Why would a loving God allow the firstborns in the time of Moses to be killed?

Hi everyone,

A friend asked me this question and I’m having a hard time answering him. As a background, he is an atheist and a very scientific guy.

Thank you.:slight_smile:



@mdquitoras That is a very good question. I think it ultimately comes down to the problem of suffering more generally or any time that we do not understand why God allows an event to happen. I have attached an article or so at the end of this post on why suffering in general happens. As to your friends question, I might try asking him a few questions in return to see where his heart is at…

Question 1 - What if there really is a day of Judgment where the righteous will receive an eternal reward and the wicked will be judged? How would that address your question?

At this point, I might expect him, as a logical person, to acknowledge that if the souls of the children will live forever with God and the wicked act of Pharaoh will be judged, then it is possible to make sense of the situation because this life is not the end. On the other hand, he may challenge you about hell or make another similar objection - so I would be prepared for that if he is a fairly argumentative type. You may be able to bring up what the apostle Paul says that are suffering in this world is nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed to us (Romans 8:18).

Question 2 - What objective basis do you have for declaring that murder is wrong if God does not exist?

This is probably not the direction I would personally go, but Ravi does it so well. Before posing this argument, I might read the following article from RZIM because I know plenty of atheist - especially scientist types - who hold to pragmatism or claim you don’t need God for ethics.

Good quote from article: “When we complain about evil, we do indeed presuppose the reality of the good. Good and evil invoke an objective standard of right and wrong. Such a standard in turn points us to the God who made us, not just so we can recognize and apply morality to our lives in this life, but so that we can actually enter into an intimate relationship with God and a process of discipleship in his kingdom that begins to prepare us for the noblest existence possible: being in God’s presence forever.”

Question 3 What would the world be like if God stopped every person from doing anything bad all the time? What would your life be like?

This question gets to the issue of free will. Would you want to live in a world where God gave you no choice but to be good? What implications would that have?

Question 4 Do you think any good ever comes from suffering? Can we learn something from suffering?

For example, even the famed atheist Nietzsche admitted there is something noble suffering produces in people: “Why go about sniveling because trivial people suffer? Or, for that matter, because great men suffer? Trivial people suffer trivially, great men suffer greatly, and great sufferings are not to be regretted, because they are noble. Your ideal is a purely negative one, absence of suffering, which can be completely secured by non-existence. I, on the other hand, have positive ideals: I admire Alcibiades, and the Emperor Frederick II, and Napoleon. For the sake of such men, any misery is worthwhile.”

What if the suffering of humanity somehow makes us more noble as a collective???

May the Lord grant you wisdom as you speak with your friend and may the eyes of his heart be opened to see the glory of God in the Gospel of Jesus! Feel free to ask any follow up questions :slight_smile:

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@SeanO Thank you! Lots of wisdom there! :slight_smile:

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@mdquitoras Sure thing! Glad it was helpful. May Christ guide you as you interact with your friend.

Hello @mdquitoras. To add on @SeanO’s contribution, I would like to share some insights from the passage in question itself.

Let me quote Exodus 12:12-13:

“For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.”

The shortest answer to the question based on the passage itself is that God executed His judgment against the Egyptians. This is God’s prerogative as a being whose judgments are always righteous. This is in no way contrary to God’s love. God’s wrath is His love in action against sin. God punishing sinners is a loving action for God to do, since this exemplifies God’s righteousness and this shows that there is no other being who can save sinners from God’s hand. This helps sinners realize that only God could truly save them from their plight.

Before I talk further about what I learned about the passage, I would like to share a quote from Miroslav Volf about God’s wrath to help you with your friend:

“I used to think that wrath was unworthy of God. Isn’t God love? Shouldn’t divine love be beyond wrath? God is love, and God loves every person and every creature. That’s exactly why God is wrathful against some of them. My last resistance to the idea of God’s wrath was a casualty of the war in the former Yugoslavia, the region from which I come. According to some estimates, 200,000 people were killed and over 3,000,000 were displaced. My villages and cities were destroyed, my people shelled day in and day out, some of them brutalized beyond imagination, and I could not imagine God not being angry. Or think of Rwanda in the last decade of the past century, where 800,000 people were hacked to death in one hundred days! How did God react to the carnage? By doting on the perpetrators in a grandfatherly fashion? By refusing to condemn the bloodbath but instead affirming the perpetrators’ basic goodness? Wasn’t God fiercely angry with them? Though I used to complain about the indecency of the idea of God’s wrath, I came to think that I would have to rebel against a God who wasn’t wrathful at the sight of the world’s evil. God isn’t wrathful in spite of being love. God is wrathful because God is love.”

Going back to the passage, I learned from Dr. Kenneth Laing Harris in his commentary, that the Lord repeatedly wanted Israel and Egypt to know that He is the LORD. God’s judgment here, even including the gods of Egypt, shows that Yahweh is the only true God. According to Dr. Harris, the events that happened during the Passover are the ultimate demonstration of the holy judgment of God as a result of Egypt’s stubborn rejection, His great love for Israel, and that God’s power is unmatched because it’s greater than all the power of Pharaoh and his kingdom. The blood served as a sign that Israel was God’s people, which was a means of their protection from the plague.

I do hope this addressed the direct question and the underlying assumption of your friend in his question. :slight_smile: