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Understanding God's Role in the Hardening of Pharaoh's Heart

by Stephen Davey

Virginia asks, During the plagues in Egypt, why does it continually say that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart?

Hello Virginia,

You've touched upon a subject that troubles many Christians. The phrasing of this passage has led to questions about whether God was forcing Pharaoh to sin and if God is indeed responsible for the sins we commit as well.

Achieving biblical clarity in this area is crucial for our theology as we strive to comprehend the relationships between God, our sins, and ourselves.

In Exodus 7:3, God told Moses, "But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you."

Many people have raised concerns about this passage, as it appears that Pharaoh had no choice in the matter and was essentially doomed from the start. In these chapters, we repeatedly read that Pharaoh's heart was hardened. Sometimes it states that God hardened his heart, while other times it says Pharaoh hardened his own heart.

In Exodus 7:3, the Hebrew word used for hardening refers to pressure or even twisting. One can imagine the wringing of a mop to remove the water within it. In other words, when you wring the mop, the water already inside is expelled.

This seems to be the concept at play here. Pharaoh had already hardened his heart against God. When God wrung Pharaoh's heart, all the rebellion that was already present came out into the open. God did not corrupt Pharaoh's heart; however, He did cause Pharaoh's actions and decisions to reflect the sin that had already taken root in his heart.

Pharaoh is accountable for choosing to defy and deny the Creator God. Romans 1 explains that every human being will ultimately be held responsible for rejecting the evidence of God in creation. Since God knows the future, He can inform Moses that when Pharaoh's heart is wrung out, it will reveal nothing but stubborn defiance.

I have a video lesson in which I delve into this topic more deeply, and I encourage you to watch it HERE to gain a better understanding of the nuances involved.

I hope this explanation has been helpful.


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Truth says:
If God could see the future, then wasn't this entire test, killing children, killing every livestock and herd animal, causing the pharoah to sin, pointless? Why give someone a test you know in advance they will fail? That is no longer a real test, and you force the failure. It is then not a failure of the test taker but test giver.