Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins. Lamentations 3:37-39
Literally 3 hours after I saw Exodus: Gods and Kings I started writing my review that I have now come to see is not the most popular view. Other people have written pretty great reviews here and here. I am not saying it is the greatest movie of all time, that is reserved for the Mighty Ducks Trilogy. However, the movie is worth seeing. Wait for it on Redbox if you want to avoid the ridiculous ticket prices.
The one line in the movie that has haunted me since I saw the film was right after the expected final plague. The movie sets the audience up for this gripping moment by showing probably one of the most adorable on film babies ever. When they first showed the kid my wife whispered to me, “aww man, but he is so cute!” She knew the movie was playing our heart strings. When the final plague arrives you watch as these boys are sleeping and in a moment, they took their final breath. It was heartbreaking. Even if you are team Moses, seeing that adorable baby stop breathing fills your heart with empathy for Ramses and the rest of Egypt. The scene cuts to Ramses holding his deceased child in front of Moses and the Hebrews and asks this painful question:
Is this your God? Killer of children?
For a moment let that sink in. Let us not be too hasty to answer Ramses question without thinking about where it comes from. God up till now has brought some havoc to Egypt; water to blood, frogs, gnats, boils, etc. However for the most part these things could be explained away even though deep down inside they knew the God of the Hebrews could be doing this. However, the final plague could not be explained away. Even Ridley Scott who made it clear that when he made this film, he was always going to go with the most natural and scientific explanation for everything, doesn’t attempt to hide the divine hand in this plague. The Bible says in Exodus 12:30 “there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead.” How would you feel if in a moment, your son stopped breathing. Along with that, your entire community lost a child. The children who were friends with your son are all dead.
There is a type of pain that I don’t know any of us could really understand unless we were there. I mean let us be honest, you don’t have to be a Christian to know that there is something morbid and extremely sad about children dying. The Bible even has specific passages about protecting orphans; children who are at higher risk of death. So when Ramses asks this question, I don’t think it is one of arrogance. I think it is a real question that Christians need to find an answer for. In fact, I believe it is crucial we do work with this question because so much can be said about your theology on how you respond to this question. If you live boldly as a believer in Jesus Christ you can be certain that someone will ask you this question in someway.
God takes no pleasure in death
Someone could argue that God had been merciful towards Egypt by not killing everyone early on when God’s people turned from welcomed members of Egypt to slaves for labor. For 400 years God has withheld his right to take the lives of all the Egyptians who had ever oppressed and murdered his chosen people. Some people could argue that the number of Hebrews killed by the hands of Egyptians are leaps and bounds greater to the number of Egyptians killed by God in the final plague. God does have power over life and death (1 Samuel 2:6) but he takes no pleasure in death, even in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 22:11). Using numbers to justify death is weird. We can talk about how few U.S. Soldiers died compared to those of our enemies but that doesn’t make the death of our soldiers any easier. Someone’s son or daughter is still dead and that is still painful. The death of God’s people certainly outnumber the death of the Egyptians but that doesn’t make the death toll in the tenth plague any easier to swallow.
Jesus is the God of the Old Testament
Seeing God’s active wrath like this makes us uncomfortable. Mainly because we now see a God who truly does as he pleases and is not controlled by man or his opinion. We often want to separate the Jesus of the New Testament from the God of the Old Testament. People would say that the New Covenant God is more loving and less violent. He wouldn’t just murder someone like he did in the Old Covenant. The issue with this is that Jesus is the same today, yesterday, and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus was more than just aware of what happened in Egypt. With agreement amongst the Trinity, it was chosen for it to go down the way it did. Jesus wasn’t oblivious of the active wrath of God on Earth, he is the God that was doing it (Colossians 1:17). Jesus is the one holding all things together, that includes the breath you take at this very moment and the time it ends.
Also, the active wrath of God is seen in the new testament, lest we forget what happened to Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11 or those who “fell asleep” after taking communion in a wrong manner (1 Cor. 11:30).
