be elusive, perhaps biding its time. Scientists have recently identified a highly infectious tadpole liver disease in a diverse range of frog populations across the world. Professor Thomas Richards from the University of Exeter said in Science Daily, “Global frog populations are suffering serious declines and infectious disease has been shown to be a significant factor.
3. Lice (כִּנִּים): Exodus 8:16–19
There has been a resurgence of lice in America. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates lice now affects 6-12 million children, age 3-11, in the US each year. However, experts predict that number is about to jump even higher. Mutations are making lice immune to permethrin, the active ingredient in many over-the-counter remedies. Lice in 25 states in America are now resistant to permethrin. There has also been an unexplained rise in head-lice among teenagers which many attributed to a modern plague of Biblical proportions – selfies.
4. Wild animals (עָרוֹב): Exodus 8:20–21
With new housing encroaching on wild habitats and eco-tourism becoming popular, wild animal attacks have been steadily on the rise around the world. Where animals and humans come in contact, more attacks are being reported, like the recent rash of attacks in a park in Kashmir that killed seven people.
Residential area Huntington Beach in California has reported almost 20 coyote attacks against domestic animals every month, and the trend is growing worse. Similarly, after a 20-year ban, Florida is considering legislation that may permit bear hunting in order to stop the expanding population of black bears that are becoming a menace in suburban neighborhoods.
This particular plague seems to have taken hold in pop-culture too. “Zoo” is a new American television series about a mysterious pandemic of wild animal attacks caused by a man-made virus.
5. Diseased livestock (דֶּבֶר): Exodus 9:1–7
Nineteen years after the first outbreak of Mad Cow Disease, Canada and America are just now opening their markets to European beef. So great is the threat that USAID has invested $320 million over the last decade on controlling animal diseases, and they are increasing their investment by $50 million in order to fight the threat of animal borne Ebola Virus.
6. Boils (שְׁחִין): Exodus 9:8–12
We are much closer to this plague than ever before as, counter intuitively, it may be our medical expertise that will bring us crashing down. The US Department of Defense is currently investigating possible mishandling of samples of anthrax and bubonic plague in its laboratories. The samples were shipped to other labs, including those outside of the United States. It would not take much human error or nefarious plots to release these nightmares.
7. Thunderstorm of hail and fire (בָּרָד): Exodus 9:13–35
According to Jewish midrash, a collection of parables and oral tradition that explain the Bible, the hail that fell on Egypt was miraculous, described as ice that contained fire. Last month, Israel was in the midst of the worst dust storm in its history, accompanied by unseasonably hot weather. Suddenly, in the middle of a heat wave, ice fell from the sky. Israelis were pelted by a hailstorm and torrential rains in a manner that baffled weather experts.
8. Locusts (אַרְבֶּה): Exodus 10:1–20
Last March, just before the holiday of Passover commemorating the Exodus from Egypt, southern Israel was overrun by a mini-plague of locusts, as if the Children of Israel were being treated to a sneak preview before the Seder night.
Last July, Russia declared a state of emergency when its southern farm region was hit by the swarm of locusts that devoured 10 percent of the crops. Though locusts are not uncommon in this region, local farmers say it was the worst they have seen in over 30 years, blaming it on high temperatures and flooding rather than divine wrath.
9. Darkness (חוֹשֶך): Exodus 10:21–29
Our high-tech society is particularly susceptible to this plague should our enemies decide to “turn out the lights.” This became painfully clear in April 2013 when PG&E’s Metcalf Substation in California came under attack. Fiber optic cables in a vault were cut and then gunmen shot at 17 transformers. Using military rifles and techniques, they caused $15 million in damage that required 27 days to repair. The perpetrators of the attack were never caught and Jon Wellinghoff, who was chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) at the time of the attack, said that he feared the incident could have been a dress rehearsal for a larger event. An FERC analysis found that if a surprisingly small number of US substations were knocked out at once, it could destabilize the entire grid enough to cause a blackout that could affect most of the US.
10. Death of firstborn (מַכַּת בְּכוֹרוֹת): Exodus 11:1–12:36
As fantastic as it may sound, there are today known diseases that target the first-born. Recent studies found that first born children, especially males, have a higher risk for diabetes and other metabolic and cardiovascular disease. Other diseases, such as Pyloric stenosis, are found to be four times more likely to be present in first-born males.