Why God Kills Babies

Chances are good that if you come from a Christian background, at some point in your life you had an encounter with this Bible Story book. This is the one that I’ve been reading to the kids from lately. (We have several that I’ve been rotating through.)

If you popped over to Amazon and took a look at it, you noticed right off that it’s a “serious” kid’s book. The illustrations are not quite photo-realism, but they’re not cartoons either. The people smile when they’re happy and frown when they’re sad, unlike this one where you’ll find a grinning Jonah kneeling in prayer on a comfy looking bit of whale innards. Obviously, the Egermeier book attempts to “keep it real”, which is why my wife and I recently had to have a discussion about reading the story of Moses to the boys.

If you know the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt, you know that God had to afflict Pharaoh and all of Egypt in several different ways before Pharaoh obeyed God and released the Israelites from their slavery. One of the plagues that God visited on the hard-hearted Pharaoh and the complicit Egyptians was the death of all their first-born children . As far as I can tell, the plague killed all of the first-born whether infant or elderly, however I suspect my children would only think about the little ones. The challenge in telling this story to our little ones is reconciling for them why our Good and Loving God would kill Innocent Babies. My wife and I have had this discussion before and I’ve even posted about the time my oldest son quizzed me about why God wanted Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. My wife and I didn’t come to a unified position on whether or not to read the Egermeier version, which doesn’t shy away from the facts, however we agreed that it’s not a bad idea to have an answer in mind should the kids ask why God killed the Egyptian babies. So, I went off, grabbed a notebook and pencil and began to write an imaginary conversation with the kids in order to come up with some kind of answer that is both true and understandable for kids. Here’s something akin to what I came up with that night:

Kids: Daddy! Why did God kill the Egyptian babies? That’s mean!

Daddy: That’s a good question. Let’s think about it: Do you know what a slave is?

Kids: Someone who works.

Daddy: Yeah, sort of. You see, a slave is someone that other people treat like animals. The Israelites used to be neighbors with the Egyptians but then the Egyptians took them, made them slaves and began to treat them like animals. Think about that: Where do animals sleep?

Kids: Outside? In barns? In houses?

Daddy: Ok. Where do animals go potty?

Kids:(laughter) In the potty!

Daddy: No, they don’t. Animals don’t have clean places to go potty. Some animals on the farm tend to potty in the same place where they eat and sleep…or just anywhere they can find. What kind of food do animals eat?

Kids: Grass!

Daddy: Yeah, some do. Do people eat grass?

Kids: No! Yuck!

Daddy: The Israelites probably didn’t eat grass, but they didn’t eat nice food like you and the Egyptians either. What are animals good for? What are chickens good for?

Kids: Eggs! Nuggets!

Daddy: Exactly. Does anyone ever offer to give the chicken money for their eggs? No. We just take them. As for nuggets, before you can make chicken nuggets, you have to kill the chicken. Do you go to jail if you kill a chicken?

Kids: No!

Daddy: That’s what the Egyptians did to the Israelites. They made them live in dirty places like animals and gave them simple food like animals. When the Israelites had babies, the Egyptians took their children and sold them like they were animals. Remember that the Egyptians even killed the Israelite babies and nobody put them in jail for doing it. Should the Egyptians have been punished for this?

Kids: Yes, but not the babies!

Daddy: God gave the Egyptians 400 years to stop being mean to the Israelites, but they didn’t. When God sent Moses to Pharaoh, He told Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt. If Pharaoh had listened, then the babies would not have died.

Kids: But the babies didn’t do anything wrong! God should’ve killed Pharaoh!

Daddy: You’re right; the Egyptian babies didn’t do anything wrong and neither did the Israelite babies that the Egyptians sold and killed. God sent Moses to give the Egyptians a chance to do what was right: to release the Israelites and to stop treating them like animals. God tried to give them mercy but they didn’t want God’s mercy.

Kids: What’s mercy?

Daddy: Mercy is when we get something good that we don’t derserve instead of the punishment that we do deserve.  Justice is getting the punishment we deserve for the bad things we’ve done. God offered Pharaoh and Egypt mercy but when they said No! He gave them justice for killing the Israelite babies. Just like the Israelites lost their babies, so the Egyptians had to lose theirs because they would not accept God’s mercy.

Kids: But what about the babies? Doesn’t God love the Egyptian babies? Couldn’t He give mercy to the babies?

Daddy: Yes He does. In fact, God loves those babies so much that when Jesus returns, God is going to give those babies new bodies and new life. They’ll live with people who love each other and don’t treat people like animals. They won’t learn how to be mean like the Egyptians that God punished for treating the Israelites so badly.

Of course, no conversation with my kids would ever last this long. They’d get bored and begin to make jokes. In fact, I’d probably lose them completely once I brought up the idea of animals going potty. Additionally, my kids would constantly interrupt with additional questions. Yet, having gone through the exercise I think I’ve come up with a condensed answer.

