If the Biblical God is indeed a good God why would He be a part of killing the firstborn sons of the Egyptians? And also, what’s the connection with all of the firstborn references in the Bible?
Title: “The Firstborn Principle“ (Exodus 11)
Morning. My name is David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church
Thanks to Steve for filling in for our Worship Pastor Zach Foty, who is out on Paternity Leave…as he and his wife recently had a baby girl.
Zach will be back with us leading worship next Sunday
Quick update about our church’s future for those of you who have been wondering.
We close on our land off Lexington & 125th in August.
Even though we’re still a few years out from our building, we are already beginning the process of designing it.
When we begin to raise funds for it this fall, we want to tell you what it’s going to be like!
And so our Building Team…which is comprised of people from our church…it’s:
Along with our staff, have been working A LOT with our architect this summer to begin designing our future building.
Our Building Team also just hired a General Contractor, Watson-Forsberg, who will be overseeing the construction of our Future Building.
Pretty exciting stuff!
Well, we talk often here on how if there’s one thing are messages have here at Renovation…it’s variety.
Sometimes they’re challenging
Sometimes they’re intensely practical.
And sometimes we just dive deep into studying a theological or Biblical topic
And today, is one of those days.
As we are continuing in our Rescue Series on the Book of Exodus, we’re going to be spending two weeks on chapters 11 – 13.
Over the last few chapters of Exodus, God has been inflicting the Egyptians with Plagues so that they will let the Israelite slaves go.
And now, we are at the final plague (death of the firstborn)…which is also deeply connected to what’s called Passover.
They’re both big topics, so we’re going to spend 2 weeks on these 3 chapters.
Today, we’ll mostly cover the death of the firstborn
I’m going to talk about the Bible’s Theology of the Firstborn
Which I can almost guarantee you’ve never heard a message on before :)
And then next week, we’ll explain the Passover (one of the most amazing symbols in the Bible), in detail
Let’s take a look at our text for today:
If you’re just joining us, even though God has brought on some pretty terrible plagues so far (9 of them in fact), Pharaoh has still refused to let the Israelites go
And so now, it’s come to this:
(Exodus 11:1-10) - NIV
Now the Lord had said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely. 2 Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbors for articles of silver and gold.”3 (The Lord made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and by the people.)
4 So Moses said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. 5 Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. 6 There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. 7 But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal.’ Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. 8 All these officials of yours will come to me, bowing down before me and saying, ‘Go, you and all the people who follow you!’ After that I will leave.” Then Moses, hot with anger, left Pharaoh.
9 The Lord had said to Moses, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you—so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.” 10 Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country.
This last statement is sort of is a summary of Pharaoh’s heart in general…but we’ll see he has a different reaction once the plague actually happens.
Without going into next week’s topic too much, the Israelites are told that if they sacrifice a lamb, and put the blood on the top and sides of their doorframes, the Lord will “Pass Over” them when the plague on the firstborn happens, and they will be spared.
An Egyptian convert would have been allowed to participate in this if their family was circumcised and they truly converted, but most Egyptians did not do this…
And thus, this happens:
(Exodus 12:29-33) – NIV
29 At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. 30 Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.
31 During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested. 32 Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.”
33 The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. “For otherwise,” they said, “we will all die!”
There’s a major theme that runs throughout the entire Bible regarding the Firstborn Sons.
And that’s our major objective to walk through today.
But before we do that, let’s first attempt to try and answer the objection that many people have to this passage (and maybe you yourself have)
I don’t want to ignore that.
The objection is: “How could a good God possibly be a part of striking down all the firstborn sons of Egypt? Especially because some of the children aren’t personally at fault. Couldn’t God just have killed Pharaoh?”
There are several things we have to “keep in mind” when answering this objection, let me address them.
Firstly, we must keep in mind that it’s Western culture that says children are innocent, not the Bible.
The Bible says, in Romans 3, that no one is righteous.
