The Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart


Who Hardened Pharaoh’s Heart?

In summary, the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was attributed to the LORD eleven (11) times and to Pharaoh three (3) times.  The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was stated as a matter of fact without attribution five (5) times.  The following references comprise a complete list of the verses in Exodus which directly mention the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart.

Exodus 4:21
“And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.”

Exodus 7:3
“And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt.”

Exodus 7:13
“And he hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.”

Exodus 7:14
“And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, he refuseth to let the people go.”

Exodus 7:22
“And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, neither did he hearken unto them; as the LORD had said.”

Exodus 8:15
“But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.”

Exodus 8:19
“Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.”

Exodus 8:32
“And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.”

Exodus 9:7
“And Pharaoh sent, and, behold, there was not one of the cattle of the Israelites dead.  And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.”

Exodus 9:12
“And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had spoken unto Moses.”

Exodus 9:34
“And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants.”

Exodus 9:35
“And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the LORD had spoken by Moses.”

Exodus 10:1
“And the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before him:”

Exodus 10:20
“But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go.”

Exodus 10:27
“But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go.”

Exodus 11:10
“And Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh: and the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of his land.”

Exodus 14:4
“And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD. And they did so.”

Exodus 14:8
“And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand.”

Exodus 14:17
“And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.”

 The hardening of the heart is not permanent.  As a result, the experience can occur more than once, as is evident by Pharaoh’s experience.


God Has Hardened the Hearts of Many Others.

Far and above, Pharaoh is the most referenced biblical character whose heart was altered by our Maker; however, Pharaoh is one among numerous biblical figures whose hearts were turned by the Almighty.  The mindful readers will notice, in the above verses, that God hardened the hearts of Pharaoh’s servants (Ex. 10:1) and of the Egyptians (Ex. 14:17).

While traveling from Egypt to the Promised Land, God hardened the heart of the kings who occupied Transjordan (i.e., the land East of the Jordan River).  Why?  The LORD wanted to create war between Israel and Sihon.

Deuteronomy 2:30
“But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him:  for the LORD thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into thy hand, as appeareth this day.”

Apart from the Hivite leaders of Gibeon, the LORD hardened the hearts of all of the regional kings of the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites for the expressed purpose of creating war between Israel and those nations.

Joshua 11:20
“For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favour, but that he might destroy them, as the LORD commanded Moses.”


Why Did God Hardened Pharaoh’s Heart?

Consider Isaiah 63:17: “O LORD, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear?” Or, we may ask, why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart? The New Testament explanation for why God elected to harden Pharaoh’s hearts is found in the Roman letter by the apostle Paul. “For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.  So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.  For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.  Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth” (Ro. 9:15-18).


Forgotten by Christians, But Known by Ancient Pagans.

God’s hardening of the human heart is a historical fact lost amongst most Christians who populate modern churches, but the LORD’s hardening of Pharaoh and the Egyptians was known to the Philistine priests and diviners centuries after the great exodus. The Philistines took the Ark of the Covenant as the spoils of war. In response, God began to strike the Philistine people with plagues, as the Almighty previously did to Egypt. Recognizing the similarities, the Philistine’s pagan priests and diviners asked their leaders questions regarding their obstinance to return the Ark of the Covenant.

1 Samuel 6:6
“Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharoah hardened their hearts? when he had wrought wonderfully among them, did they not let the people go, and they departed?”


How Does God Lead People Astray?

In the New Testament we read:  “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man” (Js. 1:13).  How does God harden a human heart?  How does God make a person stray from His righteous path?  God gave Pharaoh commandments without granting him “repentance to the acknowledging of the truth” (2Ti. 2:25).  The Lord hardens hearts by making “the heart of this people fat” and “their ears heavy” and shuts their eyes (Isa. 6:10).  Jesus cited the words of Isaiah to explain why, “though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him” (Jn. 12:37): God “hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them” (Jn. 12:40). By doing this, the LORD prevents people from understanding and repenting (Isa. 6:10). I recall a preacher from my childhood who once explained that God is like the sun. The blazing sun that hardens the clay is the same sun that softens the butter. Individuals respond differently based upon whether God grants repentance.


God’s Separation from Sin.

Although it may seem as though God has forced someone to commit a sin, we must be clear that God always keeps one step of separation between Himself and the person’s sin.  Our most powerful LORD leads people astray by giving them their hearts desire.  “And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the LORD have deceived that prophet” (Eze. 14:9).  The LORD sets confusion and deception upon the false prophet so that the false prophet will lead the people down a crooked path to their destruction.  YHWH also blinds the rebellious by a “strong delusion, that they should believe a lie” (2Th. 2:11).


Our Focus: Human Responsibility.

The influence of God over the human heart is a critical theological study.  But, please bear in mind that our greater focus should rest upon that responsibility which is attributable to us.  “Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness” (Ps. 95:8; cf., Heb. 3:8, 15; 4:7).  As Job asked, “who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered?” (Job 9:4).  Know assuredly that “he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief” (Pr. 28:14).

Happy Thanksgiving! … Thanks to God, William Bradford, and Others

Happy Thanksgiving!


My Favorite Holiday

There is no holiday that creates in me the same unadulterated joy as Thanksgiving.  Christmas is overwhelmed with materialism and inseparably mixed with God-like Santa Clause and the history of paganism.  Easter is on the correct weekend, but is corrupted with an equal dose of heathen worship.  Thanksgiving, on the other hand, possesses a rich and pure heritage.


