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I once heard a Shiur where the Rabbi said that originally there were not going to be 10 plagues, Just the threat of death of Egyptian firstborns should Pharaoh not listen. It was only once Pharaoh denied knowledge of G-d that G-d said there would be 10 plagues, so that the whole of Egypt would know who G-d is.

He explained it as follows:

In Shemot 4:21-23, G-d says to tell Pharaoh that if he does not let His firstborns go (i.e. the Jews), G-d will kill his firstborn sons. G-d mentions nothing about the other plagues. (note that the wonders mentioned in Shemot 4:21 do not refer to the plagues, at least according to Rashi).

In Shemot 5:2 Pharaoh says he does not know G-d. and then, in Shemot 7:2-5 G-d tells Moshe that He will increase His signs and wonders, but Pharaoh will not listen because G-d will harden his heart, "And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord when I stretch forth My hand over Egypt, and I will take the children of Israel out of their midst."

This is also emphasized during the different plagues, where G-d tells Moshe to tell Pharaoh that the plague of mixed animalas will be "in order that you know that I am the Lord in the midst of the earth." (Shemot 8:18). The plague of hail, "in order that you know that there is none like Me in the entire earth." (Shemot 9:14), and even more so, "in order to declare My name all over the earth." (Shemot 9:16)


Has anyone heard or does anyone know a source for this idea. I'd like to read it inside, to verify the details. It sounds like an interesting explanation, but I have some questions. For example, how does this explanation fit with Shemot 3:19-20, which seems to have G-d telling Moshe about the plagues before Moshe even goes to see Pharaoh for the first time.

Also, it does not seem that Rashi learns it this way, since in Shemot 4:23 he says:

That is the last plague, but He warned him [Pharaoh] about it first, because it was [the most] severe...

  • I originally brought this up here: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/34286/603 – Menachem Jan 18 '15 at 4:28
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  • @Menachem: 3:19-20 don't refer to other plagues. What is your exact question? (19. However, I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go, except through a mighty hand. 20. And I will stretch forth My hand and smite the Egyptians with all My miracles that I will wreak in their midst, and afterwards he will send you out.) "all My miracles" need not be more plagues. Plenty of miracles in just the 10th plague. – Danny Schoemann Jan 18 '15 at 14:19
  • @DoubleAA: Thank you for that link. He brings the same idea, unfortunately, it has no sources (although I guess Rabbi Lichtenstein may be the source). Do you know where I can find the original lesson in Hebrew (it says on the bottom that it was translated)? Perhaps that version has some sources. – Menachem Jan 18 '15 at 21:36
  • @Menachem I think it's this etzion.org.il/he/… – Double AA Jan 18 '15 at 22:51
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The second answer of the Ohr Hachayim on the verse says (copied from Sefaria):

עוד אפשר שאם היה פרעה מחזיק לבו לשלח ישראל ולא היה מדבר דברים נגד כבודו יתברך כאומרו (לקמן ה' כ') מי ה' היה ה' מביא עליו מכת בכורות תיכף ומיד ולא היה משביעו כוסות התרעלה, וזה הוא שרמז ה' למשה באומרו ואני אחזק את לבו ולא ישלח את העם פירוש שהחוזק הוא שלא ישלח שאם ישלח אפי' מכת בכורות לא תבא עליו, וכשלא יהיה אלא מניעת שלוח העם יהיה לו לצרה מכת בכורות, אבל אחר שנגע בכבודו יתברך יבואו עליו מכות גדולות ונאמנות, וכן תמצא שאמר ה' (לקמן ט טז) בעבור הראותך את כחי ולמען ספר שמי וגו':

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