The Personal Website of Mark W. Dawson
Containing His Articles, Observations, Thoughts, Meanderings,
and some would say Wisdom (and some would say not).
Much has been written about the meaning of Exodus and God’s purpose and miracles in the Biblical story of Exodus. One of the best explanations is in the book “The Rational Bible: Exodus” by Dennis Prager. In reading his book, I have also approached it with a critical eye, and especially with a scientific bent as per my inclinations. As I have stated in the “Science” and “Religion” sections of my website, I am a firm believer that science is the best way of explaining the physical properties and physical laws of the universe. I also am a firm believer that God created our universe and established its physical properties and physical laws. And I see no conflict between the views of Science and Religion. Science is the explanation of how God created the universe, and God is the explanation of why we have the physical properties and physical laws of the universe. Science cannot prove or disprove the existence of God, as God is outside the realm of science, as I have stated in the “Science versus Religion” section in my Article on “Religiosity “.
While I generally agree with what Dennis Prager has written in his book, I do have some disagreements with some of what he has written. These disagreements are mostly in the scientific explanations of the miracles, and what constitutes a miracle. I believe that many of the miracles in Exodus have a natural scientific explanation and are not “true” miracles. What is the true miracle is the initiation of the natural causes and the timing of these natural causes? Given this, the following are what I believe are the purposes and true miracles of Exodus.
I start with the purpose of God in Exodus because to understand the purposes helps in understanding the miracles. The most obvious purpose is to free God’s people from the enslavement and tyranny of their Egyptian masters. My contention is that this was just a means to accomplish God’s true purpose. The true purpose being the forging of a people committed to ethical monotheism and the living of a moral and just life that would serve all mankind as a beacon and guide for all time.
It is for this reason that all ten plagues needed to occur, as all the ten plagues demonstrated to the Hebrew people, and all people, that God was the only true God and was a God not only of man but of nature. It has been noted in Exodus that during the plagues, Pharaoh was on several occasions about to relent and free the Jewish people, but God hardens his heart, and Pharaoh did not set them free. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that all ten plagues would occur to prove that to all people, and especially the Hebrew people, that he was the one true God, and to forge the Hebrew people into an instrument of ethical monotheism with moral and just behavior.
It has been questioned as to why God waited so long to hear the pleas of his people to free them from enslavement and tyranny of their Egyptian masters. To forge a people for God’s purpose, you need sufficient numbers of peoples in a sufficient malleable state that can be forged. Therefore, God waited until the number of Hebrew people were great enough for his purpose, as well as being malleable (through enslavement) to accept his dictates. When this occurred, God performed his miracles to achieve His purposes.
Pharaoh and his advisors were concerned that the growing number of Hebrew people posed a threat to them, either by civil war or assisting outside invaders. Pharaoh orders the Hebrew midwives to kill the infant males of the Hebrew people, and when this did not work, he ordered his soldiers to kill the male infants of the Hebrew people. And this was done except for one male Hebrew infant – Moses. God directed the mother of Moses to float a cradle down the Nile with Moses inside, with Moses’s sister to follow the cradle and direct it to the place where Pharaoh's daughter was bathing. As Pharaoh's daughter was pining for a child that she could not have as a result of the death of her husband, her heart was open to adopting a known Hebrew infant as her own son. Moses's sister also arranged for Moses's mother to become the suckling nurse to Moses. Therefore, Moses had a Hebrew slave natural mother and an Egyptian Princess adoptive mother and was raised amongst the royalty of Egypt as a Prince of Egypt. Moses grew to know the religion, culture, laws, ways, and persons of the Egyptian court and how to interact with them. Moses also had a linkage to his Hebrew heritage through his natural mother, and thereby a means to learn Hebrew beliefs when the time arose.
What a man Moses became. A man of courage and integrity, morality and empathy, and a confident and later a humble man. Who but such a man could stand before Pharaoh without fear or trembling to deliver God’s words? Certainly not a Hebrew slave that spent their entire life under whip and lash, obeying the orders from their Egyptian taskmasters. Any such slave that arose from these conditions to lead a rebellion would most certainly have been beaten or whipped into submission or put to death if he did not submit before he became a man that could lead his people. Therefore, no Hebrew slave could arise who would lead his people to freedom.
This was God’s first miracle in Exodus – Moses – the right man, in the right place, at the right time to free the Hebrew people from Egyptian captivity. He was the right man to free them from captivity and guide them during their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. The first true miracle of Exodus was God bring forth such a man – Moses.
The plagues of Egypt now have an excellent scientific explanation of how they occurred. The Plagues of Egypt happened at the same time as a massive volcano eruption. The volcano Santorini sent ash into the air affecting the surrounding area. The ash is found in Cairo and the Nile River, proven by testing the composition of the ash. This volcanic eruption happened between 1500-1650BC while the Plagues happened between 1400-1550BC. So, the timescale is correct.
The 1st Plague. The Nile River ran red like blood. There is a common algae plume called the Red Tide. This makes the Nile River, or any water, look red like blood. So why did this happen? The ash from the volcano eruption changes the PH level of the river allowing the algae to bloom.
