Do the 5th and 7th Plague on Egypt Contradict?

We have yet another installment of Professors Gone Wild. Once again our main character is Professor Bart Ehrman. In this episode, he asks his readers to consider one of his all-time favorite passages, namely the Exodus account of the ten plagues. He is particularly pleased with what he perceives to be a discrepancy between the fifth and seventh plagues. The fifth plague he writes, “Was a pestilence that killed ‘all of the livestock of the Egyptians’ (Exodus 9:5). How is it, then, that just a few days later the seventh plague, of hail, was to destroy all of the Egyptian livestock in the fields (Exodus 9:21-22)? What livestock?”[1]

In truth there is little warrant for delighting in this alleged discrepancy. Indeed an array of resolutions rules out Bart’s dogmatic declaration that these passages stand in contradiction.

First, at the risk of pressing the text into a wooden literal labyrinth it should be noted that the words “all the livestock” are qualified by the phrase, “in the field.” (Ex. 9:3) As such a consistent literalist ought to suppose that all other livestock would be spared.

Furthermore, it might credibly be argued that the word “all” can be used in less than an exhaustive sense. For example, when Scripture tells us that all the people of Jerusalem went out to John the Baptist (Mark 1:5) no ones supposes that every single person without exception went to see the prophet. Likewise, when broadcasters gush that “everyone was following Tiger Woods during this past Masters,” I seriously doubt that anyone supposed that no one was following the leaders.

Finally, while the solutions offered above are more than sufficient, a range of other solutions can be deduced. For example, it’s quite plausible that the Egyptian slave owners having lost their horses and their donkeys would have absconded with some of the livestock of the slaves.

The bottom line is this: it is more than a little baffling that Bart would want to hang his hat on such a tired old canard. The Bible and Christian doctrine is under assault. To help equip you I’ve developed a new resource called Memorable Keys to Essential Christian D-O-C-T-R-I-N-E. It’s available at our Website at or by calling us at 1-888-700-0274.

[1] Bart D. Ehrman, Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them) (New York, Harper One, 2009), 10.


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