According to Exodus, God sends ten plagues against Egypt (see Exod 7:14-12:32). Have you ever wondered why the Lord sends ten plagues? Why not nine… or seven… or four? In order to understand God’s rationale for sending ten plagues, we need to go all the way back to Genesis 1 and the biblical description of creation. Each of God’s creative acts in Genesis find its negative counterpart in the plagues, which shows us that God loves Israel enough to temporarily undo creation in order to rescue the chosen people from bondage.
Before the seventh plague (hail), God tells Pharaoh, “For this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power (כח; koach), so that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth” (Exod 9:16). The Hebrew word for “power” (כח) sometimes describes the power God wielded at creation: “The voice of the Lord is over the waters (על-המים; al-ha’mayim)… the Lord is over (al; על) many waters (מים; mayim). The voice of the Lord is powerful (כח; koach)” (Ps 29:3-4). The psalmist’s reference to the Lord being “over the waters” recalls the start of creation, when the Spirit of God hovered “over the face of the waters (על-פני המים; al-penei ha’mayim)” (Gen 1:2) More, the reference to God’s powerful voice being over the waters recalls God’s voice at creation: “God said (ויאמר אלהים; vayomer Elohim), ‘Let there be light, and there was light” (Gen 1:4).
Thus, God’s words to Pharaoh show us why there had to be ten plagues: The ten plagues recall the ten words that God’s powerful voice uttered at creation. Genesis 1 uses the Hebrew word ויאמר (vayomer; “And [God] said…”) a total of ten times (cf. Gen 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26, 28-29), so that for each powerfully creative word that God utters to construct the earth in Genesis 1, God utters a destructive word against Egypt in Exodus. God is willing to bring the undoing of creation upon Egypt if it means that Pharaoh will let God’s beloved people go free.