“And Moses said, Thus saith the LORD, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts.” Exodus 11:4-5 (Listen my audio on this text here)
Too often we generalize Scripture or read western ideas into it. The word firstborn has suffered greatly from modern expositions, and its great truth has been hidden behind tradition. The common interpretation of the above passage, emanating from both the silver screen and the pulpit, is that God killed a bunch of innocent children the night of the Passover. I remember as a kid watching a movie about Moses where the Pharaoh is holding his dead little boy in his lap. Nothing can be further from the truth. The judge of all the earth has, and always will do right.
The term firstborn applies to adult males who occupy positions of authority – either in the family or the government. My wife and I were watching a show called Designated Survivor. On the night of the State of the Union, the Capitol Building was destroyed and all three branches of government with it. Keifer Sutherland, who played a member of the President’s Cabinet, was suddenly President – he was the designated survivor. Now imagine if every Federal, State, County, City, and Township official were wiped out on a single night. That’s what happened in Egypt the night of the Passover – only Pharaoh was spared.
The Firstborn of people were the leaders – from Pharaoh’s cabinet down to the nomarchs and other nome officials. The Firstborn of beasts were the best of the stock – we might call them the breeding stock. Imagine the shock in Egypt that night.
No babies were harmed in the original epic – only Hollywood revisionist histories and the orthodox hell-fire monster kills innocent babies.