Before we say we can't fully understand God's justice, we could say that sometimes we might not grasp it at all.
If we have been reading so far, we have been prepared for these judgments(Gen 15:14; Ex 3:8,19,20). But when we read about these "ten plagues" as they actually come upon Pharaoh's kingdom (7:20; 8:6; 8:17; 8:24; 9:6; 9:10; 9:23; 10:14; 10:22; 12:29) aren't we these days overwhelmed with a sense of overkill, that somehow God surely ran up the score?
How is it then that Gen 19:23-25 is often more easily acceptable? Is it not because of our sense of distributive justice, which is affirmed in Gen 18:32? Hundreds of years before, God had told Abraham what he was about to do in that case, and from that, and with further clarification to Abram, his sense of justice (Gen 18:23-25) was satisfied.
Therefore just as Abraham was told beforehand, these judgments were announcements beforehand as well, but in this case, not only to the children of the covenant, but to Pharaoh himself, even regarding the worst and final one (Ex 4:23).
Not only is this judgment pre-announced, but as with the destruction of Sodom, the justice of it -- its strict "deservedness," if that is a word -- is known to God thoroughly, beforehand. "I will know," God says, then finds out, about the deservedness of one. "I know," He says about the deservedness of the other (Gen 18:21; Ex 3:19). Not only does God know, but we know, that He knows what the recipients deserve. Not only does God know, but Pharaoh knows, that God knows what he and his servants deserve (9:30).
Yet, upon Egypt there is a judgment, not a destruction. Destruction doesn't have as goal, to teach anything further in this life, to those destroyed, but this judgment is full of lessons for Pharaoh and Egypt, those judged (Ex 3:20-22; 7:1,5,12,17; 8:10,19; 9:14-16,19,29,30).
It's not unreasonable to expect that we ourselves are the ones needing (re-)teaching regarding God's fairness and the deservedness of His justice, if we were not taught by Genesis. Assuming, therefore, that we are convinced that God is just, are we then still tripped up by the descriptions of the plagues, because of their -- showiness? Perhaps.
There is a deliberate depiction of God's versus Egypt's power. This goes against our sense of fair play, but should it? We "know," from the perspective of God teaching us in the year 2011, that God is powerful. Do we think it should be a given, and that signs and wonders are overkill? In answer to that, we should recall, what did the Israelites have? They had what Genesis teaches, but Genesis did not depict Abraham's seed as fully in bondage at any time. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob worked miraculously, but had not displayed the power of redeeming a whole nation from bondage. The descendants of Jacob went to Egypt seventy in number. God is shown here to fully teach the Egyptians and ourselves, that His power is in the service of both justice, and redemption.
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