After nine terrible plagues in Egypt were over devastating, destroying, and killing, Jehovah announced the last one to Moses: “For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am Jehovah” (Ex. 12:12). The fury of Jehovah was such, that innocent animals like oxen, sheep, dogs, horses, camels, etc., did not escape. There is a question to be asked: Why did Jehovah consider himself glorified in killing the first-born of Egypt? Why did Jehovah exult with joy at this deadly plague? Let us analyze the story’s beginning. After the death of Joseph and of the Pharaoh that favored him, another Pharaoh rose in the land, which was wicked. As the sons of Israel multiplied and Pharaoh gave orders to the people to kill all male children throwing them into the river (Ex. 1:7-9,22), Moses was the only child to escape the slaughter, and ended up being the prince of Egypt by the miraculous intervention of Jehovah. This vengeful god thought up a plan of vengeance against the Egyptians. According to the law of Jehovah, the rule was an eye for an eye, and a life for a life. The first nine plagues were but a preparation. When Moses produced the terrible and infernal plagues, the heart of Pharaoh softened many times. Jehovah, though, hardened his heart every time. Even if Pharaoh wanted to change, Jehovah did not let him, until his plan was fulfilled. There were moments of humbling, of confession of sins: “Then Pharaoh hurriedly called for Moses and Aaron, and he said, ‘I have sinned against Jehovah your God and against you. Now therefore, please forgive my sin only this once, and make supplication to Jehovah your God, that He would only remove this death from me.’ And he went out from Pharaoh and made supplication to Jehovah. So Jehovah shifted the wind to a very strong west wind which took up the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea; not one locust was left in all the territory of Egypt. BUT JEHOVAH HARDENED PHARAOH’S HEART, AND HE DID NOT LET THE SONS OF ISRAEL GO” (Ex. 10:16-20).
The revenger is cruel and does not accept repentance, for the hunger for vengeance is blind. The judgment of God is impersonal, the vengeance of Jehovah, though, is personal. It is the hurt pride that multiplies evil. It is the exaggerated love of the ego, which gives birth to the need for vengeance, vengeance that does not aim at all at the punishment of the offenders, but wants to affront them, making them suffer unbearable anguish. In killing the first-born of Egypt, Jehovah wished to cause suffering and torment to the parents, because they had killed the first-born of Jehovah. “Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says Jehovah, “Israel is My son, My first-born.” So I said to you, “Let My son go, that he may serve Me”; but you have refused to let him go. BEHOLD, I WILL KILL YOUR SON, YOUR FIRST-BORN”’” (Ex. 4:22,23). Vengeance ended with the tenth plague, and there was a great cry in all the land of Egypt, because there was not one house where there was not a dead person (Ex. 12:30). Thousands of innocent little children were victims of the vengeance of a furious god. “A JEALOUS AND AVENGING GOD IS JEHOVAH; JEHOVAH IS AVENGING AND WRATHFUL. JEHOVAH TAKES VENGEANCE ON HIS ADVERSARIES, AND HE RESERVES WRATH FOR HIS ENEMIES” (Nah. 1:2). Did Jehovah kill the children because they were enemies? Thousands of innocent little children for whom Jesus died on the cross! Pharaoh killed the children, but Pharaoh was man. A god who is busy with increasing evil, and not in completely banishing it, sins against his own divinity.
Pharaoh, wounded and full of fury, in order to avenge the death of the first-born, gathers his armies and goes after the people of Israel to destroy them. There, in the plain view of the Red Sea, Jehovah fulfils his plan delineated from the beginning, killing Pharaoh and his horsemen (Ex. 15:1-10). Then Jehovah sang a song of victory. “AND AS FOR ME, BEHOLD, I WILL HARDEN THE HEARTS OF THE EGYPTIANS SO THAT THEY WILL GO IN AFTER THEM; AND I WILL BE HONORED THROUGH PHARAOH AND ALL HIS ARMY, THROUGH HIS CHARIOTS AND HIS HORSEMEN” (Ex. 14:17).
The vengeful and unjust character of Jehovah is a constant note in the history of the Bible. In place of Rehoboam, son of Solomon, Jeroboam, son of Nebat, reigned. This king made two golden calves and placed them in Bethel and in Dan to prevent the people from going up to Jerusalem to worship there. He then said to the people: “…behold your gods, O Israel”. He also made priests to minister there. This sin kindled the fury of Jehovah, who destroyed every one of his descendents as revenge. When Jehovah takes revenge, the just ones pay for the sinners (1 Kings 12:26-31; 15:27-29).
As unbelievable as it may seem, Baasha, after destroying Jeroboam’s house, incurred in the same sins and got into the displeasure of Jehovah, who avenged his sin by destroying all his descendants (1 Kings 15:33-34; 16:9-13).
Ahab was a cruel, idolater, perverse king. Jezebel, his wife, incited him to practice evil. Elijah appears before the wicked king and tells him the future. “Behold, I will bring evil upon you, and will utterly sweep you away, and will cut off from Ahab every male, both bond and free in Israel; and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat” (1 Kings 21:21-22). The fulfillment of this vengeance is registered in 2 Kings 10:1-7. Ahab had seventy sons. They were unjustly killed. Vengeance blinds justice and cancels mercy.
Saul disobeyed Jehovah when he did not kill Agag, the king of the Amalekites (1 Sam. 15:1-9). In retaliation, Jehovah killed Saul and three of his sons, according the prophecy of a sorcerer (1 Sam. 28:18,19; 31:1,2). But, as vengeance never satisfies the one who hates, after thirty years from the death of Saul, Jehovah still felt the desire to avenge himself. David was the king at that time, and he was already old. There was a famine in the land for three consecutive years. David, concerned, asked Jehovah the reason for it. He answered: It is because of Saul and his bloody family, which have killed the Gibeonites. David, trying to be fair, called the Gibeonites to know about the story. They told him their sufferings in the hands of the dead Saul, and made him a request: Give us seven sons of Saul that we may hang them unto Jehovah, and we will be avenged of Saul. King David sent for seven sons of the deceased Saul and handed them to the Gibeonites. They hung them in Gibeah of Saul. At the end of this section we are horrified to read: “AND AFTER THAT JEHOVAH WAS MOVED BY ENTREATY FOR THE LAND” (2 Sam. 21:1-14).
Coming to the end of this sad chapter of the history of Jehovah god, we remember that he blinded his people, deafened them, and gave them a heart of stone, so that they would not be faithful (Is. 6:10). To protect himself and make sure he could condemn the people, he poured a spirit of slumber on the prophets, so that they could not guide the people (Is. 29:11). The people, hardened, degenerated. Jehovah, then, executed the inexorable vengeance of the Covenant (Lev. 26:14-25).
By Pastor Olavo Silveira Pereira