There are numerous examples throughout Exodus that portray God in an unfavorable light. Such as God’s unjust encounters with the Egyptian people, the Pharaoh, and Moses. While many worshippers around the world read the Bible every day, many seem to hold their tongues when it comes to the unfavorable perspective of God seen throughout Exodus. Our omnipotent God is typically seen as a just and peaceful Lord, but as illustrated in Exodus, this is not always the case.
The image that the reader has of God after reading Exodus is a God that is unjust and spiteful. His last plague against the Egyptians is particularly troubling: “Thus says the LORD: About midnight I will go out through Egypt. Every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne to the firstborn of the female slave who is behind the hand mill” (Exodus 11: 4-5). However, the brutality of the slaughter of the firstborns in Egypt is often overlooked. It is easy to look at this situation and feel shock or even anger. When putting it into perspective, God’s actions onto the Egyptian first borns is utterly appalling. He kills tens, even hundreds of thousands, of innocent people to prove a point to a pharaoh he gave no chance to. This can be seen as nothing other than an act of genocide against an innocent people. Executed by a God portrayed in many parts of the Bible as forgiving and loving. In order to gain proper perspective many times the use of an analogy helps. However, in this case it is almost impossible because we consider the people who murder innocent people monsters. As a society, when the word genocide is spoken it is chilling, and most people's immediate reaction is to think of some of the darkest times in history. Inhumane, atrocious murderers brought about these terrible parts of our history. These realizations are what make what is seen in Exodus more troubling. To equate our God with that of a murderer is a hard image to bear but that is exactly what He is within this passage.
Throughout Exodus it is evident that God’s actions were unjust and he acted in a way that the reader rarely encounters in the Bible. The God that the reader sees in Exodus brings up numerous counterpoints to the belief that God’s actions are always just. However, it is evident that God only had one intention, to harden the heart of the Pharaoh. This passage clearly explains His intent, “And the LORD said to Moses… ‘perform before Pharaoh all the wonders that I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go’” (Exodus 4: 21-23). This passage is clear evidence that shows God’s unjust intent when sending Moses into Egypt. There was never any possibility for peace or for even justice, only for revenge and death. It also dispels the notion that God tried to persuade the Pharaoh with his other disasters; God always knew that he would inevitably harden the Pharaoh’s heart. This is a key point when determining God’s role in Exodus because it takes out the illusion of the Pharaoh’s free will. If the Pharaoh had an opportunity to change and chose to keep the chosen people enslaved, then God’s actions would be portrayed differently, but that was not the case. God always knew that He would harden the Pharaoh’s heart, which then raises the question what was the need for the other plagues. Why did God need to change water to blood, send frogs and insects, diseases and darkness? If his intent from the beginning was to harden the heart, then he tortured the Egyptian people for no other reason other than he thought they deserved it. This is clearly an unjust God that would not hold up to the Christian standards of today. God appears to be unjust in numerous passages throughout Exodus. He murders children and, in the Pharaohs’ case, God unfairly punishes the enslaver of his people. One might still argue that God had the right to punish the Pharaoh and the Egyptian people. Maybe He did, but surely God's people, the Hebrews, and Moses, the muse who was the link between God's divine words and the Hebrew people, would be exempt from harm. Unfortunately, this was not the case. God attacked his prophet Moses as he slept, “On the way, at a place where they spent the night, the LORD met him and tried to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin, and touched Moses’ feet with it, and said, ‘Truly you are a bridegroom of blood to me!’ So he let him alone. It was then she said, ‘A bridegroom of blood by circumcision’” (Exodus 4:24-26). God was going to kill Moses, the man he had formed an important covenant with, because his son was not circumcised. As if God hadn’t filled his bloodthirsty urges from slaughtering the countless firstborns of Egypt, he now decides that He must kill Moses. By taking Moses out of the picture, God would not have only broken a vital link between himself and the Hebrew people, he would have deprived the Hebrew people of the man capable of fulfilling their covenant with God. Consequently, if the Hebrew people had not been freed from slavery, the mass killing and hardening of the Pharaohs heart would be rendered pointless.
Through these passages found in Exodus, it is clear that God’s intentions and actions are not always just. Would a just God endanger the life of his prophet Moses, the single most important link between him and the Hebrew people? Would a just God harden the Pharaoh’s heart, while knowing what the outcome would be? Would a just God murder countless firstborns to make a point? Through these actions, a sensible reader must respond with one rational answer: No. This is not the all-powerful, all-knowing God people worship, but instead a God that performs the actions of a tyrant. Though He created the world we live in today, God causes death, destruction, and punishment in many of the stories within the Bible. This is not the just God whose loving image has been preserved for years, this is a merciless God whose cruelty and anger are evident within Exodus.