This is a continuation of my previous posts involving a discussion I am having with my friend Edward Oleander and his charge against God that God is arrogant. In this post I will try and limit myself to address one of Ed's points – that it was unfair of God to punish all of Egypt for the crimes of a few, when God sent the 10th Plague which killed all of the firstborn in Egypt. In this post I will try and show that all of the adults in Egypt were guilty before God and each deserved God's ultimate punishment in this world – death; and that this punishment was rightly passed onto their children. So let's get started -
Ed has boldly proclaimed that the taking of a child's life is always evil. During the time of Moses, Pharaoh ordered the Egyptians to murder all of the Hebrew sons born in Egypt (Exodus 1:16). This continued for 80 years. And so, it is Egypt's leader, Pharaoh who chose what God's final plague would be – the slaying of the innocent firstborn children in Egypt. Because Pharaoh ordered the slaughter of Israel's sons, there is some sense that God issued judgment against Egypt for taking the lives of Israel children. Initially it is by your own words Ed, that you have judged Egypt's action of murdering Israel's newborn sons as an evil act. But let me flesh out a little more of why the entire nation of Egypt suffered the loss of their firstborn.
1). Rescue vs. Murder. When I read the story of the Exodus, I see God rescuing a helpless group of people, while you see only God murdering Egypt's children. While this difference is interesting to explore, let me instead look at your claim that only "some" in Egypt were guilty but that all of Egypt was punished, and that this was unfair. Here are a few reasons why the Bible shows that all of Egypt was guilty before God and deserved God's full wrath upon the entire nation:
- Israel practiced its worship of YAHWEH for many generations while Egypt continued to worship the pantheon of gods led by Ra, the Sun god. Egypt saw the True God and failed to accept Him, and reject its false gods, though the evidence was right in front of it;
- Egypt brutally placed Israel in slavery for 430 years (Exodus 12:40-41), and treated them unconscionably. By the time of the Exodus it is estimated that there were over 2 million Jews in Egypt, and for this it would take the entire nation to support this enslavement;
- YAHWEH reached out to Egypt to repent, which they refused. He sent one of the Greatest Old Testament Prophets to Egypt to cause them to repent, and also to release the people of Israel. YAHWEH sent amazing miracles, signs and wonders to do this (I will address your laughable claim that these were only mundane miracles later in this post). And the entire nation of Egypt rejected Moses and did not repent;
- Egypt as an entire nation did release the Hebrew slaves after the 10th Plague (death of the firstborn). See, Exodus 12:33. Egypt rightfully feared for their own lives because they understood two things AFTER the 10th Plague: that YAHWEH, the God of Israel was the true God of the universe, and that the Egyptian gods were powerless before YAHWEH, and the Egyptian pantheon were only false idols; further, they understood they were guilty before YAHWEH for their shameless treatment of God's Chosen People, Israel, and for their rejection of YAHWEH's warnings.
- Finally, note that it was the people who sent Israel out of Egypt, and I see no evidence of Pharaoh issuing any official Government order to release the Jewish slaves. Instead, the grief stricken Pharaoh only spoke to Moses and his brother Aaron that the slaves were set free in Exodus 12:31-32. And so, it was the entire nation of Egypt that were responsible for setting free the millions of Jewish slaves.
Thus, because the entire nation of Egypt supported the slavery of Israel, treated them barbarically, murdered their children (again for this alone you consider Egypt evil because of what they did), and worshipped false Egyptian gods, though YAHWEH used a Great Prophet Moses for their nation to repent, and so the nation was properly judged and were guilty before a righteous God. All of Egypt was wicked. Therefore, it is the entire nation of Egypt that was guilty before YAHWEH, judged by both God and Ed as evil, and they deserved the most extreme punishment possible – their own death. This is in line with teachings in the New Testament that all people are born wicked (Romans 5:23), and that we have earned death because of our wickedness (Romans 6:23).
