The Plagues of Egypt – a strong hand and an outstretched forearm

The plagues of Egypt are God’s miraculous and phenomenal intervention in nature, and this is the first time that He actually reveals himself to the whole world. The plagues are part of the Israelites’ process of redemption, and they reveal God's strength and His sovereignty over the world. After the ten plagues are over, we see that all those who experienced them underwent a transformation: Pharaoh and the Egyptians recognize the supremacy of God and free the Israelites, and the Israelites leave slavery to freedom.

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1

Who Knows the Plagues?

Exodus 7-12

This unit deals with the long story of the Ten Plagues, covering many chapters (7-12), which will not be studied in their entirety – we suggest reading the story of the plagues as a complete unit and recognizing the phenomenon of the plagues as a significant event; part of the story of the Israelites' exodus from Egypt, which displayed the supremacy and strength of God in the world. The first lesson is an independent study lesson where the students will get to know the stages of the story, and the general structure of the plagues in the Torah. We suggest teaching the story using the Flipped Classroom strategy. The goal is that the students do preparation work and continue the learning process in the classroom. While studying, the students will recognize the plagues as the miraculous salvation of the Israelites – God changed nature and intervened in reality to save the people of Israel. The Egyptians and everyone in the world would recognize His strength as the Savior of Israel.

El éxodo de Egipto. Mapa con explicaciones

Unit Knowledge Goals

Objetivos de conocimiento en la enseñanza de la unidad

Objectifs pédagogiques de cette unité

  • The student will learn about the circumstances that occurred during the plagues of Egypt.
  • The student will obtain insights into the extent and intensity of the plagues.
  • The student will discuss the intensity of the plagues on Egypt, as part of the process of the Israelites’ exodus from slavery to freedom.

Pédagogie

Pedagogy

Pedagogía

Teaching Practices
Pratiques pédagogiques
Aconsejamos enseñar esta unidad a través de la siguiente práctica pedagógica
Flipped classroom
SEL
Aprendizaje social y emocional
ASE

Developing a sense of empathy, respect for others while learning to appreciate diversity through perspective taking.

Learning this unit while listening to occurrences at different points in the story.

Background for Teaching the Unit

Contexto de la unidad didáctica

Résumé de l’unité et valeurs centrales

The story of the Ten Plagues is a continuation of the miracles that were presented to the magicians after the Revelation at the Burning Bush (Chapter 7:8-13). In chapter 6 we read that God promised that He would bring the Israelites out of Egypt in this way:

Then G-d said to Moses, “You shall soon see what I will do to Pharaoh: he shall let them go because of a greater might; indeed, because of a greater might he shall drive them from his land” (Exodus 6:1). Indeed, the Plagues of Egypt constitute a broad, comprehensive and severe blow to Egypt.

The verses describing the plagues will be studied according to a presentation of the following headings, which will emphasize key aspects of the story: the occurrence, the characters, the time, and the place:

- "Warning plague ahead" – verses containing God's warning to Pharaoh about the plague that is about to be inflicted. These verses usually include the purpose of the plague.

- "Instructions for the Leader" – verses (if any) in which God tells Moses and Aaron about the coming of the plague. These verses reveal the role of Moses and Aaron in the various plagues.

- "Here Comes the Plague" – verses describing the actual plague – what did it hit, who did it hit and what were the results of the plague.

- "Reactions" – verses (if any) describing the reactions of the Egyptians – Pharaoh, and the magicians – to the plague.

In addition to the description of the occurrence of the plague, we will also discuss the positioning of the plagues within the historical sequence of the Israelites' exodus from Egypt. In Chapter 2 we read about the Israelites cry to G-d, and in Chapter 3 we learned about the assignment of the mission to Moses. In Chapters 4-6 we learned about the difficulties in carrying out the mission. Moses and Aaron turn to Pharaoh, and he does not listen to them. Also, the Israelites themselves, find it difficult to believe the good news of salvation because “they would not listen to Moses, their spirits crushed by cruel bondage” (Exodus 6:9). This observation enables one to actually see the plagues as a rescue – to bring the Israelites out of Egypt, but also as a message to show signs and miracles of God's strength and greatness to Egypt, to the Israelites and to the whole world.

