Hi. Welcome to Redeem the Commute. I’m Ryan, your host of the daily challenges. Today is Tuesday, the day we study the Bible together. We’re in a series called EPIC right now, where we are studying the Old Testament, or at least some of the big stories. Last week we learned about Moses, whom God had commanded to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, confronting their king, or Pharaoh with God’s plan. Pharaoh kept refusing to let the people go, and God kept giving Moses messages of warning, and plagues. We saw nine of them last week, and this week we’re going to study the tenth plague – the most horrific one of all.
Warning: this is a frightening story involving mass death, including children.
The LORD said to Moses, “Yet one plague more I will bring upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt. Afterward he will let you go from here. When he lets you go, he will drive you away completely. Speak now in the hearing of the people, that they ask, every man of his neighbor and every woman of her neighbor, for silver and gold jewelry.” And the LORD gave the people favor 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 said, “Thus says the LORD: ‘About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the cattle. There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again. But not a dog shall growl against any of the people of Israel, either man or beast, that you may know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.’ And all these your servants shall come down to me and bow down to me, saying, ‘Get out, you and all the people who follow you.’ And after that I will go out.” And he went out from Pharaoh in hot anger. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh will not listen to you, that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.”
Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh, and the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go out of his land. (Exodus 11 ESV)
At once this is a horrific story, and one of liberation. You have an oppressed,enslaved people being set free from bondage. But unfortunately that only comes about after the oppressor suffers in ways that only make sense if they represent the vengeance of an angry God who will not be ignored.
God is going to hit Pharaoh in a way he can’t ignore or explain away. His son, the heir to his throne dies. But this was no freak accident or illness, because the firstborn sons of all the other Egyptians die as well. Was it a disease? No disease could kill so selectively as this, and not where everyone died at the same time, and livestock as well.
Why firstborn sons? Because these would be the most valued children in a family, representing the family’s future was secure. Not universally the case today, but this kind of preference exists in certain traditional cultures and some royal families.
It would have been devastating for this culture to lose all its firstborn males…some of them animals, some children, some of them grown men.
Question: How does this story challenge your preferred image of God? What difficulties do you have with this story, and how does your sense of God’s identity need to change to include this as a possibility?