Why did God kill the firstborn children of Egypt? 10 Plagues of Egypt.
Why did God kill all the firstborn children in Egypt? Why didn’t God just kill Pharaoh instead? What about the innocent children and their innocent parents that were murdered by God during the plague? These are all questions that are often directed at the story of the 10 Plagues of Egypt. Often used to discredit the God of the Bible and show him to be a murderer of children and the innocent. How can we reconcile a God who claims to be love with a God that administers punishment through the death of innocent people and children. We cannot simply hide from the story or deny it, it is there for everyone to see clearly depicted in the bible.
In this writing I shall tackle the issue head on and see if I can answer Why God killed the firstborns of Egypt
Firstly it needs to be stated for anyone that isn’t aware of the story that this was actually plague number 10 of 10, it was the last plague that God sent to Egypt, there had been 9 previous plagues issued by God into Egypt before we even get to the deaths of the firstborns. So now not only do we have to deal with and answer why plague 10 but also the other 9 plagues that were sent as well (although we must point out they are much less severe). Actually we will see that they are actually in God’s defence rather than a further strike at God’s morality. The statement that God kills the innocent also begs the question that the Egyptians were in fact innocent which we shall see is a long way from the truth.
In order give a full and concise answer as to what led God to such an act then we are going to have to go back to long before the event in question.
All the way back to the book of Genesis in fact where we find the story of Joseph, one of the sons of Israel. He was sold by his brothers into slavery as they were jealous of him as Israel their father loved Joseph the most. Joseph was taken to Egypt. He was in prison in Egypt when the Pharaoh at the time had a vision, Joseph interpreted the vision and told of a coming famine. Pharaoh as a reward made him 2nd in charge of the whole of Egypt. When this famine came, some of the sons of Israel went down into Egypt to buy some food, as Egypt was the only place that had stored food having been aware of the famine through Pharaoh and Joseph. Joseph revealed himself to them and eventually Israel and the rest of the sons of Israel moved to Egypt to be with Joseph. There were about 70 people in total.
So we have had a quick overview as to why Israel was in Egypt in the first place.
Now it came to pass that both the Pharaoh and Joseph died and a new Pharaoh came to power, this Pharaoh did not know Joseph and his relationship with the Pharaoh of Joseph’s time.
He saw that Joseph’s family the hebrews had multiplied greatly and in fact now outnumbered the Egyptians themselves.
Exodus 1-8 Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. 9And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: 10Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land. 11 Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses.
So the Pharaoh had put the children of Israel the hebrew people to work, they were no longer simply living in Egypt they were now put to work for the Pharaoh. Looking at the text in more detail we will see that the Pharaoh was actually embarking on a course of population control. He had noted that the Hebrew people outnumbered the Egyptians and he wanted to stop them multiplying, how does he go about doing this? He invokes an order for taskmasters to be put over them. So the way in which Pharaoh was trying to implement his population control was by working them to death. This obviously was an abhorrent action and would have been a rather unpleasant way of dying literally worked not just to the point you were physically unable to do anymore but to the point that you actually died from the workload.
But this action didn’t work the Hebrews continued to grow in numbers. So the Pharaoh made the Hebrews slaves
Exodus 1- 12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel. 13And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour: 14 And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.
They had gone from living in the land to serving it and then into slavery. So now they wouldn’t just be worked to death but also would now be officially slaves and thus would have now been treated as such.
But the Pharaoh didn’t stop there. Observing the population was still growing despite his attempt to reduce it, he embarked on a program of exterminating all hebrew male newborns. Basically engaging in a cull of the Hebrew people He ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill any new born baby boys from the Hebrew people.
Exodus 1-15And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah: 16 And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live.
Now the midwives didn’t do as they were commanded as they feared God.
Exodus 1- 17 But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive.
Then Pharaoh after finding out the midwives were not carrying out his command, charged the people of Egypt to kill the baby boys instead, ordering that they should be cast into the river and drowned.
Exodus 1-22And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive.
So the children of Israel were now enslaved and also facing Pharaohs program of murdering every new born male child of the people of Israel. This was not just an order to kill the firstborn children but all male newborns. This is a pogrom of 50 per cent of the newborn Hebrews. This is a merciless act, done with the sole intention of reducing the population of the Hebrews.
