I have never really thought about the ten plagues of Egypt this way until I was on an online forum where skeptics were lambasting Christians and saying that it is not only wrong but hypocritical for both Christians and God to condemn abortion/infanticide when God killed so many children in the plague that brought about the death of the first born. Is this true? Is the last plague in Egypt nothing more than hypocritical, petty, wrathful, divine infanticide?
I will have to admit that a non-believer could easily be troubled by the tenth plague and could justify making this charge. This deserves a careful response.
First of all, if a human being, on his/her own initiative, did what God did, then we would obviously find this to be a disturbing act and would reject it as unacceptable.
However, for God to do this is something completely different. God made us. He is not only our Creator, he is our sustainer and our ultimate Judge. As Creator and Lord of all, God has a “right” to do whatever he wills. God has a right to give and to take life, as he is the Creator of all. He does not need to submit to human ideas about what is the right thing for a Creator to do. Still, I suppose humans have a right to question why God would do such a thing. The purpose of this event was so that God’s people could worship him. Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let God’s people worship Him. In fact, Pharaoh cruelly and without justification, enslaved and abused the Israelites. God chose this means to set his people free to worship him. Add to this the symbolic/foreshadowing meaning of the event. Symbolically, all were under a death sentence, as are all of us, spiritually. Symbolically, the Jews were set free from the consequences of sin by the shedding of blood of a perfect Passover lamb. This is a foreshadow of the blood of Jesus setting us free from spiritual slavery. In both the case of the Passover lamb and of Jesus, the blood was shed on a wooden cross-beam. The meaning of this event is shows that it was all part of a plan of God as a symbol of how we will be freed from the consequences of our sin.
Still, children died, and that is difficult for us, emotionally, to accept. From God’s perspective, it is not the physical death of people which is a problem. It is spiritual separation and death. For human beings this was tragic, I am sure, but for the Creator and Judge of all humanity, the end of the life of the male children is something that God, in his love, his justice and his mercy, knowing the big picture, has a right to do. The “big picture” is that his people were set free and he gave his people and us a wonderful symbol of how we, too, will be set free from slavery. The death of the children was not about wrath, but about setting God’s people free.
This is a difficult question and I would imagine that it will not even be sufficient for everyone, but I believe that it is a reasonable response to the Passover.