For those who may be unfamiliar with the story of Passover, it originated around the time when the Jews were slaves in Babylonia. Everyone was upset and lo, a Babylonian myth about a baby fetched out of the water (“Moses” is not Hebrew in origin and means brought from the water) who goes on to free his people from bondage was adopted into the story we all know and love today. I know that is not what people are generally taught, but so it goes. Anyway, the saga begins many generations before, when Jacob brings all the mispocha down to Egypt where his son Joseph, interpreter of dreams, has become a viceroy. Things are good for a while, but as it always seems to go with the Jews, eventually the leaders sour on us and we are enslaved. Still, the pharaoh is freaking out about an uprising, so he decides that all Jewish baby boys have to be killed. Moses’s mom, Yocheved, saves him by putting him in a basket in the river where the Pharaoh’s barren daughter will find him, take him as her own, and hire Yocheved to nurse him. (Very clever plan!) Years later, Moses observes an overseer beating a Jewish slave. In defending the slave, he goes overboard and kills the Egyptian. So he does what any prince who killed someone on accident would do and ran away so he wouldn’t have to account for his actions. While he’s wondering the desert, a burning bush starts chatting him up. The Bible says nothing about hallucinations, though, because supposedly God wants to have a heart-to-heart and what better way to get a dude’s attention that to set a bush afire and talk through it? (Some might prefer other sorts of talking bush, but I digress.)
The bush/God tells Moses to go back to Egypt and demand that pharaoh free the Jews. (If Egypt was anything like NYC, it was being grossly overdeveloped, so this would be good for the Egyptians from a planning perspective as well. I’m just saying.) Instead of saying, “What the fuck?”, Moses goes back to Egypt as commanded. Pharaoh is not at all into the plan (he’s sort of like Donald Trump and likes big ugly luxury buildings), so Moses says that God will fuck them up. Pharaoh’s like, “Whatev.”
Then the first plague arrives. God turns all the Egyptians’ water into blood. (This is worse than the current drought in California.) It reeks. So Pharaoh says to get the fuck out as long as the smell goes away. Yay! The Jews rejoice. The blood turns back into water. Pharaoh is all George W. Bush then and renegs on his promise, leading to the next plague. After the first plague ends and Pharaoh revokes his promise to let the Israelites leave Egypt, Moses and his brother Aaron bring a second plague upon the land. Suddenly, everything is crawling with frogs. They hop into bed with the Egyptians, shower with them, and join them for dinner at fancy restaurants. The worst part was that the croakers would not shut the fuck up. Ribbit, ribbit, ribbit, day and night. Even if the Egyptians did not believe they could get warts from the hoppers (since everyone knows that toads brings warts, geez!), the noise is unbelievable. Pharaoh’s court magicians could not get rid of them, so he finally agrees to let the Jews go so long as Moses gets those green fucks out as well. Moses is like, “Right on. Just pick the time, and our God will shut the frogs up.” At the appointed time, all the frogs die. I assume that the en masse deaths and subsequent decaying frog bodies stank as bad as when the water turned to blood. Maybe that’s why Pharaoh changes his mind about letting the Jews abandon their positions as slaves.
Now God is pissed. If the shenanigans with blood and frogs didn’t convince this Pharaoh shithead to let his peeps go, God must unveil something really gross. So Aaron is instructed to stretch out his staff and strike the dust. The dust become lice. As one might imagine, there is a lot of dust in a desert. If you’ve ever had even a mild case of lice (as I did in 2nd grade), you know how unpleasant this is. Imagine a desert made of lice. Even though I think I read somewhere that ancient Egyptians were big into body hair removal (maybe even the original perpetrators of shaved snatch – we should really call Brazilian waxes Ancient Egyptian Exposed Cooter; I could be remembering wrong though), this was not cool. In fact, the Biblical scholar known as Wikipedia asserts that, “This plague killed the most people by far; bugs covered bodies in everyplace that you could not even touch.” Yes, I am itching as I write this. Pharaoh must have been really fucking miserable (or maybe this is what made the Egyptians hate body hair, huh?), as he again agrees to let the Jews go.