2). Spiritual Warfare. I wanted to briefly touch on the important part of the 10 Plagues which you thought might be understood as only coming from "natural" causes by the Egyptians. Let me show that the Egyptians could only understand the setting free the Hebrew slaves and the 10 Plagues was nothing short of a Battle between YAHWEH and the Egyptian gods. I hope you have read the Book of Exodus, it is an exciting read. If you had, you may have wondered why there were unusual Plagues like sending frogs were sent. Far from being mundane miracles, these Plagues represented a clear Declaration of War by YAHWEH against the false gods of Egypt. Here are a couple of quick examples:
- The Second Plague: YAHWEH sends frogs to cover the land of Egypt. The message while a little fuzzy to 21st Century American readers, it was absolutely clear to the Egyptians. Frogs represented the primordial god Heket in Egyptian religious life. Instead of the Egyptian god Heket controlling its own frogs, YAHWEH showed His Judgment and power by making the 'Divine' River Nile being the source of anguish and misery to the Egyptians. So the Egyptians understood this amazing miraculous Sign of Judgment by using Heket's own creatures – frogs.
- The 9th Plague: YAHWEH sends three days of Darkness. You may remember the Egyptian Sun god is Ra. The Egyptians believed the sunrise to be Ra's defeat of the Serpent of the Night, the hostile foe of chaos and darkness. And again this was no mundane miracle that could have been caused by natural forces as you've claimed. This was a darkness that only the supernatural God of Creation could create. It was not only a "thick" darkness, it was so unusual that only the Jews could have light from fires in their homes. The Egyptians could not even see one another, and so none left their homes for three days (Exodus 10:23). This wasn't a cloudy day. It was YAHWEH impressing upon the Egyptians that their Sun god Ra was impotent compared to the Sovereign Lord of the Universe.
The other Plagues are likewise Judgment upon the other gods in the Pantheon of the Egyptians. No one in Egypt would have mistaken these Divine Pronouncements as anything that could have occurred by natural means.
3). What is Love? Finally, I wanted to raise one brief comment about the nature of love. When you married Mel, you made a vow before God and a few other people (yes, I'm with Dino on this one. I'm still bitter over not being invited to your wedding <G>). Part of this vow was to devote yourself physically and emotionally to only your wife. You may have other women friends that you enjoy spending time with. You may think other women are attractive. Yet your wife holds a special place in your heart that no one else can hold.
So would it be unloving of you to fail to be intimate with other women? Of course not! This is because of the bond that your marriage has created between you and your wife. What I'm trying to show here is that when someone loves another, there are actions and choices made that include this other that you love. There may be times that in order to save one you love, that may have to defend against and even hurt another. In the case of Israel and Egypt, YAHWEH had intimate love with Israel, while having a lesser love of the people of Egypt (see, Exodus 11:7). What I am trying to draw out here is that Egypt did not have any sort of relationship with YAHWEH. While Israel had received promises and Covenants from YAHWEH, many of which would be fulfilled by Israel's freedom from slavery through the Exodus, and setting up their nation in the Promised Land.
And ultimately, I don't believe Egypt would have freed the Hebrew slaves without YAHWEH sending the 10th Plague, taking the firstborn's lives. One final point is that God still loved Egypt enough to show them His Divine power, so that one day Egypt could better understand and have relationship with YAHWEH through His only Son Jesus Christ.
Questions – You said God could have done something other than slaying Egypt's firstborn. My initial thought is how difficult it was for America to end slavery, and how much more so for a country living 3,400 years ago. Please tell us what other options God could have done, but keep these option within two limitations: If you are limited by freewill, and making sure that the report of YAHWEH's defeat of the Egyptian gods is reported to the rest of the world, what else do you think God could have done?
SECOND QUESTION: You mentioned that it would be much easier for people if God led us by example. Ed, what do you think of the example set by Jesus?
Are you ready to try tackling the Questions I initially asked about the Parable of the Prodigal Son? Thanks again for your thoughtful comments and energy that put into our discussion.
Let me leave this post with quoting Psalm 58:10-11
The godly will rejoice when they see injustice avenged.
They will wash their feet in the blood of the wicked.
Then at last everyone will say, 'There truly is a reward for those who live for God;
Surely there is a God who judges justly here on earth.'