The Egyptian people surely knew that the Jewish people were immune to the plagues. Many must have suspected that these catastrophes were happening to them on our account. (Either through Moshe's warnings being leaked to the general population, or by realizing that the Jews were the only people who were unaffected.)

Now, after supernatural events have been plaguing and torturing them: Why didn't these superstitious people do what they have traditionally done throughout the ages — blame the Jews, and either exile us or try to kill us? Or march to the palace and try to overthrow Pharaoh? Why were the Egyptians so passive?


3 Answers 3


The Egyptian people didn't react violently because nearly the entire population were also slaves according to the narrative and laws the Torah lays out for us.

Genesis 47:12-27

יב וַיְכַלְכֵּל יוֹסֵף אֶת-אָבִיו וְאֶת-אֶחָיו, וְאֵת כָּל-בֵּית אָבִיו--לֶחֶם, לְפִי הַטָּף. 12 And Joseph sustained his father, and his brethren, and all his father's household, with bread, according to the want of their little ones. יג וְלֶחֶם אֵין בְּכָל-הָאָרֶץ, כִּי-כָבֵד הָרָעָב מְאֹד; וַתֵּלַהּ אֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, וְאֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן, מִפְּנֵי, הָרָעָב. 13 And there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was very sore, so that the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished by reason of the famine. יד וַיְלַקֵּט יוֹסֵף, אֶת-כָּל-הַכֶּסֶף הַנִּמְצָא בְאֶרֶץ-מִצְרַיִם וּבְאֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן, בַּשֶּׁבֶר, אֲשֶׁר-הֵם שֹׁבְרִים; וַיָּבֵא יוֹסֵף אֶת-הַכֶּסֶף, בֵּיתָה פַרְעֹה. 14 And Joseph gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, for the corn which they bought; and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh's house. טו וַיִּתֹּם הַכֶּסֶף, מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם וּמֵאֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן, וַיָּבֹאוּ כָל-מִצְרַיִם אֶל-יוֹסֵף לֵאמֹר הָבָה-לָּנוּ לֶחֶם, וְלָמָּה נָמוּת נֶגְדֶּךָ: כִּי אָפֵס, כָּסֶף. 15 And when the money was all spent in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came unto Joseph, and said: 'Give us bread; for why should we die in thy presence? for our money faileth.' טז וַיֹּאמֶר יוֹסֵף הָבוּ מִקְנֵיכֶם, וְאֶתְּנָה לָכֶם בְּמִקְנֵיכֶם--אִם-אָפֵס, כָּסֶף. 16 And Joseph said: 'Give your cattle, and I will give you [bread] for your cattle, if money fail.' יז וַיָּבִיאוּ אֶת-מִקְנֵיהֶם, אֶל-יוֹסֵף, וַיִּתֵּן לָהֶם יוֹסֵף לֶחֶם בַּסּוּסִים וּבְמִקְנֵה הַצֹּאן וּבְמִקְנֵה הַבָּקָר, וּבַחֲמֹרִים; וַיְנַהֲלֵם בַּלֶּחֶם בְּכָל-מִקְנֵהֶם, בַּשָּׁנָה הַהִוא. 17 And they brought their cattle unto Joseph. And Joseph gave them bread in exchange for the horses, and for the flocks, and for the herds, and for the asses; and he fed them with bread in exchange for all their cattle for that year. יח וַתִּתֹּם, הַשָּׁנָה הַהִוא, וַיָּבֹאוּ אֵלָיו בַּשָּׁנָה הַשֵּׁנִית וַיֹּאמְרוּ לוֹ לֹא-נְכַחֵד מֵאֲדֹנִי, כִּי אִם-תַּם הַכֶּסֶף וּמִקְנֵה הַבְּהֵמָה אֶל-אֲדֹנִי: לֹא נִשְׁאַר לִפְנֵי אֲדֹנִי, בִּלְתִּי אִם-גְּוִיָּתֵנוּ וְאַדְמָתֵנוּ. 