God loved both the Egyptians and the Israelites and He was very unhappy when the Egyptians took the Israelites and started being mean to them. Remember, the Bible says that the Egyptians killed Israelite babies. God sent Moses to give them a chance to stop being mean but Pharaoh and the Egyptians would not stop. When God saw that they would not stop, He gave them the same trouble that they gave the Israelites: He took away the Egyptian babies just like the Egyptians took away the Israelite babies. When Jesus returns, the babies of both the Egyptians and the Israelites will be given new life and there will be no more killing.

I don’t know if the kids would understand that or not. I think they might. They may not remember it either. I just know that I’d rather give them an honest, if difficult, answer instead of avoiding the subject entirely. I’d really love to give them THE CORRECT ANSWER but honestly, I don’t think I know that that is.

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51 Comments

Filed under Reflection

51 responses to “Why God Kills Babies

  1. enlightened

    I find it quite incredible the extent to which religious folk like yourselves will subvert their own moral compass to fit with the blatent attrocities commited in the bible by god and by gods ‘prophets’.

    If every first born in america including yours were to be ‘smited’ by god, would you accept a churches or self proclaimed prophet’s reasoning that god had ‘just cause due to the sins of either the whole US or even just a single biligerent george w bush?

    If so then I want no part in such a religion and I hope that such a god does not exist.

    The age in which these ‘jew war-cry’ stories were penned was a barbaric age where threat of grissly death, prejudice, rape, slavery, genocide, murder, infantcide, sacrifice, ignorance and mystical beliefs reigned supreme. The effort of modern christians to square this circle is verging on the riddiculous.

    The thought of 2 educated adults in the 21st century polluting their childrens minds sends shivers down my back.

    Please sir, I know you won’t post this but I have but one request: I have no problem with you personally believing in such ancient bed time stories however illogical I believe them to be and despite the obvious pain they allow humans to inflict on each other daily AND despite the continuation of a fear and threat based reward system that further divides us and them in line with the american ethos.. but please please please allow your children to come to a view on such a personal issue all by themselves without interference.

    Thank you.

    • Geronimo

      Thanks for the comment “englightened”. I hope that you are pleasantly surprised that I did not delete your comment. I don’t tend to delete comments just because they don’t agree with my thoughts.

  2. Tom White

    Why do you assert that the Egyptian babies are saved? We are born into original sin so they are not innocent. How do you know whether they are not ‘vessels of wrath’ ? How do you know they are elect? They are not innocent and God does not overlook sin, even a child’s. They have to be regenerated by the hearing of the gospel. The chances of this would have been nil, so I see no reason for you to teach that “When Jesus returns, the babies of both the Egyptians and the Israelites will be given new life and there will be no more killing.”

    Where in scripture do you get this idea? Seriously, can you please show me why you can assert their eternal salvation, despite being outside the community of Israel both physically and spiritually?

  3. amtog

    Thanks for coming by Tom.

    Based on the nature of your questions, I’m guessing that your views are much more Calvinistic than mine. If that’s true, then I’m fairly confident that I can’t show you adequate Scripture to persuade you to share my opinion on the fate of the Egyptian babies.

    I appreciate you stopping by.

  4. Ron

    IF you only knew about the Babylonian Talmud and what it said. Then if you understood that the same ppl that wrote it had in their hands the Old Testement. Then maybe you wouldn’t have to attribute the murder,rape,hate,racist,slavery to God anymore.

    Jeremiah 8:8 (New International Version)

    8 ” ‘How can you say, “We are wise,
    for we have the law of the LORD,”
    when actually the lying pen of the scribes
    has handled it falsely?

  5. Ken

    I think your title sums it up perfectly for me, “why god kills babies” but my conclusion is much simpler than your contorted explanation.

    God of the bible is fiction, that’s it, pretty simple. Reading the bible is the best proof there is against god – at least Elohim and/or Yahweh and/or Jesus.

    • amtog

      Thanks for coming by Ken.

      When faced with this sort of question (whether by a child or an adult), it seems that the tendency is to either say too little or too much. Despite your obvious appreciation for keeping things simple, I’m sure you wouldn’t have been satisfied with the simple answer: God is God and he can do whatever he likes. I wouldn’t appreciate this answer either, even though there is a sense in which I believe it is true. After all, it is essentially God’s answer in the book of Job…but you probably already know that from your own reading of the Bible.

      I may have said too much, granted. But I don’t think there’s a contortion here.

  6. kellie

    Thanks for a great blog. I found it looking for some info to explain my views on Calvinism to my daughter who attends Wheaton College. They just appointed a very well respected Presbyterian to be the President…I wanted to explain the difference between Arminianism and Calvinism to her and I thought this site helped.

