Sep 27, 2021

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The Ten Plagues seemed to make a return over the weekend as photos emerged of the Nile River in Egypt looking just as the Book of Exodus described it thousands of years ago:

And the LORD said unto Moshe: ‘Say unto Aharon: Take thy rod, and stretch out thy hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, over their streams, and over their pools, and over all their ponds of water, that they may become blood; and there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.’ And Moshe and Aharon 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. Exodus 7:19-20

The incredible image, taken by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) new Sentinel-3A satellite, was released on Friday to worldwide wonder and awe. The photo, which shows the Nile and surrounding desert areas of northern Africa, Egypt, and the Middle East, reveals a sight many faithful have imagined, but never seen: the Nile River turned from its normal blue to bright, blood-red.

The timing has special significance as the holiday of Passover, which celebrates Moses leading the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, is fast approaching. Jews all over the world will pay tribute to the Ten Plagues during the special Passover meal, reciting the names of each plague in Hebrew.

Blood, or “dam” in Hebrew, represents the first plague which God sent to punish the Egyptians after Pharaoh refused to release the Israelites from slavery. According to the Bible, all of the water in Egypt turned to blood, not just the Nile.

This time, there is a scientific explanation for the red color seen in the satellite photo: the river is rendered crimson by the vegetation surrounding the Nile, combined with the type of imaging used by the satellite. The satellite’s radiometer measures energy radiating from the Earth’s surface, and the heat emanating from the vegetation expresses in the infrared spectrum – resulting in the color red.

This type of data analysis helps scientists to better understand the state of vegetation, the ESA wrote on its website.

Along its orbit around the planet, the satellite will measure Earth’s oceans, land, ice and atmosphere to document global climate dynamics, providing real-time information on ocean and weather forecasting, wildfires, vegetation patterns, and the depths of rivers and lakes.

While the image of the blood-red Nile is certainly startling to the Bible-minded eye, it seems in this case that the color change is not the result of a heavenly mandate but a man-made camera orbiting the heavens.