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Why the Need for All 10 Plagues?

Why the Need for All 10 Plagues?



Is there any significance to the number of plagues? Why the need for all 10?


The number is indeed significant.

On one occasion, Moses approached Pharaoh and said:

So said the L‑rd G‑d of Israel, “Send out My people, and let them sacrifice to Me in the desert.” (Exodus 5:1)

Pharaoh responded:

Who is the L‑rd, that I should heed His voice to let Israel out? I do not know the L‑rd, neither will I let Israel out. (ibid 5:2)

But, in fact, Pharaoh was very familiar with the concept of G‑d. The Egyptians worshipped deities of all sorts, and Pharaoh even considered himself a god. But he did not believe in an omniscient, all-powerful G‑d who created absolutely everything out of nothingness.

We know that G‑d created the world with His speech; to be precise, with 10 utterances. But Pharaoh denied these 10 Divine utterances.

And so, the 10 plagues corresponded with the various elements that G‑d created in the world, each one demonstrating that a seemingly stable and independent aspect of creation—something that could easily be attributed to “nature”—was entirely in G‑d’s hands.

Thus, the plagues proved that G‑d truly is the omniscient, all-powerful Creator.

1. Blood

The first plague, which eliminated drinkable water, established that G‑d rules over the water.

2. Frogs

During the plague of frogs, the creatures even got into the stone ovens, which proved that G‑d rules over all physical man-made creations.

3. Lice

With the third plague, lice, which was accomplished by striking the dirt, it became known that G‑d rules over all the dust of the land.

4. Wild Animals

The fourth plague, where the wild animals destroyed anything in their way, demonstrated that G‑d rules over all of the animals of the land.

5. Pestilence

Through spreading disease amongst the animals, it became known that G‑d controls all of the air we breathe.

6. Boils

The boils all over the Egyptian bodies established that G‑d can cause any living person or animal to suffer or to be healed.

7. Hail

The plague of hail, which rained in the form of fire in ice, declared that G‑d controls the element of fire.

8. Locust

When locusts consumed all the crops, it became clear that G‑d rules over the earth’s vegetation.

9. Darkness

By dropping thick darkness over the Egyptians for several days, G‑d demonstrated that only He can change that which is found in the sky.

10. Death of the Firstborn

Through the death of only the Egyptian firstborn, it became known that G‑d rules over the angels and the spiritual worlds.1

See Ten Ways to Destroy Your Life from our selection on The Ten Plagues.


Rabbi Shmuel Hagiz, Mevakesh Hashem, p. 130.

Malkie Janowski is an accomplished educator who lives in Coral Springs, Florida. Mrs. Janowski is also a responder on's Ask the Rabbi team.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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David Chester Petach Tikva, Israel January 27, 2017

Why ten? We need a better reason Why ten? The answer given was that "the Lord created the world with ten words or sayings". But this needs clarification. Could it have been the ten items created just before the Shabbat as given in Avot? These items may have been very useful, but they were not basic to the Creation process of Bareishit. Reply

Alice Jacobson Shreveport January 26, 2017

G-d kept sending Moses before Pharaoh, then He would harden Pharaoh's heart. Why? Perhaps, He was stalling give the Hebrew slaves time to rest and heal before the Exodus. Reply

Anonymous January 3, 2015

More elements! "The plague of hail, which rained in the form of fire in ice, declared that G‑d controls the element of fire."

Actually all elements. You shouldn't have limited it to say just fire. Reply

ruth housman marshfield, ma May 17, 2012

the quest and the question We will always be seekers and there will always be questions. What seems unanswerable today has tomorrow's promise Or we would not be seeking cures for the myriad problems that plague mankind. I got answers when I contemplated my own desert years asking for meaning in despair. Many avoid the void but very often the journey that is the search itself brings forth answers. I do believe we are here to explore, to uncover and discover what is hidden and this is what we do in wonder & our wonderings. This is a Garden Story. Dig. Plant. Unearth. Share the Roaf! Reply

Jack Midland Park May 16, 2012

Ten Plagues Some questions have no answers. Reply

ruth housman marshfield, ma May 10, 2012

your belief Karen in a G-d only of good and that we determine our fate absolutely is so pure and beautiful. But my life took me in another direction so I am forced to confront the paradox and that is all opposites fold together. And yes, I must believe in a ladder of ethical morality, a learning curve and for each of us a mission that could be co-determined in a soul place and maybe herein lies free will. I see going down the years now that my life is not random. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA May 10, 2012

