Biblical Plagues Part 2: The River of Blood

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In addition to the Exodus narrative, there’s other written evidence that the ancient Egyptians suffered some sort of awful succession of calamities. The Ipuwer Papyrus, an Egyptian manuscript that dates back to at least the beginning of that span, has the nightmarish feel of the first draft of a George Romero screenplay.

“Hearts are violent, pestilence is spread throughout the land, blood is everywhere, death is not lacking, and the mummy cloth speaks even before one comes near it. Indeed, many dead are buried in the river, the stream is a sepulcher and the place of embalmment has become a stream… the river is blood, and yet men drink of it. Men shrink from human beings and thirst after water.”

It’s impossible not to note the eerie parallel between the blood river described in the papyrus and the plague of blood described in Exodus 7:17–21.

“Thus says the Lord, ‘By this you shall know that I am the LORD: behold, I will strike the water that is in the Nile with the staff that is in my hand, and it will be turned to blood. The fish that are in the Nile will die, and the Nile will become foul, and the Egyptians will find difficulty in drinking water from the Nile.’

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Say to Aaron, “Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, over their streams, and over their pools, and over all their reservoirs of water, that they may become blood; and there will be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.”‘

“So Moses and Aaron did even as the LORD had commanded. And he lifted up the staff and struck the water that was in the Nile, in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants, and all the water that was in the Nile was turned to blood.

“The fish that were in the Nile died, and the Nile became foul, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. And the blood was through all the land of Egypt.”

The river of blood is also mentioned in Psalms 78:44 and 105:29.

Video: “The River of Blood”

Pioneering late-19th to early 20th Egyptologist Flinders Petrie — whose discoveries included the Merneptah Stele, the lone document mentioning Israel — theorized that the bloodlike waters were caused by stagnation when water levels were at their lowest. Others have argued that the redness was caused by particles of sediment carried along when the Nile flooded.

In the 1950s, Danish scholar Greta Hort, who consulted extensively with scientists, suggested another possibility — that the river of blood actually was a massive “red tide” of algae, permeated with anthrax bacteria, that spread when the Nile flooded its banks. In his book, Anthrax: A History, Richard M. Swiderski explains how Hort believed that the algae-anthrax flood in turn caused the other plagues:

“According to Hort’s scenario, the blood-red tied washed ashore fish dying of anthrax, which in turn infected the frogs and forced them ashore, where they carried anthrax to domestic animals. The flies multiplying in the shore plants decaying in the floods then fed upon the dying animals and carried anthrax to live animals and humans, precipitating the boils of the sixth and seventh plagues. The severe weather that caused the unusual flooding also accounts for the hail and the locusts. The plague of darkness and the death of the firstborn are also worked into the sequence.”

As Swiderski goes on to explain, Hort’s theory doesn’t really wash. Anthrax doesn’t infect fish or frogs in nature, and the pattern of transmission that she described fits cholera rather than anthrax.

But since then, scientists have nominated other pathogens as possible explanations for the plague. In 1996, epidemiologists John S. Marr and Curtis D. Malloy developed the theory that the plague was caused by Pfiesteria piscicida, a free-swimming, single celled organism blamed more recently for massive fish kills in North Carolina in the 1980s and 1990s. Blood seeping from the dead fishes conceivably could have turned the Nile red. Beyond that, by eradicating predator fish, the Pfiesteria outbreak might have caused the frog and insect populations to explode out of control, creating additional plagues.

One critic of the Pfiesteria explanation is biblical researcher Brad Sparks:

“It is well known that algae — even the strange Pfiesteria — mainly grow in stagnant bodies of water, not in free-flowing rivers. Red tides occur in slower-moving or becalmed saltwater oceans and estuaries rather than rivers (e.g., not one of the 1,109 worldwide Harmful Algae Events in the UNESCO database occurred in a freshwater river). These environments are very unlike the massive freshwater Nile, the second largest river in the world and clearly not a stagnant pond. It is common knowledge that plants need sunlight for photosynthesis, yet Hort’s theory also requires massive loads of intensely dark silt that would kill her plant algae. It is most problematic that her ‘red’ algae are actually green and her ‘red’ Nile silt is actually brown, thus could not possibly have caused a red Plague of ‘Blood.'”

Don’t miss Biblical Plagues: The First Curses and The Final Torments, this Monday starting at 9P et/pt!


  1. Jonah Thompson
    navajo reservation az
    March 31, 2013, 6:35 pm

    There are deposits of methane ice in the medeterranean sea off the shores of egypt. I believe an underwater volcanic disruption slowed or reversed the nile briefly allowing salt water red algae to travel and bloom upriver. The bible says the water in the pots also turned to “blood”. I wonder what the incubation time for a red algae bloom in hand collected water is. I imagine the egyptians were rushing to collect as much uncontaminated water as the waterways changed before their very eyes from a down river upheaval. Subsequently, eruptions occured causing darkness and spewing methane hydrate over egypt. The burning ice hail destroyed the plants and trees of the egyptians but spared israelite inhabited goshen. I would like to see soil sample investigations on any anamalies between goshen and the rest of egypt. I believe the exodus occured at the end of 12th dynasty. The disasters of the plagues and loss of egyptian army left the country unable to defend itself against the hyksos invaders. Its funny how many hyksos rulers took the name moses. They must have attributed great power to that name. Keep in mind i believe the accepted egyptian chronology is misaligned with biblical exodus events. The recent discovery of a drought bringing the end to the old kingdom marks the arrival of joseph into egypt. His leadership lifted the middle kingdom to the golden age of egyptian dynasties. Josephs instituted laws and building projects are clearly seen in archaeologic record of the early 12th dynasty. Also the arrival of semites settling in goshen during this time is evident. Thanks for the forum to express my opinion.

    ged from a down river upheaval. Remember the canals and resavoirs

  2. […] It was not because of the soil runoff that caused the next pending disaster, but the explosion of bacterial growth in the water and Pharaoh’s unyieldingness toward Israel (Exodus 6), not caused by agricultural […]

  3. Beorh Quarterly
    November 5, 2014, 9:24 am

    And why can’t we just believe that it was actual blood?