In fact, it tells us that we are born in sin.
We must keep in mind that God can even see what these children would have become.
This is most likely a merciful act of God for these kids.
(It’s also possible that some of the firstborns were already adults too.
That detail is not given in the narrative)
But the Bible teaches that young children who die go to heaven..
But most of these kids…if they would have been allowed to grow up, most likely would have lived lives of wickedness, and most certainly would have worshipped false gods, and thus would have been destined to hell
Here’s another thing to keep in mind…God is patient in bringing judgment.
The Israelites were enslaved for not 10 or 15 years, but what looks like HUNDREDS of years by the Egyptians.
They were in Egypt for a total of 400 years.
And God waits and waits and waits to bring judgment.
Always giving the Egyptians a chance to repent.
He even gave them 10 plagues…not 1.
10! 10 chances!
Keep in mind that God takes no pleasure in judgment.
We see Him lamenting over some of the judgments he has to give in the Old Testament.
The New Testament tells us in 2 Peter that God wishes that “none should perish”
But there comes a time when God must bring judgment if He is to be “just”
And it IS a just punishment.
Look at how God frames it to Moses back when He first starts talking to Him back in the desert
(Exodus 4:22-23) – NIV
22 Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the Lord says: Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’”
The Israelites are God’s people…his firstborn.
And what have the Egyptians been doing to them??
Not just enslaving them!
If you were here back in February, do you remember how the Book of Exodus opened?
We’re told in chapter 1 that Pharaoh becomes worried that the Israelites are becoming too numerous, so they begin a policy of genocidal population control.
(Exodus 1:22) – NIV
22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”
And the Egyptians are going to most likely continue this policy periodically.
You can’t kill every boy forever…otherwise they don’t have slaves anymore.
But you can’t stop doing it forever, or you have a population control problem again…as Pharaoh saw it.
We were told in chapter 12 that there was loud wailing (crying out) by the Egyptians after the plague of the firstborn…which is the exact same Hebrew word that was used to describe how the Israelites were “Crying Out” when the Egyptians were murdering their baby boys.
But notice what it said in chapter 1.
Pharaoh didn’t kill the baby boys.
HIS PEOPLE DID!
He charged them to go out and find the baby boys and kill them.
They were ordered to.
And over and over and over again, they murder the Israelite baby boys like they’re nothing
In fact, scholars say that the amount of firstborn Egyptian sons killed by the plague would have been significantly less than the amount of male Israelite babies killed by the Egyptians over time
On top of that…the plague was death in their sleep…not throwing a baby in the river
The plague was just the firsborn, not every male like the Egyptians were doing
And the plague was a one-time event, not a genocidal program that went on for decades
The plague was God quickly ending…what was really…a war…a just war.
That’s why it says the Israelites “plundered the Egyptians,” and the Egyptians were just handing them their silver and gold
The Bible wants you to see that the Egyptians have been plundered...like in a war.
God was finally fighting back evil for them
And so punishment comes, not just to Pharaoh, but to the Egyptian PEOPLE as well.
And every plague has been like this.
It’s not like God just sent the flies and frogs to the palace.
They inflicted ALL the Egyptians.
Whether the people were first-hand murderers or not, they were absolutely complicit.
It reminds me of a dreadful story that emerged out of the end of WWII.
As U.S. troops and others began liberating concentration camps, one such camp they liberated was Ohrdruf (Or-droof)
General Eisenhower (later to be president Eisenhower) along with General Patton were some of the first men to see the atrocities that had been committed there.
General Patton was absolutely incensed by what he saw.
But what perturbed him the most was that the “death camp” was very close to a German town, and its citizens had done absolutely nothing to stop all of the murders.
Over 3,000 people had been killed there.
And 40 bodies were just lying out in the open when the troops got there.
So Paton ordered all of the citizens of the nearby town to walk through the concentration camp
And then he ordered them to bury the 40 remaining bodies themselves.
