Notes on the Hardening of Pharoh’s Heart
by Tommy Peeler
- Pharaoh’s heart was hardened (Exodus 7:13-14, 22; 8:19; 9:7, 35)
- Pharaoh hardened his heart (Exodus 8:15, 32; 9:34)
- The LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 10:20; 11:10; 14:4, 8, 17)
Describe Exodus 5 in light of these three ways of describing Pharaoh’s hardness of heart.
- Is God forcing Pharaoh to be disobedient and rebel against Him?
- Is Pharaoh simply passive in the process in which the LORD manipulates him against His will?
Three different Hebrew words are used for hardening of Pharaoh’s heart
- חזק is used in Exodus 4:21; 7:13, 22; 8:19; 9:12, 35; 10:20; 11:10; 14:4, 8, 17; Joshua 11:20.
- This verb is used in Exodus12:33 for the Egyptians urging Israel to leave Egypt.
- It is used of severe famine in Genesis 41:56, 57; 47:20; II Kings 25:3; Jeremiah 52:6. [BDB, 304-305.]
- כבד is used in Exodus 7:14; 8:15, 32; 9:7.
- This word is also used in Exodus 14:4, 17 for God glorifying Himself through Pharaoh.
- The word is used in Exodus 20:12 in the command to “Honor your father and mother.”
- The adjective is used in Exodus 17:12 (and 18:18) for Moses’ hands being heavy,
- Exodus 9:3 for severe pestilence,
- Exodus 9:18, 24 for heavy hail, and
- in Exodus 10:14 of many locusts. [BDB, 457-458.]
- קשה is used in Exodus 7:3. This word is translated as stubborn in 13:15 (NASB).
- This word is used in I Kings 12:4; II Chronicles 10:4 for Solomon making the yoke heavy on Israel.
- It is used in II Chronicles 30:8; 36:13; Jeremiah 7:26; 17:23; 19:15 for people who stiffened their necks. [BDB, 904.]
God is merciful and slow to anger with Pharaoh - Exodus 9:16
Exodus 34:6-7 This applies to Israel, but it also applies to His relationship with all men - Jonah 4:2; I Timothy 2:3-4; II Peter 3:9. God wants people to serve Him that He might bless them- Deut. 5:29; Psalm 81:11-16; Isaiah 48:18-19
The plagues are announced with the words “Let my people go” in Exodus 7:16-17; 8:1-2, 20-21; 9:1-5, 18; 10:3-4. If Pharaoh had let the people go then the plagues would not have happened.
The devastating consequences of several of the plagues are stated to Pharaoh before the plagues happened. This was with the hope that he would let Israel go (Exodus 7:17-18; 8:2-4, 21-23; 9:3-5, 13-18; 10:3-6). God often announces judgments to bring people to repentance with the hope that the judgments will never be experienced (Jeremiah 18:7-8; Jonah 3; Micah 3:12; Jeremiah 26:17-19). Even in the midst of the plagues, Pharaoh is given a chance to avoid disaster- Exodus 9:19-21.
There is an intensification in the plagues and the devastation that they bring. The plagues end with the devastating death of Egypt’s firstborn (Exodus 11-12). God often punishes with lesser severity first hoping the lesser measures will bring people to repentance- Leviticus 26:17-18, 21, 24, 27-28; Amos 4:6-13.
When Pharaoh asks to remove the plagues, the LORD does so- Exodus 8:15, 29-31; 9:27-29, 33-34; 10:16-20. Pharaoh often asks for the removal of the plagues with promises to let the people go- Exodus 8:8-15; 9:27-29, 33-34. God knows Pharaoh will not let Israel go and yet He removes the plague anyway- Exodus 8:29; 9:30. God knows that Pharaoh will not listen- Exodus 3:19; 7:13, 22; 8:15; 9:12, 35. God’s foreknowledge does not have to eliminate Pharaoh’s free will.
Pharaoh is viewed as responsible for his actions
- Exodus 8:15 Pharaoh hardened his heart 8:32; 9:34
- Exodus 7:13 He did not listen 7:22; 8:15, 19; 9:12
- Exodus 8:32 He did not let the people go 9:7, 35; 10:20, 27
- Exodus 9:7 Pharaoh searches and investigates the claims of Moses in 9:3-4.
- Exodus 9:17 He exalted himself
- Exodus 9:27 He claims he and his people sinned and the LORD is righteous
- Exodus 9:34 He is described as sinning again by not letting the people go
- Exodus 10:3 He did not humble himself
- Exodus 10:16-17 He claimed he sinned again and asks to be forgiven
Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Joshua 24:15; Revelation 22:17 We are responsible for our decisions.
Pharaoh is even warned by his own people to let Israel go
- Exodus 8:19 The magicians say this is the finger of God
- Exodus 9:20 Some among Pharaoh’s servants fear the LORD
- Exodus 10:7 Pharaoh’s servants ask how long Moses will be a snare
- Exodus 11:3 Moses was in high esteem in the land. These servants draw the conclusion that Pharaoh should let the people go. Could Pharaoh have seen the same thing?
- Exodus 14:17 The LORD hardened the heart of the Egyptians but some of them responded more positively to God than Pharaoh even at the last moment- Exodus 14:25.
The LORD displays His glory through Pharaoh
Exodus 9:16 God showed His power and His glory to Pharaoh and proclaimed His name through all the earth. The LORD will be exalted and glorified even by our disobedience to Him.
Exodus 14:4, 17; Romans 9:14-21
All nations understood the LORD was God through these events
- Jethro understood that the LORD is God- Exodus 18:1, 8-12
- Rahab understood- Joshua 2:9-11
- The Gibeonites did- Joshua 9:9-11
- The Philistines heard- I Samuel 4:8; 6:6
Other biblical passages where we face this same kind of problem: Is God responsible?
- Joshua 11:20; I Kings 22:19-23
- Isaiah 6:9-10/ Matthew 13:14-15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; John 12:39-41; Acts 28:25-27
- Ezekiel 14:9; Romans 1:24, 26, 28; II Thessalonians 2:11-12