Now approx 35 -40 years after the people of Israel was enslaved Moses was born. His Mother had to hide him before he was rescued by Pharaoh’s own daughter.
Exodus 2-1 And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi. 2And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months. 3And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river’s brink. 4And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him. 5And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river’s side; and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it. 6And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews’ children. 7 Then said his sister to Pharaoh’s daughter, Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee? 8And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, Go. And the maid went and called the child’s mother. 9And Pharaoh’s daughter said unto her, Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. And the woman took the child, and nursed it. 10And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses: and she said, Because I drew him out of the water.
The fact that Moses had to be hidden otherwise he would have been killed highlights the fact that the program of killing the Hebrew male children had not stopped, so this decree had been going strong for at nearly 40 years.
Moses grows up and at the age of 40 after killing an Egyptian who was beating an Israelite he fled Egypt. And went into exile.
We are then told of the death of the Pharaoh who had inflicted the slavery and the infanticide.
Exodus 2-23And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage.
At the age of 80 God called Moses to go and free his people.
Exodus 3- 9 Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them.
10Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.
So Moses goes to the new Pharaoh and tells him that the God of Israel has asked that he let his people go.
Exodus 5-1 And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness. He is also told what the ultimate consequences of not letting the Hebrew people go. Moses was told to tell Pharaoh that f he didn’t let the hebrew people go then it would result in the death of all the first borns in Egypt. This was before any miracle had been shewn, before any plague had come upon Egypt. Pharaoh was given ample chance to do as he was requested.
Exodus 4- 22And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: 23And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son,even thy firstborn.
But Pharaoh who worshipped the Gods of Egypt did not worship the God of israel so refused. This God was not a God he was going to listen to.
2And Pharaoh said, Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go.
The Pharaoh not only refused to hearken to the request to let the Hebrew people go, he increased the hardship and work upon them.
Exodus 4- 5 And Pharaoh said, Behold, the people of the land now are many, and ye make them rest from their burdens.
6And Pharaoh commanded the same day the taskmasters of the people, and their officers, saying, 7Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves. 8And the tale of the bricks, which they did make heretofore, ye shall lay upon them; ye shall not diminish ought thereof: for they be idle; therefore they cry, saying, Let us go and sacrifice to our God. 9Let there more work be laid upon the men, that they may labour therein; and let them not regard vain words.
So We see that there was a new Pharaoh in charge but the enslavement of the Hebrew people had not stopped with the death of the Pharaoh , the new pharaoh had risen to power and continued what his predecessor had begun . This is why the killing of Pharaoh himself would have served to have been a pointless and ineffective means to free the Hebrews from slavery. Had God killed the pharaoh then another would simply have arisen in his place and the slavery would have continued as this clearly shows. The people of Egypt would have continued on in their ways, worshipping their Gods and the enslavement of the Hebrew people would go on. It serves to show that this wasn’t now just one man’s oppression of the Hebrews, this was now what the Egyptian people had accepted as the way of life. The Hebrews were now just slaves in the nation of Egypt. There is also no mention of the killing of the firstborns having ceased, this now approx 120 years after it was first initiated. It is reasonable to assume that not all the male newborns were in fact killed as otherwise there wouldn’t have been any Hebrews left at this point but as we have nothing to say that it had stopped this assumption is still valid even if the effectiveness or at least the rate of execution wasn’t at 100 per cent.
Now just before the plagues started Moses met with Pharaoh and Pharaoh asked for a miracle, Moses showed him the staff that turned to a serpent. Serpents in ancient times represented deity. Moses throwing down the staff and it turning to a serpent would have been a sign that God was with him. Pharaoh’s sorcerers were able to copy this and they also made serpents from staffs showing that they also had gods with them. The serpents of the sorcerers though were swallowed up by the serpent of Moses as a clear indication that the God of Moses was indeed a more powerful God, but Pharaoh hardened his heart
Ex 7-8 And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, 9When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Shew a miracle for you: then thou shalt say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent. 10And 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.11 Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. 12For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods.13And he hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.
