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Question

How was the tenth plague, which caused the death of Egypt’s firstborn, just in the eyes of God?

death of the firstborn
Answer


In Exodus 11:5–6, God declared through Moses, “Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again.” This dire prophecy was fulfilled in Exodus 12:29–30, “At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.”

This plague on the firstborn sons of Egypt was the tenth and final plague God sent on the nation of Egypt, and it was the one that finally ended the brutal 400-year enslavement of the people of Israel. The other plagues were terrible (see Exodus chapters 7—10), but the tenth plague was particularly harsh. How was it just for God to cause the death of all the firstborn sons of Egypt? There are at least two primary things to remember.

First, God gave Pharaoh and the Egyptians nine warnings, in the form of nine plagues, before He sent the plague that caused the death of the firstborn. With each plague, the Egyptians had an opportunity to repent and release the Israelites from slavery. Every time, the Egyptians refused. Three times Pharaoh said that he would let the Israelites go, only to change his mind once God ended a plague (Exodus 8:15; 9:35; 10:20). Further, God gave Pharaoh advance warning that all of the firstborn sons of Egypt would die in Exodus 11:4–8. Even after that direct warning and all the other plagues, Pharaoh still would not release the Israelites from slavery.

Second, Pharaoh and the Egyptians brought this plague on themselves by their own actions. Exodus 1:22 records a grim edict from the king of Egypt: “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.’” That command was given prior to Moses’ birth. Eighty years later, Moses came to Pharaoh and asked for him to release the Israelites from slavery. There is no indication that the murdering of Hebrew boys ever ceased. How many thousands of Israelite sons had been murdered by the Egyptians? How many Israelite men and women had been murdered in 400 years of slavery in Egypt? In a way, the tenth plague and the death of the firstborn in Egypt was poetic justice for the targeting of Hebrew boys for slaughter.

There is no denying that the tenth plague causing the death of the firstborn of Egypt was severe. But, with 400 years of slavery and countless Israelites murdered by Egyptians, whether as adults or as infants, the Egyptians brought God’s brutal judgment on themselves. God had promised Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse” (Genesis 12:3). The Egyptians, in choosing to curse Abraham’s children, brought a curse upon themselves.

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Questions about Exodus

How was the tenth plague, which caused the death of Egypt’s firstborn, just in the eyes of God?
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This page last updated: January 24, 2023