The 2nd Plague. Frogs. The Red Tide algae are known for killing fish by reducing the oxygen levels in the water. Fish generally eat frog eggs, and with no fish, you get a record number of frogs. The frogs can't live in polluted water and so leave the river for the nearby land where they die of starvation.
The 3rd and 4th Plague. Lice and flies. The translation can actually be lice, fleas, gnats, or midges. But as you have a river full of dead fish, and now dead frogs on land, this brings on the insects of the 3rd and 4th Plague.
The 5th Plague. Pestilence. Flies, dead frogs, dead fish, and rodents eating all this and transmitting infectious diseases via insects to nearby humans brings pestilence.
The 6th Plague. Boils. Certain types of flies that bite can leave behind boils. The bites get infected, and they then turn into boils.
The 7th Plague. Fire and Hail. Santorini ash in the air causes a mixture of ash and water. The ash, very high in the air, causes the water to freeze, so when it falls, it is hail and not rain. The fire? If there is dust in the air, or rain, smog, smoke, etc., it can make lightning and appear in various colors. The effect is best at long distances. If lightning strikes an object like a tree, up close, you may see a red/orange flash of flame, etc. So, the result is a fire in the sky and hail.
The 8th Plague. Locusts. Locusts come about when the ground is very damp. They bury their eggs in the sand about 4-6 inches. After a record amount of hail, the ground would be very wet, allowing the locusts to form and come out.
The 9th Plague. Darkness. After the Krakatoa eruption in 1815, there was darkness for 600 kilometers, and it was dark for several days. As the ash in the air from the Santorini eruption slowly drifted over Egypt, it would have caused the darkness. As to the land of Goshen (the Hebrew land in Egypt) not being in darkness, the eastern edge of the Santorini ash cloud did not extend into Goshen. Therefore, Egypt was in darkness, but Goshen was in the light.
The 10th Plague. Death of Firstborn. In Egypt, the first-born was the most important family member. They would be the ones to lead the family after the father died. When food was scarce, the first-born ate first, and sometimes, they were the only ones to eat. It was also true that the first-born cattle and oxen were the first to eat. After the locusts of the 8th Plague ate everything, there was only the grain locked in vaults. The hail made the grain wet, and locust feces brought bacterial infections. And since only the first-born ate at the top layers which had the infected grain, they were the only ones killed by the infected grain. As the Hebrews ate unleavened bread, which was baked at a higher temperature, the bacteria were killed and did not affect the Hebrew first-born.
The Plague miracle of God was bringing about the eruption of the Santorini Volcano, which started the natural causes of the plagues. Having Moses present to warn Pharaoh of what was about to happen to Egypt before it happened was also part of this miracle, as Moses had no way of knowing what was to happen except by God whispering to Moses. Although the sequencing of these events was natural, the timing between each event was not uniform. Sometimes the time between plagues was a few days or a few weeks. God directing Moses when to warn Pharaoh prior to the start of the next plague was part of this miracle. Moses directing the Hebrews to eat only unleavened bread save them from the bacterial infection that killed the Egyptian first-born was also part of this miracle.
Moses led the Hebrew people out of Egypt to the edge of the Reed Sea (not the “Red Sea” as commonly believed), where Pharaoh pursued him to re-enslave the Hebrew people. And God caused a wind to blow, which parted the Reed Sea which the Hebrew people then safely crossed. When the Egyptian chariot army attempted to cross the Reed Sea, the wind stopped, and the waters returned to engulfed and destroyed the Egyptian army. The Hebrew people saw all of this and marveled that God had the power to destroy the most powerful army on earth.
The miracle of the parting of the Reed Sea also has a scientific explanation. We now know that a strong, steady wind of a low oblique angle, of many hours’ duration, over a shallow body of water, can expose an underwater land bridge (a hilly structure underwater) while the wind blows. When the wind stopped, the land bridge is re-covered by the water.
But there was much more to this miracle than meets the eye. God directed Moses to take the Hebrew people to a shallow body of water and the exact spot where an underwater bridge existed. God then caused the proper type of wind that exposed the land bridge. This land bridge having been underwater was not very firm, but firm enough for people, small carts, and animals to cross. When the much heavier Egyptian chariots and charioteers attempted to cross, they got stuck in the mud and tried to extradite themselves. At this point, the wind stopped blowing, and the waters rushed back in a small wave to engulf and drown the Egyptian chariot army.
God’s miracle was the proper wind starting and stopping at the proper time and place to accomplish this feat, as well as directing Moses to the proper sea and proper place at the sea for the Hebrew people to cross safely and the Egyptian chariot army to get stuck, then drown.
There were other miracles in Exodus, such as the watering and feeding of the Hebrew people in the desert, which science does not currently have an explanation for. This does not mean that there is no scientific explanation; it only means that science cannot currently explain them. We may eventually have a scientific explanation for these miracles, but we may never know them as it may not be possible to know the scientific conditions surrounding these miracles.
Just because science can explain how some of these miracles occurred, it does not make them any less miraculous. This is because the true miracles were that God initiated the natural cause at the right time and the right place, with the right man in place to take advantage of God’s miracles. This is the true miracle of Exodus.
As a result of these miracles, God did indeed achieve his goal of forging the Hebrew people into an instrument of ethical monotheism and the living of a moral and just life as a beacon and guide to all mankind for all time.