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The Ohr Somayach website's 'Ask a rabbi' column quotes Abarbanel as saying that the second plague was crocodiles, rather than frogs, and that one of Abarbanel's reasons was:

The Egyptians worshipped a crocodile god. Therefore, in keeping with the purpose of the plagues - which was not only to punish but also to educate - the Egyptians were attacked by their very own god. This demonstrated Hashem's mastery over the Egyptian god.

Where does Abarbanel say this?

EDIT: I am specifically looking for where he referred to the “crocodile deity” idea.

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  • See: ohr.edu/ask_db/ask_main.php/181/Q3
    – Shmuel
    May 9 at 16:28
  • @Zarka the article states: "The Abarbanel writes that tzfardeah means crocodile. There are two logical reasons to support this" It does not state that the reasons to support this idea are from the Abarbanel. Though the Abarbanel does express the second reason, he does not (to my reading) express the first one. It would then appear that this is either the authors own support for the Abarbanel or support for the Abarbanel from another source. May 9 at 18:53
  • @Deuteronomy This article yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/848428/rabbi-elly-krimsky/… is really explicit in attributing the idea to Abarbanel: "Abarbanel advances two logical reasons why tzfardeya means crocodile. First, the Egyptians worshipped a crocodile god..."
    – Zarka
    May 9 at 19:04
  • Also see the Netziv who also mentions that the 2nd plague included crocodiles.
    – Dov
    May 9 at 19:05
  • @Zarka The Ohr Sameach article is from 2004, that lecture is from 2015. Unfortunately sometimes people recirculate ideas sourced from online without confirming it on the inside. May 9 at 19:12

2 Answers 2

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The Abarbanel can be found in his commentary on the Torah, in Exodus 7:26, in the name of Rabbeinu Channanel:

והותרה בזה השאלה הראשונה שהעירותי בפרשה ואמנם מה המה הב"ח שקרא הכתוב בכאן צפרדעים כלל המפרשים אמרו שהם הדגים הקטנים הצועקים תמיד באגמים. ורבי חננאל פיר' שהם הב"ח הגדולי' שבנילוס הנקראים בלשון ערב אל תמסאח ומפרשי התורה לא הודו לו. ובאמת נראים דבריו מדבריהם ויש לנו מהכתוב על זה ראיות מהם אמרו הנה אנכי נוגף את כל גבולך בצפרדעים ולא יאמר לשון נגיפה אלא במכות שיש בהן מיתה וכו

This peshat is also brought down by the Ibn Ezra in his commentary to Exodus 7:27 but the Ibn Ezra says that frogs fits better.

The part about the plagues being a lesson to the Egyptians who worshipped crocodiles is not in either source. However, I don't think Ohr Sameach's article was claiming otherwise. It was just offering its own reason for favoring the crocodile peshat.

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The Abarbanel on Shemos chapter 7 discusses the idea that the frogs were actually crocodiles. I did not find the exact location of what Ohr Somayach writes. However, the above is where Abarbanel discusses the idea that it were crocodiles instead of frogs.

The Kli Yakar on Shemos 7:17 cites the Abarbanel and explains that the reason why the first three plagues happened the way they happened, was to counteract the way pharaoh was thinking about Hashem. Pharaoh doubted Hashem. Since the Egyptians were worshipping the Nile, G-d involved the Nile in one of the plagues, just to show that "their gods" (e.g. the idols the Egyptians worshipped), cannot control the Nile, G-d can!

The idea of "worshipping the Nile" can also be found in the commentary of the Or HaChaim:

בזאת תדע כי אני ה׳, "In this you shall know that I am י־ה־ו־ה." The reason G'd used the plague of blood to prove to Pharaoh that He was who He said He was, is understandable when we consider Shemot Rabbah 9,9 according to which the Egyptians looked upon the Nile as a benevolent deity. By striking this deity first and turning it into a source of curse instead of a source of life, G'd demonstrated that He owned the Nile. According to the Zohar volume 3 page 297 the tetragram implies the eternity of G'd. He had preceded the river Nile just as He had preceded every other phenomenon in the world.

This idea is cited by the Or HaChaim from Shemos Rabbah 9:9, but that does not show up this idea on Sefaria.


Reference List:

Torah Tidbits; ISSUE 1449 JAN 1ST '22; Rabbi Shalom Rosner; p. 26-27

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  • Thanks, but I was specifically looking for the argument described
    – Zarka
    May 9 at 15:41

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