    The only criticism I have is I believe the way you are presenting Calvinism oversimplifies it, much like many Arminian based churches do today. I go to a Free Methodist church right now, not because I agree with all their doctrine but because I believe it’s a good church.

    However despite my experience and respect for churches of the Westleyan/Arminian background I would still consider myself more Baptist/Middle Road Calvinist in theology because of my understanding of the Bible and my observation of human history. However I am neither total Wesleyan or Calvinistic in my views.

    I find doctrine to be a debatable issue anywhere, and for me I have come to the terms that I understand my Bible through limited knowledge because of my human condition and my fellow brothers and sisters do as well. I can respect their faulty arguments, if they can respect mine. We all “know in part” .

    My strong views on predestination come directly from the history of the world. I know that sounds funny, coming from a person who believes in the total inerrancy of scripture. But the observable fact is that God only revealed Himself to a few people through out human history. Yet He will judge all of humanity, based on what he directly revealed to just a few. We are left to trust the record of a few prophets who have spoke directly to God and to the Holy Spirit’s own conviction in our life and heart to understand and know the Creator of the Universe. That is scary and from my human understanding does not seem just at all. Yet the scriptures say at judgment I will be without excuse. I must make a decision for or against Him so I have made a decision for Him, yet there is much I do not understand, nor like. (I am being honest here). But do I have really any choice in the matter? (see another Calvinistic view…irresistible grace…)

    No because Hell awaits me otherwise…

    The fact he only directly revealed Himself to just a few, starting with the Patriarchs, then Jewish Prophets, and now the Christian just does not make sense to me without Predestination. I have had trouble squaring that ALL my life, and when I discuss it with an atheist as you have above I am very honest about it. I do believe God made a decision based on my choice, but yet, what about the millions who have never heard the Gospel…their own heart condemns them, yet they never had the chance to hear the redemption story…this is very difficult to understand apart from Predestination.

    I have come 360 degrees on this issue over my life, God is God, there are no other reasonable explanations out there, and He will judge me based on what He has revealed to me…but from my view, much like all the innocent Egyptian babies being killed for the sake of the Hebrews freedom just seems incredibly impossible to square justly, and I am not going to try to justify…because I can’t…God is God…His sovereign is without question because He is the Creator…

  7. amtog

    Thanks for visiting Kellie.

    I think you may be right about my oversimplification of the doctrine of Predestination. I won’t say that I’ve got a scholar’s grasp of the doctrine. I’m like you: I’ve attempted to take all of the information and experience that I have and make it into some sort of coherent worldview.

    I appreciate your visit and sharing a bit of your worldview and story on my blog.

  8. Alexander

    Did you mention that Pharoah wanted to let the people of Moses go, but god kept toying with his heart so that he wouldn’t?

    • amtog

      thanks for coming by alexander…especially considering the age of the post.

      as i reflect on your comment, here are some points i’d like to share:

      the story clearly states that the hebrew slaves were not the people of Moses but the people of God. moses didn’t come to Pharaoh in his own name exercising his own authority. he came to deliver God’s message: “Let my people go.” Pharaoh stated simply that he did not know this god and would not let this people (God’s people) go. why does this matter? because the story is about a conflict between two kings; one with a legitimate claim and one without. the question is “which of these two kings had the legitimate claim”? if Pharoah’s claim on the hebrew slaves was legitimate, then God was guilty of exercising his superior supernatural power to commit the crime of theft. if God’s claim on his people was legitimate, then Pharaoah was guilty of stealing and refusing to return the people to their “rightful owner”. if someone stole something from you, i would think that you’d want it back and that you’d want the thief brought to justice.

      while the story says that “God hardened Pharoah’s heart”, it’s pretty clear that at the outset, Pharoah had no intention of letting the hebrews go. consequently, the text isn’t saying that God put a foreign feeling/intention in Pharoah’s mind. rather, the text indicates that God simply helped Pharoah down the destructive path he’d already chosen when he first refused to return the hebrews to their god.

      as an aside; I think it’s worth noting that when the story says “God hardened Pharoah’s heart”, it did not have to mean that this was some sort of supernatural override of Pharoah’s will. it could just have truthfully meant that God’s afflictions of Pharoah resulted in Pharoah’s hardened heart. since God is the cause of those of afflictions, he is the one who is responsible for the results, which is why the hebrew writer could say that God hardened Pharoah’s heart and liberated the people: that’s their story from their perspective.

  9. firebad

    Can you site the passage where the Egyptians killed Israelites babies? if they killed the babies why didn’t God killed the one who killed the babies? And Exodus 9:6 states “And the next day the LORD did it: All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one animal belonging to the Israelites died.” If God already killed all the livestock, how were there firstborn livestock?

