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God describes what he will do to Egypt if they don't listen as "the water which are in the river will be turned to blood":

Exo_4:9  And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe also these two signs, neither hearken unto thy voice, that thou shalt take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land: and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land.

Exo_7:17  Thus saith the LORD, In this thou shalt know that I am the LORD: behold, I will smite with the rod that is in mine hand upon the waters which are in the river, and they shall be turned to blood.

Exo_7:20  And Moses and Aaron did so, as the LORD commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood.

This article offers the idea that this is describing an algal bloom akin to the one now in Florida:

http://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/2000/01/the-river-of-blood-exodus-62-935.aspx

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gi0j0Syj2a8

Giving credence to the idea is Joel's use of the same expression:

Act 2:20  The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come:

I notice also that the Revelation uses the same figure:

Rev 8:6  And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.  Rev 8:7  The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.  Rev 8:8  And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood;  Rev 8:9  And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.

Should we understand "blood" as referring to "the appearance of blood" in a Red Tide?

KJV unless otherwise noted.

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At a superficial level, this might have been an algal bloom which would be consistent with the Nile becoming red, fish dying and thus the Nile creating a stench. Further, if the Nile did suffer an algal bloom, either naturally by divine fiat, the description of the Nile would be almost identical. However this does not account for some of the other recorded details.

  • The "water to blood" problem was not confined to the Nile but also affected all the water that had been previously taken from the Nile, and thus had been physically separated from the Nile - all the canals, all the "rivers", "ponds", all the pools of water, even in vessels of wood and stone (Ex 7:19).
  • I also note that such algal blooms as reported in the quoted reference occur in salty estuaries that create the correct conditions, such as presumably exist in the Nile delta. However, the Nile at this point where the king bathed and extracted their fresh drinking water was also affected. Thus they had to dig to find water and could not rely upon the worshipped Nile.
  • The Egyptian magicians apparently replicated the "water to blood" transformation but this could also be a slight of hand involving algal bloom (quite unlikely because of the instantaneous effect required by magicians) or a demonic act of some sort (??)

The whole point of the first plague (and all later plagues too) was to shake confidence on Egyptian false gods (Ex 7:5, 9, 22, 23, 8:18) and to establish YHWH as the ONE true God who controls all things. This, the Egyptians worshipped the Nile as the source of life and prosperity and as a result of this first plague they had to find another source of drinking water.

Therefore, I conclude that an algal bloom could explain the Nile being red (where it is salty) but not all the fresh water sections of the Nile where people drew drinking water and fresh water separated from the Nile. The latter had to be miraculous.

  • So do you think the Nile was actually turned into blood? That would raise the question of why only a third died, wouldn't it? – Ruminator Aug 15 '18 at 22:11
  • Also, the Nile overflows its banks each year and recreates the ponds and puddles. It is conceivable that the alga were in this way kept common to all. – Ruminator Aug 15 '18 at 22:13
  • Whether the Nile was actually tuned to blood or God used a blood-red algae or something else that looked like blood is a mute point. However, I believe the Bible data strongly suggests it was a miraculous act that it appeared as it did and disappeared on queue. – user25930 Aug 16 '18 at 8:30
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    @Riminator - the one third dying is a characteristic of Revelation's trumpets and not the Egyptian plagues, although the former alludes to the latter. – user25930 Aug 16 '18 at 8:31
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    You are quite right - this has been my experience as well (so long as we do not press too fine on details) – user25930 Aug 16 '18 at 21:37
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Even if algal bloom was the reason that the nile became red, it is refer to God. In those days people didn't know how rainbow works so they thought it was a peace sign from God (Genesis). Another example is Joshua that ask from the sun not to move.

If God control nature so the reason that nile turn to red is God act (with or without the help of things he create ie algal bloom).

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    In many ways it makes no difference but in other ways it does I like to accurate. – Ruminator Aug 15 '18 at 19:17
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The article in the original question says that red tides occur in Egypt, usually strongest near Passover. This suggests that miracle or no miracle there would have likely been a red algal bloom around that time. This seems pretty compelling. However, equally compelling is the fact that in the figure in Revelation 13:6-9, which is clearly an allusion to Exodus, the author appears to ascribe the death in the waters to lava:

"hail and fire" seems to fit well with the ejections from an erupting volcano. The projectiles fly at high speed for long distances, surrounded by ash. The volcano spews magma which could easily burn up the third part of the trees and all the grass:

Rev 8:7 The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.

The mountain is volcano and it seemingly explodes and melts and heads for the water where it kills much of the sea life:

Rev 8:8 And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood;

It even destroys the ships:

Rev 8:9 And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.

A volcano may have, along with the death of all the men, contributed to the demise of Egypt:

https://www.sciencealert.com/the-collapse-of-ancient-egypt-sparked-by-a-volcanic-eruption-half-a-world-away

However, in Exodus there is no mention of the eruption so I believe the miracle of the sea turning to [the color of] blood was referring to a red tide.

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