WHY DID GOD KILL THE EGYPTIANS’ FIRSTBORN SONS?
by Shawn Brasseaux
What was so special about the firstborn in Egypt that the LORD slew them?
Every casual Bible reader knows that Israel was enslaved in Egypt for centuries, and the LORD sent Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh to command Pharaoh to release Israel. Once Moses and Aaron appeared before Pharaoh the first time, Pharaoh refused to let Israel go and rather afflicted Israel with even more hardship (Exodus 4:1-23). So, the LORD demonstrated His power via ten plagues He poured out on Egypt. Unbelieving Israel came to understand that Moses was God’s spokesman, and unbelieving Egypt came to understand Israel was God’s people.
Moses and Aaron continually appear before Pharaoh, and Pharaoh refuses to let Israel go every time. Pharaoh became more and more callous toward God’s Word: his heart hardened and became increasingly stubborn. The tenth and final plague the LORD executed on Egypt and its pagan idols was the death of the firstborn: every firstborn in each Egyptian household, both of livestock and people, was slain by “the destroyer” that passed over Egypt (Exodus 12:23). “And it came to pass, that at midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of the cattle” (Exodus 12:29).
“For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD” (verse 12). Again, why the firstborn son? Exodus 4:22-23 explains: “And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: and I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn.”
And thus, by slaying Egypt’s firstborn sons, God demonstrated to Pharaoh that Israel was His firstborn son.