THE HARDENING OF PHARAOH' S HEART
One of the interesting stories in the Old Testament is how God influenced the Pharaoh of Egypt to permit the nation of Israel to leave Egypt. Israel had been a slave nation in Egypt for four hundred years and had provided free labor to the Egyptians. It was no small matter to make the Egyptian ruler give this nation up. In those four hundred years they had become a nation of about two million people. That was quite a work force to give up, and it would have an awful effect on the economy of Egypt. However, the matter that concerns us in this study is the statement God made to Moses in Exodus 4:21, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh which I have put in your hand. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.” Six times in the book of Exodus it is stated that God hardened Pharaoh's heart, and students of the Bible cannot deny this happened. Moses makes the statement several times and there is no doubt about it. God did harden his heart.
Some have inquired, “How could God condemn Pharaoh for refusing to let Israel go when God hardened his heart against letting them go?” However we should not jump to false conclusions. Justice is an attribute of God, and He mistreats no one; He is right in all His ways.
Although it is said that God hardened his heart, it also says that Pharaoh's magicians hardened his heart(.Exodus 8:19), Not only that, the Bible also says that Pharaoh hardened his own heart(Exodus 8:15). How did Pharaoh come to have a hardened heart? Well, God had a part in it; his own magicians had a part, and Pharaoh himself had a part. In view of these facts the hardening of Pharaoh's heart becomes a very interesting but puzzling subject.
Before we study what happened to Pharaoh's heart, let us determine first what a hardened heart is. What do we mean when we say a man's heart is hardened, whether it is Pharaoh's heart, your heart, my heart or anyone else's heart. The word heart, as used in the Bible, is the mind or the understanding. When a person's heart is hardened in connection with God, it produces resistance to God's will, rebelliousness to His authority, and an obstinate refusal to obey God. A hardened heart will not obey or submit to God, and he will not change his mind. Hardness of heart is a synonym for unbelief and disobedience. He will not believe what God says and will not do what God tells him to do. This leads us to ask how this ruler got in such a state of mind. Well, we know God had a part in it, and we know that his magicians had some part in it, and then we are distinctly told that Pharaoh
hardened his own heart. There is more to this than meets the eye. Since God had a part in it, the magicians had a part in it, and Pharaoh is said to harden his own heart, let us briefly examined what each of them did.
First what did God do that resulted in the hardening of the ruler's heart? In the first place He demanded Pharaoh to let the Hebrews cross the Red Sea and make a three day journey into the wilderness for a time of worship. It was not politically or financially wise to let two million people leave the country for a three day vacation, and he suspicioned there was more to this than a brief period of religious feasting. Thus he flatly refused to let them go, and .He boldly stood up against God and refused to obey Him. Now what else did God do? Then God proceeded to perform a number of miracles by the Moses and Aaron. Moses had Aaron throw down the rod in his hand and it turned into a serpent at the feet of Pharaoh.. Pharaoh called on his magicians to do the same thing, thinking it only a trick, and they imitated it in some way; but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods. The Bible says Pharaoh's heart grew hard and would not let the people go. The saying, “ his heart grew hard” simply means he paid no attention to what God said and refused to let God's people go. In an effort to change Pharaoh's mind God in succession turned all rivers, streams and ponds in Egypt to blood, and next covered the land with frogs. Pharaoh requested Moses to call on God to remove the frogs, and he would let the people go. But when they were gone, the Bible says he hardened his heart and would not let them go.
Then God brought a plague of lice on Egypt that covered both man and beast. In the case of the lice, the magicians tried to imitate this miracle but could not do it. The Bible says the magicians said to Pharaoh, “ This is the finger of God,” but Pharaoh's heart grew hard, and he did not heed them..”(Exodus 8:19) He wouldn't even listen to magicians, the wisest men in the land, who said these events are the works of a god. Next, God brought swarms of flies on Egypt, brought a terrible disease on all livestock in Egypt, then caused boils to break out in sores on man and beast, caused a destructive thunder, hail and lightning storm to strike Egypt, destroying life, animals, vegetation, trees and crops. Then He afflicted Egypt with a swarm of locusts that filled their houses and destroyed all vegetation left after the hail storm. The ninth miracle wrought on Egypt was a plague of darkness which lasted three days, but there was light in all the dwellings of the Hebrews. Each time Pharaoh asked God to relieve them of these afflictions, and each time promised he would let Israel go. But each time he changed his mind, hardened his heart and refused to obey Jehovah..