    • amtog

      thanks for coming by firebad.

      Exodus 1:22 says “Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.” The implication is that the absolute monarch gave a command and the people of Egypt obeyed it…with the obvious exception of the two Hebrew midwives mentioned by name in the previous verses.

      As to why God didn’t kill the individuals who obeyed Pharaoh’s command INSTEAD of punishing the whole nation…I don’t have an answer for that. It’s pretty clear in the Bible that God judges both individuals and nations. As God the Creator, that’s his prerogative.

      As for the livestock…good question. I don’t have a ready answer. I’d have to really delve into it and see. I have heard different Biblical scholars (regarding other texts) comment that Hebrew literature isn’t always as linear as European literature. It’s not uncommon for parts of a story to be told out of chronological sequence in order to make a point or illustrate something about the topic. We also can’t tell from Exodus what the span of time was between each plague. Could it be possible that enough time had elapsed that the Egyptians had to some degree replenished their supply of cattle? Heck, with the Israelites being slaves, it’s not entirely unthinkable that Pharaoh would seize some of theirs. I really don’t have answer…and I’m not entirely sure that an answer exists that would exonerate God in your eyes anyway.

  10. questioner

    God sent many punishments to the Egyptians, but how come he failed many times to convince the Pharaoh? He could have done it on His first try or am I expecting too much of the all powerful and all knowing God? He could have just miraculously move the Israelites out from Egypt yet He did it the hard and long and murderous way.

  11. amtog

    thanks for the comment questioner.

    if i understand you correctly, you’re attempting to demonstrate that either A) God is not all-powerful or B) God is not good.

    i think it’s really interesting that you point to this story as a way of disproving God’s power or goodness or BOTH, while the Hebrews who first told it and continue telling it to this day point to the same story as evidence and a reminder of God’s power and His goodness: his power to save the descendants of Abraham and His goodness in keeping His promise to rescue them for their enemies.

    so, who is right? time will ultimately tell.

  12. Jon

    God MUST judge wickedness, this is what Bible skeptics have a hard time grasping. Which would be more merciful, God taking away the Children of Egypt and taking them out of this fallen world, or allowing them to live on w/out proper guidance only to run the risk of them being more evil than their parents?

    Taking them out of this fallen world obviously.

  13. amtog

    thanks for your comment Jon.

    It wasn’t (and isn’t) obvious to (my) small children that killing babies/children is more merciful than allowing them to be raised by parents who would raise them up to potentially be even more evil than themselves. I would also say that it isn’t obvious to Bible skeptics or even many sincere people investigating our faith in God and Jesus. Perhaps this is because one has to have experience with the mercy of God (directly or vicariously perhaps) and reach a degree of trust in His goodness.

  14. Ellen

    Misunderstanding of scripture and attributing human standards to GOD distorts our thinking and our hearts. We may not always see events from his perspective, but at least we should be able to agree HE sees the WHOLE of beginning to end. HE is well able to bring to complete the plans of the world in the despensation of time spoken of in Ephesians chapter I. Does HE really kill babies? Could HE be removing souls in his GOOD and PERFECT WILL to complete a wonderful plan HE established in the beginning? At a certain time in life we are responsible for our decisions, the babies might have already known they were to be here and leave right away. We really can not speak for HIM and HIS nature and when I do not know all the facts I can not have an opinion. I have met GOD and I trust HIM! HIS eyes are always watching the earth and HE IS IS IS IS IS love.
    One day I had lunch with a young man. Some men that worked with my husband saw me during lunchbreak and told him what they saw. They teased him all afternoon.. That evening I mentioned to my husband I had lunch with our Son at the park. When my husband told me about the teasing we had a good laugh. He trusted me and I, him so gossip at work is wasted on a trusting relationship.
    Can we not trust our living GOD totally?

  15. amtog

    Thanks for your comment Ellen.

    Your concluding question is exactly the question that the story of the Egyptian baby raises for both believers and non-believers. Here you and I stand saying to non/un-believers that they should believe in this God and they respond: “How can we trust your God to do what’s right when He’s killing innocent babies?”

    While a rhetorical answer is possible, I think that ultimately the answer is a matter of experience. We can only know whether or not anyone is worthy of trust by entrusting something to that person. People are going to have to put their trust in God and then see if He is worthy through living in relationship with him.

    One of the reasons that the Jews told the story of the flight from Egypt in the first place (and continue to do so) was to testify to God’s worthiness of trust. God promised Abraham to make a nation from him and in order to do that, He had to rescue Abraham’s descendents from the Egyptians. Yes, Egyptian children died. Hebrew children had also died. Even in the face of death, God keeps his promises.

