Why Did God Harden Pharaoh’s Heart?

Special attention must be paid in Scripture to the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, for it presents a doctrinal truth that is very difficult for many Christians to embrace: God is sovereign over His creation.

In His sovereignty, God has the freedom, without any form of injustice, to do with individuals as He chooses. In simple language, God has prepared some vessels for destruction. “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. 18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth” (Rom. 9:17-18). Study “The Potters Freedom”, pages 211 – 214, Dr. James White).

The Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart Exodus 4

To the singular question, “Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?”, several biblical answers are given.

Question. “Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?”

Answer. God determined to harden Pharaoh’s heart before Pharaoh ascended to the throne of Egypt, and before Moses met him. The stated purpose for God hardening the heart of Pharaoh is “that he shall not let the people go.”

“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” (Ex. 4:21).

“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” (Rom. 9:17).

Question. “Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?”

Answer. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart “that he hearkened not unto them”. It is true that Pharaoh dismissed a display of divine power. It is true that it is a serious matter to ascribe to man or the devil the mighty works of GodBut it is also true that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart for the expressed purpose that he would not listen to Moses and Aaron.

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

Jesus taught that ascribing to Satan the works of God is so serious a sin it shall not be forgiven for it is blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

“Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: 29 But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: 30 Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit” (Mark 3:28-29).

Question. “Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?”

Answer. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in order to fulfil His divine decree. Notice the phrase, “as the LORD had spoken unto Moses.” What God decrees comes to pass. The LORD speaks, and it is accomplished.And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had spoken unto Moses” (Ex. 9:12).

Question. “Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?”

Answer. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in order to encourage the heart of His servant Moses and also that He “might shew these signs before him.”  “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” (Ex. 10:1).

Question. “Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?”

Answer. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart following the plague of locust “so that he would not let the children of Israel go” thereby allowing more judgments to fall upon the land, and by so doing display His great sovereignty all the more. “But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart (following the plague of locust), so that he would not let the children of Israel go” (Ex. 10:20).

Question. “Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?”

Answer. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart after a reasonable request was made (Moses requested animals for sacrifice) so that the unreasonableness of the sinful mind might be revealed. But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart (after Moses requested animals for sacrifice), and he would not let them go” (Ex. 10:27).

Question. “Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?”

Answer. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in order that His miracles might be multiplied in the land of Egypt.  As the same sun that melts the butter can harden the clay, so the same expressions of divine majesty can elicit love and wonder in the righteous, while producing hatred and hostility in the ungodly. “And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you; that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt. 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” (Ex. 11:9).

Question. “Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?”

Answer. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart “that he shall follow after” the fleeing Israelites. The day of Pharaoh’s death was predetermined. God ordained that Pharaoh would pursue the fleeing Hebrews until Pharaoh and all of his army were drowned in the Red Sea. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.   

And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honored upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD. And they did so” (Ex. 14:4).

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” (Ex. 14:8).

Pharaoh hardened his own heart primarily because he did not want the Israelites to leave the land of Egypt. God agreed with Pharaoh that the Hebrews should not leave the land of Egypt – but only until He, the Lord, chose to have them leave.

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