Some Brief Thoughts About Killing [#EatThisBook – Exodus 11]

by Andrew Forrest

Many people?even those who are inclined toward pacifism‘seem to allow that certain situations may make the killing of another human being an evil necessity. Maybe to prevent genocide or to stop a future Hitler, it becomes necessary to kill. Maybe. (I’m not sure what I think.) But what about God? Is it okay for the Lord to kill?

In Exodus 11, Moses announces to Pharoah the last of the terrible plagues that the Lord will inflict on Egypt: all of the firstborn of Egypt will be killed

from the firstborn of Pharoah who sits on his throne to the firstborn of the female slave who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the livestock? (v.5).

I am very uncomfortable with the idea of the final plague. Here are some of thoughts that Exodus 11 raises in my mind:

Brief Thoughts on Killing

  • There is no war without the killing of innocents. I’m not saying this fact is good–it is an evil fact–but I’m merely just describing what is a fact. In every single war throughout history, innocent women and children suffer and are killed. The talking heads on television will talk about ‘surgical strikes? and avoiding collateral damage. This is a wicked lie. It doesn’t matter the cause: in war, innocent people always suffer. Always.
  • Killing may at times be necessary?I honestly don‘t know what I think. War may be a necessary evil in an evil world. But war is always evil, and war is always hell. If we are going to speak about war, we need to acknowledge the bitter truth: we are going to kill babies, little children, nursing moms, and many other innocent parties. There may be times when that is the price to pay. But let us be honest about the price.
  • Perhaps there was no way for the Lord to bring the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery without the final plague. If Hitler could only be stopped through violence, perhaps the same goes for Pharoah.
Adolph Hitler in 1937. ("Bundesarchiv Bild 183-S33882, Adolf Hitler retouched" by unknown - This image was provided to Wikimedia Commons by the German Federal Archive (Deutsches Bundesarchiv) as part of a cooperation project. The German Federal Archive guarantees an authentic representation only using the originals (negative and/or positive), resp. the digitalization of the originals as provided by the Digital Image Archive.. Licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0-de via Wikimedia Commons.)

Adolph Hitler in 1937. (Credit: Wikipedia.)

  • [An update from a friend of mine]: We should remember that Pharaoh had ordered the deaths of all the male children of the Israelites (Exodus 1). Perhaps there is some sort of relationship between the final plague and Pharoah’s earlier actions. You reap what you sow? I realize that doesn’t solve the problem, but is worth thinking about.
  • In the mystery of the Trinity, God the Father knows what it is like to lose God the Son. You cannot think of the death of the firstborns in Egypt without thinking of the death of the only begotten of the Father, crucified on Good Friday.
  • There is a mysterious connection between the Passover and Good Friday. The Passover is when the Angel of Death passes over the houses of the Israelites but strikes down the firstborn of the Egyptians. Passover then becomes a yearly religious ceremony for the Jews, and it is at Passover that Jesus is crucified by the Romans, centuries after the events described in Exodus 11.
  • Christ has died. Christ is Risen. Christ will come again.? We?ll be saying those words in my church this Sunday, and somehow I believe that they are an answer to the difficulties I have with Exodus 11. Christ was an innocent, killed. But Christ was raised from the dead, which means death doesn‘t have the last word. And Christ will come again and make all things well.
  • In the meantime, we wait and live in the tension between hard questions about a hard world and the knowledge of the Resurrection.


I warned you about the difficulties of scripture?.


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Phylecia September 5, 2014 - 11:04 am

The Bible isn’t for wimps!

Andrew Forrest September 5, 2014 - 11:27 am

You got that right. But centuries of men and women of all ages, races, and nations would say: totally worth it.

Paul Ditto September 5, 2014 - 11:28 am

What about all the people (Cananites?) that God told the Jews to kill (when they took over the promised land). There have been many circumstances in more recent history when men (and I suppose women) went to war in the name of the Lord, and it seems to me like those men (for the most part) got it wrong. I am not sure, but I don’t think the God I know would have told them that. If men today and recently are getting this message wrong about God telling them to go to war or kill people, is it possible then that men back in the Old Testament time got it wrong also. I know of no other explanation to reconcile what happened back then with the God I think I know. I know this is a difficult subject and very sensitive. I truly hope no one takes offense by it. I just have a hard time understanding all the ramifications of these issues. I mean no disrespect, I am just confused (Lord, help me with my unbelief – Matthew 9:24)

Andrew Forrest September 5, 2014 - 11:35 am

Paul, that’s not fair–we’re not that far yet!

Agreed–raises difficult questions. If I knew the answer, I’d write a best-selling book and bankroll Vision Africa.

Micki September 5, 2014 - 11:38 pm

We believe God is just and merciful, pure yet full of grace he is righteous yet forgiving. He created us in his image. I wonder if killing or destroying (the children of Pharoah’s time, drowning the people outside Noah’s arc, or instructing the Israelites to destroy the enemy completely) feels like he is destroying a part of Himself. His own Son, he allowed to be put to death in a horrible way.
Suffering… there is something about suffering. I believe God does not waste one ounce of suffering. If we are redeemed by Jesus’s death, then something about the killing, destruction and death God allows is also a part of that redemption, perhaps?

Andrew Forrest September 6, 2014 - 9:26 am

Micki, I think you are on to something here. If God himself suffers, and if that suffering is redeemed in the Resurrection, then somehow all other suffering must be redeemed. And, I think you are right: maybe the cries of Pharaoh and the Egyptians for their firstborn is just a small part of the cries of Christ on the cross. These are deep waters, but I think we are heading in the right direction to connect the two.

Canitha September 13, 2014 - 8:50 pm

This is a very good commentary. I think it is interesting that Jesus says we can die for our brothers (and sisters) but He does not say we can kill for them. I think of Paul and how he was complicit in murder an torture until he met the risen Savior. After that he never spoke of killing people again. I also believe that sometimes we kill to save others. I think the key is to kill with compassion (which sounds like a misnomer) but, in reality, is not. Rabid dogs are shot in order to protect others. There are people who relish in killing and then there are people like Atticus Finch who killed the dog but took no pleasure in the duty. I think when we become eager to kill and proud of it, that is when the line is crossed. In the old days they used to say (before you were hanged) “May God have mercy on your soul.” Perhaps that should be our prayer when we must carry out sworn duties. I love your blog.

Andrew Forrest September 14, 2014 - 6:06 pm


I really like the Atticus Finch reference. I always remember that scene from the book.



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