The Middle East Media Research Institute has published a translation of an article written by Egyptian columnist Ahmad al-Gamal in which he is requesting that the Egyptian government sue the State of Israel for damage caused to the people of Egypt by the ten plagues mentioned in the book of Exodus.
The article was published in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Yawm Al-Sabi on March 11, 2014. In his article al-Gamal places the blame on Pharaoh and not the people of Egypt, for not allowing the people of Israel to leave Egypt as requested by Moses.
Below are excerpts from the article as translated by The Middle East Media Research Institute:
“I tirelessly reiterate my demand to utilize all measures of the law and of customary law, and all ethical principles, to receive compensation for what the Israelis, Turks, French and English took from us.
“We want compensation for the [Ten] Plagues that were inflicted upon [us] as a result of the curses that the Jews’ ancient forefathers [cast] upon our ancient forefathers, who did not deserve to pay for the mistake that Egypt’s ruler at the time, Pharaoh as the Torah calls him, committed.
For what is written in the Torah proves that it was Pharaoh who oppressed the Children of Israel, rather than the Egyptian people. [But] they inflicted upon us the plague of locusts that didn’t leave anything behind them; the plague that transformed the Nile’s waters into blood, so nobody could drink of them for a long time; the plague of darkness that kept the world dark day and night; the plague of frogs; and the plague of the killing of the firstborn, namely every first offspring born to woman or beast, and so on.
“We want compensation for the gold, silver, copper, precious stones, fabrics, hides and lumber, and for [all] animal meat, hair, hides and wool, and for other materials that I will mention [below], when quoting the language of the Torah. All these are materials that the Jews used in their rituals. These are resources that cannot be found among desert wanderers unless they took them before their departure…”
“The stories of the Holy Scriptures state that the Israelites set off from the [Nile] valley at night and went to the Sinai Peninsula. This is known to be a desert, were there is no use for large quantities of gold, silver, precious stones, meats, oils, fabrics and the like. Therefore it is clear that the Israelites took all these things from Egypt before they left.
Chapter 25 of Exodus, on the [Israelites’] departure [from Egypt], states: ‘The Lord said to Moses: Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering… These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and another type of durable leather; acacia wood; olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece.
Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you. Have them make an ark of acacia wood, two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. Overlay it with pure gold, both inside and out, and make a gold molding around it. Cast four gold rings for it and fasten them to its four feet, with two rings on one side and two rings on the other [Exodus 25:1-12]’…
“[Exodus 38:24 states]: ‘The total amount of the gold from the wave offering used for all the work on the sanctuary was 29 talents and 730 shekels, according to the sanctuary shekel…’ “I call upon everyone with an interest in Torah studies to instruct us on a scientific basis what is the [precise] meaning of the word ‘talent.’ How many grams is it currently worth, what was the weight of the sheqel during those days, especially as it was made out of solid pure gold and pure silver…”
Al-Gamal’s request is without merit for many reasons. To me, the principal reason why his desire to sue Israel for the biblical plagues is without merit is because no court of law can have jurisdiction over an event that happened more than three thousand years ago.
It was the Pharaoh of Egypt and his government who oppressed the people of Israel, but Pharaoh represented the whole people of Egypt, thus collectively, all people who were living at that time would be guilty of the enslavement of Israel. Moreover, it was God who sent the plagues. Would al-Gamal advocate that the Egyptian government sue the God of Israel?
My conclusion is that al-Gamal’s request that Egypt sue Israel for the damages caused by the plague is something than no international court will take seriously. His rhetorical language is only an expression of the nationalistic sentiments that may be developing today in Egypt in the midst of the political upheaval that nation is facing these days.
However, in a world where people want to sue people for every minor offense, it is possible that a lawyer somewhere may take this case and bring it to court.
I doubt it, though.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary