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What Was the Fourth Plague?

What Was the Fourth Plague?

On the plague of Arov

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Question:

I just read in your fantastic Passover site that the fourth plague that G‑d brought upon the Egyptians was a multitude of wild beasts. However, looking online, I see that many bibles say that the fourth plague was swarms of insects. Which ones was it?

Answer:

The fourth plague that G‑d brought upon the Egyptians is referred to as עָרֹב arov.1 What does this Hebrew word mean? There are a number of schools of thought in the traditional commentaries.

The Midrash2 understands the word to mean “a mixture.” But a mixture of what?

Rabbi Yehudah explains that it was a mixed assortment of wild animals—a punishment for the Egyptians, who would have the Hebrews hunt wild animals with which their sadistic masters would then torture them. Rabbi Nechemiah, on the other hand, explains arov to have been swarms of hornets or mosquitoes.

The Midrash concludes that Scripture supports the view of Rabbi Yehudah. After the plague of the frogs, we read how Egypt was piled high with stinking—and completely useless—dead frogs.3 On the other hand, regarding the end of the arov plague, we read that G‑d “removed the arov from Pharaoh and his servants, and not one remained.”4 This was because dead animals have very valuable skins, which G‑d did not want to leave for the Egyptians. If the arov was a bunch of insects, why would G‑d not simply have them die and leave the remains, as He did with the frogs?

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

Alternatively, Rashbam understands the word to actually mean a wolflike beast that attacks at night. He explains that the word עָרֹב is related to עֶרֶב, the Hebrew word for evening.

FOOTNOTES
1.

Exodus 8:18.

2.

Exodus Rabbah 11:3; Tanchuma, Va’eira 14.

3.

Exodus 8:10.

4.

Ibid. 8:27.

Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor for Chabad.org.
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Discussion (10)
December 26, 2013
Thank you so much! I've been wondering about this for years!
Anonymous
Russia
December 25, 2013
arov
suggestion for the meaning
'the animals went 'ferile'

the domesticated animals returned to their wild state.
the egyptians kept/ worshipped animals as well as the agricultural animals.
arov - something in between/au millieu -- neither fully wild nor fully domestcated.
aroov = grey [ not black & not white]
eruv=property that is neither private nor public.
just a thought/suggestion
martin ross
liverpoop, uk
lubavitchliverpool.com
January 17, 2012
WOLF?
I do not understand why Lev Anenberg mentions bears and wolves? Please note that anyway there are no and guessed there was no wolves in Egypt in the past. There is only one species of wolf which lives in Ethiopa. Wolves were and still are present in Israel. But I still do not see the link between the wolf and the ARAV? Ze'ev is the Hebrew for wolf anyway. I am sure of one thing after reading the article: everybody is confused even more than before! HELP!
Ilan Braun
PARIS, FRANCE
May 17, 2011
Lev
The Midrash was written long before Rashi and the others you quote.
Gershon McGreevy
Wichita, KS
May 11, 2011
To Gershon McGreevy
The interpreters had only two items to base their exegesis on. A'RV and HSR.
The first was interpreted as a (generic)mixture second as 'removed' . These 2 interdependent assumptions are not substantiated. ARV is a root that could have various meanings e.g. evening, West, bet, day of old, collateral etc. HSR as I have mentioned already could be: abolished, canceled, removed abrogated etc. You may combine any word from either of these 2 categories, add your associative thinking and--- you have a midrash. Besides, how can you be so confident that the midrash was written in Palestine. I t may have been reduced to writing in Palestine but the idea, the principle and the story most probably had arrived from Europe, the motherland of Ibn Ezra, Rashbam, Rashi and Nahmanides.
N.B. There are no Bears in Egypt, wolves attack not only in the evening but whenever they are hungry and they do not take into their pack other wild animals.
Lev Anenberg
Vaughan, Canada
May 11, 2011
Lev
If Arov was pestilence then what was Dever--more of the same? Also the Midrash was not composed in Europe. It is from Israel, where it was just as hot. However, animal skins were useful to all people all over, if not to wear than for other purposes.
Gershon McGreevy
Wichita, KS
May 7, 2011
Arav
From the perspective of the medieval, residing in Europe exegets, animals' furs obviously constituted a great value but not to the Egyptians residing in an arid and hot environment where linen was at premium. There is no need to make an interpretive capital by focusing on the term REMOVED which appears in Hebrew as HeSEER. It has many meanings e.g. disbanded, abrogated, canceled, lifted, abolished etc. ARAV, is probably pestilence that been attracted by dead frogs. A conventional biological process.
Lev Anenberg
Vaughan, Canada
January 18, 2011
Locust
They covered the sun which they worshipped and the ground which thier sacrifices ate from. In order to sacrifice it had to be to the sun.... God covered the sun. and starved the sacrifices. This was torment because it shown them Moses's God was Mighty and it was removed so that the Egyptians would worship the real God and fear Him that He would do it again. Ultimately starving the animals....they became unpredictable and no longer a good sacrifice for the sun.
Lori
jewishidaho.com
January 10, 2011
locusts
I would guess that it is because they Egyptians liked to eat them. In fact Rashi writes that G-d even got rid of the locusts that the crafty Egyptians had pickled.
Gersh the Mentch
January 9, 2011
Locusts
How come G-d bothered to send a wind to blow the locusts into the Reed Sea? Why not just let the locusts die in Egypt?
Zev Gotkin
Yerushalyim, Israel
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