The Fifth Plague This plague may seem like the easiest to ‘figure out,’ but it may not be. First of all, the Lord warns the Pharaoh through Moses, and then also says the Israelites will not be affected. The other plague the Israelites were not affected by were the flies. Therefore what caused the death of the Egyptian livestock may have been carried by the flies. And whatever it was affected and killed ALL the livestock of ALL kinds in ONE day. What could possibly do that? Nothing I could find that was carried by flies brings symptoms and death in one day to animals. But something else does: anthrax. The anthrax would have come from the rotting frogs in combination with the soil. From this website http://www.vetsci.psu.edu/Ext/Resources/circ/anthrax.htm we can read the following: How do anthrax organisms survive in the environment ? Spores of B. anthracis are found in soil and pasture contaminated with vegetative cells from dead or dying animals. Anthrax spores may be spread over a wide area by periodic flooding or from industrial effluents from rendering works, tanneries, carpet mills, brush factories, or wherever carcasses are salvaged. Spores of B. anthracis have been reported to remain viable as long as 40 years in soil. A soil rich in calcium and nitrate, with a pH range of 5.0 to 8.0 favors sporulation and bacterial proliferation at temperatures above 15.5 0C (60 0F) especially after flooding. The geography and seasonality of outbreaks reflect such circumstances. In cattle, sheep and possibly horses, outbreaks occur with a few cases contracted from soil. After excretions and postmortem discharges seed the area, secondary cases can occur. How do animals become infected? Typically anthrax occurs during the warm, dry summer months of July, August, and September, when grasses are short and dusty conditions prevail. Anthrax infections can occur by spore ingestion, inhalation, or cutaneous penetration. The most common route of infection is ingestion. Herbivores can become infected by grazing on soil contaminated with spores of B. anthracis or ingesting contaminated feed. … What are some of the symptoms of anthrax in animals? Disease occurs when spores enter the body, germinate, multiply, and release toxins. The incubation period of natural infection in animals is typically 3 to 7 days with a range of 1 to 14 days, or more. Anthrax occurs in at least three forms that are determined by the length of clinical course of disease: (1) a peracute form (1 to 2 hours duration), (2) acute form (24 to 48 hours duration), or (3) subacute to chronic form. Ruminants are the most likely to manifest the peracute and acute forms; horses, the acute form; and dogs, cats, and pigs, subacute to chronic forms or localized conditions. Sudden death in animals that appeared normal a few hours earlier is common. In cattle and sheep, the course of illness may last about 1 to 2 hours. We are not told what the animals died of, or what their symptoms were, but given the information above, it looks tailor-made for what happened in Egypt at the time of the fifth plague. Now, the Lord said that if Pharaoh continued to hold back the Israelites a terrible plague would come upon the livestock. When we look at the material above, it appears the plague would have been inevitable. This reinforces the idea that it is not the disasters themselves which are miraculous, but being saved out of them or through them which is. It would have been a miracle (that we never would have known about!) for the Lord to prevent this plague, not for it to have happened! And the Israelites. Did they clean up the frogs pretty fast, and get the corpses out of Goshen? If so, that explains no flies and no anthrax. But again, knowing that it is salvation that is the miracle, this may simply have been God’s direct hand over them, protecting them. The other thought here is that we can see that much of the law was already known, in one way or another, to people before Moses. Were the laws of cleanliness also known earlier? If so, and if the Israelites were obeying them, then their obedience to God played a big part in their lack of flies and anthrax. So there are a number of ways to look at this, all of which are interesting and deserve thought. What about the Egyptians? Perhaps those of us familiar with the story of the Exodus will recognize that the cow or bull deities were very much a part of the Egyptian religious system. How would we know this? Because when the Israelites were in the desert and Moses delayed in coming down from the mountain, what did the Israelites do? Erected a statue of a calf and bowed down to it! This was the deity of the Egyptians that they may have adopted to some extent, being herders themselves. But these deities did not help the Egyptians now, as in one day all of their grazing animals were dead. Again, the God of Israel prevailed. And again Pharaoh’s heart “was unyielding and he would not let the people go.” The Sixth Plague And then the boils. This might have also been anthrax, for there are different types, and the fact that this type – if that is what it was – came immediately after the death of the animals fits the timing. From the same webpage: What are the symptoms of anthrax in humans ? Symptoms of disease vary depending on how the disease was contracted, but symptoms usually occur within 7 days. Cutaneous: Most (about 95%) anthrax infections occur when the bacterium enters a cut or abrasion on the skin, such as when handling contaminated wool, hides, leather or hair products (especially goat hair) of infected animals. Skin infection begins as a raised itchy bump that resembles an insect bite but within 1-2 days develops into a vesicle and then a painless ulcer, usually 1-3 cm in diameter, with a characteristic black necrotic (dying) area in the center. Lymph glands in the adjacent area may swell. About 20% of untreated cases of cutaneous anthrax will result in death. Deaths are rare with appropriate antimicrobial therapy. Inhalation: Initial symptoms may resemble a common cold. After several days, the symptoms may progress to severe breathing problems and shock. Inhalation anthrax is usually fatal. Intestinal: The intestinal disease form of anthrax may follow the consumption of contaminated meat and is characterized by an acute inflammation of the intestinal tract. Initial signs of nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, fever are followed by abdominal pain, vomiting of blood, and severe diarrhea. Intestinal anthrax results in death in 25% to 60% of cases Sudden death in an animal without prior symptoms should lead to a suspicion of anthrax. If anthrax is suspected as the cause of death, the affected carcass should not be opened because exposure of the vegetative anthrax bacteria to air induces spore formation, contaminating the environment and presenting a health risk to personnel and other nearby animals. So the cutaneous type could easily have shown up next, for, if you look at the last paragraph quoted, you will note the dead animal should not be opened. But what happened when ALL the grazing animals died in one day? Who could bury or burn them all? Hundreds of thousands would have laid out in the fields, rotting. What is interesting about this plague is that the Lord never offers to remove it or stop it. He simply orders Moses to take handfuls of soot and toss them in the air, and it would become ‘fine dust’ causing the people and the non-grazing animals that were still left alive to break out in ‘festering boils.’ Again we read that these affected “all the Egyptians”, and NOT “all the people.” It is a good assumption here to consider that the Israelites were probably not affected by this. These facts taken together would indicate that these ‘festering boils’ were inevitable after the deaths of the grazing animals from the infection, and thus were probably connected with them. It will be a bit before we reach the tenth and last plague – the death of so many in Egypt. But while we are here, look at inhalation anthrax. It starts out like a cold. This is not a 1-2 hour thing, or even a 1-2 day thing. The cold-like symptoms go on for ‘several days.’ Was the death of the Egyptians the result of this? The timing appears to be right. It is a thought… One last note here: for the first time we read, “the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” He had told Moses He would. And I wonder if Pharaoh ever felt the difference between the cold, hard heart he himself had cultivated and the Lord’s touch.