18 And when that year was ended, they came unto him the second year, and said unto him: 'We will not hide from my lord, how that our money is all spent; and the herds of cattle are my lord's; there is nought left in the sight of my lord, but our bodies, and our lands. יט לָמָּה נָמוּת לְעֵינֶיךָ, גַּם-אֲנַחְנוּ גַּם אַדְמָתֵנוּ--קְנֵה-אֹתָנוּ וְאֶת-אַדְמָתֵנוּ, בַּלָּחֶם; וְנִהְיֶה אֲנַחְנוּ וְאַדְמָתֵנוּ, עֲבָדִים לְפַרְעֹה, וְתֶן-זֶרַע וְנִחְיֶה וְלֹא נָמוּת, וְהָאֲדָמָה לֹא תֵשָׁם. 19 Wherefore should we die before thine eyes, both we and our land? buy us and our land for bread, and we and our land will be bondmen unto Pharaoh; and give us seed, that we may live, and not die, and that the land be not desolate.' כ וַיִּקֶן יוֹסֵף אֶת-כָּל-אַדְמַת מִצְרַיִם, לְפַרְעֹה, כִּי-מָכְרוּ מִצְרַיִם אִישׁ שָׂדֵהוּ, כִּי-חָזַק עֲלֵהֶם הָרָעָב; וַתְּהִי הָאָרֶץ, לְפַרְעֹה. 20 So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh; for the Egyptians sold every man his field, because the famine was sore upon them; and the land became Pharaoh's. כא וְאֶת-הָעָם--הֶעֱבִיר אֹתוֹ, לֶעָרִים: מִקְצֵה גְבוּל-מִצְרַיִם, וְעַד-קָצֵהוּ. 21 And as for the people, he removed them city by city, from one end of the border of Egypt even to the other end thereof. כב רַק אַדְמַת הַכֹּהֲנִים, לֹא קָנָה: כִּי חֹק לַכֹּהֲנִים מֵאֵת פַּרְעֹה, וְאָכְלוּ אֶת-חֻקָּם אֲשֶׁר נָתַן לָהֶם פַּרְעֹה--עַל-כֵּן, לֹא מָכְרוּ אֶת-אַדְמָתָם. 22 Only the land of the priests bought he not, for the priests had a portion from Pharaoh, and did eat their portion which Pharaoh gave them; wherefore they sold not their land. כג וַיֹּאמֶר יוֹסֵף אֶל-הָעָם, הֵן קָנִיתִי אֶתְכֶם הַיּוֹם וְאֶת-אַדְמַתְכֶם לְפַרְעֹה; הֵא-לָכֶם זֶרַע, וּזְרַעְתֶּם אֶת-הָאֲדָמָה. 23 Then Joseph said unto the people: 'Behold, I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh. Lo, here is seed for you, and ye shall sow the land. כד וְהָיָה, בַּתְּבוּאֹת, וּנְתַתֶּם חֲמִישִׁית, לְפַרְעֹה; וְאַרְבַּע הַיָּדֹת יִהְיֶה לָכֶם לְזֶרַע הַשָּׂדֶה וּלְאָכְלְכֶם, וְלַאֲשֶׁר בְּבָתֵּיכֶם--וְלֶאֱכֹל לְטַפְּכֶם. 24 And it shall come to pass at the ingatherings, that ye shall give a fifth unto Pharaoh, and four parts shall be your own, for seed of the field, and for your food, and for them of your households, and for food for your little ones.' כה וַיֹּאמְרוּ, הֶחֱיִתָנוּ; נִמְצָא-חֵן בְּעֵינֵי אֲדֹנִי, וְהָיִינוּ עֲבָדִים לְפַרְעֹה. 25 And they said: 'Thou hast saved our lives. Let us find favour in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh's slaves' כו וַיָּשֶׂם אֹתָהּ יוֹסֵף לְחֹק עַד-הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה עַל-אַדְמַת מִצְרַיִם, לְפַרְעֹה--לַחֹמֶשׁ: רַק אַדְמַת הַכֹּהֲנִים, לְבַדָּם--לֹא הָיְתָה, לְפַרְעֹה. 26 And Joseph made it a statute concerning the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth; only the land of the priests alone became not Pharaoh's. כז וַיֵּשֶׁב יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, בְּאֶרֶץ גֹּשֶׁן; וַיֵּאָחֲזוּ בָהּ, וַיִּפְרוּ וַיִּרְבּוּ מְאֹד. 27 And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen; and they got them possessions therein, and were fruitful, and multiplied exceedingly.

