The Hardening of Pharaoh's Heart
Who Hardened Pharaoh's Heart?
No doubt you’ve heard the doctrinal argument that Pharaoh had no choice in the hardening of his heart in regard to Israel’s captivity and deliverance. Surely, if God was responsible for this, He can also do the same for anyone anywhere in the world. Is it true that those with hardened hearts or those of a depraved mind are made to be that way? We’re going to take a moment to get this matter cleared up according to the Word of God.
Let’s first observe the story of Joseph and how he became the ruler of Egypt under Pharaoh (Gen 41). Note that the Pharaoh who ruled in the days of Joseph’s captivity and rise to power feared God, in that he saw how Joseph’s God manifested Himself through Joseph’s ability to interpret the dream of the great harvest and famine that would hit the land, saving Egypt from destruction.
God Hardened Pharaoh's Heart?
We must clarify that this was not the Pharaoh of whom God 'hardened his heart'. It was a LATER Pharaoh (after Joseph died and the Hebrews continued to greatly multiply in Egypt). The story begins in Exodus 1:8 through 22 “Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, ‘Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or else they will multiply and in the event of war, they will also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us and depart from the land.’ So they appointed taskmasters over them to afflict them with hard labor. And they built for Pharaoh storage cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out, so that they were in dread of the sons of Israel. The Egyptians compelled the sons of Israel to labor rigorously; and they made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks and at all kinds of labor in the field, all their labors which they rigorously imposed on them. Then the king of Egypt [Pharaoh] spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other was named Puah; and he said, ‘When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.’ But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live. So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, ‘Why have you done this thing, and let the boys live?’ The midwives said to Pharaoh, ‘Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife can get to them.’ So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty. Because the midwives feared God, He established households for them. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, ‘Every son who is born you are to cast into the Nile, and every daughter you are to keep alive.’”
The story goes on to tell us of the birth of Moses and why his mother placed him in a basket in the Nile River where he was discovered by Pharaoh’s daughter and subsequently raised by a “nurse maid”, his under-cover biological mother. It wasn’t until Moses had fled Egypt due to killing an Egyptian slave-master in retribution for killing one of his enslaved Hebrew brethren that God told him to return to Pharaoh and stated He would harden Pharaoh’s heart. Exodus 4:21 “The LORD said to Moses, ‘When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.’”
Something I recently learned regarding the Hebrew language is about their use of "idioms". According to a Jewish scholar, Joseph Bryant Rotherham, this verse is properly translated into English as follows: "And Yahweh said unto Moses, 'When thou goest to return to Egypt, see as touching all the wonders which I have put in thy hand, that thou do them before Pharaoh--but, I, will let his heart wax bold, and he will not suffer the people to go."
Throughout this ordeal, consider the Bible states several times that Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Ex 8:15 & 32; 9:34).
Here we have a hint that one must be willfully rebellious against God first for God to allow the hardening of his heart, resulting in His wrath being poured out upon him. The LORD is yet glorified, for the plagues He poured out upon Pharaoh and Egypt resulted in the Jews and Egyptians seeing His miraculous power of deliverance and judgment.
Consider Ex 4:14 “’Thus I will harden Pharaoh's heart [I will let his heart wax bold], and he will chase after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.’ And they did so.”
Look at 1 Sam 6:16 “Why then do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts?”
The Hardening of Israel
What did Israel do in Isa 5:24? “for they have rejected the law of the LORD Almighty and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel.”
Then, we see God’s "allowance" in the next chapter ~ 6:10-11 “Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. Then I said, ‘Lord, how long?’ And He answered, ‘Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant, Houses are without people And the land is utterly desolate, until the LORD has sent everyone away, and the entire land of Israel lies deserted.’”
Compare this passage to Deut 32:15 "But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked--You are grown fat, thick, and sleek--Then he forsook God who made him, And [he] scorned the Rock of his salvation.”
Now we have a better understanding of Mat 13:15 “for the heart of this people has become dull, with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes, otherwise they would see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I would heal them.” This is the cross-reference to Isa 6:10.
How then is God yet glorified in allowing the hardening of the hearts of Israel? Rom 11:25 states, “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery--so that you will not be wise [conceited] in your own estimation--that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in;”
According to the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary, “until the Gentiles have had their full time of the visible Church all to themselves while the Jews are out, which the Jews had till the Gentiles were brought in." (See Lu 21:24: “they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”)
While doctrines of error teach that some people are born as reprobates (aka depraved), the Bible is clear again that people are given over to reprobation/depravity because of their rebellion:
Speaking of homosexuality: Rom 1:25-27 “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie...For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions...”
Speaking of imposters: 2 Tim 3:2-8 “For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. Just as Jannes and Jambres [magicians of Pharaoh] opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith."
A Strong Delusion
Let’s observe WHY God sends a strong delusion upon mankind. There is a REASON:
2 Thes 2:9-10 “that is, the one [Antichrist] whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. FOR THIS REASON God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.”
Consider Jesus’ words to the depraved Jews in John 8:44: “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Do we see that God gives man the desires [will] of his heart? Look at the following two verses:
Ecc 11:9 “Rejoice, young man, during your childhood, and let your heart be pleasant during the days of young manhood. And follow the impulses of your heart and the desires of your eyes. Yet know that God will bring you to judgment for all these things.”
Mat 6:21 “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
A Word of Prophecy
One must be exposed to sound doctrine before they can choose to turn away from it. We’ve read earlier phrases such as, “Why do you harden your hearts?”, “they have rejected the law of the LORD Almighty and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel”, “he forsook God who made him, And [he] scorned the Rock of his salvation”, “they exchanged the truth of God for a lie”, “holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power”, “these men also oppose the truth”, “because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved”, “in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth”, “you want to do the desires of your father [the devil]”, “follow the impulses of your heart and the desires of your eyes”…and there’s more!
2 Tim 4:3-4 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”
A New Heart
Heb 4:7 “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." (Cross-reference Ps 95:7-8)
2 Cor 6:2 “for He says, ‘At the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.’ Behold, now is 'the acceptable time,' behold, now is ‘the day of salvation'"!!
Are you like Felix in Acts 24:25? "But as he [Paul] was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, 'Go away for the present, and when I find time I will summon you.'" Only God knows how long His Spirit will strive with you (Gen 6:3: "Then the LORD said, 'My Spirit shall not strive with man forever'").
If you have rejected the gospel of salvation by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, it’s not too late. God desires [wills] to take away your heart of stone [hardened heart] and give you a heart of flesh, that you may receive the love of the truth so as to be saved!!
Eze 36:26 “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
May the LORD be praised in the revelation of His Word.
More by this Author
I would say this is a 'strong meat' question (Heb 5:14). The question came up as to whether God created Satan to be evil, or whether God created all things ‘good’ (as we understand it). Many people have...
I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard and read the teaching that people of the Old Testament weren’t officially “saved” until Jesus Christ died on the cross. In fact, their souls are said...
When were giants on the earth? Gen 6:1-4 is the first account of the giants. Those giants are said to be the offspring of the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men”. However, we also see...