Exodus 12 part 2: The Scandal of the Passover

Egypt-9A-063 - Wadi el-Sebuaphoto © 2004 Dennis Jarvis | more info (via: Wylio)
I read Exodus 12 and get whisked away to my sophomore year in college. Most nights a friend of mine in my dorm would drop by and we would get into huge arguments about God that would last for hours and leave both of us exhausted and no closer to convincing the other person of our position.

Good times.

One night he brought up the Passover.

“How could a good God kill every firstborn child in Egypt? That is cruel and unjust. It is evil. Those kids were innocent.”

A difficult point to counter to be sure. How does one justify this? How does one cling to the idea that God is loving and just when he has no problem wiping out an entire generation for something their leader decides to do?

Who Is The Story About?

A few weeks ago I scolded Moses (perhaps unfairly) for thinking the story was about him and not God. Today I am going to “scold” those of us who think this story is about us.

This story is about God and a bunch of slaves. Last I checked, I am not a slave.

I have not been forced to make bricks day after day for 430 years. I have never worried about the government coming in and slaughtering my children.

In contrast, I live a pretty easy life in the most powerful nation on Earth.

So when I read a story about God enacting some pretty intense judgment on the most powerful nation on Earth to rescue a people oppressed by that nation, I get a little uncomfortable. You probably do too.

So if we are a part of this story, I don’t think we are on the winning side.

What Is God Like?

I have been blogging through the Bible. I am exactly 62 chapters in and one thing has become very clear: God favors the underdog.

He chooses weird people. He looks out for women and children (particularly younger children). He hears when the oppressed cry out to him.

And now, with the final plague, he is forever making himself known as the God who brought down mighty Egypt to rescue a bunch of slaves.


Not slaves in a spiritual or metaphorical sense. These were actual slaves. They suffered their whole lives under the oppressive hand of Pharaoh. Hope was in short supply if it existed at all. Each day was exactly the same as the one before and would be the same for their children and their children’s children’s children.

I am not like them. At all.

Why We Get Offended

We don’t like what God does because in some sense, he does it to us. If the Exodus took place now, it would probably happen in America.

We are Egypt.

Oh, and I am the firstborn.

So yeah, I don’t like this.

4 responses

  1. Don’t remember where I heard it, but as I understand it, each of the plagues (prior to the destroyer) represented God symbolically taking down an Egyptian deity. Then when the Passover comes, He’s paying Egypt back for what it did back in Moses’s day. It’s frontier justice–like “you gonna take out my kids, float the deliverer down a river, well, I got you covered, too, Egypt.” I can almost hear Him saying “How you like me now, pharaoh?” And because He’s God–and we’re most decidedly not, He can dispense justice–perfectly. We–especially as Americans–tend to forget just exactly what sovereignty entails. We–as much as we talk about free will–forget that He Who freely made us can just as freely unmake us, and all without being charged with sin. Oh, we can try to lay charges at His feet, but they won’t stick (remember Job being answered from the whirlwind?).

    Remember, this is the same God Who “spared not His Son”–so He’s no stranger to “rough justice.” Anyway, that’s my tuppence.

    Thanks for always writing thought-provoking posts! Keep up the good work!

  2. Yes, there is a note in Exodus 12 that God is in fact destroying Egyptian gods. But I am trying to remember that this happened to real people. I don’t think the mother was thinking about that when her eldest son was dead in her arms.

    Either way, it’s a tough passage to read. But I think that is kind of the point. Thanks for the comment!

  3. This is one of those “I like it but not really” posts. It hits way too close to home and definitely makes me squirm. Thanks for speaking truth Ben!

  4. As a first born myself, I find it harsh, but I accept it. I’m only human and I can’t begin to try to understand how this method is just. It’s God’s way and that’s really all I can say.

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