0 God's killings in Exodus

God's Killings in 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.

Here are the Exodus killings:

  1. There will be blood: The First Plague of Egypt
  2. The seventh plague of Egypt: Hail
  3. The Lord smote all the firstborn in thre land of Egypt
  4. God drowned the Egyptian army: The Lord took off their chariot wheels
  5. The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation
  6. Who is on the Lord's side: Forcing friends and family to kill each other
  7. The Lord plagued the people because of the calf that Aaron made

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 the 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.

13. The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation

Before the Israelites had even left Egypt, they began to do what they do best: complain.

They complain when they see the Pharaoh's chariots.

When Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto the LORD. And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness. Exodus 14:10-12

They complain when they're starving to death.

The whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger. 16.2-3

They complain when dying of thirst.

There was no water for the people to drink. Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why chide ye with me? wherefore do ye tempt the LORD? And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst? 17:1-3

Before long, God will respond to their complaints with several mass murders. But we'll leave that for another time.

Because now it's time for some Holy War.

The Amalekites show up and the fight begins. God controls the whole thing with some remote control magic tricks. Every time Moses holds his hands up, the Amalekites are slaughtered by the Israelites. When he gets tired and lets his arms down, the situation is reversed.

When Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. 17:11

Eventually they had to set some rocks under Moses' arms to make sure that the right people got killed.

But Moses hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands. 17:12

But it all worked out just fine.

Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. 17.13

It's too bad, though, that the Bible doesn't say how many Amalekites died in this magical holy war, because now I'll just have to guess.

Oh heck, I'll call it 1000.

But God was far from done with the Amalekites. In fact, he is fighting with them still and commands us all to kill them wherever and whenever we see them.

The LORD said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. Exodus 17.14

The LORD hath sworn that the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation. Exodus 17.16

Thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it. Deuteronomy 25:19

So if you happen to see an Amalekite, you know what to do.

14. Who is on the Lord's side: Forcing friends and family to kill each other

In his previous killings, God killed indiscriminately. He drowned everyone and everything in the flood (1), smashed people with burning stones at Sodom and Gomorrah (3), and killed every Egyptian firstborn child and animal just for the heck of it (9). So I guess we should be used to this sort of thing by now.

But in this killing, God forces 3000 friends and family members to kill each other. That seems kind of nasty even for a very nasty god.

Here are the gory details.

Moses was up on Mount Sinai getting the Ten Commandments from God. Since he'd been gone so long (he'd been up there for 40 days) the people began to wonder if he'd ever come back. So they asked Aaron to make some other gods for them. Aaron thought that was a pretty good idea, so he

Said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me ... And he ... made it a molten calf. Exodus 32:2-4

You might think that a bunch of runaway slaves wouldn't have much gold. But God told them to steal whatever jewelry they could find from the Egyptians.

The children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment.... And they spoiled the Egyptians. 32:35-36

I guess God wanted them to have enough gold to make a golden calf. It was all part of his plan.

So the people gave Aaron their stolen gold and Aaron made a golden calf.

Now making a golden calf out of a pile of ear rings and a campfire might seem hard to you. But Aaron just threw them all onto a fire and out came a golden calf. Really.

I [Aaron] said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf. 32:24

It was a miracle. God (or Satan) made the golden calf when Aaron threw the jewelry on the fire.

In any case, when Moses came down from the mountain, he saw the people dancing naked ("for Aaron had made them naked") around the golden calf.

Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked.) 32:25

So he smashed the stone tablets, burned the golden calf, ground it into a powder, sprinkled it on water, and then forced everyone (all 3 million of them) to drink it.

As soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses' anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount. And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it. 32:19-20

But Moses was just getting started. Here's what he said next:

Who is on the Lord's side? .... Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour ... and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men. 32:26-28

So those on God's side went out and killed 3000 of their friends, neighbors, and family members.

But God still wasn't satisfied. When he first found out about the golden calf and the naked dancing he wanted to kill everyone and start over with a new batch of people.

The LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation. 32:9-10

But Moses talked him out of it, saying, "What would the Egyptians say?"

Moses besought the LORD his God and said ... should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people. 32:11-12

Imagine that. Moses is a nicer guy than God. (See the 28th killing for the implication here.)

15. The Lord plagued the people because of the calf that Aaron made

In his last killing, God forced the Israelites to kill each other. (The Levites volunteered for the job of "being on the Lord's side" by killing their family, friends, and neighbors for God.) The resulting death toll was 3000.

But this didn't quite satisfy God. He needed to kill some more. So he sent a plague.

The LORD plagued the people, because they made the calf, which Aaron made. Exodus 32:35

The Bible doesn't say how many people God killed in this plague. I'll guess 1000.


  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.

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