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Thread: Biological warfare in the Exodus

  1. #1 Biological warfare in the Exodus 
    Time Lord
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Dracunculus medinensis, commonly the Medina worm or colloquially the fiery serpent, is a parasite of humans once prevalent throughout the Middle East with treatment described in the oldest surviving Egyptian medical text. The larval worm enters a human body through infected water of cisterns, rivers, and ponds; and grows to just under a meter, as thick as spaghetti. About one year after entering a host, the female worm breaks skin normally near the foot where skin is wet by contact with water. When submerged she releases clouds of larva which are swallowed by freshwater zooplankton which in turn are swallowed by humans to continue the cycle. Uneducated sufferers plunge their feet in water to alleviate the burning.

    Anciently the parasite was called a serpent or snake etc. because distinction between worms and reptiles was fuzzy. Worms and snakes were the same "kind" of creature.

    Treatment is simple. The emerging worm is wrapped around a rod and gradually wound out. That can take a month. It's important to remove the whole worm without breaking it, or risk infection. The ancient symbol of medicine - a serpent coiled around a staff - probably represents this treatment, and may have been an early kind of signpost advertising the service.

    Now to the biblical Exodus:

    The Israelites have been out of Egypt for some months, when:
    Quote Originally Posted by English Standard, [i
    Numbers 21[/i]]the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, 'We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us.' So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live." Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.
    So Moses was not really a sorcerer - he was an ancient barber/doctor complete with spiral pole!

    So now we know these dull facts: 1) The Israelites were badly infected with Dracunculiasis (Latin "little dragons") and, 2) Moses understood a thing or two about this infection.

    Rewind to the preparations for a flight from Egypt. The Israelites are slaves, but Moses (and God) plots a means to get them released:
    Quote Originally Posted by God
    And I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand. And I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go.
    In other words, they'll cause such grief in Egypt to be good riddance.
    Quote Originally Posted by God
    And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod.

    And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. And the LORD said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand
    But I think Moses knew exactly what that was, and understood its terrible power.

    Moses had another infectious disease at his disposal too:
    And the LORD said furthermore unto him, Put now thine hand into thy bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom: and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous as snow.
    So doctor Moses went to threaten Pharaoh and the land of Egypt with these calamities:
    And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the LORD had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods.

    And he hardened Pharaoh's heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.
    So Moses proves that his diseased people mean business:
    Get thee unto Pharaoh in the morning; lo, he goeth out unto the water; and thou shalt stand by the river's brink against he come; and the rod which was turned to a serpent shalt thou take in thine hand.

    And thou shalt say unto him, The LORD God of the Hebrews hath sent me unto thee, saying, Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness: and, behold, hitherto thou wouldest not hear.

    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.

    And the fish that is in the river shall die, and the river shall stink; and the Egyptians shall lothe to drink of the water of the river.

    And the LORD spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt, upon their streams, upon their rivers, and upon their ponds, and upon all their pools of water, that they may become blood; and that there may be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood, and in vessels of stone.

    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.

    And the fish that was in the river died; and the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river; and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.
    That's gotta be against the Geneva conventions.

    Infecting all the waters of Egypt seems to have set off a chain reaction. Besides the red tide they got frogs fleeing from the waterways, then without frogs the flies and mosquitoes multiply, the diseases spread, and so forth. Pharaoh tells his leprous & worm infested slaves to beat it.

    Good timing too, as Moses had counseled his folk to
    let every man borrow of his neighbour, and every woman of her neighbour, jewels of silver and jewels of gold.

    They're walking death so no Egyptian dares enter their doorways (smeared with blood to advertise the case). But later near the Red Sea Pharaoh with soldiers does come to hack them down and, I guess claim those borrowed articles. The wormy Isrealites go stand in the water, and according to the map they follow the coastline. They're safe there. The soldiers wouldn't dare wade out to them.

    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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