There have been some Bible passages which have forever changed my perception of the nature of God. These type of passages have greatly disturbed and saddened me; thus providing me with the impetus to promote Biblical literacy so that Christians will know the true God which they are worshiping. This study involves one such passage.
God (in burning bush form) has finished convincing the reluctant Moses to travel back to Egypt to confront Pharaoh, which will ultimately lead to the liberation of the Israelites from their slavery. Moses, with his family and belongings, has just left his father-in-law's estate.
God: The Beast
When a cat corners a mouse, the cat will make a sport of killing the mouse slowly. The cat will let the mouse run away a little, only to provide the opportunity to pounce on it. The routine is played out again and again, with each progressive step leaving the mouse suffering in more pain from the accumulated injuries until the mouse goes into shock or dies outright. This merciless brutality is the epitome of what beast-like behavior is.
Some men have exhibited the same type of behavior. They've taken advantage of their strength, or position, or authority to toy with their prey, in whatever form their prey happens to be; a prisoner, a coworker, a subject. While it seems to be a natural behavior, it is considered immoral for its lack of justice and mercy and its beast-like quality. But what if these men are just following God's example? We see in Exodus 4:21-23:
The LORD said to Moses, "When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. Then say to Pharaoh, 'This is what the LORD says: Israel is My firstborn son, 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.' " NIVUnpacking this: God is going to perform miraculous signs (through Moses) to convince Pharaoh that God is real, and that He wants the Israelites to go worship Him. However, God is going to alter Pharaoh's free will, by (metaphorically) hardening his heart, so that Pharaoh will not let the Israelites go. Then, God will punish Pharaoh for not letting the Israelites go by killing an innocent bystander, Pharaoh's firstborn son.
This is an appalling revelation of God's Heart. We find that God is not interested in converting the Egyptians from their pagan worship practices. We find that God is not interested in saving Pharaoh from his sinful status to be brought into the Kingdom of Heaven eternally. We find that God is not interested in allowing Pharaoh to side with God through his own free will. We find that God is only interested in flaunting His supreme power and in punishing a man by killing his innocent child.
This made me incredibly disturbed upon first reading. But the fate that would await the Egyptian nation in the hands of a merciless God would end up being vastly more horrific than the thought of the misdirected slaughter of one innocent boy.
I've heard it explained that this was God's justice from the Pharaoh's decree recorded back in Exodus 1:22: “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."” If so, this justice is ill-targeted and untimely. The Pharaoh that gave this command was already dead, as we learn from Exodus 2:23 and 4:19. God would have been enacting this punishment about 80 years after the sin was committed, as we learn by Moses's age in Exodus 7:7. And so, this is far off from being justice.
As the story of the Exodus continues, we will see how God plays with Pharaoh, and the entire Egyptian nation, like a cat plays with a mouse. Wave after wave of debilitating miraculous signs will incrementally wound and pain the Egyptians until the nation lies devastated and Pharaoh is dead. This is God in His most repugnantly beast-like form.