And thus ensued a battle between God and the gods of the Egyptians. Each plague sent by God is a direct attack on the gods of Egypt to prove that they were in fact powerless against him and that he will always triumph over the worldly gods.
Moses is sent back to Pharaoh to warn him of the impending first plague of which i shall go through and explain which gods, God is attacking as i will with each plague. We must remember that God has already asked on numerous occasions and Pharaoh has refused on each occasion. His people copied the miracle of Moses staff into a serpent and Pharaoh refused to acknowledge the God of Israel. This again is after he has been warned of the ultimate consequence of his refusal.
Now rather than administering the judgement that he promised he would indeed minister God instead gives Pharaoh 9 further opportunities to change his mind and let the Hebrews go. This would also be 9 opportunities for the people of Egypt to see the power of God and follow him.
So God begins with the 10 plagues of Egypt
So we start with the first plague – water to blood
Before the administration of the Plague God tells Moses to inform Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go and also what would happen if he refused.
Exodus 7- 16 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. 17 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.18 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 Moses then administered the plague as God had told him
Exodus 7 -20And 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. 21And 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. 22And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, neither did he hearken unto them; as the LORD had said.
So what was the purpose of this plague why did God choose this particular wonder. Well as we will see with all the plagues they are actually judgements against the Gods of Egypt, the ones that Pharaoh himself would have worshipped. God was showing that they were powerless and that God was the true God.
The first plague was to demonstrate the lack of power of Hapi the Egyptian God of the Nile.
Exodus 7-24And all the Egyptians digged round about the river for water to drink; for they could not drink of the water of the river. 25And seven days were fulfilled, after that the LORD had smitten the river.
The Egyptians were unable to drink from the water for 7 days, showing Hapis inability to restore the water.
The second plague – frogs
Exodus 8-1And the LORD spake unto Moses, Go unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Let my people go, that they may serve me. 2And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs: 3 And the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into thine house, and into thy bedchamber, and upon thy bed, and into the house of thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thine ovens, and into thy kneading troughs: 4 And the frogs shall come up both on thee, and upon thy people, and upon all thy servants
Again Moses is told to ask the Pharaoh to let the people go and warn him of the judgement that would happen if he didn’t.
Exodus 8- 6 And Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up, and covered the land of Egypt. 7And the magicians did so with their enchantments, and brought up frogs upon the land of Egypt.
So the second plague is administered
This was an attack on Heket, the Egyptian goddess of fertility who was depicted with a frog’s head.
After this Plague Pharaoh said that he would do as requested and release the Hebrews.
Exodus 8-8 Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, Entreat the LORD, that he may take away the frogs from me, and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may do sacrifice unto the LORD
But then repented of that and again refused to let the people leave after the frogs were removed.
Exodus 8- 12 And Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh: and Moses cried unto the LORD because of the frogs which he had brought against Pharaoh.13And the LORD did according to the word of Moses; and the frogs died out of the houses, out of the villages, and out of the fields. 14And they gathered them together upon heaps: and the land stank. 15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.
Plague 3-Gnats /lice
Exodus 8-16 And the LORD said unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch out thy rod, and smite the dust of the land, that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt. 17And they did so; for Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod, and smote the dust of the earth, and it became lice in man, and in beast; all the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt. 18And the magicians did so with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not: so there were lice upon man, and upon beast. 19 Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.
This plague was aimed at the God of the Earth Geb the lice coming from the dust of the earth. Interestingly at this point the egyptian sourcers were unable to replicate the feat and admitted that this was an act of God. This would clearly have demonstrated the power of God and exposed the lack of it from the Egyptian gods.
But Pharaoh was still undeterred.
Fourth plague – flies
20And the LORD said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh; lo, he cometh forth to the water; and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Let my people go, that they may serve me. 21 Else, if thou wilt not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies upon thee, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thy houses: and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground whereon they are.
So Pharaoh was again warned before the judgement.
And then the judgement was carried out.
Exodus 8- 24And the LORD did so; and there came a grievous swarm of flies into the house of Pharaoh, and into his servants’ houses, and into all the land of Egypt: the land was corrupted by reason of the swarm of flies.
