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.”
ATTRIBUTION:  THE LORD

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

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

Exodus 7:14
“And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, he refuseth to let the people go.”
ATTRIBUTION:  NONE

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.”
ATTRIBUTION:  NONE

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.”
ATTRIBUTION:  PHARAOH

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.”
ATTRIBUTION:  NONE

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

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.”
ATTRIBUTION:  NONE

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

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.”
ATTRIBUTION:  PHARAOH

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.”
ATTRIBUTION:  NONE

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:”
ATTRIBUTION:  THE LORD

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

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

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.”
ATTRIBUTION:  THE LORD

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.”
ATTRIBUTION:  THE LORD

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.”
ATTRIBUTION:  THE LORD

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.”
ATTRIBUTION:  THE LORD

 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).

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