J 1° 2° 4° 5° 7° 8° 9° 10° E 1° 7° 8° 9° 10° P 1° 2° 3° 6° 10° 1°, river turned to blood; 2°, frogs; 3°, fice (gnats); 4°, flies; 5°, murrain; 6°, boils; 7°, hail; 8°, locusts; 9°, darkness; 10°, death of firstborn.
A sound historical judgment will conclude, both from this fact and from the nature of the occurrences mentioned, as well as from the need for some such group of causes to account for the escape of the tribes, that the traditions have a firm foothold in real events. But since not less than four centuries intervened between the events and the earliest of our sources, it is not to be expected that the details of the narratives can all be equally correct. And there are not only literary distinctions between the sources, but differing, and in some points contradictory, representations of matters of fact. The Great European War illustrates the difficulty of weighing even contemporary testimony. But it is important to observe that even such a legend as that a force of Russians was brought through England, though it stated what was incorrect, yet would have conveyed to posterity a true reflection of two fundamental features in the European situation of 1914, viz. that Russia was allied with England, and that powerful reinforcements were needed to meet an enemy across the English Channel. So the general situation in Egypt in 1220 B.C., and the contrasted characters of Pharaoh and Moses, may reasonably be taken as rightly given, while the order, details, and precise nature of the events in which they were concerned may have been more or less distorted by tradition. One of the marks of the shaping power of the reporting process is that each source can still be seen to have had its own uniform skeleton of narration in this section. This phenomenon may be concisely exhibited. It should be contrasted with the form of narratives (such as those in 2 S.) which are more nearly contemporary with the events they relate.
a. JEP: and Yahweh said unto Moses,
b. J: Go unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews, Let my people go that they may serve me. And if thou refuse to let them go, behold I will.
E: Stretch forth thy (i.e. Moses's) hand (with thy rod toward. that there may be.
P: Say unto Aaron, Stretch out thy rod, and there shall be.
c. J: And Yahweh did so, and there came. (or and he sent)
E: And Moses stretched forth his hand (or his rod) toward. and there was.
P: And these did so: and Aaron stretched out his rod, and there was.
d. P: And the magicians did so (or, could not do so) with their secret arts.
e. J: And Pharaoh called for Moses, and said unto him, Entreat for me, that. And Yahweh did so, and removed.
f. J: But Pharaoh made his heart heavy.
E: But Yahweh made Pharaoh's heart hard.
P: But Yahweh's heart was hardened.
g. J: And he did not let the people go.
E: And he did not let the children of Israel go.
P: and he hearkened not unto them as Yahweh had spoken.
The reader who will mark with letters in the margin of the text the parts assigned to J, E, and P will discern for himself, more fully by the help of the RV references, the points of contrast and resemblance, or he can consult the larger commentaries. In any case he should note that J is fullest and most graphic, and describes the plagues as natural events providentially ordered, Yahweh bringing them after the prophet's mere announcement; that E is briefer, has not been so fully preserved by the editor, heightens the miraculous colouring, and makes Moses bring on the plagues with a motion of his wonder-working rod, or a gesture of his hand; and that P makes Aaron the spokesman and wielder of the rod, and introduces the magicians, the supernatural element transcending the historical throughout. Another feature is that in J the Israelites are apart in Goshen, but in E are mixed up with the Egyptians in Egypt. Each source has its own word for plague (Exodus 9:14 J, Exodus 11:1 E, Exodus 12:13 P); and three other words (signs and wonders two Heb. words) are also employed. It will appear that the plagues were miraculously intensified forms of the diseases or other natural occurrences to which Egypt is more or less liable (Driver).