The Ten Plagues - Bible Story Summary

God Sent Ten Plagues to Defeat Pharaoh

Ten Plagues
The Plagues of Egypt. Print Collector / Contributor / Getty Images

The Hebrew people had suffered as slaves in Egypt for over 400 years when God sent them a deliverer named Moses.

But Pharaoh, Egypt's arrogant king, wasn't about to let this valuable source of free labor go.  After all, Pharaoh believed he was a god, and who could oppose a god?  That was when the God of Israel sent Ten Plagues upon the Egyptian people to show there was no one like the Lord in all the earth.

References to the Ten Plagues in the Bible

Exodus 5:3, 7:14-12:30; 1 Samuel 4:8; Amos 4:10.

The Ten Plagues - Story Summary

Before each plague, Moses asked Pharaoh to let the Hebrew people go into the desert to worship the Lord.  After each plague, Pharaoh's response was the same: he hardened his heart, stubbornly refusing to obey God

Water Turned to Blood

In the first plague, Aaron, brother of Moses, struck the Nile River with his staff and the water turned to blood. The fish died, the water stunk, and people could not drink it. Even water in jars and pots turned to blood. By their secret arts, the magicians of Pharaoh managed to duplicate this act.


The second plague brought millions of frogs out of the river, canals, and ponds until they covered the land. Again, the king's sorcerers used black magic to produce frogs. 


In the third plague, Aaron struck the dust and it became gnats, infesting men and beasts.

  The magicians could not duplicate that miracle and said, "This is the finger of God." (Exodus 8:19, ESV). 


The fourth plague brought swarms of flies, but the insects covered only Egypt and not the land of Goshen where the Hebrews lived.  Pharaoh tried to set conditions on how far the people could go into the desert to make sacrifices to God.



In the fifth plague, all the horses, donkeys, camels, herds, and flocks in Egypt died, but the curse did not touch the animals of the Hebrews. Pharaoh still would not back down.


For the sixth plague, God told Moses to throw handfuls of soot into the air.  The fine dust became boils on all the Egyptians, so painful the magicians could not stand before Moses.


In the seventh plague, God explained to Pharaoh, through Moses, the reason for the plagues: 

But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. (Exodus 9:16, NIV)

Very heavy hail fell upon Egypt in the seventh plague, killing people, animals and plants.  Although Pharaoh admitted he had sinned and that God was in the right, he changed his mind again as soon as the storm stopped and would not let the people go.


With the eighth plague came locusts such as the world had never seen before.  They smothered Egypt, eating plants and trees so not a green thing remained.  When Pharaoh called in Moses, the king admitted to sinning "once." 


The ninth plague brought pitch darkness over Egypt for three days, so heavy that people could not see one another.

  Remarkably, the Hebrews had light in their land.  Once again Pharaoh tried to dictate conditions on Israel's departure by ordering that their flocks be left behind.

Death of Firstborn

Finally, God warned of a tenth plague, so devastating that Pharaoh would release the enslaved Jews.  First God warned all the people of Israel to sacrifice lambs to him, paint the blood on their doorposts, and eat the roasted meat before morning.  God's avenging angel would see the blood sign and pass over those houses.  This started the Jewish tradition of Passover.

The Jews asked the Egyptian people for gold, silver, jewelry, and clothes, and they gladly gave it to see them go.  God had a plan to use those materials later.  During the night, the tenth plague descended, the death of the firstborn in every Egyptian house.

  Even Pharaoh's firstborn son died.

The outcry from the Egyptians was so great that Pharaoh commanded Israel to go immediately, taking everything with them.

What happened next is described in the crossing of the Red Sea.

Lessons From the Ten Plagues

Egypt's false gods were powerless before Jehovah, the almighty God of Israel.  Today, as then, anything people put more importance on than the Lord is idolatry, a serious sin.

God used Pharaoh to show the world his omnipotent authority. No matter what happens, the Lord is in control.  God directs history to accomplish his supreme plan.

Whether it is performing awesome miracles or through quiet, individual intervention,  God always helps those who love and obey him.