Cruelty In The Bible?
Did God Unjustly Torment The Egyptians?
THE CLAIMED CRUELTY: He [God] tormented the Egyptians and their animals with hail and disease because pharaoh refused to let the Israelites leave Egypt (Exodus 9:8-11,25);
and he killed Egyptian babies at the time of the Passover (Exodus 12:29-30)
It would be nice for the humanists to actually explain their thinking. For example, why do they think it was wrong for God to bring plagues against the Egyptians? (I'm assuming they think it was wrong in some way.) Was God being unjust? Did God have the wrong motives? Do humanists approve of slavery and are saying the Egyptians were doing nothing wrong by enslaving Israel for several hundred years? Was the means of freeing Israel too harsh? Given the situation and circumstances, what did God do that they consider to be cruel?
We'll have to make an assumption...
My best assumption is that the humanists are claiming God was unjust... that the "punishment" was not appropriate for the crime. However, it would be better if, in future articles, humanists would provide the reasons for their assertions of cruelty. Using emotion packed words ("tormented") and making nebulous accusations leaves it to the minds of the reader to come up with the "crime." But, it actually provides no actual support for their claims of cruelty.
But, let's assume the charge is that God is cruel because He is not just, and move ahead on that basis. Most people are familiar with what happened. Here is a brief summary.
1. There was a famine in the land. Israel, along with his family, servants, and flocks are invited to settle in the land of Goshen (Egypt).
2. The Israelites are in Goshen for 400 years. Early in that time they lose their freedom and become slaves of the Egyptians... who are cruel and harsh in their treatment of the Israelites.
So they [the Egyptians] appointed taskmasters over them to afflict them with hard labor. ..The Egyptians compelled the sons of Israel to labor rigorously; and they made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks and at all kinds of labor in the field, all their labors which they rigorously imposed on them. - Exodus 1:11-14
3. Moses is chosen by God to lead Israel out of captivity, but Pharaoh would not let them go.
4. God then brings ten plagues on Egypt, after which Pharaoh finally lets the Israelites leave. The final plague was the death of all the firstborn.
What where the problems God was addressing?
- The Hebrews had been unjustly enslaved and abused for several hundred years. It was time for God to free them from their slavery.
- The Hebrews still believed in God, but they did not believe He was powerful enough to free them from Egypt.
- The Egyptian gods seemed to be more powerful and were attractive to the people of Israel. Even after they escape from Egypt they turn to a symbol of the Egyptian gods as a way to worship God (Exodus 32).
God would save the Israelites from slavery, and at the same time show them that He was alive, was able to save them, and was worthy of their worship. And He would show that the Egyptian gods were nothing, and should not be worshipped.
How does He do this? Through the ten plagues. They would address all three problems.
The Israelite slave labor was an important part of the Egyptian economy. It was through this slave labor that many major building projects in Egypt were accomplished. The Egyptian government (Pharaoh) did not want to lose this source of very low cost labor, and it will take either a major war, or something equally significant, to set them free.
The method God chose to free the slaves also demonstrated that God is worthy of worship and the Egyptian gods are not. As is common with pagan cultures, the Egyptians worshiped a variety of gods based in nature. Natural events, such as the annual flooding of the Nile, supposedly demonstrated the power of their gods. When Moses first confronted Pharaoh and demanded that he let Israel go, Pharaoh responded:
Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and besides, I will not let Israel go. - Exodus 5:2
The contest was on to see which God/god was the most powerful. The Got Questions web site describes each of the plagues:
The first plague, turning the Nile to blood, was a judgment against Apis, the god of the Nile, Isis, goddess of the Nile, and Khnum, guardian of the Nile. The Nile was also believed to be the bloodstream of Osiris, who was reborn each year when the river flooded. The river, which formed the basis of daily life and the national economy, was devastated, as millions of fish died in the river and the water was unusable. Pharaoh was told, By this you will know that I am the LORD (Exodus 7:17)."
Here is a list of the ten plagues and the Egyptian gods they targeted:
- Nile tuned to blood - APIs, Isis, Osiris, and Khnum, all gods related to the Nile
- Frogs - Heqet (a frog headed god)
- Gnats - Set, the god of the desert
- Flies - Uatchit, the fly god
- Death of livestock - APIs and Hathor, who both had the physical appearance of cattle
- Boils - Sekhmet, Suni, and Isis, gods over health and disease
- Hail and Fire - Nut, Osiris and Set, the sky goddess, crop fertility god, and storm god
- Locusts - Nut, Osiris and Set
- Darkness - Re, the son god who was symbolized by Pharaoh himself
- Death of firstborn males - Isis
In the midst of these plagues God was not without grace and mercy on the Egyptians. If they turned away from trusting in their gods to protect them, and believed the God of the Israelites, they would be blessed. For example, before the seventh plague (hail and fire) God said:
"About this time tomorrow, I will send a very heavy hail, such as has not been seen in Egypt from the day it was founded until now. Now therefore send, bring your livestock and whatever you have in the field to safety. Every man and beast that is found in the field and is not brought home, when the hail comes down on them, will die.
The one among the servants of Pharaoh who feared the word of the Lord made his servants and his livestock flee into the houses; but he who paid no regard to the word of the Lord left his servants and his livestock in the field. - Exodus 9:18-21
God warned them, and those Egyptians who brought their livestock into their houses were not harmed. Those who left their livestock in the field, lost their livestock.
The Final Part Of This Question - Killing Babies
Once again the American Humanist web site uses deceptive emotion-packed language to influence the reader to believe God is cruel. It is deceptive because the tenth plague had nothing to do with killing babies. But, of course, to claim God was killing babies is a strong appeal to our emotions.
What I find particularly vulgar and sickening is that American Humanists have absolutely no problems with killing babies. They do not feel it is morally wrong to kill babies. Their web site has a page titled "Resolution on a Woman's Right to Kill Babies." ooops, I used the humanist tactic of using emotion packed language, even if it distorts what they actually said. The actual title is: "Resolution on a Woman's Right to Abortion." Oh... so I actually didn't distort what they said after all. This is about killing babies.
This is an official resolution adopted by the American Humanist's board of directors on March 29, 1985. It gives a series of reasons and then states, "The AHA reaffirms its support of womens right of choice to terminate a pregnancy within the parameter set up by the Supreme Court in its Roe vs. Wade decision."
The American Humanists Support Killing Babies
If, when you read the American Humanists claim that God is cruel because He kills babies, you then conclude God is cruel, then please write to the American Humanists Association and complain
about their cruelty. They strongly support killing babies... the smallest and most helpless babies. The pre-born.
However, when it comes to the claim that God was killing babies, we'll see that not only was God not killing babies, He was not cruel. He even provided a way that anyone who believed Him could be saved.
What did God do in Egypt? He killed the firstborn males. That includes me. As I write this I am 66 years old, and I am the firstborn of my parents. Do you understand what that means? It wasn't babies. It was mostly adult males who, if they listened to and obeyed God, didn't have to die.
God had already sent nine plagues. Nine powerful messages that demonstrated who He is (both His power and His grace) and that He does what He says He'll do. The physical evidence has overwhelming. All they had to do was believe and act on the belief, because...
God provided a way to protect the firstborn males. Smear the blood of a lamb on the top and sides of your doorway, and then trust that God would have the angel of death pass over your house. Anyone who did this, not just Israelites, would be saved.
Conclusion: God is not cruel. The ten plagues were just and appropriate.
Next example: After the Exodus he ordered the Israelites to exterminate the men, women, and children of seven nations and steal their land (Deuteronomy 7:1-2)
Click here to learn the rest of the story.