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I've heard from a Christian that each of the plagues that Hashem brought upon Egypt corresponded to a different Egyptian god. That is to say, to mock that particular god.
For example, heqet, the goddess of fertility, who had the head of a frog, corresponded to the plague of frogs [tzef'ardeya].

Is this belief discussed by any meforash, or held by Judaism ?


UPDATE

After posing this question to Christianity.se, it seems that it is a Christian concept.

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  • Not sure if heqet is the best example, because the meaning of tzef'ardeya is debated; but don't let that detail bother you.
    – Shababnik
    Dec 21, 2023 at 3:59
  • Pretty sure it says that about the Nile. Don't know about the rest.
    – shmosel
    Dec 21, 2023 at 4:29
  • There seems to be nothing of the sort in Chazal. The closest you will get are cases where some aspect of the plague was there to demonstrate the impotency of the Egyptian god, like Harel13's answer brings examples of. Probably the closest is the Korban Pesach - not a plague, but connected to the 10th, and was davka because they worshiped sheep, and many of the details of the mitzva are there to mock that. E.g. eating it in a hurried manner, tying it to the bedpost, painting lamb blood with lowly hyssop grass etc etc. all to demean the egyptian god
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Dec 21, 2023 at 13:44
  • @RabbiKaii I was thinking that the karban pesach was possibly where the idea stemmed from.
    – Shababnik
    Dec 21, 2023 at 15:22
  • Note on your comment: that the answerer on Christianity.SE brought an article from a Christian site doesn't make the concept Christian. There wasn't anything inherently Christian there. It wasn't based on Christian sources. The only sources there were from Tanach.
    – Harel13
    Jan 9 at 4:32

1 Answer 1

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There are modern rabbis who have suggested this, likely following in the footsteps of academic biblical scholarship which holds this idea. I assume you're asking for classical sources on the subject. As @shmosel wrote in the comments, this is stated specifically regarding the Nile. In Shemot Rabbah 9:9 it says:

"“On the water that is in the Nile, and it will be turned into blood” – why was the water afflicted first with blood? It is because Pharaoh and the Egyptians worshipped the Nile. The Holy One blessed be He said: I will smite the god first and then his people. This is a folk parable: Smite the gods and the priests will be afraid. Likewise it says: “The Lord will reckon with the host of the high heavens on high,” and after that, [“the kings of the earth upon the earth”] (Isaiah 24:21)."

This idea is also referenced by Rashi on Shemot 7:17.

There's a hint that this was also thought by Chazal regarding the plague of locusts. After Moshe and Aharon demand that Pharaoh let everyone go, he says (Shemot 10:10):

"וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם יְהִי כֵן ה' עִמָּכֶם כַּאֲשֶׁר אֲשַׁלַּח אֶתְכֶם וְאֶת טַפְּכֶם רְאוּ כִּי רָעָה נֶגֶד פְּנֵיכֶם."

The midrash in Yalkut Shimoni on the Torah, remez 392 understood this phrase as referring to a star, i.e., a deity, named Ra'ah (also brought by Rashi on Shemot 10:10; the midrash may have originally come from a version of Shir Hashirim Rabbah1) who will oppose Yisrael. This is most likely a reference to the king of the Egyptian gods, Ra (or Re), who was also the sun god. With regards to the plague of locusts, twice a curious phrase is used:

"וְכִסָּה אֶת עֵין הָאָרֶץ וְלֹא יוּכַל לִרְאֹת אֶת הָאָרֶץ וְאָכַל אֶת יֶתֶר הַפְּלֵטָה הַנִּשְׁאֶרֶת לָכֶם מִן הַבָּרָד וְאָכַל אֶת כָּל הָעֵץ הַצֹּמֵחַ לָכֶם מִן הַשָּׂדֶה." (Shemot 10:5)
"וַיְכַס אֶת עֵין כָּל הָאָרֶץ וַתֶּחְשַׁךְ הָאָרֶץ וַיֹּאכַל אֶת כָּל עֵשֶׂב הָאָרֶץ וְאֵת כָּל פְּרִי הָעֵץ אֲשֶׁר הוֹתִיר הַבָּרָד וְלֹא נוֹתַר כָּל יֶרֶק בָּעֵץ וּבְעֵשֶׂב הַשָּׂדֶה בְּכָל אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם." (ibid. 10:15)

It is stated the locusts will "cover the eye of the land". Onkelos understood this phrase as referring to the eye of the sun (likely for, among other reasons, that the next words are "ותחשך הארץ", the land was darkened):

"They covered the visible surface [eye of the sun] of the entire land so that the land was darkened..."

This continues the idea that the plague was intended to 'oppose' Ra, the Egyptian sun god, by blocking his 'eye' (= the physical sun).


1 See מדרש שיר השירים עפ"י כתב-יד ישן מתוך הגניזה שבקהיר, ed. Lazar Grünhut, p. 41, n. 182 [can be found on Otzar Hachochmah]:

"כי רעה נגד פניכם. המאמר הזה מובא בילקוט תשא רמז שצ"ב, ויהושע רמז ט"ו פסוק היום גלותי, ומשם הוספנו החסר בכ"י, וכן מביאו רש"י בשם מדרש אגדה: כוכב אחד וכו', כל הענין כמו שהוא לפנינו, וכן מביאו ביהושע (ה, ט) ומסיים: כך דרש ר' משה הדרשן. ובילקוט תשא מצוין עליו בראשית רבה ושם ליתא, ואפשר שהיה כתוב ב"ר (בראשית רבתי), וסופר טועה כתב "בראשית רבה", ועי' במבוא אודות ר' משה הדרשן ומדרשנו."

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