This plague was against Khepri the God of creation, movement of the Sun, rebirth he had the head of a fly
Exodus 8-28And Pharaoh said, I will let you go, that ye may sacrifice to the LORD your Pharaoh once more stated his intention to let the hebrews go
God in the wilderness; only ye shall not go very far away: intereat for me
before changing his mind after the plague had subsided.
Exodus 8-30 And Moses went out from Pharaoh, and intreated the LORD. 31And the LORD did according to the word of Moses; and he removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people; there remained not one. 32And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.
Fifth Plague – Livestock
Pharoah is once again warned before the execution of this Plague
Exodus 9-1 Then the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh, and tell him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me. 2For if thou refuse to let them go, and wilt hold them still, 3 Behold, the hand of the LORD is upon thy cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep: there shall be a very grievous murrain.
The plague is administered.
Exodus 9- 6 And the LORD did that thing on the morrow, and all the cattle of Egypt died: but of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one. 7And Pharaoh sent, and, behold, there was not one of the cattle of the Israelites dead. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.
This plague was attacking hathor the goddess of love and protection who was depicted with a cow’s head.
Sixth Plague boils
Exodus 9-8 And the LORD said unto Moses and unto Aaron, Take to you handfuls of ashes of the furnace, and let Moses sprinkle it toward the heaven in the sight of Pharaoh. 9And it shall become small dust in all the land of Egypt, and shall be a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast, throughout all the land of Egypt. 10And they took ashes of the furnace, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses sprinkled it up toward heaven; and it became a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast.11 And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils; for the boil was upon the magicians, and upon all the Egyptians
Then God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he refused to let them leave
Exodus 9 -12And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had spoken unto Moses.
This was an attack on Isis the goddess of medicine and peace
Seventh Plague – Hail
Exodus 9-13And the LORD said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me. 14For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth. 15For now I will stretch out my hand, that I may smite thee and thy people with pestilence; and thou shalt be cut off from the earth.
And once more Pharaoh is warned of the consequences of not releasing the Hebrews from bondage.
Now we even see that God tells Pharaoh to remove his cattle from the field to save them.
Exodus 9-18 Behold, to morrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even until now. 19 Send therefore now, and gather thy cattle, and all that thou hast in the field; for upon every man and beast which shall be found in the field, and shall not be brought home, the hail shall come down upon them, and they shall die.
At this point we are told there were Egyptians that were in fear of God. They had clearly seen what he had done in the previous plagues and were now following his instructions
Exodus 9- 20He that feared the word of the LORD among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his cattle flee into the houses.
But there were still people who didn’t take notice
Exodus 9-:21 And he that regarded not the word of the LORD left his servants and his cattle in the field
After the plague came Pharaoh called to Moses and admitted his sin and wickedness
Exodus 9-27 And Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have sinned this time: the LORD is righteous, and I and my people are wicked. 27And Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have sinned this time: the LORD is righteous, and I and my people are wicked.
And Pharaoh told Moses to talk to his God and tell him that he would now release the Hebrew people.
Exodus 9- 28inTreat the LORD (for it is enough) that there be no more mighty thunderings and hail; and I will let you go, and ye shall stay no longer.
This now being the 3rd time that Pharaoh had stated his intention to release the Hebrews
But even so he again recanted once the plague was stayed
Exodus 9- 33And Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh, and spread abroad his hands unto the LORD: and the thunders and hail ceased, and the rain was not poured upon the earth. 34And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants. 35And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the LORD had spoken by Moses.
Plague 7 was an attack on Nut the goddess of the Sky
Then we come to Plague number 8 Locusts
And Pharaoh was yet again warned before the administration of the plague
Exodus 10- 3And Moses and Aaron came in unto Pharaoh, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me? let my people go, that they may serve me. 4 Else, if thou refuse to let my people go, behold, to morrow will I bring the locusts into thy coast: 5 And they shall cover the face of the earth, that one cannot be able to see the earth: and they shall eat the residue of that which is escaped, which remaineth unto you from the hail, and shall eat every tree which groweth for you out of the field: 6And they shall fill thy houses, and the houses of all thy servants, and the houses of all the Egyptians; which neither thy fathers, nor thy fathers’ fathers have seen, since the day that they were upon the earth unto this day. And he turned himself, and went out from Pharaoh.