  4. Pam M
    February 11, 2016, 9:37 am

    Jonah Thompson of Arizona

    I’m a researcher for a novel about these times and I came to the same conclusions, especially after reading about the new evidence of a multi decade drought at the end of the First Kingdom that triggered a dark Intermediate stage.

  5. Susie Cue
    April 9, 11:35 am


  6. Richard Schiller
    May 10, 7:59 am

    A comet arrived at Earth and split in two. The first half crashed into the Mediterranean sea and exploded Thera Santorini Atlantis causing a tsunami tide from Asia to Libya to the pillars of Hercules in Morocco Spain. The whole coast of Greece was destroyed (the land of Ogygos) and so regarded as the return of Noah’s Flood. Dozens of chronologies (Mayan, Egypt, Chinese, Greek) prove this was 1514bc. The other half of the comet caused the pillar of ammonia that they followed and basically became seen on both equinoxes. They would set up the tabernacle tent under the cloud and it would come down upon it. Only the high priest knew how to enter without dying from the ammonia. The ammonia also chilled the parted Red Sea as this very wide funnel cloud passed thru it, and it also killed the flock of quail they ate who flew into it. Those of Israel who over ate, all died. It is claimed that fast food meat is washed in ammonia. Consider this, that parents of Moses lived 137, Egyptians lived 137, but all Israel who chose to eat the fungal manna cycle died at 60 from accumulated ammonia because they didn’t go into Canaan when they were told to. The comet of Hezekiah was so bright it was thought to be the sun backing up. That comet was cyanide that killed 185,000 Assyrians around Jerusalem.

  7. Richard Schiller
    May 10, 8:21 am

    Joseph was the last 7 years of the 213-year 12th dynasty. The Ramses Papyrus canon mistakes Abram as being 75 when he built his home at his brother’s Harran Syria in 1991bc. Abram was 27, and Shulgi (Dungi bullcrap) became king of Ur that year. The real 12th dynasty begins when Shulgi dies in 1943bc when Abram is 75. Not only is it important to flee Ur rather than be part of a suicide AmarPal wants of Abram’s childless family, but they decide not to leave the house for AmarPal (Amar-Sin) to gain but rather burn it down. Upon dying at Harran knowing he has now saved his son Abram from AmarPal’s intent to kill Abram (the idea being go to heaven with my father Shulgi), Terah insists that since the 11th dynasty Hamitic Pharaoh is replacd by Shemetic 12th dynasty, that Abram must promise to bring Ur’s astronomy to Egypt. This astronomy is as follows. Jupiter as 12-year for 36 orbits is no longer 432 years of 360-day (426 Julian) since the Flood but rather has advanced to 433 years in 427 Julian. Next the 13-year cycle of 780-day Mars returns to seasons for Terah in 205 Julian years (208 of 360-day) if you want the Terah TAU Marduk dates they are 2148bc July 18 to 1943bc July 22. And Nahor’s new year 2148bc marking the 1st for Terah is only 2 days off of actual Mars behind sun on July 20. The Jewish Seder Olam uses the next 205-year as 1943-1738bc when it claims Terah is 145 years from 1883-1738bc. Shulgi’s 48 years measured both 12-year Jupiter and 8-year Venus. Thus Abram kept his word and passed thru and over Salem’s Shem-Melkizedek to bring to 1st year of 12th dynasty Egypt. This is why Joseph’s 7 years of 1737-1730bc is the last of 12th dynasty. The exodus in 1513bc unveils the same collapsing decline we have now. We may have high-tech toys but no one knows how they work or how to make them, and actual text books are now actually screwing up and reversing actual facts of physics. This is what happened from 1730-1513bc including the year going backward another 54 leap days. Chjrnology got worse after the exodus. One reason is a 3744-year astral Armageddon countdown to a year 6000 projection. The countdown WAS year 2256am of Adam plus 3744. But all the new nations of the post-exodus new world decided this 3744 was year 3744am of Adam or even 3744 years from Adam’s death. This is because the name Man for Noah (Manu) and the name Men for Narmer or Nimrod (Mene /Menes) was claimed to be Adam where in English to this day we say Adam is man or men. It explains why long before Josephus said year 6000 was 284AD that other years such as 1513bc 1473bc 1458bc 856bc 526bc were claimed to be end of old world start of new world. It wasn’t small 312-year or 1460-year cycles, it was this 3744 claimed as Adam’s birth or death. Amazingly the whole time-tree fits to all nations of all history and current known records. There is no way ape-evolution is human.

  8. Richard Schiller
    May 10, 8:28 am

    For those offended by my claim ape-evolution is not real. Look at the Ice Age claim of astronomy 10,000 year cycle. If every winter 10,000 years ago is an Earth far from the sun during NORTH winters to be super cold, that makes every summer of the NORTH super close to the sun to melt it all in a super hot summer. The theory used to claim this cycle cancels itself out every 6 months to summer. That is why they then want to add more garbage with imagine astral impacts that they cannot even pick which millennia or which century in that 1 million years of 65 million BC. Yet if you study the Bible it really is a book of science, and medicine, and calendar dated facts. It is the semantic games we play that makes anyone’s words as real or as ridiculous mockery. Everyone wants to be the know-it-all, the savior of what is reality.