  16. Dave X

    If we’re supposed to trust in God’s plan, the torture and death of babies like Nyia Page or Baby P seem like modern-day examples of the use of the suffering of innocents used to influence others. The explanation that suffering is supposed to build some moral muscle works if the sufferer is the one to learn the lesson, but using the pain and suffering of innocent humans, before they are even capable of moral judgements, to give lessons to others seems downright wicked and untrustworthy.

    With God’s alleged patience of 400 years, it probably would have been more convincing, more effective and less wicked plan for freeing the slaves if all the Egyptian males lost a testicle (or two) instead of a firstborn.

  17. Dave X

    So, did you decide to read the Egermeier version to your kids?

    Did your kids question it?

    What answers did you give?

  18. amtog

    Thanks for coming by Dave X.

    On the night in question, I don’t think that I did read the story of Moses from the Egermeier book. Honestly, I think that I skipped it and went to something else. After all, the tradition in my house is to read a Bible story before bed and the Moses story isn’t exactly light reading…at least not as it’s presented in the Egermeier book. Consequently, I didn’t have to field any questions on the goodness and justice of God with regards to the death of the Egyptian babies…at that time.

    Personally, I don’t believe that suffering exists to produce “moral muscle”, and I’m not sure that the Bible suggests that it does. In fact, it appears to me that the Bible reveals that suffering is an intruder into God’s good world which he (due to His great power and wisdom) seizes and forces it to accomplish his will for the world. Consequently, I don’t think God was out to teach anyone in Egypt any moral lessons, least of all the babies.

    As for God’s plan for freeing the slaves…the plan was to send Moses with his requirements to Pharaoh and that Pharaoh would comply. Of course, God knew that Pharaoh would not comply and that He would have to take additional measures.

  19. Dave X

    I do agree the babies were certainly too young to teach moral lessons. Are you saying that the plague on the babies was an intruding, external evil that god redirected to act upon the Egyptians?

    Using suffering, (as in “seizing and forcing it to accomplish his will for the world”) seems like an “ends justifies the means” sort of argument. To actually justify the means, the benefit of the ends should somehow outweigh the costs of the means, and the means shouldn’t include gratuitous costs, like the death of an innocent. The tenth plague could have started from the top, with Pharaoh’s firstborn, and worked down the Egyptian hierarchy, and possibly avoided kiiling the children of miller’s maidservants. A plague on Egyptian fertility, grotesque or not, would also have less gratuitous costs. Maybe you could say that all earthly suffering is insignificant compared to God’s good ends, but that sort of redefines the concept of “good” to include things like producing babykilling plagues.

    If God’s inscrutable ends explains all suffering, like that of Pharaoh’s Egyptians or the modern-day Baby Ps, it appears to me that it means that God is responsible for the suffering.

  20. amtog

    Hi again Dave. It’s nice to see you back. I’m going to give your comment some thought and then when my personal life is less hectic, I’ll try to say something intelligent in reply. Sorry if it takes a while, but I got a lot on my plate at the moment.

  21. amtog

    First, I’m not saying that there was a plague on the babies. The Bible says that the recipients of the plague were all the first-born of Egypt…as well as the Hebrews who didn’t take the necessary precaution. While I can’t say so with great confidence, it seems to me that the “first-born” could have included not only the males, but the females and not only the babies, but the adults as well.

    Second, I can see why you say that “using suffering” is an “ends justifies the means” sort of argument. However, seeing it as such is probably a testimony to how poorly (and incompletely) I’ve expressed my thoughts. I intended to communicate the idea that in some cases (not the one in question in the original post) suffering is inflicted upon others in order to attain some sort of evil ends, but God intervenes (mysteriously?) and turns the suffering to achieve His good ends.

    I admit that the role of suffering in God’s plan for rescuing His creation from death and corruption is a mystery to me. As I’ve thought about your comment, I’ve posed several questions to myself which deserve more thought and prayer. After all, I side with Job in thinking that God is precisely the one to turn to with such important questions like the role of suffering in human experience. I think He’s big enough to handle my questions.

  22. Dave X

    Thanks for writing more on this.

    First, you did indeed say in the OP and later that the plague wasn’t focused solely on the babies. However, you did identify the challenge for explaining the story to little ones (and, I’d think also to older ones) is the part about the killing of the babies. That the older ones are killed too doesn’t seem to excuse the more problematic part.

    The second, I’m not sure about. It is unclear whether the plague victims themselves actually suffered–the plague could have been something quiet and painless like SIDS. The deaths of innocent babies caused their survivors to suffer, and, as you outlined in the OP, “if Pharaoh had listened, then the babies would not have died.” Maybe the communication of your idea would be clearer if you identified who was inflicting the suffering.

    Whether or not the survivors learn anything from the suffering, I think that the babies then and now who die as part of God’s grand mysterious plan do not get a chance (at least in this world) to ask questions or learn any moral lessons from their suffering–if there is any purpose in it, they are merely used as means to other moral actor’s ends.

