I am never satisfied when I cannot explain any of God’s actions in human, moral terms. It is totally unsatisfactory to suggest that God can do whatever the hell God wants but then tell us similar actions are immoral. Some may be right when they suggest the biblical writers didn’t always write inspired. Did writers sometimes put words in God’s mouth such as ordering the killing of women and children in war because that is what they wanted to do to their enemy? But, the Passover story is not only putting words in God’s mouth but saying God took certain actions.
Firstborn children or adults were slaughtered according to the story. I hate that we can’t know which OT stories are inspired or not. I love the early stories of how God hated parental favoritism. I can relate to that story and resisted any acts of favoritism in raising my children. They still visit. We know in our heart favoritism is wrong, but it is reassuring to know God hates it too. Most are familiar with the Passover story in Exodus 12. God intended to kill firstborns of any household that didn’t have the lamb’s blood atop their doorframes. (Let’s assume the destroyer (12:23) is a representative for God and this isn’t a story about God actually stopping a killer allowed freedom). Are there plausible explanations for God making such a threat?
God had taken similar drastic actions one time before. Did God really need to kill all but eight in the Flood? Some have experienced evil where those in power satisfy their own sick pleasures by raping, torturing, beheading, or enslaving for sex. Apparently, in the beginning of history “…every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (Gen. 6:5). Evil may have progressed to the level of sacrificing children to supposed gods as we learn later in OT history with the Canaanites. God at least has a reputation for showing mercy. God would have surely allowed anyone to enter the Ark if desiring God’s help. God didn’t empower Noah to preach in hopes no one would respond (I Peter 3:18-20).
Evil as a result of freedom isn’t fair. Who doesn’t understand why family members for their own protection may not condemn the barbaric behaviors of their husbands and fathers. Corruption can infiltrate a society so much that a fresh start may be the most merciful thing to do. There may be a better place after death more merciful than abandonment or starvation when the adult evildoers are annihilated. The Flood was not doing evil that good may come; it is ridding of the cancer that can eventually destroy any good for future generations.
The Passover has some similar parallels to the story of the Flood. God is always slow to take drastic actions against evil. The Egyptians’ enslavement behaviors were becoming even more oppressive and because the Israelites had become so numerous, Pharaoh ordered the killing of Hebrew boys born for population control (Ex. 1:22). But first, God went the miracle route. Turning the Nile into blood would get my attention that your God is more real than my god. Miracles are simply another form of preaching but apparently God was “preaching to the choir.”
It can seem God is doing tit for tat with Pharaoh by threatening to murder firstborns, but was such a threat the only way that would get evil’s attention? And God always gives an out. Death would Passover any house that had blood on the doorframe (Ex. 12:22-23). Both the stories of the Flood and the Passover don’t explicitly say so, but I have no doubt God’s mercy was available to all households including the Egyptians. It is true it would have been hard for families to turn against families but when evil is rampant such courage is necessary.
Evil can get so bad that sometimes drastic actions are necessary for the hope of future generations. How could God possible get their attention? God didn’t do these things for self-gratification. God rather not follow through with threats that are always conditional if people will only change from their evil ways. God may only take drastic actions when necessary for the sake of those living and their future children. The Egyptians had a god for everything including plants, animals, and land. Animals were the living images of a supposed god or goddess. This may be why God used plagues in which he controlled frogs, gnats, flies, locusts. God was showing that that their gods weren’t in control and not real, but no one was listening.
I wish the Passover story wasn’t in the Bible where firstborns were killed to avoid confusion about God but it is. Is it reasonable to say that sometimes extreme situations require extreme actions? This was the only time in history that God needed to use a nation in the beginning to reveal to all present and future nations what God is really like. Sometimes, a show of force is necessary. Today, innocent lives have to be sacrificed when extremists are planning to come to your country and kill because you don’t worship their God. God has always been willing to live in peace as long as the rights of others are not violated. Does it matter than when God did take extreme action God provides a better place that isn’t a lustful paradise at the expense of women?