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 if the humanists actually explained their thinking. For example, why do they think it was wrong for God to bring plagues against the Egyptians? (I am 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 cruel and harsh treatment of slaves? Are they saying the Egyptians did nothing wrong by enslaving Israel for 400 years? Was the means of free-ing Israel too harsh? Given the situation and circumstances, why do humanists consider what God did to be cruel? Once again, I will have to make assumptions about what they are thinking.
We'll have to make an assumption...
My best guess is that the humanists are claiming God was unjust... that the "punishment" was not appropriate for the crime. However, it would be nice if, in future articles, humanists would provide the specific reasons for their assertions of cruelty. Using emotion packed words ("tormented") and making nebulous accusa-tions leaves it to the minds of the reader to come up with the "crime." However, it provides no actual support for their claims of cruelty.
I am going to assume the charge is that God is cruel because the punishment was not appropriate, and move ahead on that basis. Most people are familiar with what happened. Here is a summary of the back story:
1. There was a famine in the land. Israel (aka. Jacob), along with his family, servants, and flocks are invited to settle in the land of Go-shen (Egypt) where food is available.
2. The Israelites are in Goshen for 400 years. Early on they lose their freedom and become slaves of the Egyptians who are cruel and harsh in their treatment of the Hebrews (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, a Hebrew raised as an Egyptian prince, but now living out-side of Egypt, is selected by God to lead Israel out of captivity, but Pharaoh would not let the Hebrews (Pharaoh’s slave labor) leave..
4. God brings ten plagues on Egypt, after which Pharaoh finally allows the Israelites leave. The final plague was the death of all the firstborn. However, after they leave Pharaoh changes his mind and chases after the Israelites.
What problems was God 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. However, although they knew God, they did not believe He was powerful enough to free them from Egypt and the Egyptian gods.
- The Egyptian gods seemed to be powerful and were attrac-tive to the people of Israel, so many of them turned back to worshiping the Egyptian gods. Even after they escaped from Egypt, they use a golden calf (the main Egyptian god) as a way to worship the true 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. In addition, He would show that the Egyp-tian gods were nothing, and do not deserve to be worshipped. How does He do this? Through the ten plagues. They would address all three problems.
Slave labor was an important part of the Egyptian economy. Hebrew slave labor built many of the major structures in Egypt. It normally would take either a significant and very bloody war, or a major revolt to set them free. God had a better way.
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 were 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
God gave Moses the ability to answer this question. The result will be that Pharaoh will learn who God is, and why he should obey Him. God will send ten plagues, each of which demonstrates the emptiness of one or more Egyptian “god.” The Got Questions web site describes each of the plagues. Here is their description of the first:
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)."
The following is a list of the ten plagues and the names of the Egyptian god(s) 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 saved their livestock. Those who left their livestock in the field lost their animals.
The Final Part Of This Question - Killing Babies
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." Oops, 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 did not distort what they said after all. This is about killing babies.
The American Humanists Support 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 rea-sons and then states, "The AHA reaffirms its support of women’s right of choice to terminate a pregnancy within the parameter set up by the Supreme Court in its Roe vs. Wade decision."
If, when you read the American Humanists claim that God is cruel because He kills babies, you 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. Those who are still in the womb.
However, when it comes to the claim that God was killing Egyptian babies, we will see it is not true. God was not targeting babies. God was not cruel. He even provided a way for anyone who trusted Him to be saved, not just Jews.
So Moses said, “This is what the Lord says, ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well.’" - Exodus 11:4-5
What did God do? He killed the firstborn males. That would have included me. As I write this I am 69 years old, and I am the firstborn of my parents. Do you understand what that means? It was not babies. Mostly adult males died. They were warned. If they had listened to and obeyed God (if they had joined Israel and did as God commanded), they would not have died.
They are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. …and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. - Exodus 12:7 & 13
God had already sent nine plagues. Nine powerful messages that demonstrated who He is (both His power and His grace). Plagues that demonstrated He does what He says He'll do. The physical evi-dence was overwhelming. All they had to do was believe and act on that belief, because... God provided a way to protect the firstborn males. Join Israel. Believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 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.
Conclusion: God is not cruel. The ten plagues were just and appropriate. In addi-tion, God warned them about what was about to happen and He provided a way for them to avoid the just punishment of the ten plagues.
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)
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