  23. George D.

    Now, I haven’t had much dealings with christian sects other than the jehovahs witnesses I was raised around, but i have a question. Circumvinting all motives reasoning, and consequences, did you just openly admit that God killed children, from infants to teenagers?

  24. amtog

    Dave X,

    You’ve made an interesting point that I’ve never considered: the possibility that the death of the first born was a painless one without suffering on the part of the victim. I don’t think it matters much with regards to the purpose of the story. If someone were to take comfort in the thought that the first born went “gently into that dark night”, I wouldn’t feel the need to contradict them.

    As for identifying the one inflicting the suffering…the narrative indicates that God sent the plague, so that would make him the one inflicting the suffering. However, the narrative also indicates that Pharoah was culpable because he would not let the people go worship God in the desert.

    I do not think that the victims of the plague against the first born are “merely being used”, but rather they are genuine victims of real moral failures. To say that they are merely being used is to imply that they have no value, which is a position that would be totally absurd to the Hebrew community from whence this story originates and for whom it was first intended.

  25. amtog

    Thanks for coming by George D.

    I’m struck by your use of the phrase “openly admit”. It connotes to me the assumption that the deed in question is either morally wrong or at least something to be ashamed of. It also seems that by asking me if I “openly admit that God killed children”, I’ve been put into a position of guilt by association.

    I believe the story in Exodus is true. I believe that God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt by sending the plagues as a response to Pharoah’s unwillingness to release them. I don’t believe that God is guilty of immoral behavior and I’m not ashamed to repeat the story and to wrestle with it in front of my children and anyone else who takes an interest in my blog.

  26. Dave X

    The lives of the firstborn are being used by God to influence Pharaoh. There isn’t anything that the firstborn themselves, nor all but one of their parents can do to affect their fates. I chose “merely being used” to reflect that the purpose of their lives, deaths, or suffering was used solely to influence others, and unrelated to their own actions or choices. I don’t think it implies that they have no value. Clearly they have value as hostages or bargaining chips against Pharaoh, value to the parents who wailed at their loss, or value as genuine victims of some moral actor’s moral failure.

    Their value was used as a means to an end.

    The dead babies may have other intrinsic, immutable values outside of the context of this story, but within the context of the story, their value was clearly used as leverage to influence Pharaoh.

  27. amtog

    Point taken. Thanks for staying interested.

  28. Dave X

    Let me revise this:

    I think that the babies\\\\\\children then and now who die as part of God’s grand mysterious plan do not get a chance (at least in this world) to ask questions or learn any moral lessons from their suffering–if there is any purpose in it, they are merely used as means to other moral actor’s ends.

    My 6yo god-daughter died of a random fever yesterday morning.

    • amtog

      Dave X, I don’t know what to say. I am amazed that you would return to this obscure blog after a year and at a time of painful loss. At times of mourning like this, I think of Job and the friends who visited him in his affliction. They sat with him in silence for several days, in solidarity and mourning.It was the only good thing they did for him because when they opened their mouths, they said stupid stuff. Consequently, I think it is best to remain respectfully silent. I will pray and I will trust God.

  29. Question: If only the Pharoah had the ability to free the slaves, why didn’t God just smite the Pharoah… and every single one of them until the slaves were freed? If he is omnipotent, why did he feel the need to punish all Egyptians for what the Pharoah did? He was not an elected official. None but the Pharoah would have had the ability to free the slaves, so why did God not take mercy on all the rest of the Egyptians? I am just wondering as I am doing research on this story, and wanted the opinion of a person of your religious persuasion.

    • amtog

      Thanks for the comment fantasywritermom. I wanted to let you know that I am thinking through your questions. I think we bloggers tend to fire off comments/replies a bit too quickly sometimes. I don’t want to make that mistake here. more to come.

      • I appreciate that. I’d love to hear what you have to say.

      • amtog

        So I’ve been thinking for the past several hours about how to answer your questions. It seems that as I run through my potential responses I am either too terse or too verbose. I don’t want to evade the questions but I also don’t want to overwhelm you with more information/opinion than you’ve asked for. Perhaps I’m over-thinking things a bit.

        Question 1: “If only the Pharoah had the ability to free the slaves, why didn’t God just smite the Pharoah…and every single one of them until the slaves were freed?”

        Answer: I don’t know. Perhaps he considered that option and rejected it. Honestly, I’m inclined to think that he didn’t even consider it. You see, I believe that God is omniscient. Since he knows all (knowable) things, he knows the best possible way to handle every single situation. Consequently, his decision to deal with Pharoah (and Egypt) as recorded in Exodus must have been the best possible way. And since we don’t know everything, I am not surprised whenever I or anyone else is confused or dismayed in some way by his course of action. I realize that this may come across as a cop out, but I hope it comes across as consistent. If I believe that God knows everything, that must include knowing the best possible way to handle Pharoah and the enslavement of the Jews.