Now the servants of Pharaoh asked Pharaoh to let the hebrew people go fearing that if they were not Egypt would be destroyed.
Exodus 10- 7 And Pharaoh’s servants said unto him, How long shall this man be a snare unto us? let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God: knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed?
After the plague had come Pharaoh called again to Moses saying he had sinned against the God of the Hebrews and that he would now let the people go.
Exodus -10 16 Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste; and he said, I have sinned against the LORD your God, and against you. 17 Now therefore forgive, I pray thee, my sin only this once, and intreat the LORD your God, that he may take away from me this death only. 18And he went out from Pharaoh, and intreated the LORD. 19And the LORD turned a mighty strong west wind, which took away the locusts, and cast them into the Red sea; there remained not one locust in all the coasts of Egypt.
But as before Pharaoh’s heart was hardened and he would not let the people go
Exodus 10-20But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go.
Plague 8 was an attack on Serapia the very God who was meant to defend Egypt against locusts. God rendered this god utterly ineffective to prevent the God of the Hebrews.
Then came the penultimate plague the last plague before the first borns would be killed.
Exodus 10- 21 And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt. 22And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days: 23 They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days: but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.
So there was darkness over the land of Egypt for 3 full days.
This plague was to demonstrate the lack of power against God of RA, Osiris and Horus all of which were gods related to the sun.
Pharaoh was yet again willing to let the people go but he didn’t want them to take their cattle and flocks
Exodus 10-24And Pharaoh called unto Moses, and said, Go ye, serve the LORD; only let your flocks and your herds be stayed: let your little ones also go with you.
Clearly the Pharaoh wanted some guarantee that the Hebrews would return after they went to worship their God.. He expected them to return and continue on as slaves. He wasn’t willing to let them go completely just allow them to go and worship for a period of time. This wasn’t acceptable to Moses who wasn’t willing that the Hebrew people should return to Egypt.
Pharaoh’s Heart was hardened and he refused to let the people go at all and this time threatened Moses with death if he came before him again
Exodus 10- 27 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go. 28And Pharaoh said unto him, Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die.29And Moses said, Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more.
Now before Moses left his council with Pharaoh God told Moses to warn of the coming Judgement of the last plague, the death of the firstborns the judgement which had already been warned of before any of the plagues of Egypt exodus -11 -4And Moses said, Thus saith the LORD, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: 5And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts. 6And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more. 7But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast: that ye may know how that the LORD doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel. 8And all these thy servants shall come down unto me, and bow down themselves unto me, saying, Get thee out, and all the people that follow thee: and after that I will go out. And he went out from Pharaoh in a great anger.
Now Moses told of the 10th Plague that was to come approx 2 weeks before the event itself took place.
We have seen that there were Egyptians who were listening to Moses and following what he said by this time they were obviously convinced that he was actually a true God and more powerful than the Gods that they had been worshipping.
We have more evidence of this in exodus 11- 2 Speak now in the ears of the people, and let every man borrow of his neighbour, and every woman of her neighbour, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold. 3And the LORD gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants, and in the sight of the people.
So Moses spoke to the people warning of the last plague that would befall Egypt.
Pharaoh’s heart was again hardened so that he would not let the people go
Exodus 11-9 And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you; that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt. 10And Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh: and the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of his land.
The plague of the death of the first borns was a direct attack on Pharaoh himself seeing how Pharaoh himself was thought of as a deity in human form. This was to demonstrate Pharaohs inability to keep not only his people safe from harm but his weakness to protect even his own family.
Moses had told the people how to be spared of the coming judgement
Exodus 12- 7 And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.
13And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.
The Hebrew God was offering to protect anyone that believed in him. Anyone that put their faith in the Egyptian gods for protection would be faced with the consequences of that misplaced faith.
So the time of the execution of the plague was at hand. God clearly states his intention that his judgement would be against the gods of Egypt.
