"Why did God kill all of Egypt's firstborn?"

Exodus 12:29-30 At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. 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 someone was not dead.

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This is a particularly difficult passage to stomach. The bible tells us that the ultimate punishment Egypt will face for their enslavement of the Israelites is the death of every first-born child in Egypt. The only way for Pharaoh to prevent this is to release the Israelites from bondage. However, God has made it clear that he already knows what Pharaoh will choose to do, as God himself has "hardened Pharaoh's heart". It would appear that there was never any choice to be made. The pain and suffering inflicted upon Egypt would seem to serve no purpose, as Pharaoh couldn't have made another choice even if he wanted to. Is this fair? Untold numbers of children were killed by God, for a crime they did not commit, and the only person that could have prevented their deaths (Pharaoh) was stopped from doing so by God himself. Is this a just punishment?  

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Referenced Verses:
Exodus 12:29, Exodus 12:30