What? Well, kind of. My sister sent me a copy of this article which describes how a group of scientists believes they have come up with a theory about how the 10 plagues of Egypt could have occurred naturally, and it begins with climate change. Not the climate change that’s touted these days, but rather a regional climate change. I encourage you to read the findings for yourself, but let me simplify it for you. The theory goes like this: the land of Egypt was once very wet and fertile. But after a while, things got very dry, which caused the Nile River to become infected with Burgundy Blood Algae, which gave the river the appearance of having turned to blood. The Blood Algae choked all the frogs out of the river, which then made a mass exodus (pun intended) onto dry land. But of course the frogs couldn’t survive on land, so they starved and died. Dead frogs produced flies and gnats, which spread disease to both humans and livestock. Meanwhile, a volcano roughly 400 miles away erupted, producing lightning, fiery hail, and darkness from the volcanic ash. As for the death of the firstborn, that’s easily explained by a fungus that could have been present in grain supplies. Since firstborn children always got first dibs on the food, they were the first to die. There you go. All ten plagues explained scientifically and wrapped up in a nice little package! And no need for a supernatural being!
But wait a minute. It’s just not that easy to explain away God, which to be sure, is what this study is trying to do. There are, in fact, several problems with this theory (which, remember, is unproven and unprovable). Here are just a few of the ones that I see:
1. The first gripe I have is with the title of the article. It’s ridiculous: “Biblical plagues really happened, say scientists.” Oh thank goodness the scientists have finally told us that we’re not all idiots for thinking the plagues are actual historical events! Where would we be without the scientists?! As if they are the only authority on what actually happens in the world. As though it’s not true until they say it is. Who do they think they are, the history police? Granted, this isn’t a gripe about the theory, but rather about the arrogance of those involved.
2. This article is so full of improvable speculation it’s ridiculous. Basically the only thing they know “for sure” (but even this is not without questions – how could they possibly know for sure without having been there? There’s certainly at least a little guess work going on.) is that the reign of Ramses preceded an extreme dry period in Egypt’s history. This fact alone then leads them to connect the dots about the 10 plagues of Egypt. But there is no way to prove that the Nile River was choked with the Burgundy Blood Algae that the article references. Nor is there any way to prove that said algae led to a massive frog exodus, which in turn led to flies and lice and disease, and so on and so forth. It’s all speculation.
3. Here’s the biggest problem with this whole study: the scientists in question have, in a sense, validated the historical record of the account in Exodus. The Bible says there were ten plagues in Egypt, and they have “confirmed” it (I hesitate to use that word). In other words, they have shown that the biblical account is accurate. The problem for them then becomes, what about the validity of the other parts of the plague narrative? In other words, if they believe that some parts of scripture are true, don’t they then have to believe that other parts are true as well? If not, how do they pick and choose which parts are true and which aren't? Just those that are "provable?" This has significant implications within the plague narrative, and also with scripture as a whole. For example, two times within the plague narrative it is expressly stated that the Hebrew people were exempt from suffering the consequences of particular plagues (flies and the death of livestock). How does science explain that? Don’t forget that science has confirmed the plagues’ place in history. How then does it explain that the Hebrew people were completely unaffected? It can’t. The only explanation for that is a divine one. My point is that if one part of the plague narrative is true, shouldn’t all of it be true? You can see how this becomes sticky when we consider the rest of scripture as a whole. More on that in a minute.
But couldn’t God have used natural means for producing the plagues? I mean, what’s really so bad about God sending Burgundy Blood Algae to the Nile to give it the appearance of blood? Couldn’t God have orchestrated all of those events to work with each other to produce the plagues we read about in Exodus? Maybe, but I don’t think that’s the way God works, for a couple of reasons: 1) that’s not what scripture says (it says the water turned to blood, not water that looked like blood. The appearance of blood wouldn’t have been miraculous – the actual turning of water into blood is pretty astounding!); and 2) it completely misses the point of why God sent the plagues in the first place. What? Didn’t God send the plagues to get Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go? Not primarily. Exodus 7.5 says, “The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” The purpose of the plagues was to open the eyes of the Egyptians to the reality of God, which would consequently result in the release of the Israelites. Again, in Exodus 8.22: “But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people dwell, so that no swarms of flies shall be there, that you may know that I am the Lord…” What’s God’s purpose in setting apart the Hebrews from the plague of flies? To protect them? Not primarily. The purpose of protecting the Hebrews from the plague of flies was so that the Egyptians could see that God is, and that God’s purposes are always accomplished. The protection of the Israelites was simply God’s means of showing his greatness to all those who were watching.
If you prove that the plagues naturally occurred, you remove from them their purpose: “that you may know that I am the Lord”. But that’s what this whole thing is about. In explaining the plagues through natural means, no one has to “know that I am the Lord.” You see, people hate God by nature, and they love to shake their fists at him. And they certainly don’t want to have to turn from their sins, because they love them. What’s their only option then? Explain God away, and try to show that he has not moved in history so they don’t have to deal with reality. That’s all this is. It’s people who are afraid of the reality of God trying to alleviate their fears. If only they could learn from the plagues what the Egyptians learned from the plagues: “I am the Lord.”