The Pilgrims:  Separatists

As Separatists, the Pilgrims wanted the freedom to worship Christ as prescribed in the Bible alone—sola Scriptura.  The Pilgrims rejected the traditions and rule of the Church of England.  Only Christ should rule in His church, and the church should retain the purity found in the Scripture.


102 from Scrooby Voyage Aboard the Mayflower

One hundred and two courageous men, women, and children of the Scrooby congregation voyaged across the treacherous Atlantic aboard the Mayflower in hope of settling a new world that would more perfectly reflect the glory of Christ and permit the advancement of the gospel.  Among them was Elder William Brewster their preacher, after whom is named the islands of Boston Harbor.


William Bradford:  Leader and Historian

William Bradford was another Pilgrim leader.  Bradford is considered the first to call for an official day of thanksgiving and praising God for the fall harvest and His providential care.   He was also the principal architect of the Mayflower Compact and authored Of Plymouth Plantation.  The Mayflower Compact was signed on November 11, 1620, almost exactly 391 years ago today.  It is the grandfather document of our U.S. ConstitutionOf Plymouth Plantation records our best account of the early Pilgrims, their purpose, and their sufferings.  Consider this quote from Of Plymouth Plantation which retains the older English spelling.

“[B]y the travell & diligence of some godly & zealous preachers, & Gods blessing on their labours, . . . many became inlightened by ye word of God, and had their ignorance & sins discovered unto them, and begane by his grace to reforme their lives, . . . the worke of God was no sooner manifest in them, but presently they were both scoffed and scorned by the prophane multitude . . . [of the town of Scrooby, England].  [Years of affliction were endured] . . . till they were occasioned . . . to see further into things by the light of ye word of God. . . .  So many therefore of these proffessors as saw ye evill of these things, in thes parts, and whose harts ye Lord had touched wth heavenly Zeale for his trueth, they shooke of this yoake of antichristian bondage, and as ye Lords free people, joyned them selves . . . in ye felowship of ye gospell, to walke in all his wayes, make known or to be made known unto them, according to their best endeavours, whatsoever it should cost them, the Lord assisting them.”

In Bradford’s notes, he acknowledged that the parents saw their own children being corrupted by the youth of Holland.  Losing their children to the world was an intolerable heartache and shame.  They determined that it would be better to risk the perils of ship-born illnesses, bitter winters, and heathen Indians, than to knowingly watch their precious sons and daughters drift from the church of Jesus Christ.


Bradford’s Tombstone Exhortation

The epitaph on William Bradford’s grave shouts to all Christians of America today:  “What our forefathers with so much difficulty secured, do not basely relinquish.”  What are we willing to suffer in order to retain pure worship, advance the gospel, and save our children?  May we not be small-hearted nor overlook the slow damage of rot.  While some are thankful only for our enabled gluttony, let us be thankful for enlightenment in God’s Word and our conviction to advance His truth, just as the Separatist Pilgrims.


Thankful for Thanksgiving

Our ability to celebrate Thanksgiving is because of the kind providence of God upon the courage of William Bradford and others.  May our thanksgiving mature into emulation.

Birthdays – Annual Reminders


For children, birthdays rival or surpass Christmas as the most important day of the year. Most of my childhood possessions—including socks and school supplies—came on either Christmas or my birthdays. My parent saved—even until today—some of my more popular childhood toys (e.g., the forever-classic Lincoln Logs) for the entertainment of other visiting children. Topping the exuberance, my perennially, health-conscious parents permitted me on this one special day to indulge my delectable cravings for cake and ice-cream. What sweet memories! (Pun intended.) Needless to say, my birthdays never came quickly enough.


Through Adult Eyes

Much has changed. Today is August 20th, my birthday. I desire no gifts. My pleasure is found in the kind words and pronounced blessings of my friends.

Birthdays are also sobering. Birthdays remind me of unreached goals and elusive attainments. Birthdays attune my awareness to the aging process. Time etches creases into my skin, adds grey to my beard, and steals from my scalp.


Annual Reminders

Birthdays are our annual reminder that our time is short. James asked, “For what is your life?” (Jas. 4:14). The Scripture is replete with statements of our brevity (Job 7:6; 9:25; 14:1-2; Ps. 37:35-36; 89:47; 90:5-6; 102:3, 11; 103:15-16; 144:4; Isa. 38:12; 40:6-8; Jas. 1:11). Our life span is comparable to a spinning weaver’s loom, a handbreadth, a passing shadow, a vanishing vapor, and smoke, but none more frequently than withering grass or a fading flower. The apostle Peter quoted Isaiah, “For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you” (1Pe. 1:24-25). No matter how strong, intelligent, wealthy, accomplished, or famous a person may become, “verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity” (Ps. 39:5). All of us fade from our peak of glory into the annals of history, but we are both preceded and succeeded by God’s Word.


Time is Ticking

Make your life count. Live for your Maker! Be a world changer! As seconds slip from the clock, press harder! Let our temporal nature compel urgency. Join Moses’ supplication to God, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Ps. 90:12). Tangible treasures cannot be taken in death, but our lives are immensely important. Today’s actions procure rewards and punishments into eternity. Jesus promised that “whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward” (Mt. 10:42).

With days well lived, we may say, Happy birthday!”