Exodus

The point of Exodus is this: God likes some people more than others. He likes Jews and hates Egyptians. That's why he hardened the Pharaoh's heart and sent the ten plagues on Egypt. He forced Egyptians to drink blood; pestered them with frogs, lice, flies, and boils; smashed them with hail; murdered every first-born Egyptian child and animal, and drowned their army. Sometimes God gets a bit carried away when making a point.

There are some people, though, that God hates even more than Egyptians. Amalekites, for example. God hates Amalekites more than anyone else on earth. He's been at war with them for 3400 years and he'll be at war with them forever.

But God often hates Jews too. When Aaron made a golden calf and encouraged the Jews to dance naked around it, God wanted to kill them all. But Moses talked him out of it. So God was satisfied with forcing some of the Jews to kill their families, friends, and neighbors.


9. There will be blood: The First Plague of Egypt

The first of the famous ten plagues of Egypt was the plague of blood.

Here's the story from Exodus 7.

God told Moses to tell Aaron to smite all the water in Egypt with his rod (the one that he previously turned into a serpent and then back into a rod in Exodus 7:9-12), which will change the water into blood.

And the LORD spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt, upon their streams, upon their rivers, and upon their ponds, and upon all their pools of water, that they may become blood; and that there may be blood throughout all the land of Egypt; both in vessels of wood, and in vessels of stone. And Moses and Aaron did so, as the LORD commanded. Exodus 7:19-20

And it worked as planned. The fish died, the river stank, and the Egyptians had no water to drink.

And the fish that was in the river died; and the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river; and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. 7:21

For seven days, apparently.

And seven days were fulfilled, after that the LORD had smitten the river. 7:25

Which must have killed some people, since, even under the most favorable conditions, a person can't survive for more than a few days without water.

But how many?

The Bible doesn't say, so I guessed 10,000.


10. The seventh plague of Egypt: Hail shall come down upon them and they shall die.

After God turned the rivers into blood in the first plague, he continued with these five:

Frogs. (8:1-7)

Lice. (8:16-19)

Flies (8:21-24)

All cattle in Egypt die. (9:3-6)

Festering boils on man and beast. (9:9-10)

The Bible doesn't say whether anyone died from these plagues. Frogs, lice, flies, dead animals as far as you can see, and boils covering every person and animal in Egypt. These things were no doubt unpleasant. But did it kill anyone? There's just no way of knowing.

But the Bible is clear about the seventh plague: hail.

Upon every man and beast which shall be found in the field ... the hail shall come down upon them, and they shall die. ... So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous ... And the hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt all that was in the field, both man and beast. Exodus 9:19-25

So God killed everybody in Egypt who was out and about that day with fire and hail (except Israelites).

Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, was there no hail. 9:26

But how many people would that have been?

Well, the Egyptian population is estimated to have been 3 million at the time the Exodus supposedly happened [1]. So if maybe 10% of the Egyptians were in the field at the time, about 300,000 would have been killed by God's fiery hail storm.


11. The Lord smote all the firstborn in thre land of Egypt

God starts planning this mass murder in Chapter 3 of Exodus, and he doesn't stop talking about it until he kills every Egyptian firstborn child (and animal) in Exodus 12.

Here was the way God planned it.

On the night of the mass child murder, God told each Israelite family to find a year-old lamb without blemish, kill it, and wipe the blood on the top and sides of the door.

In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb ... without blemish, a male of the first year ... And ye shall ... kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses. Exodus 12:3-7

That way when God came through Egypt looking for first born children and animals to kill, he would see the bloody door and "pass over" the house, saying to himself, "Oh yeah, I'm not supposed to kill any children or animals here."

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 when I see the blood, I will pass over you, 12:12-13

And that's what happened.

At midnight God passed through Egypt killing every Egyptian first-born child and animal.

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 cattle. 12:29

After God was done, there was not a single Egyptian house that didn't have one dead child.