God made one more effort to change his mind and bring him to submission and obedience. In Exodus 11:1 God said to Moses and Aaron, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. Afterward he will let you go from here.” God said to Moses, “About midnight I will go out into the midst of Egypt, and all the firstborn in Egypt shall die.” When this last wonder was performed, Pharaoh let Israel go. Yet, even after that he hardened his heart again and sent his army to bring them back. What did God do to harden his heart? The only thing the Bible says about it is that God commanded him to do something and punished him 10 times for his disobedience. That is all that God did. Before we reach a final conclusion on the hardening of Pharaoh's heart, let us briefly consider the part the magicians and Pharaoh himself had in hardening his heart.
His magicians had a very important part in the hardening of his heart. In some unknown way they were able to imitate at least some of the miracles performed by Moses and Aaron. He could say that Moses and Aaron cannot do anything my magicians can't do. Were they simply tricks such as we see magicians perform today? They teach us that the hand is quicker than the eye. There are all kinds of speculation about how these men were able to imitate these wonders. Some think the magicians used nothing but human skill in duplicating these miracles. Others think they performed real miracles with the help of Satan I don't think they performed real miracles, for they could not duplicate the swarms of lice. They admitted that was the hand of God. Nevertheless they were shrewd enough to convince Pharaoh that they could do as about as much as Moses and Aaron could do. This could have influenced the mind of Pharaoh to believe that Moses did not perform bonafide miracles, and helped him to make up his mind to reject the demand of Moses. The magicians used deception, trickery and doubt to influence the mind of Pharaoh, and this helped harden his heart. Whatever means they used to duplicate these wonders. they convinced Pharaoh. Thus they share some responsibility in hardening this man's heart. Anyone who influences us to disbelieve and disobey God helps us harden our hearts. I put a lot of blame on these magicians.
We must also consider what Pharaoh himself had to do with hardening of his heart. In Exodus 8:15 the Bible distinctly says that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. While under affliction his heart was touched, but just as soon as God relieved the affliction he hardened his heart. Most of the blame for the hardening of his heart belongs to himself. He was a man of great pride, power and reputation in the world. He was the most powerful ruler in the Middle East. When I visited Egypt there were
more statues of Ramses !! in Egypt than any other Pharaoh, and we believe this was the man Moses confronted. No one told this man what to do. He knew nothing about the God of heaven. He said to Moses, “Who is Jehovah that I should serve Him?” This business of giving up two million people, who were all bond servants to the Egyptians, was not to his liking, best interests, advantage or pleasure. His pride, prestige, power, and self- interest meant more to him that submitting himself to Jehovah. Like so many do today, he put himself before God. When it comes down to the truth, he has no one to blame but himself for having a hardened heart. He was playing games with the Almighty.
As a final thought, what shall be our conclusion on this statement that God hardened the heart of Pharaoh?. The first conclusion is that God did not make this man disobey Him. God did make him wicked; he made himself wicked, and did this against God's will and displeasure. No blame whatever can be put on God for this man's misconduct. God did not harden his heart by some direct exertion of power on his heart so that he could not believe and obey. On the contrary so long as God operated on him heart through miracles, and the plagues were all miracles, his heart was touched. Then he would ask Moses to request God to take way the afflictions. What God did touched his heart and caused him to ask God for relief, but just as soon as God ceased to operate on him by the plagues, he relapsed into hardness of heart. It is quire evident that the only thing that touched his heart was these miraculous wonders. All of this leads us to the truth about the hardness of his heart. God's part in hardening his heart was by withholding from him any more miracles, any more supernatural evidence, and that hardened his heart. Ten miracles were not enough convince him. He needed more evidence to believe, but God did not give him more evidence; and that hardened his heart. “ If God would not present more miraculous evidence, I, Pharaoh will not believe and will not submit to you.” That was his attitude.
The problem Pharaoh had is the age-old problem of the human race. An unbelieving world says there is not enough evidence to believe in God. There is not enough evidence in the Bible, not enough evidence to believe in the supernatural, not enough evidence to believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God or that Jesus is indeed a heavenly Being sent here by God to save the human race. Yet the Bible is full of supernatural evidences and depct the many wonders God has performed down through the ages. God has presented to the world many wonders, even as He did to Pharaoh in the long ago. But like Pharaoh, they harden their hearts. God
is still ll making demands of people today, even as he did to Pharaoh in the long ago. For the past two thousand years the demands of the gospel have had the same effect on most people as did the demand God made on Pharaoh long ago. It was a humanitarian demand for the good of Israel and really for the entire human race, for Jesus Christ came into existence through that race.
What shall our attitude be in our day to the demands of God? One such demand is expressed like this, “The time of ignorance God overlooked but now commands all men everywhere to repent.” Another demand takes this form, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned.” Another demand assumes this form, “Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life.” Our attitude toward God gracious demands will depend on whether or not our hearts are hardened or softened. May God save us all from hardening of the heart.