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Apr 27, 2008

Egyptian recordings of plagues

I am not a historian or much of a scholar on pretty much anything, but this is something I have wondered about for a very long time.

When I was in Yeshiva, many moons ago, there was this thing guys had about going to Discovery. Discovery was fairly new back then, just a few years old, and there was a buzz about it. It was exciting. Discovery is/was a program by Aish that was intense for a few days talking about how religion and Torah are correct. They were out to make people frum very quickly by giving them massive amounts of information that would effect them changing their lives.

Discovery was exciting for yeshiva guys, I think, for two reasons:
  1. Discovery seminars discussed many things that the average yeshiva guy never learns or hears about. It is very interesting material (when I was in Yeshiva I knew one of the main Discovery lecturers, and when I would go to his house for Shabbos he would sometimes be talking about it, so I had a taste of what it was).
  2. Discovery was off limits to Yeshiva guys. It was for not-frum people only. That meant it was a challenge for a yeshiva guy to get in. He had to try to dress and act not-frum and hope nobody noticed. The challenge made it enticing for guys to try and, more often than not, the guys who tried, got in. I think the Discovery people must have known and not really minded, as long as they did not look so obviously frum in the classroom.
Eventually, if I remember correctly, Discovery made a separate track for frum people who wanted to take the course. That accomplished two things:
  1. Discovery was able to make money off a whole new audience (they charged these guys entrance fees)
  2. it kept the frum guys out of the non-frum groups, which prevented the frum guys from disturbing the non-frum sessions with questions the non-frum would not understand.
So, there were all these yeshiva guys going to hear lectures at Discovery.

I personally never went. But I remember hearing, many times, that one of the major topics lectured on was the 10 plagues.
Discovery would talk about the 10 Plagues and describe how archaeologists found ancient Egyptian records that described the 10 plagues from the perspective of the Egyptians. It was eerily similar to what the Torah describes, with the twist of it being described from the other end.

I always thought that would be a really cool perspective to read, yet whenever I looked for more information on the subject, I never really found anything.

My wife once knew someone who had studied ancient Egyptian history in college and did her Masters degree in the field. I do not remember the name of the specific field she studied, but it was one that would have included the topic of the Ten plagues, it is existed in Ancient Egyptian history. This woman told my wife that the topic never came up, she had never seen anything in the books about such an archaeological find.

So, I don't know if Discovery made it up (I always wondered why the people at Discovery were the only ones to have found and be aware of this evidence), or if there really was such a discovery in the archaeological world, but I always wondered what the plagues were like from the Egyptians perspective and how they would have described them.

And I know, the lack of any such discovery does not mean it does not exist. Maybe they just "have not yet dug deep enough to find it".


  1. I just read about this in either mishpacha or binah - in the extended pesach edition.

  2. You know I really wish yeshivas would have an intense in depth hashkafa class that were both intellectually honest and were traditionally Orthodox in focus. Its obvious that yeshiva bochrim need these type of things, as telling them WHAT without WHY is not a good thing in my opinion.

    Anyway the papyrus discovery was talking about was the "Ipuwer Papyrus" and here are some links...




  3. nahum sarna (in "Exploring exodus" and in the JPS torah commentary) mentions descriptions of some of the makot in ancient literary sources, but they did not happen all at the same time. sarna is merely trying to show that the the makot (except the last one) were all natural phenomena attested to in the the literary sources and should not be dismissed as something that couldn't happen.

    (sarna is my favorite for academic bible. for me personally he is very relevant as far as the question you asked recently if there are any intrinsically jewish practices)


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