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In Hebrews 11:28, it says By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the firstborn would not touch them.

Who is "he who destroyed the firstborn"? Is this God himself, or is this a reference to a destroying angel? Is there anything in the Greek that would help understand who is being referred to? Or maybe, does the original account of Passover tell us who this being is?

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OP writes:

Or maybe, does the original account of Passover tell us who this being is?

Exodus 11:4-5; 12:12-13, 23, 29 is quite unambiguous: it is the LORD who takes life.

29 At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. (Ex 12:29, NIV)

All the same, the language of Hebrews 11:28 seems to reflect the phrasing of Exodus 12:13 and 23, in that when the LORD sees the blood on the doorways of the Israelites,

23 and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.

There is an analogy to the figure of the mašḥît ("destroyer") in 2 Samuel 24:16, where the plague sent by the LORD in response to David's census is (apparently) carried out by a "destroying angel" (lit. "angel who was destroying"). Exodus 11-12 differs from 2 Samuel, though, in that there is no explicit mention of an "angel".

With the insistent language of Exodus, however, whether the agent is an emissary of some kind, it remains clear that the responsiblity remains with the LORD.

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I disagree with the other answer.

Some people think that God is the destroyer, because in Exodus 12:29 it says that God "struck down" the first born of Egypt. In Exodus 12:23 it says that the "destroyer" will "enter your houses to strike you down". Thus the two are the same; God = destroyer; simple enough right? The problem is that Jesus says that He is "the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25) and in Christ is no darkness at all (John 1:5). Christ gave His life to "destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil." (Hebrews 2:14). And this is the same Christ who we consider to be the destroyer that goes from house to house killing babies?

The Bible clearly states that it is the destroyer who killed the firstborn. The destroyer is a reference to Satan:

And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon. [Appolyon means "destroyer] - Revelation 9:11

Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. (1 Corinthians 10:9-10)

The word destroyer here in Greek, according to the Strong's, is "venomous serpent." God always takes responsibility for everything because He is all-powerful, but He allowed it to happen, warning Pharoah over and over that if He didn't listen, calamity would befall his nation. Read Exodus 12:23 carefully again:

For the LORD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.

If you put the lamb's blood on the door, God is able to protect you from Satan. It is not that God is protecting us from Himself. If you don't listen to God's command of how to receive His protection, then that means you don't want His protection. If your heart is fully hardened that you don't want anything to do with God, and He respects your freewill and therefore He tells your guardian angel to stand down.

The responsibility remains on us to decide. This is similar to the question of whether God hardened Pharaoh's heart, or did Pharaoh harden his own heart? God offered mercy and grace, which rejected, caused hardening. Thus both statements are true.

We see a clear example of how Hebrew says that God directly does something when it means, in our English linguistic understanding, that He permitted it to happen.

A relevant example is if we said smoking cigarettes killed the man and cancer killed the man. It doesn't mean that smoking = cancer; they are two separate things. But smoking killed him by giving him cancer. We can even extend this and say that the man killed himself, but it doesn't mean that the man = smoking. God killed the man by allowing Satan to have control over the nation; and Satan delights to kill and destroy, especially if He can blame God for it. But this type of linguistic usage is different to how we normally understand language.

Here is another example in the Bible:

“So you see, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all your prophets. For the Lord has pronounced your doom.” (1 Kings 22:23 NLT)

Regarding this verse, did God directly order a fallen angel to go to the false prophets and deceive King Saul? No, this is to be understood as God permitting it because of Saul's own actions driving good angels away. Famous Biblical commentator Adam Clarke says this about this verse:

1 Kings 22:23 [The Lord has put a lying spirit] He Has permitted or suffered a lying spirit to influence thy prophets. Is it requisite again to remind the reader the Scriptures repeatedly represent God as doing what, in the course of his providence, he only permits or suffers to be done? [note: God said, "I will not suffer the destroyer to come in your homes to kill you."] Nothing can be done in heaven, in earth, or hell, but either by his immediate energy or permission. This is the reason why the Scripture speaks above.

Remember that God has a controversy with Satan. When men obey Satan, Satan demands them to be His subjects as they have chosen Satan. Satan accuses God of forcing His presence upon humans who don't want God's guidance, spirit, or grace. God, knowing the hearts of men and respecting their free will, will permit them to follow their own inclinations and be harassed by Satan, while always calling out to them pleading tones of mercy - "I will help you, if you call upon Me, please call upon Me," God says. But all too often God's overtures are refused, and God allows man to reap what he has sown (Galatians 6:9).

Lastly, regarding the numbering of Israel that God seemingly ordered and then punished in 1 Samuel 24:1, we get a different view in 1 Chronicles 21:1

And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.

Satan provoked David. Satan is the one who slaughtered the 70,000 men. He was permitted to. But that is another story. If you would like more info on this, please go to: www.fatheroflove.info where we prove through scripture that our Father in Heaven is non-violent. Hallelujah

If you are not a reader, you can watch the Agape YouTube series on this subject.

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  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics! Please note that we have some rules for linking to your own website; in particular, you should link to specific pages which directly support answering the question. – Glorfindel Sep 8 '20 at 6:09
  • What about this verse: "I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord , do all these things." Isaiah 45:7 – A Child of God Sep 30 '20 at 23:28

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