        Question 2: “If he is omnipotent, why did he feel the need to punish all Egyptians for what the Pharoah did?…why did God not take mercy on all the rest of the Egyptians?”

        Answer: Honestly, I don’t see the connection between God’s omnipotence and his feeling “the need to punish all Egyptians for” Pharoah’s evil deeds. I think the question makes more sense if it’s phrased like this; If God is just, why did he punish the Egyptians along with Pharoah? Either way, it seems to me that your basic assumption is that Pharoah was guilty of wrongdoing but “all Egyptians” were not guilty. Is that a correct assumption? I don’t think it is. The all-knowing God knows who is guilty and who is innocent. The just God punishes the guilty.

        You brought up the idea of mercy. Why didn’t God have mercy on “the rest of the Egyptians”? If we assume that the “rest” were innocent, then the question doesn’t make any sense. We can’t have mercy on the innocent. They have done nothing worthy of punishment. In a court of law, we acquit the innocent. We affirm their innocence and exempt them from punishment and retribution. Mercy is for the guilty. If we assume that the “rest” were guilty, then we can ask why God chose to withhold mercy. The answer to that question is simply this: God will have mercy on whom he will have mercy. It’s his prerogative as the Creator. That may not be a satisfactory answer to some,but it is the answer that God himself gives in Romans 9:15.

        The story is clearly told with the assumption that “the rest” were guilty along with Pharoah and that God justly punished the guilty. Guilty of what exactly? Pharoah refused to return God’s people to him. The Egyptians participated in the enslavement of the Jews by doing Pharoah’s bidding. Pharoah refused to acknowledge God and his claim because Pharoah worshiped other gods…as did the rest of the Egyptians. He believed that his gods were more powerful than God and he made his decisions accordingly. God, in his mercy, gave Pharoah multiple opportunities to obey. God, in an effort to get Pharoah to come around, demonstrated the powerlessness of Egypt’s false gods through each plague he sent. Such a demonstration is an act of mercy. He was letting all Egypt (and the surrounding nations) know that they were trusting in gods who were not gods. He was revealing himself to them. Had Pharoah and his people acknowledge the one true God, the Jews would have been freed and the plagues would not have been necessary. He would have shown them mercy. He must have wanted to show mercy; otherwise why give all the warnings, both verbal and miraculous?

        I hope your research is fruitful and thanks again for commenting. It’s good to think about these things.

  30. Michael Orr

    I’ve been reading through your posts for the past 5 years (wow, what a thread!) and I wanted to insert something into the conversation. It’s been brought up several times that the plagues were for the benefit of Israel, but it wasn’t just for Israel. Exodus 14 actually says twice that all that happened was to show Egypt that God was superior to the Egyptian Gods, to Pharaoh (who considered himself a God” ) and to show Egypt definitively that God was the one and only God of heaven and earth. Exodus 14:4: 4 Then I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that he will pursue them; and I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord.” And they did so. ” and again in verse 17-18, ” And I indeed will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them. So I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, his chariots, and his horsemen. 18 Then the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gained honor for Myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.” In other places in the OT God seems to want to show Egypt that he is God so that God would someday be worshiped in Egypt (Isaiah 19 seems to point to this, along with a few other prophecies concerning God’s missionary outreach to the gentile world). Many scholars have also pointed out that the ten plagues took aim at ten particular Gods in the Egyptian pantheon, further showing God’s superiority to Egypt’s might, Egypt’s religion, and Egypt’s pharaoh. So the last plague was really against Pharaoh himself, and was a strike at Pharaoh’s murder of the innocents of Israel as a sign that God would not allow Pharaoh to usurp God’s will for his people.

  31. amtog

    Thanks for commenting Michael. good stuff!

  32. So I realize I am a bit late to the party but will interject anyhow. The only way one can accept God’s allowing of “innocent” death is to believe in His complete sovereignty. He created us unto His glory. If God was only just then none of would have any hope. In the story it is said God raised Pharoh up for this purpose. Is it wrong to say that God created those first born for the same purpose? I see where the unregenerate think this is unjust but those who can truly see this sinful world should see otherwise. Only in God’s grace do any of us have a chance. My prayer is that the veil will be lifted that the elect may see.

  33. amtog

    Thanks for coming by whalevox.

    I confess that I don’t follow your train of thought very well. You seem to be trying to make several different points at once. I get the impression that you want to accentuate God’s right to rule, His glory and His grace.

    Would you be willing to draw out in more detail how the display of His sovereignty, glory and grace in the story can help people to accept the death of the first born Egyptians, particularly the “innocent” babies?

