Could The Plagues Described in the Bible’s Book of Exodus Have a Scientific Explanation?
The Book of Exodus describes God’s awesome show of power and vengeance as he turns the Nile River into blood, killing its fish, and forcing drought upon the Egyptian people.
While such a grandiose explanation is certainly interesting, does any of this magical dialogue about the Nile, or the other nine Biblical plagues, have any basis in reality?
Fables like these abound throughout history, passed down for centuries to explain unknown or misunderstood events, including natural disasters. While not the work of a mythical god and not blood, it is possible that the Nile did turn red. One theory, proposed by 1950s scholar Greta Hort, explains this incident in more mundane and scientific terms.
Known as the Burgundy-Blood Phenomenon, Hort believes that between 1303 and 1213 BC, the environment around the modern-day city of Qantir, began to change from a tropical climate to a more desert-like state. The Nile’s current would slow, becoming a muddier setting in which millions of flagellates, single-celled organisms with whip-like flagella used for motion, would thrive.
Stephan Pflugmacher, a biologist at the Leibniz Institute for Water Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Berlin, takes the theory further and suggests climate change, and its effect on the local food chain, could account for the other Biblical plagues. The flagellates would also kill the frogs (plague two) and without natural predators, insect life would have flourished (plagues three and four), poisoning the livestock (plague five) and causing boils on humans and animals (plague six).
While not nearly as entertaining, it is possible, perhaps even likely, that at least some of the Bible’s plagues occurred in real life.