Avraham Avinu says in Bereishit 18:25:

חָלִ֨לָה לְּךָ֜ מֵעֲשֹׂ֣ת ׀ כַּדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֗ה לְהָמִ֤ית צַדִּיק֙ עִם־רָשָׁ֔ע וְהָיָ֥ה כַצַּדִּ֖יק כָּרָשָׁ֑ע חָלִ֣לָה לָּ֔ךְ הֲשֹׁפֵט֙ כָּל־הָאָ֔רֶץ לֹ֥א יַעֲשֶׂ֖ה מִשְׁפָּֽט׃

That be far from Thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked, that so the righteous should be as the wicked; that be far from Thee; shall not the judge of all the earth do justly?’

However, with regards to Makkat Bechorot we are taught (Shmot 12:29-30):

וַיְהִ֣י ׀ בַּחֲצִ֣י הַלַּ֗יְלָה וַֽיהוָה֮ הִכָּ֣ה כָל־בְּכוֹר֮ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַיִם֒ מִבְּכֹ֤ר פַּרְעֹה֙ הַיֹּשֵׁ֣ב עַל־כִּסְא֔וֹ עַ֚ד בְּכ֣וֹר הַשְּׁבִ֔י אֲשֶׁ֖ר בְּבֵ֣ית הַבּ֑וֹר וְכֹ֖ל בְּכ֥וֹר בְּהֵמָֽה׃ וַיָּ֨קָם פַּרְעֹ֜ה לַ֗יְלָה ה֤וּא וְכָל־עֲבָדָיו֙ וְכָל־מִצְרַ֔יִם וַתְּהִ֛י צְעָקָ֥ה גְדֹלָ֖ה בְּמִצְרָ֑יִם כִּֽי־אֵ֣ין בַּ֔יִת אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֵֽין־שָׁ֖ם מֵֽת׃

And it came to pass at midnight, that the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the first-born of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the first-born of cattle. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead.

This begs the question: Were all of the Egyptian firstborn evildoers?

And if the answer is yes, a follow-up: What was unique about the firstborn that only they were killed, whereas all the other evildoers lived?

While this question-and-answer deals with part of the issue, it:

a) Does not give definitive proof that no Egyptian firstborn was innocent.

b) Leaves our second question undealt with (albeit asked by DanF); and surely, middah k'neged middah is no excuse for missing the target!

  • 1
    possible dupe judaism.stackexchange.com/q/68636/759
    – Double AA
    Mar 13 '16 at 20:44
  • That actually increases my question-- will edit accordingly.
    – user9907
    Mar 13 '16 at 21:07
  • Care to explain the comment-less downvote, or want to leave me to my devices (including a chainsaw)?
    – user9907
    Mar 14 '16 at 0:43

chabad.org points out that Tehillim 136:10 uses the phrase לְמַכֵּה מִצְרַיִם בִּבְכוֹרֵיהֶם which means that the Egyptians were punished through (or by means of) their bechorim. An analogy could be if Hashem decrees a punishment by a famine, drought, or plague, people will die unless they are tzadikim enough to merit rescue from the "destroyer". In this case as well, once the destroyer was unleashed, it would have required a special miracle (or an extra level of piety - which none of the Egyptian bechorim had) to be spared.

Additionally, the Yalkut Shimoni stateds that a major part of the "makat Bechorot" was that the bechorim, fearing that they would die (as did the cattle during dever), rose up in rebellion against their own parents to force them to send the Bnai Yisrael out.

In Psalms (136:10), Hashem is praised for “lemakeih Mitzraim bivchoreihem” — “striking the Egyptians through their firstborn.” It does not say that Hashem struck the firstborn of Egypt but rather that He struck the Egyptians through their firstborn. This is explained in the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni) as follows:

Upon hearing that they would be victims of the last plague, the “bechorim” — “firstborn” — insisted that Pharaoh and their parents release the Jews immediately. When their pleas were refused, a civil war broke out and the desperate firstborn attacked and killed their parents and fellow Egyptians. Thus, the tenth plague dealt a double blow to Egypt, killing both firstborn and non-firstborn.

In the Haggadah, the ten plagues are listed as “dam, tzefardei’a...makat bechorot” — “Blood, frogs...plague of the firstborn.” The word “makat” is not mentioned for any of the plagues except for “bechorot” — why?

It can be explained that Rabbi Yehudah argues with the author of the Haggadah as to what was the major part of the double-blow plague. According to the author of the Haggadah, the main part was “makat” — the smiting of the Egyptians by their own angry and violent “bechorim” — firstborn.

Rabbi Yehudah’s third acronym is "באח"ב". The final "ב" stands for “bechorot.” He did not make the acronym ",באח"מ" which would have meant, “Makat bechorot,” because in his opinion the major part of the plague was Hashem’s slaying of the firstborn, and not the smiting of the Egyptians by their own firstborn.

(הגש"פ צוף אמרים בשם יסוד התורה)

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