Exodus 12- 12For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD
This wasn’t aimed at the people of Egypt but against the gods that they worshipped and showing that they were in fact meaningless and inept to protect them.
Moses had given people including the Egyptians ample notice of this coming judgement. There had now been 9 previous demonstrations of the power of the God of the Hebrews and the lack of power held by the Egyptian Gods. We have seen the sorcerers themselves state that God of the Hebrews was in fact God and we have scriptural evidence that Egyptians were now following Moses and not the Pharaoh.
Then the plague of death was administered upon the land of Egypt and the judgement against the gods of Egypt was complete.
Exodus 12-29And it came to pass, that at midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle. 30And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead.
So just to reiterate there was first a warning of this judgement before any plagues had been administered. There were then 9 demonstrations of God’s superior power against the gods of Egypt, there was a further warning of the judgement and a notification given of how to avoid that coming judgement for anyone had taken heed to this warning.
Pharaoh whose own first born had died now officially lets the Hebrews go.
Exodus 12-31And he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as ye have said. 32 Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also.
So now after all that had happened Pharaoh even asked for a blessing from Moses himself.
The Hebrew people set of to leave Egypt. It must be noted that many Egyptians also left with the Hebrews. Further highlighting the fact that Egyptians had followed Moses and more than likely avoided the plague of the death of the firstborns.
37And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children. 38And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.
God then acknowledges the fact that there were Egyptians in the group who were not children of Israel and he instructs how they can be counted as Israel
Exodus 12- 48And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof. 49 One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.
So the Egyptians who joined with Israel were now able to be part of Israel.
So God had not only accomplished freeing the Hebrew people through his actions many Egyptians were also now free from the false gods of Egypt and were following the true God YHWH and thus God’s plan for redemption of as many people as would hearken unto him was fulfilled.
The slavery of the Hebrews and the murder of the Hebrew male babies was now over.
Hopefully now there is a little more context to the accusation that God murdered innocent people including children.
The Egyptian people themselves were not innocent, any statement to the contrary that God killed innocent people is based on a lack of knowledge of what the people of Egypt were engaged in namely the enslavement and pogrom of the hebrew male newborns. The children who died may well have been innocent, I want to point out that the children who died as a result of the 10th plague were not being punished by their deaths. The deaths of the children were as a consequence of sin and their deaths were totally avoidable. God had given the Egyptian people and Pharoah enough demonstrations of his might for everyone to have accepted him as a true God above their own and freed the Hebrew people from their bondage of slavery. God unlike the Egyptian people gave the Egyptians the time, choice and importantly the ability to evade this judgement. It can be asked why such a harsh judgement against Egypt. Well as we have clearly seen God’s words fell on deaf ears and so after 9 demonstrations of power the Egyptians had not relinquished their hold over the Hebrews. This wasn’t an act that God had wanted to inflict, it was his request that the Hebrews simply be allowed to leave. This was the choice that God had chosen, the request that Moses passed on to Pharaoh. After 9 plagues it was obvious that only an extreme act was going to suffice.
Now we have already answered the question why didn’t God simply kill Pharaoh instead of sending the plagues and ultimately killing the firstborns and demonstrated this answer.
It must also be noted that reciprocal morality was part of Egyptian culture. The golden rule of reciprocity, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This was a rule that the vast majority of ancient cultures lived by. Indeed this principle was also part of the Hebrew culture.
Pharoah as a moral governor would have bound himself by this very moral code that the Egyptians themselves lived by and would actually have expected as the rule would state, to reap what he sowed. The Egyptian people would have been all too aware of this moral code and would themselves not have been innocent of the Pharaohs actions having been given 9 chances before hand to follow the God of the Hebrews. The judgement against the gods was not a punishment per se against the people of Egypt, there was no need for any of the plagues had Pharoah simply responded to the initial request to let the Hebrews go. The Egyptian people had seen first hand that God was indeed behind the plagues, the sorcerers of Pharaoh had even stated that it was in fact God himself who was causing the plagues. God throughout the bible bestows the moral code that people live by back upon them to show the rights and wrongs of the moral code that they live by. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. You cannot expect to engage in a 120 plus year enslavement of a people and to kill newborn after newborn without any repercussions and some kind of moral judgement falling upon you at some point. In fact i would ask anyone who wishes to use the killing of the firstborns of Egypt as a moral judgement against God, was God immoral to act and stop the Egyptians from engaging in their own immorality. Would it not be expected of God to have stopped the atrocities that brought about the very judgement that God administered. Would those very people who would say that God was immoral to act in the way that he did also say that had he not acted to save the Hebrew people and the slaughter of newborns then he would also have been immoral and they would by their own use of what was immoral would also be forced to say that it would have been and on that basis either way they would say that God was immoral.