And there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead. 12:30

Why did God do it?

Well, it seems that he did it to show off his signs and wonders,

I will ... smite Egypt with all my wonders. 3:20

I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt. 7:3

Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before him. 10:1

The LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you; that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt. 11:9

To introduce himself to the Egyptians,

And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD. 7:5

To show what he can do,

Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh. 6:1

To show that there is nobody else on earth quite like him,

For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth. 9:14

To make himself famous (so that everyone will know his name),

That my name may be declared throughout all the earth. 9:16

To give us a story to tell our children and grandchildren,

That thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son's son, what things I have wrought in Egypt. 10:2

To show that the whole earth belongs to him,

That thou mayest know how that the earth is the LORD's. 9:29

To prove that he is God,

In this thou shalt know that I am the LORD. 7:17

That ye may know how that I am the LORD. 10:2

To show that he likes Israelites more than Egyptians,

That ye may know how that the LORD doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel. 11:7

And to punish the Egyptian Gods.

Against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment. 12:12

Well, I guess those motives are about as good as any for a mass murder.

In any case, God is clearly proud of this one. And it's no wonder. It wasn't all that easy to pull off, even for God.

He had to harden the Pharaoh's heart eight times to make it all work out as planned.

I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go. Exodus 4:21

I will harden Pharaoh's heart. 7:3

He hardened Pharaoh's heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said. 7:13

The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh. 9:12

The LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before him. 10:1

The LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go. 10.20

The LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let them go. 10:27

The LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of his land. 11.10

Some hearts are hard for even the Bible god to harden.

So how many were killed in this killing? Well, the population of Egypt at the time the Exodus supposedly occurred was about 3 million [2]. If one-sixth of them were first born sons, a half million Egyptians were killed by God (or the angel sent by God to do his dirty work for him).


12. God drowned the Egyptian army: The Lord took off their chariot wheels

God's last mass murder pretty much did the trick. The night that God killed every firstborn Egyptian child and animal, Pharaoh told Moses to go.

He called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as ye have said. Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also. Exodus 12:31-32

So Moses rounded up all three million or so Israelites, their flocks, herds, cattle, unleavened bread, and all the silver, gold, and clothes that they could steal from the Egyptians, and left town.

The people took their dough before it was leavened ... and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment ... And they spoiled the Egyptians ... about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children ... and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle. 12:34-38

And everything would have ended happily ever after, too, if God could have resisted the temptation to harden the Pharaoh's heart a few more times.

You see, the Pharaoh's heart was just too damned soft to suit God. So he set about hardening it a bit more. (He had to harden it 8 times in order to pull off his last killing.)

I will harden Pharaoh's heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD. 14:4

And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh. 14:8

I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten me honour upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen. 14.17-18

So God hardened Pharaoh's heart some more and got himself a little more honor.

Of course he had to kill some more Egyptians so that they would know that he is the Lord. Sometimes you have to kill people in order to get to know them better.

So that's what God did. And you saw the movie so you know the rest of the story. God parted the sea so the Israelites could cross and then drowned the Egyptian army.

The LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians ... and the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. ... And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them. 14.26-28

But the part I like best they didn't show in the movie. God got right out there with his wrenches and whatnot and removed the wheels from the Egyptian chariots. How cool is that?

The LORD ... took off their chariot wheels. 14:24-25

That would have been fun to watch.

OK. So how many Egyptians drowned to get God some more honor?

Well, we know there were at least 600, since that's how many chariots the Pharaoh sent after the Israelites.

And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them. 14:7

But along with the chariots there were "horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh" that chased after the three million or so escaping slaves.

So although I probably greatly underestimated the imaginary number, I guessed 5000.


Notes

  1. Colin McEvedy and Richard M. Jones, Atlas of World Population History (Middlesex, England: Penguin, 1978), p.226.

  2. McEvedy and Jones, 1978, p.226.