The extensive damage to various spaces – the water of the Nile River, the soil, the animals, and the Egyptians – is part of the fulfillment of the main goal that emerges from the description of the plagues in these verses, “By this you shall know that I am Hashem” (Exodus, 7:17). 

The verses themselves do not mention the dimension of time, and we do not know how long the plagues lasted. The commentators dealt with this question and offered various answers. Some said that the plagues took place over an entire year. (Mishnah Eduyot Perek 1 Mishnah 10) and some claimed that each plague lasted one month with a week between each one and the one after (Shmot Rabba, Chapter 9). The fact that there is a discussion on this topic teaches us the impact of the plagues as a miraculous phenomenon, and the attempt to understand them in human terms.

Note that the term “Plague” does not appear in the verses and is mentioned for the first time in the Mishna: "... Ten plagues did the Holy one, blessed be He, bring upon the Egyptians in Egypt and ten at the sea” [Avot, Chapter 5, Mishna 4], as well as in the Passover Haggadah, written during the Mishnaic period: “These are the ten plagues that God brought upon the Egyptians in Egypt.” The title “Ten plagues,” given to all the plagues brought by God on Egypt, emphasizes the perception of the story of the plagues as a complete unit, constituting a significant step in the story of the Exodus. 

Consequently, the commentators also discussed the structure of the Ten Plagues, and learned about the meaning and purpose of the plagues. The Ten Plagues are divided into various themes. The Passover Haggadah mentions the division according to the signs given by Rabbi Yehuda: דצ"ך עד"ש באח"ב. The division and use of initials help us remember the plagues, which were a significant component in the story of the Exodus, as a complete process of redemption. The plagues are not presented as coincidental events (as the Egyptians initially understood them), but as steps that G-d planned to display His strength and greatness.

Additional suggestions for perceiving the structure of the plagues –

The division of the plagues according to the existence of a warning teaches us that the plagues were given as part of a planned divine strategy. Rabbi Samuel ben Meir (Rashbam) (on Exodus 7:20) presents the structure of three groups of plagues, each with three warnings – yes warning, yes warning, no warning. Rabbi David Zvi Hoffman (on Exodus 7:20) also talks about the place and time of giving the warning: a warning in the morning on the Nile; a warning in Pharaoh's palace; no warning. The the plague of the firstborn stands on its own. Rabbi Hoffman explains that all nine plagues were a preparation for the last plague that resulted in the Redemption.

The structure of the plagues can also be examined according to who actually inflicted each plague. The first three plagues were inflicted by Aaron (blood, frogs, lice), and the two subsequent plagues were inflicted by the hand of God (wild beasts, pestilence). The plague of boils is a transition point for Moses. The plagues that God inflicts directly symbolize a step up in each of the stages of inflicting plagues on Egypt. According to Ibn Ezra (Exodus 8:20) the pestilence is considered the most severe of the first plagues. Therefore, it is important that such a step up be inflicted by God.

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וְלֹא יִשְׁמַע אֲלֵכֶם פַּרְעֹה וְנָתַתִּי אֶת יָדִי בְּמִצְרָיִם 
וְהוֹצֵאתִי אֶת צִבְאֹתַי אֶת עַמִּי בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם
בִּשְׁפָטִים גְּדֹלִים

“When Pharaoh does not heed you, I will lay My hand upon Egypt
and deliver My ranks, My people the Israelites,
from the land of Egypt with extraordinary chastisements”

Activité d’introduction
Actividad de apertura
Opening Activity

Preparatory activity for learning about the Ten Plagues

In the upcoming lessons we will learn about the Ten Plagues that God brought upon Egypt. While preparing for the lesson (according to the idea of a flipped classroom) the students will read the verses and repeat key details regarding the Ten Plagues. Studying in the classroom will be based on the work done by the students in preparation for the lesson.

* In classes where it is a challenge to learn the verses in advance, you can spend some time in class learning the main details of the plagues.

In this unit, we will focus on learning about the Ten Plagues as part of the larger story of the Exodus. The students will learn independently, including practice (in preparation for the lesson or during a lesson focused on self-study). The students will learn about the details of the plagues – who inflicted the plagues, what were the results of the plagues and other details.