God enforces a people’s own morality , which was not based on his own morality back upon them. So the moral laws that the Egyptians had been living by were simply revisited back onto them. They had been oppressing the Hebrews killing them through extreme forced labour and a pogrom of infanticide for some 120 years. So the deaths of the first bornes could simply be attributed to the consequences of this reciprocal morality. Which unlike the Egyptian enslavement and baby murders forced onto the Hebrew people was completely avoidable and as we have seen although we have no way of telling how many, we can be certain that at least some Egyptians did in fact avoid this judgement. God stopped the Egyptians from the heinous crimes of wickedness that had brought about God’s judgement and did it in a way that would not only lead to the freedom of the Hebrew people which as a result would end their oppression and the deaths of their children but would also offer a way to the very Egyptians who were partaking in those crimes to be saved and freed as well. Very different to what the Egyptians had been engaging in.
Finally it is just left to see if it is at all possible to work out just how many children were actually killed during this last plague.
When faced with the statement all the firstborns it’s easy to conjure up images of the millions and millions of children throughout the world today, but that would be an inaccurate image
First off this was limited to Egypt. The estimated population for this time was 2-2.5 million people. The normal household would have been between 4-8 people we shall take 6 being the average, 2 parents and 4 children if we take the highest estimated population this would be approx 416,500 households.
Secondly the word for firstborn used is Bekor and it is masculine the female equivalent is bekirah , it would appear that this was limited to only male firstborns this would eliminate approximately 50 per cent of the households as the firstborn would have been female
This brings us down to around 208,000
We also have to account for the very high mortality rate in the ancient world especially amongst first borns estimations have this raging from 30 per cent through to 75 per cent. At the lowest range this would be approx 60,000 and at the highest around 150,000 so our total would be down to somewhere between 150,000 firstborns on the high end and 60,000 on the low end.
It is reasonable to assume that by first born this would have excluded those who themselves had firstborns. Pharaoh being Pharaoh would more than likely have been a first born himself but he did not die. The average age for marriage for males would have been around 20 years old. So if a 20 year old man had not yet married and had a first born of his own then he would in fact be that first born child.
As this was only first borns and the average family would have been 4 children it is likely that that the first born would not be a baby , it is likely that there would in fact be many who were in the adult category who would have been the first born. If we give this a very conservative rate of just 10% of the firstborns were adults then we reduce those figures down to between 54,000 and 135,000 firstborns below the age of accountability when the plague came upon Egypt. Although these figures may seem yet still high i’m sure they are much lower than most people’s perception of how many people actually died. 1 figure we have no idea of and therefore we cannot legitimately reduce the figure any more is how many of these children were saved by their parents actions of following Moses and God. What we can safely say is any of those children that did die, died because of the actions of their parents and their stubbornness.
We must also contrast this against the probable literally hundreds of thousands and maybe even as much as millions of deaths of the innocent Hebrew boys in the 120 years of killing newborn boys. Not to mention any of the hebrew people who had been worked and possible beaten to death while enslaved
God’s intention was to prove he was God and that the Egyptian Gods were useless…that people would come to him and accept him as God and ultimately find salvation.
And we are told this is exactly what happened
Joshua 2 9 And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. 10For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. 11And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.
The God that freed the Hebrews is the only true God. Through the actions of man, he sometimes has to resort to measures that he himself would rather not resort to as a means to an end. He suffered the Egyptians for a long time before intervening. When he did step in he gave them every chance to repent before he acted and even when he did act he didn’t do it before offering even the guilty a way of avoiding the actions including the Pharaoh himself.