Did God really have to do all those plagues in order to get Moses' people free? Did each plague have a particular purpose? I heard about a documentary or hypothesis that only first or first few plagues were intended and then the remaining plagues, except the last one, just occurred naturally.

Even if we grant that all but the last plague were purposeful or natural, what was the point of killing innocent children, particularly the Pharaoh's son? Why not kill the Pharaoh and then have the son or regent rule and then have the next ruler of Egypt set Moses' people free? Why not send a bunch of angels to threaten the Pharaoh into releasing the Israelites or into offering fair wages?

I doubt this is relevant to the problem of evil as God specifically intervenes in human affairs in Egypt. Why all the violence though? It seems to make sense that an omnipotent, omniscient, all-good being who would intervene in human affairs would want to do so with little bloodshed unless there's a specific lesson that the being wants to impart on the Egyptians or Israelites or something of the sort. Maybe the Israelites wouldn't have appreciated God's efforts as much if it was that simple?

Also, I seem to recall from high school something about wanting to convert the Egyptians.

What does the Catholic Church say about this?

1 Answer 1


The ten plagues corresponded to ten of the major Gods of the Egyptians. The God of the Hebrews wasn't trying to convert anyone, but assert himself as the God above all other gods.

1) God of the Nile, Osiris & Hapi? Your river is blood.

2) Frog-Goddess of Fertility, Heka? You get frogs, you get frogs, everybody gets frogs.

3 & 4) Geb, the god of earth, and Khephi with the head of a fly? Your soil is now lice, with a super size side of flies.

5) Bull god Apis? Livestock struck down. (EDIT: Also, Hathor)

6) Thoth, the god of medicine and cleanliness? Boils everywhere.

7) Nut the sky goddes and Shu the wind god? Storms of hail & fire.

8) Seth, the god of crops and Isis, protector of the fields? Why don't you have some locusts.

9) Sun god Ra? Darkness.

10) Your Pharoah sells himself as a god, and his son will be a god after him? Kill the firstborn... but not just his, but everyone's firstborn.

(The Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia holyspiritinteractive.net/youth/biblegeek/35.asp)

The God of the Hebrews was impacting the whole of the Egyptian society with those plagues, both physically and spiritually. At the same time, he was showing favor to his chosen people, sparing the people from all of the plagues, especially "Passing over" them on the tenth plague. The God of the Hebrews wanted to make a lasting impact on not only the people of Egypt, but everywhere else too - Remember, the reason Jericho wound themselves up tight is because they heard of what happened in Egypt. Following that, the reason the people of Gibeon presented themselves as travelers from far, far away is because of what God did in Jericho.

In our minds, the God of the Hebrews can kinda seem overkill. And it isn't just in Exodus, you also see it in:

  • Elijah's highly-successful barbecue in 1st Kings 18, where the prohpet not only placed the offering, but soaked it to the point of filling up the moat dug around the alter... and then YHWH cooks the entire thing, to the point of even boiling the water in the trench.
  • When He institutes the cleansing of the land of Canaan, He says to destroy everything of the inhabitants, not only the idols, but the livestock and treasure as well... and when Achan defies this order in Joshua 7, not only does he get stoned and burned, but also "his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all that he had".
  • Jesus doesn't politely show out the monylenders, rather making "a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables" in John 2.

And many, many various other places in Scripture. The church response to all this is that God is passionate about his own glory, and will shake anything that stands in the way to the foundations to crush it with his heel, from Babel in Genesis to the Beast in Revelation.

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    Does this represent the view of the Catholic church (as requested by the OP)? If so, please provide a reference to prove it, as right now it looks like your own thoughts which, while very interesting, isn't really what the site is about.
    – ThaddeusB
    Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 19:21
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    If you're looking for a link, here's a youth-size breakdown from the The Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia (The Catholic Church in UAE, Oman & Yemen) holyspiritinteractive.net/youth/biblegeek/35.asp
    – Vogie
    Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 19:57
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    Thanks Vogie. Include link in answer? Also, I reiterate 'Even if we grant that all but the last plague were purposeful or natural' what is the point of killing first borns? Why not kill the Pharaoh? He was the one who proclaimed himself a god. Kid is innocent. I'm not quite sure how killing the son of the Pharaoh disputes the argument that the son and the Pharaoh are gods since the Pharaoh didn't die. Why not kill them both then? Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 9:22
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    Because it makes sense in context. If you go back to Exodus 1, the oppression that starts it all is Pharoah killing all of the Hebrew boys - not just the firstborns, but all of them. While not a Catholic-specific reference, an estimations of the dead from both incidents is found here: christianthinktank.com/killheir.html
    – Vogie
    Commented Nov 9, 2015 at 14:52
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    Vogie, thanks. "Okay, we've done the sizing. Just to review: Innocent Egyptian Infants killed in the Tenth Plague: 69,000 Innocent Hebrew Infants killed in the infanticide program of the Pharaoh (and successors) : 2,750,000. The ratio of these is basically 1:40, meaning that for every single innocent Egyptian child who died in the Tenth Plague, 40 innocent Hebrew infants had been killed by Pharaoh in the on-going infanticide program" This makes sense and answers my question, but I don't see what that has to do with what you said in your answer. Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 17:49

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