The only reason the Israelites were not immediately made slaves was because Joseph sustained them during the famine and the very harsh policies he enacted. According to these laws most Egyptians would become slaves to Pharaoh, would have had 1/5 of their food taken away, and would have their population shifted based on the needs of the government. The only ones initially exempt from this were the Israelites due to the influence of Joseph. But it also seems like this "special treatment" from Joseph led to their being a growing unrest against the Israelites not just from Pharaoh, but from a large swathe of the Egyptian populace as well. We see hints of this because Pharaoh needs to ask his people to do evil against the Israelites, he can't just order his men to do it because then it would make him look too bad. Instead he tries to craftily reduce the Israelite numbers, and tries to get the local population to participate in it.

Exodus 1:22

כב וַיְצַו פַּרְעֹה, לְכָל-עַמּוֹ לֵאמֹר: כָּל-הַבֵּן הַיִּלּוֹד, הַיְאֹרָה תַּשְׁלִיכֻהוּ, וְכָל-הַבַּת, תְּחַיּוּן. {פ} 22 And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying: 'Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive.' {P}

I bring this up because this event probably ended up being well known amongst most people in Egypt, even amongst Egyptians who didn't participate in these genocide. And I would argue it's this event that leads to the Egyptian population being understanding and compassionate toward the Israelites, even as these plagues cause them problems. My argument is based on the first plague that God sends against the Egyptians, which is a twofold statement. The nile will turn red with blood so that way the Israelites understand God knows and saw what happened with them, and so that way the Egyptians understand that this murder they participated in as a country all those years ago is why these plagues against you are happening now.

It also helps explain why there was a great mixed multitude that left Egypt with the Israelites. These peoples were probably also slaves, and are also aware that God is defending a slave people against injustice, for which Egypt as a country is guilty.


The dimensions in which the G-dly plagues hit the Egyptians left them without any power nor desire for any immediate 'revenge'. One might argue: Revenge against whom, though? Against G-d? These supernatural wonders that occured during that time were way out of league from the things that non-Jews later on accused Jewish people for during our exile in europe. Egypt was powerless in the face of the Ten Plagues.

However, as already mentioned, once the Plagues subsided (the tenth and final one, the death of the Egyptian's firstborn), it didn't take too long when Pharaoh and an army of his set their way to 'annihilate the Jews' in gentile, Japhreth fashion. But it didn't work that time, didn't it. :p

What I'd like to emphasize is that Jews did in fact die during those times. Not through Egyptian's hand, though.

'Then followed the ninth plague. For several days all of Egypt was enveloped in a thick and impenetrable veil of darkness which extinguished all lights kindled. The Egyptians were gripped with fear, and remained glued to their places wherever they stood or sat. Only in Goshen, where the children of Israel dwelt, there was light. But not all of the Jews were saved from this plague. There were a few who wanted to be regarded as Egyptians rather than as members of the Hebrew race, and who tried, therefore, to imitate the Egyptians in everything, or, as we call it, to assimilate themselves. They did not want to leave Egypt. These people died during the days of darkness.'

Source: https://www.chabad.org/holidays/passover/pesach_cdo/aid/1653/jewish/The-Ten-Plagues.htm

Plague 9. If you like this answer, I will search for the exact Torah verse (on mobile so it's a bit clumsy). If not, I will delete it (as it's a personal answer and that isn't something Mi Yodeya likes - sources are the way to go.)


Interestingly, there is a tradition that in addition to the suffering of the Egyptians, 15m Jews were killed during the plagues, probably because they did not fully observe Judaism or at least what was attainable at that time. People also felt that the Pharaoh was a god and perhaps felt timid to rebel. After the death of Pharaoh's firstborn, he released the Jews from bondage (actually G-d's doing). Then, as if in normal goyim fashion, they tried to kill or recapture the recently emancipated slaves at the Sea of Reeds.

  • Where do you find such a tradition? I’ve never heard of this before.
    – DonielF
    Oct 17, 2019 at 22:14
  • 15 million Jews were killed? What tradition are you talking about?
    – user16556
    Oct 17, 2019 at 22:31
  • The source can be found in Rashi Shemos 12,13.
    – Turk Hill
    Oct 17, 2019 at 22:50
  • @TurkHill Not to be found...
    – Moshe
    Oct 18, 2019 at 1:27
  • 2
    Factuality of these statements notwithstanding, how does "Jews were killed during the plagues" answer 'why didn't the Egyptians kill the Jews'? Is it because it was the Egyptian who killed them? They felt the Jews were suffering enough already? They didn't blame the Jews because they also died? Something else entirely? Without connecting the two ideas, this seems to be an irrelevant (and probably inaccurate) comment. Oct 18, 2019 at 13:15

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