Options for the teacher to prepare work for the classroom:

1. When learning about the Ten Plagues, the students will be given a presentation with the verses that described the plagues, and which presents the story of the plagues and an understanding of the different stages that comprise the process of the Israelites’ redemption from Egypt.

Attached is a link to The Plagues in Egypt. presentation.

The assignment: We will instruct the students to read (or listen) about each plague in the presentation, including the verses:

"Instructions for the Leader"

"Here comes the Plague"

and complete the appropriate task under each one.

 

Also, the students will look online for a suitable image of the plague and upload it into the presentation.

(The image can reflect the event itself or its consequences).

* During the lessons we will encourage the students to refer back to the presentation, so that even if they choose another activity from the options below, as a preparation for the lesson, you should show the presentation to the students and make use of it.

2. The students can be given tools to learn about the Ten Plagues also by encouraging them to prepare games to learn about the Ten Plagues.

Instructions for Preparing the Game.

3. Or enable your students to learn through diverse games and revision exercises:

 

Learning through games

Online matching games

Matching game for print

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Étude de l’histoire
Aprendiendo la historia
Learning the Story
Verses
Versets
Versículos
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4:1:EN:2:1

The main part of the study will be done independently, by the students on their own. It is useful to exercise discretion in regard to the students' ability to work independently.

Flipped Classroom The second stage – Timeline of the Plagues in Egypt

1. In class, we will make sure that the students know about the occurrence of the Ten Plagues (you can review the worksheet/presentation, ask questions in the plenary, choose games that the students prepared and demonstrate content questions. You can also hold a short test or give short descriptions of the plague on the board).

2. As an introduction to the study process, during which we will broaden our point of view and look at the plagues as part of the overall story of the Exodus from Egypt and the birth of the Jewish nation.

The students will refer to the attached diagram, which presents the story of the Exodus from Egypt, from the days of Joseph.

We will ask them to observe the events, think about the sequence of events, and answer the question:

Why did God inflict the plagues?

The assignment appears on the attached sheet –

Ten Plagues of Egypt - why? And why now?

 We will offer students possible templates for writing an answer on the worksheet, such as outlines for high level in-depth writing.

 

3. Discussion in Plenary:

The students will share their answers to the question – Why did God inflict the plagues?

As we will discuss the purposes of the plagues in the following lessons in detail, it is worth clarifying and emphasizing now that the plagues are a stage in the story of the Redemption of the Israelites.

To conclude this stage, we will ask the students to suggest a title for the chapters describing the plagues, in the book called “The Israelites are Leaving Egypt.”

Independent learning – Observing the story of the Ten Plagues

In this part of the lesson, the students will review the information deriving from the Plagues of Egypt and draw their conclusions.

* In the case that the students did not work with the presentation to prepare for the lesson, the assignment can be given in class or alternatively, the presentation can be given to them when it is complete, at the teacher's discretion.

* In classes where independent learning of the verses is a challenge, the presentation can be projected on the board, the students can see the details of the story or listen to the verses and complete the observation task in a group.

The students will answer questions in order to understand the broad picture of the Plagues of Egypt and their meaning in the process of the Exodus to Freedom.

This activity is attached in file – Reviewing the Ten Plagues.

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The concept of the Ten Plagues of Egypt – what does it mean to us? Extension.
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Résumé
Resumen
Summary

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Summary for the teacher
Profundización para el docente
Approfondissement pour l’enseignant
summary for teacher S4 U1 EN
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Summary activity for the students

We have learned that one of the components of understanding a story is the dimension of time.

Ask the students questions concerning the time when the plagues occurred: How long did each plague last?

How much time passed between each plague and the subsequent plague? And – in general – how long did the plagues that were inflicted on the Egyptians by the Hand of God last?

Ask the students to try follow up on an Egyptian and an Israelite who experienced the plagues.

Based on the opinions presented by the commentators – the plagues lasted over a whole year. (Mishnah Eduyot Perek 1 Mishnah 10) and each plague lasted a month, and one week passed between each plague (Shmot Rabbah, Parsha 9). The students will write a new insight that they learned about the plagues, based on their learning about time.

The activity is attached in the work card (How long did the plagues last)

Collect the answers from each student or hold a short discussion in class.

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