Why Did God Kill the Firstborn in Egypt to End the Plagues?

Though this may seem like a cut-and-dry question that can be answered with a few cuts and pastes of articles through the years; there is more to this question that really meets the eye. This question is pretty multifaceted and needed to correct some misconceptions about God and His place in the grand scheme of things. 


For starters, God doesn’t murder anyone. For even the sixth commandment says, “You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13 NKJV) Some translations say to kill. According to Websters 1828 dictionary, murder means:

“The act of unlawfully killing a human being with premeditated malice, by a person of sound mind. To constitute murder in law, the person killing another must be of sound mind or in possession of his reason, and the act must be done with malice prepense, aforethought or premeditated; but malice may be implied, as well as express.” 

Of malice, this dictionary also says: 

“Extreme enmity of heart, or malevolence; a disposition to injure others without cause, from mere personal gratification or from a spirit of revenge; unprovoked malignity or spite.”

Though God does kill, he doesn’t murder. When God doesn kill someone, He does it because He is executing judgment upon those being killed. God shows no malice towards those judged, or have any gratification, spirit of revenge or spite. This would be the same as if soldiers in war kill soldiers of opposing armies. They don’t murder them, because soldiers don’t get personal gratification from it, nor is it unprovoked. 

God does not delight in the death of the wicked, but that they repent: 

“Say to them: ‘[As] I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’ (Ezekiel 33:11 NKJV)

The question, “Does God killing people make Him a murderer?” has already been answered, and would be worth reviewing. 


It is true: God hates the death of the innocent; there is no greater innocent human being than those inside the wombs of mothers. 

“These six [things] the LORD hates, Yes, seven [are] an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness [who] speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.” (Proverbs 6:16-19 NKJV)

There is no way of knowing how many Israelites were killed during their enslavement to Egypt. It’s possible that it could be quite a lot. With that said, it is possible that God was enacting judgement for that. 


God gave everyone a chance to repent of their sin when God struck Egypt with ten plagues in the Book of Exodus. The first three plagues including the death of the firstborn, Israel was not exempt from. But why did God strike them with specific plagues? The plagues were direct judgment for the specific gods the Egyptians worshipped. The Got Questions Answer, “What was the meaning and purpose of the ten plagues of Egypt” can answer this. 

So what can we deduct from these plagues? First, God did reveal His glory and judged the people according to their sin nine times previous to killing the firstborn. Nine…times. Trust me, after the first plague I would have repented and did whatever God required. Because it wasn’t just the Nile River that turned to blood, but all rivers, ponds, pools; buckets of water and pitchers of stone (Exodus 7:19). Seven days passed before Moses went to Pharaoh again. We don’t know the time between each individual plague, but I would imagine that they had plenty of time to think about their sin, and time to repent. But this went on even before the plagues; for Pharaoh hardened his heart. 

God commanded Pharaoh to release the Israelites even prior to the plagues when Aaron’s staff turned into a serpent and swallowed up the sorcerer’s serpents as well (Exodus 7:8-13). 

I would contend that God gave Pharaoh grace upon grace upon grace. Read and list all the things Israel suffered from Exodus 1:1 till the end of chapter 14 with the crossing of the Red Sea. The Pharaohs (all Pharaoh’s in question, buecase the slavery and mass murder lasted 400 years) were brutal dictator; even commanded, along with the king of Egypt, that all Israelite males should be killed by throwing them in the river (Exodus 1:15-18, 22).  God gave grace to Egypt because He could have killed every male of Egypt, or even all the children of Egypt. But no, He had all the firstborn males killed. Clearly a percentage of the lives Pharaoh took. The Israelites were a special treasure to the LORD, and that the entire earth was His (Exodus 19:5-6). 


Since the entire earth is God’s, and He created all things, including humans. He is the potter, and we are the clay. He can do with us whatever He wills: 

Surely you have things turned around! Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay; For shall the thing made say of him who made it, “He did not make me”? Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”? (Isaiah 29:16 NKJV)

“I have raised up one from the north, And he shall come; From the rising of the sun he shall call on My name; And he shall come against princes as [though] mortar, As the potter treads clay. (Isaiah 41:25 NKJV)

But now, O LORD, You [are] our Father; We [are] the clay, and You our potter; And all we [are] the work of Your hand. (Isaiah 64:8 NKJV)

The precious sons of Zion, Valuable as fine gold, How they are regarded as clay pots, The work of the hands of the potter! (Lamentations 4:2 NKJV)

Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? (Romans 9:21 NKJV)

In Job chapters 38 through 41, God describes just how awesome He is, and how He controls everything in the universe. In chapter 42, Job stops questioning God and just accepts how low of a being he himself is compared to the Creator of all. 

Romans chapter 9 in my estimation is one of the most terrifying and yet, merciful books of the entire bible. Why? Because God didn’t have to save anyone, and He would be no less righteous. But, to make His power known, God endured much longsuffering with the vessels of wrath so that mercy could be magnified towards the believing Jews and Gentiles (Romans 9:22-23). 

“What shall we say then? [Is there] unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” So then [it is] not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.” (Romans 9:14-18 NKJV)

We see God’s mercy in Jeremiah, when God declares judgement on Israel, but even at their worst still reaches His hand out in mercy and says that He would relent disaster upon them if they turn from evil and their wicked ways. 

“Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the LORD. “Look, as the clay [is] in the potter’s hand, so [are] you in My hand, O house of Israel! “The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy [it], “if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it.” (Jeremiah 18:5-8 NKJV)

Please read and watch the Got Questions article and video, “Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?” 

Even today, God relents His wrath against those who repent and put their trust and faith in Jesus Christ. Everyone has sinned against God and lived in rebellion to Him (Romans 3:23). We know this because when we look at ourselves in the reflection of the ten commandments (Exodus 20), we see that we have lied, stolen, looked with lust (adultery), blasphemed His name, not made God #1 in our lives, and so on. For sins against the Highest being deserves the highest penalty, therefore we are deserving of eternal death in hell (Romans 6:23a). But God showed us mercy in that while we were still sinning, Christ died for us and gave us the gift of life (Romans 5:8; 6:23b). Salvation is a free gift that we cannot work for or earn (Ephesians 2:8-9), but it is His grace towards us. That all we do is receive Christ as Lord and Savior, the full payment of our sin with His blood so that we can be children of God, who believe in Jesus Christ death, burial, resurrection, and finished work on the cross (John 1:12; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8). 

I hope this answers your question. It is a question that honestly can take a long time to answer. But if you still have questions, we are always here. 

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