    • OK; so let me back up a bit here and break down my comment. Sometimes I (for the sake of time and space) tend to put too many thoughts together without explaining how the correlate to the topic at hand. Some of this may seem like it may be over a child’s head but they tend to understand better than most adults. The question is; “Why would God kill the babies?” First we need to look at the human perspective. I would contend that the knee jerk reaction is that this is murder. Does God sin? No, He is not capable. Can God kill without sin? Yes, just as a man can kill and not murder. Justified killing is just that; killing, not murder. So the human perspective on the “innocent” deaths of the plague is that it was murder. So what is the Biblical (Word of God) perspective?
      Romans 3:21-24
      21 But now apart [a]from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those [b]who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all [c]have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;
      Romans 3:9-11
      9 What then? [a]Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written,
      “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;
      11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS,
      THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;

      So let’s take the words “all” and “none” into consideration. All would (and should) be taken as every human. Or take the word “none” (which IMO is an even stronger affirmation). None means no person. It does not say “all, except babies” or “none, except babies”. Then what is the consequence of the afore mentioned sin and unrighteousness?
      Romans 6:23
      For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

      So based on God’s justice, He is without sin in killing who he wills. Not only that but is justified to use those deaths for his purpose.

      Romans 9:16-18
      16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED [a]THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.
      Fortunately, as shown also in the previous verses, he also extends his mercy. Just as in the last plague story. God does not kill Pharaoh. God does not kill all of Egypt. He extended his mercy even to some. Even more so, He demonstrated his mercy by the Passover act. A foreshadowing of Christ’s sacrifice by the covering of the doorpost in the sacrificed blood.
      Through all of this God displays His sovereign justice and His sovereign grace. Yes, even in the taking of “innocent” life.

      • amtog

        Thanks for that. I will try to paraphrase what you said and you can tell me if I understood you correctly.

        No human being is ever in right standing before God, no matter his or her age, therefore God is right to kill any and / or all human (s). Whenever God refrains from killing humans, He is being merciful. Whenever He kills humans, regardless of age, He is acting justly.

        Regarding the Egyptian first-born babies, God was right to kill them because they were born into original sin, which is to say that they were born with a predisposition to sin.

        And finally, we can be at peace with the death of “innocent children” and “babies” because they are sinful and God is right to kill sinful human beings.

        Does this accurately capture your view?

      • I would say you did well 🙂

      • d jones

        whalefox has yet reached the point in his life, where he really examines honestly what he believes. And most importantly — why he believes it. At current stage it’s just a list of beliefs on a piece of paper, yet to be proved by real life experience, where he comes face to face with injustices committed to him and others. It’s easy for you to say throw words around like “sovereign justice of God” and “original sin” so that you don’t have put yourself in the place of some mother having her baby snatched out of her hands and killed in front of her because it is the sovereign will of God. Give me a break.

  34. I would actually go one step further and say God can do whatever He wills with His creation. Not just because they have a sin nature. Either way creation is His and he is just to do with it as He sees fit.

    • d jones

      Wait until you are hit with some real injustices in your life – – will your faith hold up? One of the last bastions to fall in my life was the belief that “all things work out for the good to those who love God” I no longer believe that. Injustices leave lasting damage to any human. And if getting into “heaven” requires such immense suffering in this life, I elect to leave the whole process. And in saying that, I am hit with the “fear factor” — threats of hell. You know what, you can have it. I’m sick of it. .

  35. amtog

    Thanks for clarifying. While we agree that God is just in doing as He likes with His creation, I would like to say to other potential readers something about this position.

    When I am grieved by some action of God that I read in the Scripture, I am not comforted by appeals to His sovereignty. So often this comes across to me as fatalism (something I associate with the Islamic culture that surrounds me). Sometimes telling a sincerely discomfited person that God can do whatever He likes sounds like “might makes right”, which I believe is not true. So instead of dwelling on God’s right to do whatever He wants, I dwell on His wisdom and His goodness. I focus on His ability to know what to do in every circumstance (wisdom) and His intention to rescue His creation from decay and death (goodness). And then I have to make the decision to trust Him. That decision is based on Him showing Himself to be trustworthy, which He does by revealing what He will do and then doing it, whether He is enacting judgement or mercy.

    • d jones

      so you are in denial, or at least not ready to really struggle honestly with these incongruous actions of God in old testament with his benevolent nature.

  36. d jones

    I can give no good reason why God would command that babies and suckling to be killed. It makes me cringe when christians try to reconcile such things to the new testament god. I would have much more respect for you if you just said…”I don’t know, and I’m not going to try to explain it.”

    I have found myself separating myself from the bible and from the benevolent force that intervenes in my life. I cannot believe they are one and the same. You see, I just got tired of being ruled by the fear based bible.

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