The very next day, the Mayor of the town and his wife committed suicide.
And they left a note that said: “We didn’t know, but we knew.”
And it was the same for the Egyptian people.
They were culpable in this injustice…and now…hundreds of years later…justice was finally coming down.
Best to repent while you can.
REDEMPTION OF THE FIRST BORN
And yet, as we’ll see next week, judgment will not fall on the firstborn sons of Israel because they spared by the blood of the lamb.
And as a result, the Israelites are told that from now on, they are supposed to give back their firstborn sons to God
(Exodus 13:11-13) – NIV
11 “After the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites and gives it to you, as he promised on oath to you and your ancestors, 12 you are to give over to the Lord the first offspring of every womb. All the firstborn males of your livestock belong to the Lord. 13 Redeem with a lamb every firstborn donkey, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem every firstborn among your sons.
Okay, but what does this mean?
These passages can feel confusing if you’ve never studied them and just read through it in, say, your morning reading.
Here’s what God is saying:
First of all, it’s significant that God chooses the firstborn here.
The firstborn is a way of acknowledging that every life from the beginning…is God’s.
Think of a parallel example.
The Israelites were always supposed to give the first fruits of their harvest to God.
Christians, in the New Testament, are told to do the same in setting aside the first fruits of their money (the first part of their paycheck) to give back
Because when you do that…you very clearly acknowledge that THIS is from God.
Everything is from God.
If you can give the first of it back to God…you can trust He’ll provide the rest of it too.
And so the Israelites were supposed to give the firstborn of their flocks and the firstborn of their sons to God.
The firstborn of the flock was sacrificed (and eaten in a celebration meal), in a belief, that God would provide all that they would need…and everything they have is from him.
But the firstborn son (which was a sign the family’s line would continue!), was not to be sacrificed like some sort of paganism
They were to be offered symbolically
Then bought back (redeemed)
So much like a modern-day child dedication, you would offer up (in a ceremony) your firstborn to God, saying, “He is yours! Everything I have is from you!”
And then, Exodus 13 tells us that the people would redeem their son back from God.
Numbers 18 tells us the price was an offering of 5 shekels.
But it wasn’t just a symbol that God gives all good things.
The context of these instructions is right in the middle of the 10th plague and Passover instructions.
God is instituting this as a ritual for His people so that they will never forget what He did.
Just like the Passover Meal we’re going to study next week
When you were to dedicate your firstborn Son to God and redeem Him, you would always be reminded of God’s mighty act in Egypt.
God says that it is indeed the purpose of why He wanted people to dedicate their firstborn and buy them back
(Exodus 13:14-16) – NEW LIVING TRANSLATION!!!
14 “And in the future, your children will ask you, ‘What does all this mean?’ Then you will tell them, ‘With the power of his mighty hand, the Lord brought us out of Egypt, the place of our slavery. 15 Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, so the Lord killed all the firstborn males throughout the land of Egypt, both people and animals. That is why I now sacrifice all the firstborn males to the Lord—except that the firstborn sons are always bought back.’ 16 This ceremony will be like a mark branded on your hand or your forehead. It is a reminder that the power of the Lord’s mighty hand brought us out of Egypt.”
So in those days, when you dedicated and redeemed your firstborn son, you would literally be thinking about the Exodus…
It was a way for people to remember that even though the firstborn sons (like everyone) were sinful, God saved them
That they, probably should have died like every other firstborn son, but they were bought back, through the sacrifice of the lamb.
So when you bought back and redeemed your son at the dedication ceremony, you remembered how God redeemed the first born sons through the blood of a lamb.
Everything we have is from Him and saved by Him
THE FIRSTBORN OF ALL CREATION…SETS US FREE FROM CAPTIVITY
This is all quite interesting, but it gets even more interesting when you start looking at the language the New Testament uses to describe Jesus.
