What Is the Meaning of the Ten Plagues? Who Was Affected?

The Ten Plagues show the completion of the cycle from water to ground to sky to soul:
At Passover Seder this year, my nephew asked me about the meaning of the ten plagues.

What were the meaning of the ten plagues?
The meaning of the Ten Plagues connects to the idea that these plagues went in the pattern of roots in the ground, to the water, to the sky to the soul. This concept connects to the idea that the plagues went from:

  • First plague: Blood in the Nile — Begins in the water
  • Second plague: Frogs from the Nile — Water to Land
  • Third plague: Lice throughout the land — Land to the Air
  • Fourth plague: Swarm of flies — Air
  • Fifth plague: Death of livestock — Air
  • Sixth plague: Spread of boils — Air
  • Seventh plague: Hail that burned like fire – Air to Sky
  • Eighth plague: Locusts — Sky
  • Ninth: Spread of darkness — Sky to Soul
  • Tenth: Death of the first-born — Soul

Who were affected by the ten plagues?
With regards to whom the plagues affected, my 10-year-old nephew Myles explained that he was taught that the Plagues only affected the Egyptians as a form of punishment from God. The Hebrew Slaves were not impacted.

My interpretation is quite different. I believe the first 8 plagues affected everyone in Egypt — both Egyptians and Hebrew Slaves. The exception was the final two plagues: darkness and slaying of the first born. These final two plagues did not impact those that chose to leave Egypt and cross the Sea of Reeds in order to become Israelites/Children of Israel. For those that placed the blood on their lintel, they enjoyed “lightness” in their home. In addition, the angel of death “passed over” their home and did not slay their first born.

The concept is that everyone was affected in different ways. Some, not all, Hebrew slaves left Egypt. Many Hebrew slaves chose to mark their lintel with lambs’ blood and escape from Egypt. Some Hebrew slaves remained in Egypt. They remained victims of both their mental and physical Slavery — unable to imagine the Promised Land. Not all Egyptians remained in Egypt. Some Egyptians decided to join the journey to cross the Sea of Reeds and become Israelites in the Wilderness.[1].

The pharaoh is the ultimate example of someone enslaved to the idea that he would always have slaves. I believe that some Egyptians decided to mark their lintel and join the crossing of the Sea of Reeds, joining as Israelites in pursuit of the Promised Land. The interpretation of the plagues impacting only the Egyptians may lead us to believe that people are so different that they can be treated differently due to origin and background. It also promotes the idea that we are locked and predestined to our fate.

I believe that sharing the idea that All who crossed the Sea of Reeds became Israelites — regardless of background — is based on the fundamental tenet that redemption in the Promised Land is available to all who commit to faith and practice as a community. The Promised Land is neither guaranteed to some, nor restricted from others. I hope that considering these different perspectives expand your outlook on the possibilities and potential of the Promised Land – Eretz Yisrael.


[1] Explanation of narrow space can be found here:
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