Moses and the Plagues

While traveling recently I read something amazing. It is generally unknown, yet is the most astonishing, unexpected evidence for the truth of the Bible I have ever found.
I remember watching the movie The Ten Commandments. Charlton Heston plays Moses against Egypt’s Pharaoh, played by Yul Brynner. It was the most successful film of 1956, and ranks eighth in history when box office receipts are adjusted for inflation.

Parts of the movie are about the plagues God brings upon Egypt. The Hebrews were welcome guests when Joseph was governor of all of Egypt. But over the centuries fortunes changed, and the Hebrews were enslaved and badly treated. (Details in the book of Genesis.) God sends Moses, who asks God why me as “I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Of course in the movie Moses is an ultra handsome articulate Charlton Heston kind of guy. Anyhow, God sends a not-thrilled-to-be-there Moses to talk to Pharaoh. Imagine sending a Ukrainian farmer to talk to Putin.

Pharaoh refuses to let the Hebrews go, so God slams Egypt with ten plagues. For details read Chapters 7 through 12 of the book of Exodus. The plagues are also noted in Psalms 78 and 105 and in the book of Numbers. The plagues are horrific. God begins by turning the water in the Nile river to blood, and not just in the Nile, but in all rivers, canals, ponds, pools of water, and water vessels in all of Egypt (except presumably for the water of the Hebrews). This is followed by frogs, gnats, flies, the death of livestock, boils, hail, and locusts. But Pharaoh would not let the Hebrews go. For the ninth plague God stops the Sun from shining for three days, except where the Hebrews lived. For the tenth and final plague, God kills the firstborn male child of every family in Egypt, except for the Hebrew families, who are “passed over” by marking their doorways with the blood of lambs. Finally Pharaoh gives up, and after 430 years in Egypt the Hebrews leave, a total of 600,000 men and women and children. They take their livestock, and, as a final penalty, they ask and the Egyptians actually give them their silver and gold jewelry and fine clothing. The taking of silver and gold and clothing is mentioned at least twice in the Bible.

Pretty inventive right? Like come on, who makes this stuff up? Well what would you think if I told you there is an ancient Egyptian papyrus that tells the same story? It is written as a lament about the problems of Egypt. It’s kind of “how could our sun god let this happen?”

The papyrus is called by some “The Admonitions of Ipuwer.” Ipuwer uses “we” many times in the poem, which suggests he was an eyewitness. The style of a poetic lament was common in the ancient world of this period.

Ipuwer writes “the river is blood” and “throughout the land, blood is everywhere.” Wow! Note both the Bible and Ipuwer do not state the Nile was like blood. Both state the Nile was blood. I’m not an expert on ancient literature or history but surely two documents from the same period stating the Nile was blood is amazing.

Ipuwer does not mention locusts and other insects by name, but he describes conditions that match the effects of these plagues. Ipuwer says even the birds are unable to find fruits or herbs. He says officials are hungry and homeless.

The ninth plague – darkness for three days – is a direct rebuke to Ra, the Egyptian sun god. Ipuwer laments: “Day does not dawn on it.” “There is no pilot on duty. Where is he today? Is he perhaps asleep?” Double wow! For someone who loves astronomy this is a gut check. One can wax poetically about the majesty of God, but to think he actually did stop the sun from shining is pretty amazing.

Ipuwer states that silver, gold, and precious stones are now being worn by female servants. Triple wow! Why would he write this if not true? How often in history does this happen?

The Admonitions of Ipuwer is unexpected and powerful evidence that the Biblical plagues were real events. I never expected such confirmation. The Exodus is now believed by many to have occurred in 1446 BC, when Amenhotep II was Pharaoh.

If you have time, I recommend reading my primary source for all this, an article in the Winter 2022 issue of the magazine Bible and Spade. If you want to learn about the overwhelming new archeological evidence for the truth of the Bible you must subscribe. It’s cheap ($50 a year gets you the magazine and supports their ministries) and they have gradually transformed the magazine from a dusty academic format into a beautiful, color photo, user friendly marvel. Click here for a video from another organization on the amazing Ipuwer papyrus.

Thanks for reading. I hope you will share this new evidence with friends and family. Together we can change the atheist paradigm of a meaningless world.

Doug Ell