Who was first to show that the first nine of the ten plagues could be grouped into three groups of three?

  1. The First Plague: Water Turned to Blood דָּם (7:17-24; 7:17-24) Go to Pharoah – לֵ֣ךְ אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֞ה

  2. The Second Plague: Frogs צְפַרְדֵּעַ (7:25-11; 7:25-15) Go to Pharaoh – בֹּ֖א אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֑ה

  3. The Third Plague: Gnats/Lice כֵּן (8:12-15; 8:16-19) No pre-announcement to Pharaoh – The magicians … they could not. הַחַרְטֻמִּ֧ים ...‬ וְלֹ֣א יָכֹ֑לוּ – This is the finger of God! – אֶצְבַּ֥ע אֱלֹהִ֖ים הִ֑וא

  4. The Fourth Plague: Flies/Insects עָרֹב (8:16-28; 8:20-32) present yourself to Pharaoh – וְהִתְיַצֵּב֙ לִפְנֵ֣י פַרְעֹ֔ה

  5. The Fifth Plague: Egyptian Livestock Die בָּקָר (9:1-7; 9:1-7) – Go to Pharaoh – בֹּ֖א אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֑ה

  6. The Sixth Plague: Boils שְׁחִין (9:8-12; 9:8-12) No pre-announcement to Pharaoh – magicians were unable – וְלֹֽא־יָכְל֣וּ הַֽחַרְטֻמִּ֗ים

  7. The Seventh Plague: Hail בָּרָ֖ד (9:13-35; 9:13-35) present yourself to Pharaoh – וְהִתְיַצֵּ֖ב לִפְנֵ֣י פַרְעֹ֑ה

  8. The Eighth Plague: Locusts אַרְבֶּ֖ה (10:1-20; 10:1-20) – Go to Pharaoh - בֹּ֖א אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֑ה

  9. The Ninth Plague: Darkness חֹ֖שֶׁךְ (10:21-29; 10:21-29) No pre-announcement to Pharaoh

  10. A Final Plague בְּכֹור֮ I will not see your face again. – לֹא־אֹסִ֥ף עֹ֖וד רְאֹ֥ות פָּנֶֽיךָ

  • 1
    Probably someone before recorded history. It's pretty obvious, no?
    – Double AA
    Feb 8, 2022 at 2:56
  • Double AA: Thus, you say it was understood as such from when first written.
    – Perry Webb
    Feb 8, 2022 at 12:07
  • I didn't say that, though it is a plausible timeline.
    – Double AA
    Feb 8, 2022 at 12:41
  • Don Isaac Abarbanel
    – wfb
    Feb 9, 2022 at 1:35

1 Answer 1


According to many commentators (esp. Maharal), this was the intent of Rabbi Yehudah when he broke the plagues into three groups in his mnemonic:

רַבִּי יְהוּדָה הָיָה נוֹתֵן בָּהֶם סִמָּנִים: דְּצַ"ךְ עַדַ"שׁ בְּאַחַ"ב.
Rabbi Yehuda was accustomed to giving [the plagues] mnemonics: Detsakh [the Hebrew initials of the first three plagues], Adash [the Hebrew initials of the second three plagues], Beachav [the Hebrew initials of the last four plagues].

The last plague stands on its own after the three sets of three (Maharal ad loc.), so it gets tacked onto the end of the last set.

  • Why does a plague that stands on its own get attached to something else? That's inherently contradictory.
    – Double AA
    Feb 8, 2022 at 16:05
  • 1
    Rashi treats the last 4 as a set, not 3 with an extra tacked on. @DoubleAA
    – Heshy
    Feb 8, 2022 at 19:45
  • @n.t see the Gur Aryeh on that Rashi (written by the Maharal!)
    – Heshy
    Feb 9, 2022 at 0:11
  • @Heshy It looks like the Maharal contradicts himself, at first glance. That still doesn't negate what he said in Gevuros Hashem from answering OP's question.
    – N.T.
    Feb 9, 2022 at 0:32

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