Pharaoh's Heart Was Hardened

Pharaoh's Heart Was Hardened

In telling the story of the Exodus, it is stated some 18 times that Pharaoh's heart was hardened.  As God confronts Pharaoh with these many displays of power, we are told three things:

  • Pharaoh’s heart was hardened: 7:13; 7:22; 8:19; 8:32; 9:7; 9:35
  • God hardened Pharaoh’s heart: 4:21; 7:23; 9:12; 10:1; 10:20; 10:27; 11:10; 14:4; 14:8
  • Pharaoh hardened his own heart: 8:15; 8:32; 9:34

His heart was indeed stubborn (7:14). He began this contest with God having a stubborn heart, and it became more so each step of the way until he finally was broken. As God displayed these signs before him, he had to respond to each one. If he had let Israel go when first asked, there would have been no display of God’s power, might, and majesty. 

HOW such hardening came about is not stated directly. Was it in fact a ‘direct operation of God’? If so, why was it repeated? If such hardness was decreed from before the foundation of the earth, why the interaction of God at this point in time? Such concept of a ‘direct action upon the heart’ is not in the text but comes from one’s presupposition concerning God, man, and responsibility. 

To argue that the phrase ‘Pharaoh hardened his heart’ somehow proves that God had nothing to do with it would be absurd, for the text says that God hardened his heart. To argue that God having hardened his heart somehow proves that Pharaoh had nothing to do with this is just as absurd, for the text also says that Pharaoh hardened his heart. It is not an ‘either-or’ proposition. God was active in this hardening, but Pharaoh was also active. 

Greater than this is the fact the God displayed his great might and power. Each time Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, God displayed another and greater sign. By this series of plagues:

  • God could show His signs among them (9:34)
  • Egypt would know that God is the LORD (7:5, 17; 8:10, 22; 14:4, 18).
  • Egypt would know that there is none like God in all the earth (8:10; 9:14)
  • Israel would know that God is the LORD (10:2
  • Israel could instruct their offspring that God is LORD (10:2, 13:8, 14).

Any and all demands from God will either soften or harden the hearts of men. Some are pricked in their hearts and seek salvation (Acts 2:37), others are pricked in their hearts and lash out at God and His message (Acts 5:33; 7:54). 

We are repeatedly warned:

8 Do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, As in the day of trial in the wilderness," (Hebrews 3:8).

13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." (Hebrews 3:13).

15 while it is said, “Today if you hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me.”" (Hebrews 3:15).

7 He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, “Today if you hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.”" (Hebrews 4:7).

The real question, how does the word of God affect you? How have you responded in your heart?  

Hugh DeLong