Basically, after Pharaoh renegs on letting the Jews leave once the lice were removed from their crotches, they are followed around by swarms of flies. At that point, I suspect they regretted having the frogs (plague 2) killed off, as the fly population would have been greatly reduced by the presence of hungry frogs. But, too late! Hindsight is 20/20. Of course, the Egyptians hate it when flies swarm them everywhere (I picture it sort of like Pig Pen, surrounded by a cloud), so Pharaoh says the Jews could take off if the flies are withdrawn. The flies went wherever plagues of flies go when they are called away, but Pharaoh changes his mind again. So God fucks with the cattle, giving them a “very grievous murrain.” I kind of feel bad for all the horses, camels, oxen, sheep, and asses that die as a result. What did they have to do with this dispute? Nada. Just innocent victims in a battle of wills. It’s always the bystanders that get screwed the worst, I tell you.
After five plagues came and went, you’d think that Pharaoh would have figured out that more were on the way if he didn’t let the Jews leave Egypt, but I think we all know that it is really really hard to cut slave labor loose once you get used to it. One might note that these conditions still exist around the world today – from sweatshop basements and brothels in New York City to the indentured construction workers building skyscrapers in Dubai – but that is far more serious than I want to be, given that the sixth plague is boils. But I duly note that injustice continues without divine intervention. So after the “very grievous murrain” fucks with the Egyptian livestock but Pharaoh still refuses to free the Jews, God tells Aaron to throw some soot around. The dirt led to boils infesting the skin of the Egyptians and whatever livestock hadn’t been fucked up by the “very grievous murrain.” (When I was growing up, my grandparents used Haggadahs at our abbreviated Passover Seders that they somehow got free from Maxwell House coffee. These books also had some very graphic depictions on the plagues, and I was always transfixed by the boils. They were drawn as ginormous lumps leaking pus off a guy’s arm. It was hard to eat gefilte fish after looking at something like that.) My guess is that there weren’t enough sterile needles in ancient Egypt to properly lance all the pus-infested boils, so Pharaoh gives in and says the Jews can leave. Once the boils are gone and everyone is comfortable in their 800 thread count Egyptian cotton robes, of course he changes his mind.
That’s when the hail starts. “Eh, what’s the big deal about hail?” one might wonder. The Maxwell House coffee Haggadah indicated that this hail was mixed with flames, so that fire and ice rained down upon the Egyptians. The crops and whatever livestock still managed to survive were badly damaged. I partly wonder how the hail did not melt from the heat of the fire and then douse the fire, but whatever. That is why it is a miracle.
Next comes a plague of locusts. The locusts destroy any crops that somehow managed to remain after frogs, flies, murrain, and all sorts of other nasty shit decimated the land. People were probably not so impressed by the locusts for that reason as well. If anyone had consulted me on what the 8th plague should have been, I’d have chosen bedbugs. Bedbugs are evil, evil, evil fuckers. There’s a plague of them in NYC now. Again, I wonder what we’re doing that we are so afflicted.
After the locusts’ darkness was recalled, the next plague was darkness. (This strikes me as silly: In the previous plague, supposedly so many locusts swarmed Egypt that the bugs cast a shadow over the land. How is darkness supposed to follow that? It was already dark.) Apparently, however, this darkness was heavier, and Egyptians are physically weighed down by it. According to Wikipedia, the darkness was a direct smackdown on the sun god Ra. It was dark for three days. These people would probably not do well in Scandinavian countries or Alaska in winter if they couldn’t make it through a mere three days of darkness. I hear the vampires love it, though.
The 10th and final plague involves killing all first-born sons, including that of animals. (Once again, totally innocent bystanders.) The Angel of Death roams the towns of Egypt, sparing no one. Except for those who had been warned in advance. Those people (the Jews) marked their doors with lamb’s blood, and the Angel of Death passed over. I guess he is not down with lamb’s blood.
Once the Egyptians suffered, Pharaoh calls Moses in and tells him to get everyone the fuck out of there. So they pack their shit up as fast as they could. This does not allow their delicious bread to rise, so their descendants are condemned to eat matzoh during Passover to show that we still feel the pain. Long story short, the Jews vamanos, and Pharaoh, back to his fickle self, changes his mind. He sends his army to bring them back. The Jews arrive at the Red Sea and despair because we are good divers (evidenced by Mark Spitz) but not good swimmers (Phelps? Not Jewish). God tells them to stop whining and creates a path for them to cross through the Red Sea. Yay! The Egyptians follow. I picture a bad game of “Red Rover,” with the Jews on the far side of the Sea linking hands and yelling, “Red Rover, Red Rover, let Pharaoh come over.” The fool charges at the line, and whoops! God closes the sea back up and everyone drowns.
Which will bring me to my final point: anyone who says that God loves life and therefore is against abortion clearly has not read the Bible.