Ruth, it is not difficult for me, because I see G-d not as the creator of evil and bad. I see Him as the one who wipes our tears when evil and bad create tragedies in our lives. Simple. At least, for me.
To me, G-d is good and only could create good.
The bad and evil came out of people wanting to choose their own paths and walk away from good. Then, that makes some of G-od's children to become victims. The only way we would be protected from victimization is if we become spirit creatures and live in the void (heaven). Obviously, I do not believe all the promises supposedly made by Go-d in the scriptures. If you do this and that, then I'll give you great weather and crops, etc. Nope. Don't believe it. Reply

Sientje Commerford chilliwack , camada May 10, 2012

God can do anything Isnt this were faith comes into play? Let us suppose I did not believe in the Lord G-d then to whom would I turn, when in distress? is it possible that some people intead of turning to the Lord G-d would rale against Him, believing that the Lord G-d should do their will, instead of praying and relinquishing everything to Him by trusting Him and asking "Not my will but Thy will be done, would it not be a surrendering of one's own will and rely on your faith in G-d alone. Wasnt this Pharaohs way of trying to make the Lord G-d bow to the Egyptian will? So does everyone go under the knife and pray to the Lord G-d Thy will be done, not that I am so pure but knowing in one's heart that either way that He is there to sustain one, whether through death, sorrow or pain. JUst wondering there were people who aided some of the Jewish people during the holocaust. Do you not suppose it was the Lord G-d watching over them, as in His promise He siad "I will save a remnant of them and restore " Reply

ruth housman marshfield, ma May 9, 2012

since G-d can do anything either G-d wrote the Entire Exodus Story. Part of it, or none of it. Since oyr story Posits G-d with an outstretched hand, then why do we imagine G-d wrote the good half for the Jews and not also the bad parts as well. Diesn't this get confusing.

Like G-d's hand guided the surgeon who cured 'her' of disease but didn't get involved on behalf of those who did not make it?

Sorry logic doesn't work that way for me. I see that G -d Has to be the author of All stories and we can ask why, what lessons are we supposed to learn....

I read about G-d's miracles but I also question the notion of G-d's total absence in other stories. Was or was G-d Not present during the Holocaust? Many experiences recounted on Chabad indicate presence. So did G-d merely become an indifferent bystander Or was G-d somehow creating this story for a reason? Difficult questions that still Plague us. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA May 8, 2012

Mrs. Sientje, if you can find this meaning In the story, then you already have used wisdom, which is commanded of us. If you take the story by itself, it sounds as if G-d is so vengeful that he would kill little babies to get even with the sins of the adult(s). It all depends how you view G-d. There are stages of belief in G-d, and the most common is the stage of belief where you attribute to Go-d human emotions and actions. Getting revenge as is done in this story is something a human would have done. If G-d is the same yesterday, today and forever, then he'd have sent the same plagues to Hitler and the Nazis and helped us to escape from the Holocaust. Therefore, I have to see this story as being a metaphor. Personally, I do not harden my heart out of fear of G-d's revenge and retribution. I do not harden my heart because of love and knowing the deep love G-d has for me. Reply

Sientje Commerford chilliwack, Canada May 8, 2012

if the story is true Would it not make a difference in our prayers if we believe the story of the ten plagues is true, as then one would have more of a reverence in one's heart for the Word of the Lord G-d and we would beseech Him, not to harden our hearts, as it is so easy to have pride and therefore harden one's heart. Because if the story doesnt leave us with an awe and at the same time fear of the Lord G-d what then would be the point? Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma May 7, 2012

sunblock there is another metaphor, I use in speaking of sunblock, and it came to me after I left a program for small children in Newton and my grandson, who is fair, kept squinting in the noonday sun.

the metaphor is: G_d's light is blinding, and we must wear shields to take in the light, and so we do it, in small increments. If you pass someone in the road, who can give you enLIGHTenment, meaning tell you something very deep about G_d, you are told to pass this person by, or if you stop, you will NOT take in everything that is said, because this is protective, and in a metaphoric way, why we could not stand in front of the burning bush and be in the presence directly of G_d. That presence could burn too deeply.

There are many ways to view, the hidden nature of G_d and this is one, and a metaphor that I hold dear, that teaches me what is very profound, very deep.

Just as we wear sunglasses against what iS blinding, we filter the light that comes in, and I say G_d oversees this process. Reply

Jim Adelaide, SA May 4, 2012

Hardened his heart? When we go out into the sun without sun block we get burned. The sun does not intentionally burn, it's in its nature to burn. Equally, when Pharaoh moved out of the will of G-d the same happened to him. This may be a simplistic way to see how G-d hardens hearts, but it is something that has helped me see His mercy in all situations. So, by wearing sunblock I can enjoy my day in the sun, in the same manner obey His laws to remain in relationship with Him.

