The story of the Exodus is a tremendous story: a wonderful story of liberty, freedom, and an end to slavery for an entire people. It is a story of triumph—and it is also a story of great tragedy. Yes, it involves the birth of a great nation, but it also involves the destruction of a great nation and of one of the world’s most powerful rulers.
And because the Bible is such a big story, people often see only part of it at one time and fail to realize the implications of what they read. Some people see only the joy of freedom for the Israelites. Others see the destruction of the Egyptian economy and society and the killing of the firstborn children of all the Egyptian families. It was one of the greatest crises in all of history—and not necessarily the best understood.
I knew a fellow once who just couldn’t accept the Passover story.
How can we celebrate the death of Egypt’s firstborn children?, he wondered. But the part of the story that is not so often told is the brutal subjugation of the Israelites by the Egyptians (all of the Egyptians were involved) and the killing of a whole generation of Israelite babies by the Egyptians—all of the Egyptians. If you think of God as just, how could God not take some form of justice on the Egyptians for their cruelty? We begin the story of this fateful night in Exodus, chapter 12.