So how would you answer Ramses question?
God is not some blood thirsty war monger. He would have wished that Egypt repented. Look how long he waited! 400 years plus multiple opportunities before and during the plagues to avoid any kind of death. Yet, God still killed thousands of children in a single moment. How does one answer this question? Especially those who are looking to poke holes in our faith or at least prove that Christians are hypocrites who only pick and choose what they want to believe.
It comes down to how you view God and humans place here on earth. If we as humans are the point of it all. Then this whole idea of God taking the lives of children not only is unfair, it is cruel and disgusting. If we are the point, the idea of worshiping this God is the equivalent of worshiping some evil murderous dictator. God would be vile and cruel.
But what if we are not the point?
What if we are smaller pieces that have a specific role to what this whole world revolves around? The opening pages of the Bible shows us that God created everything (Genesis 1:1). And if you are the one that created everything and no one else can create or even come close to create what you created, you not only own it but you have every right to do what ever you want with it. In Exodus 19:5 God says “All the earth is mine!” It is his and he can do whatever he wants with it. We as his creation can’t argue with God about what or why he does what he does. I mean we can I suppose but look at where that got Job (Job 38). If God is the potter and we are the clay, who is the clay to tell the potter what to do with his own clay (Romans 9:19-24)?
However, God isn’t like Sid from Toy Story just wanting to create havoc and disorder. God is just and righteous. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Gen. 18:25) We can question stuff and ask if what God is doing is right and just but that at the end of the day it is sort of a silly activity. God is incapable of being unjust. Everything he does flows from his perfect justice (Deut 32:4). God is always fair and just. It might not conform to our view of what is fair and just but our view of fairness and justice is irrelevant to the one who created and can only do fairness and justice. Is questioning to understand wrong? No. Always seek to understand. God gave us his word and intellect to study, learn, question, and understand. All truth is God’s truth. If you are seeking to understand the truth, it will lead to God.
A question that a lot of students ask me when we talk about the realities of Hell and God’s wrath is, “How can a loving God send anyone to Hell?” The problem in that question lies with the original issue of all of this. Is the world ultimately about us or is everything about God and his glory? If we believe that the Bible is true when it says we are born sinful (Psalm 51:5) and deserve death (Romans 6:23) then the question changes to “How can a holy God allow anyone into his Heaven?” The truth is we all deserve God’s justice and never his mercy. It is only by God’s grace that we are saved (Ephesians 2:8). The alternative means that unless God showed grace to you, what you and I absolutely deserve is death and God’s wrath forever. But God spares us. God shows grace to sinners. He shows mercy to us. He gives us the ability to have faith. He does the opposite of what we deserve. He blesses us.
God even blesses those who choose to reject God. Common grace allows those who reject Christ to still enjoy the planet God created, with the breath he allowed them to breathe, with the life he choose to not take from them. God is crazy merciful and patient and truly wants everyone to come to repentance and not die.
So to come full circle, yes God actively killed thousands of boys in the final plague and I will not try to twist that reality. Earlier in the Scriptures he flooded the earth which implies not only first born sons died but women, girls, men, animals, and ever other living thing all died at the hands of God’s active wrath. However, God has a right to do whatever he pleases (Psalm 115:3). And in all the judgments that God saw fit to do, it was all blanketed in perfect untainted justice.
With that said, I can imagine that those who align with Ramses and asks this question may not be satisfied with my answer. They may argue that I just used circular reasoning or say that the idea of God doing all of this can not be explained away and it remains to be either disgustingly unjust or simply untrue. This is why I said earlier that how you answer this question says a lot about what you ultimately believe about God and humans role in this world. I find that a theocentric position is not very popular in an egocentric world. And that is fine, It seems that God’s word and his church thrives best when it is not the most popular view of it’s day.
I mean, it was true in the time of Exodus (Exodus 1:12).