Jesus is called God’s only Son (thus his firstborn)
He’s Mary’s firstborn
And the New Testament even (multiple times) overtly and PURPOSEFULLY calls Him “The Firstborn”
(Colossians 1:15) – NIV
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
We talk about this in our summer Theology classes when we cover the Doctrine of the Trinity…
It’s not that Jesus was at one time “created” or born…
But that He has the power and rights of the firstborn
Which was a big deal in ancient history.
Firstborns had all the future power in the family, the inheritance, and much of the blessing
Jesus was also the “firstborn from among the dead” as Colossians 1:18 tells us
And you can also use born as born “into the world” from heaven (if that makes sense)
(Hebrews 1:6) – NIV
And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”
In the Old Testament (the part of the Bible before Jesus), God’s people remembered Exodus through celebrating the Passover Meal and by redeeming their first-born sons.
Remembering that God brought forth His justice on Egypt and saved them.
But the New Testament takes this same theme and brings it to a jaw dropping conclusion.
We see…the firstborn Son of God…not exact the punishment of sin on others…but Jesus takes the plague of the firstborn sons (death) upon Himself
(2 Corinthians 5:21) – NIV
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
And so the story of Exodus is being repeated…echoed…in the New Testament.
But this time, the firstborn Son of all creation takes the punishment for us.
So that we might be spared
But there’s more!
Do you remember that passage in Exodus 13 we read?
Where the child says, “What does all this mean?” (these rituals…redeeming the firstborn…the Passover meal)
(Exodus 13:14) – NIV
14 “In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
Remember, as harsh as it sounds, it was the death of the firstborn sons of Egypt that ultimately set the people free…that caused Pharaoh to finally say, “You’re free…get out of here!!”
And God wanted his people to remember that very fact…
So God put in systems and rituals for them to make sure they never forgot that fact
One of the reasons He did so was that so that when Jesus came and the Firstborn Son gave his life on the cross, the light bulbs would go on in their minds and all the dots would be connected.
For the Jews would most certainly have recognized that just as firstborn sons of Egypt were killed and thus they were set free from slavery…
Now, the firstborn Son of all Creation was killed, so we could be set free from the slavery of our sin.
It’s the death of the Firstborn Son, Jesus Christ that brings us out of captivity.
Paul says this about Christians in his letter to the Romans:
(Romans 6:18) – NIV
18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
The New Testament constantly uses the language of slavery because it is echoing the story of Firstborn Son dying to set us free…on a march to the Promised Land of heaven!
I LOVE THE BIBLE
The Bible convinces SO MANY who study it that it IS the Word of God because of how it so consistently fits together…even though it was written over thousands of years.
It was perfectly written and inspired by the One True God over many centuries.
With each new chapter building an incredible and powerful foundation for the next.
The Bible is such a contrast with, say the Quran, which was written by Muhammad over just 23 years, by purported revelations that he alone had, in a cave.
Night and day different over the incredibly consistent and publicly witnessed events of the Bible.
The richness to the Bible’s “theology of the firstborn son” even extends to how it describes your life after you die.
Look how Hebrews talks about the afterlife.
(Hebrews 12:22-23) – NIV
22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly,23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,
The Christians in heaven are called the “Church of the firstborn”
Not because only the firstborn go to heaven. No need to get nervous secondborns.
Again, “firstborn” here, is more a statement of privilege and honor, than it is birth order.
In fact, quite often in the Old Testament, the privileges of the firstborn were given to a more worthy second child or other child.
And as God called Israel his firstborn…his special people in the Old Testament…Christians are now his firstborn.
They are the true children of Abraham (the great Patriarch of Israel) as Galatians says.
And thus, God’s special firstborn.
So THIS…is the Firstborn Principle:
The Firstborn Son of all Creation (Jesus) came to earth to take the punishment & plague of the firstborn (death)…so all of YOU could have the opportunity to live with the amazing blessing & inheritance of being a firstborn (everlasting joy in heaven)
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.