(Re-post for Passover)
Today at sunset is the beginning of Passover, a religious festival celebrating the mass murder of every non-Jewish "firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast." And the murderer is God himself.
Of course God had a motive for the murders. The Israelites (his favorite people) were enslaved by the Pharaoh, and God wanted them to be set free. And he tried all sorts of things to get Pharaoh's attention.
First he taught Moses some magic tricks. Like how to throw his rod on the ground and turn it into a snake. Then grab the snake by the tail and make it a rod again.
And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. And the LORD said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand. Exodus 4:2-4
Next God showed Moses how to make his hand leprous and then cure it.
And the LORD said furthermore unto him, Put now thine hand into thy bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom: and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous as snow. And he said, Put thine hand into thy bosom again. And he put his hand into his bosom again; and plucked it out of his bosom, and, behold, it was turned again as his other flesh. Exodus 4:6-7
And finally, God taught Moses to turn water into blood.
And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe also these two signs, neither hearken unto thy voice, that thou shalt take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land: and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land. Exodus 4:9
God knew that none of this would work though, since he planned to harden Pharaoh's heart. (I guess he just wanted Moses to show off his magic tricks in front of Pharaoh anyway.)
And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go. Exodus 4:21
So God teaches Moses the magic tricks and then hardens the Pharaoh's heart to ensure that the tricks won't work. How's that for an intelligently designed plan?
But God had another plan up his sleeve: murder.
And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn. Exodus 4:23
In the very next verse, God's plans are interrupted by another divine impulse to kill. God tries to kill Moses!
And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him. Exodus 4:24
The Bible doesn't say why God tried to kill Moses, but it had something to do with foreskins. Here's what the holy book says.
Then Zipporah [Moses' wife] took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. Exodus 4:25
Makes sense to me. But back to the main murder story.
Moses recruits his brother, Aaron, to be his spokesman (since Moses has "uncircumscribed lips") and Aaron performs the rod to serpent magic trick for the Pharaoh. But darn it all! Pharaoh's magicians know that trick, too. Luckily it ends well, since Aaron's rod/snake swallows theirs.
And Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods. Exodus 7:10-12
Even with such a great trick, the Pharaoh was still unconvinced. But then I guess that was because God hardened his heart again.
And he hardened Pharaoh's heart, that he hearkened not unto them.Exodus 7:13
So enough with the tricks. It's time for God to get serious. He begins with the famous ten plagues of Egypt. I won't go through all that, since I want to complete this post while it's still passover. But here's a list.
- Rivers turned to blood. (Pharaoh's magicians did this one too.) Exodus 7:17-24 BT
- Frogs. (The magicians know the frog trick too!) Exodus 8:1-7 BT
- Lice. (This is the first trick that the magicians couldn't do. I guess lice are harder to make than frogs.) Exodus 8:16-19 BT
- Flies (continuing the frogs and lice theme) Exodus 8:21 BT
- All cattle in Egypt die. Exodus 9:3-6 BT
- Boils and blains upon man and beast. Exodus 9:9 BT
- Hail. Exodus 9:19 BT
- Locusts. Exodus 10: 4-15 BT
- Three days of darkness. Exodus 10:21-23 BT
- God kills all Egyptian firstborn humans and animals. Exodus 12: 29-30 BT
It is, of course, the last plague that is celebrated at passover, with the focus on how God knew who to kill.
Even for God, mass murder is a complicated and messy business. But God learned from his previous mistakes. In Noah's flood and at Sodom and Gomorrah, God didn't worry too much about collateral damage. He just drowned or burned to death everyone (except Noah, Lot, and some family members). This time, though, God wanted to be more selective in his killings.
So how did he decide which children to kill? Well, here's what he came up with.
Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying ... they shall take to them every man a lamb ... without blemish, a male of the first year ... and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses. ... For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast. ... And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. Exodus 12: 3-13
You've got to hand it to God. That is quite a plan.
God himself will come down and kill every firstborn child and animal (How did he know which was firstborn?) except for in houses that had lamb's blood smeared on door posts. But if he sees blood on door posts he will "passover" that house and refrain from murdering any children or pets.
And, if you are foolish and nasty enough to believe in the Bible, that is exactly what God did.
At midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle ... and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead. Exodus 12: 29-30
How could anyone celebrate passover or worship the God of the passover plot?