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.