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA May 3, 2012

Oh, you are very welcome, Mrs. Sientje. When we are children, we just believe without thinking. Now that we are adults, yes, we think. Does that make our original premise incorrect? No. It just means we spent time using our brains in their best way, to consider all points of view and analyze, before coming to a conclusion. After all, the Scriptures do say that G-d set before us life and good, death and evil, and we should choose life. That means in all the stories, this is the main premise and lesson to be learned. So, let's say that in the story of the Jews escaping from slavery by way of G-id sending plagues and then hardening Pharoah's heart we see it as an analogy of choosing good or evil. This would then make sense according to the command to chose life. I do believe all the stories are to make us realize we must make choices in our life and to do it wisely. Whether or not each and every story is true historically or not doesn't matter at all if we look at it this way. Lessons for us, told in a manner we can use. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma May 3, 2012

is three, a crowd? To tell a story involves a journey, and Exodus is a major journey. Our hero: Moses.

ALL stories have direction, or should, or they lose in terms of readership and interest. We read and watch movies, because they depict people who could be us, or we want to be them, but in any case, those we identify with, have issues to confront, and we learn by putting ourselves in their shoes, and for the moment, we ARE them, and that's empathy, we root for the good guys and are happy when the bad guys get their just deserts.

The power of literature that is story is deeply about this. Those that bleed, in a way, leed us, LEAD us, towards realizations about options and also the courage and heroism involved in hitting the rocks, as we all do, in traversing the River of LIFE.

Exodus is an ongoing reverberating story. About FREEDOM. About slavery. And we still can empathize with what happened, and not just the Jews, but there are also as we know, African American spirituals about this. Reply

Mrs. Sientje Commerford May 2, 2012

re karen just guessing I dont know why the Lord would harden Pharaoh's heart could it be because once the plague had passed, Pharaoh thought he had won, or was the Lord God making an example of Pharaoh that no one could thwart His Will? Pharaoh to my way of thinking had to be very very stubborn that he still thought He could win against the Lord G-d of Israel and followed them to his own doom. Just wondering do we sometimes harden our hearts when it is clearly shown that we should be telling the Lord G-d not my will but Thy will be done? Shalom thanks for making me think. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA April 30, 2012

Mrs. Sientje, since we aren't capable Of time travel, of course we are all only guessing. From what I remember of the story, all that happened from the plagues was that Pharoah said they were free, but then he changed his mind anyway. The Hebrews escaped, with the Pharoah following. Then, according to the story, G-d drowned Pharoah and his soldiers, right? Why couldn't that have happened in the beginning instead of the plagues? I think because this makes a better story. If we use the plagues as an analogy, rather than a literal truth, it makes more logical sense. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma April 30, 2012

stories are for learning about LOVE, TIKKUN It is said there are only a finite number of stories but many iterations of these same stories. As a writer, who has spent a lot of time on the art of storytelling, and who as a psychotherapist in the clinics, has spent a large part of my life listening hard to the stories of my patients, and affirming their strengths and them, I know it's all about stories, and I feel there's a massive resurgence of memoir coming, and that our stories will be recast, in a different way, as G_d is the author and authority, behind ALL Stories, and stories, being also for climbing, is about how we make the ascent towards what is good, towards what is G_dlike, as in tikkun olam.

My life makes perfect sense going down the years and every day I see something new, about the way it was, in a different way, as in what brought me here, including the adders, in that ladder, both for the road that snakes and for what I encountered along the way, and had to deal with, as we all do, have much to learn. Reply

Mrs. Sientje Commerford April 28, 2012

re Karen Joyce a G-d of justice How would it be justice if G-d only killed Pharaoh and his henchmen? Would the people then despise the Israelites even more and load more cruelty on them. Was it not through Pharaoh that He was making it known that He the Lord G-d ruled? as Pharoah thought he was a god himself? So how would that be justice if he killed just pharaoh and his henchmen, how would we come to know that "We reap what we sow"? Shalom Reply

Jim Adelaide, Australia April 26, 2012

Is he a God of justice? Sure... Wrong is wrong, bad is bad, evil is evil... The question is, should justice come at the expense of mercy?
Is it about punishment or moreso about ending injustice...
There are fine lines between metering out justice and becoming just as brutal in the name of justice. Myself, I am not always sure but this tension is strong in me... Reply

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