Tough Passages: God Hardens Pharaoh’s Heart (Exodus 3 – 14)

After my short detour to Ephesians 2, I’m currently trying to understand the issue of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart (using my notes on dealing with tough passages) and this is the first of my notes on the issue. I’ve simply read the chapters in question and taken notes. Next, I will make a table of notes and list of hypothesis at this point, then get a bunch of commentaries and enlist the help of friends. Bible Study is so much fun.

I don’t expect anyone to read this by the way, seeing as it took me two days to produce it. It’s more than 1000 words. And I thought 500-word essays were horrible in high school.

Question are in blockquotes and al Bible passages are from Exodus chapters 3 to 14.

• The people were suffering in Egypt. They were miserable. They cried to the LORD. (3:7). They were being oppressed (3:9).

• God wanted to rescue them from their oppressors (3:8). • God knew that Pharaoh would would not free the Israelites unless he was forced to (3:19)

• God says that he will harden Pharaoh’s heart so that he would not free the people (4:21). • Yet, he tells Moses to perform the miracles before Pharaoh, anyway (4:21).

• Then, God blames pharaoh for refusing to let the Israelites go and passes judgment on him. He says that he will kill Pharaoh’s firstborn (4: 22 -23).

• Question: At this point, is God saying that because Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites go this first time, he will punish him by killing his son, regardless? This would mean that God could theoretically harden Pharaoh’s heart during the plagues so that he could get to the last plague and kill his firstborn.

• In verse 21, is God saying that he would harden Pharaoh’s heart now, or when he is performing the first signs, or in the future?

• Pharaoh was very dismissive of Moses and Aaron’s God when he was told the LORD wanted him to free the Israelites (5:2).

• Pharaoh didn’t care about what Moses and Aaron were trying to tell him. He was just angry that they were stopping the people from working and decided to punish them for laziness. (5:5 – 9).

• Pharaoh also suggested that Moses and Aaron were lying and did not believe them (5:8, 9).

• The result was that Pharaoh worsened the Israelite’s situation (5:10 – 21) • God knew that his power would be shown (6:1).

• God’s actions in Egypt were also acts of judgment (6:6; 7:4; 12:12).

• God wanted the Israelites to learn to trust him as a result of his actions in Egypt (6:6 – 8)

• God says he will harden Pharaoh’s heart (7:3)

• He would harden Pharaoh’s heart so that Pharaoh would not listen to the signs, no matter how many (7:3, 4).

• God believed that his actions in Egypt would make the Egyptians know that he was “the LORD” (7:5).

• Pharaoh’s heart becomes hard. It is not said who made it hard (7:13, 14).

• Pharaoh’s heart was hard after the first plague, but there is still no mention of whose action it was (7:23).

• He did not even take the plague to heart. He simply ignored it (7:23).

• Seven days passed (7:25)

• God asks Pharaoh to let the Israelites go again. He does not seem to be dissuaded by the fact that he knew Pharaoh would not listen.

• Question: Does this mean that Pharaoh could have changed his mind, even though he would? Or was God simply doing all he could so that it would not be said that he had not tried enough?

• God even tells Pharaoh what he would do. He had ample warning (8:3, 4).

• Pharaoh promises to let the Israelites go if God would make the frogs leave. It was a lie (or he later changed his mind once the frogs were gone (8:8-15)

• Pharaoh hardened his heart after the second plague (8:15).

• God got rid of the frogs even though he knew and had previously declared, that Pharaoh would not listen (8:13).

• After the plague of gnats (third plague), Pharaoh’s heart was hard. It is, once again, not said whose action it was (8:19).

• The narrator says that Pharaoh would not listen to God, rather than could not (8:19).

• God warns Pharaoh of the coming plague again in the case of the fourth plague (flies) (8:20, 21).

• Pharaoh begins to make concessions. He asks the people to perform their sacrifice in Egypt (8:25).

• Once again Pharaoh promises to let the people go but does not keep his promise (8:28 – 32)

• The narrator says that Pharaoh would not let the people go, not could not (8:32).

• Pharaoh hardened his heart after the fourth plague (8:32).

• God warns Pharaoh, he sends the plague. Pharaoh’s heart is hard. Plague 5 (9:1 – 7).

• God hardens Pharaoh’s heart after plague 6 (9:12).

• Pharaoh would not listen to Moses and Aaron (9:12).

• God says he raised up (or spared Pharaoh) so that he could show his power to everyone on earth.

• God seems to hold Pharaoh responsible for his refusal to let the Israelites go (9:17, 18)

• God shows mercy. He warns Pharaoh and his people to get their animals out of the field before plague 7 (the hail) hit. In fact, he has being doing this (giving warnings) all along (9:19 – 21).

• Pharaoh promised to let the Israelites go after the hail. He did not keep his promise, again (9:27, 28).

• Pharaoh still did not fear God during the hail, according to Moses (9:30).

• Pharaoh hardened his heart after the plague of hail. His officials did the same (9:34, 35).

• He would not let the Israelites go (9:35).

• Yet, God says it was he who hardened the hearts of Pharaoh and his officials (10:1). He did it so he would show signs and the Israelites could tell their children and grandchildren about it and so that they would know that he was “the LORD” (10:1, 2).

• Perhaps God hardening Pharaoh’s heart equals Pharaoh hardening his own heart?

• God warns Pharaoh about the locusts (10 :3-6)

• Pharaoh seemed to believe that if all the people left, they would not return. This might have influenced his actions (10:8 – 11; 8:25; 10:24)

• God hardened Pharaoh’s heart after the eight plague (10:20).

• By the ninth plague, Pharaoh seemed angry.

• God hardened his heart again. He was unwilling to let the people go (10:27).

• The narrator says that it was God who had hardened Pharaoh’s heart (11:10).

• God intended to judge the gods of Egypt in the last plague (12:12)

• God said he would harden Pharaoh’s heart after he had let the Israelites go free (14:4).

• God actually hardened Pharaoh’s heart, says the narrator (14:8).

• God said he would harden the hearts of the army that was pursuing the people (14:17).

• Yet, the Egyptians eventually wanted to turn around and stop pursuing the Israelites (14:25).

Other helpful links:
Christian Think Tank (Glenn Miller) – God hardens Pharaoh’s heart

Christian Think Tank (Glenn Miller) – God hardens Pharaoh’s heart 2

But be warned, Glenn Miller’s articles, are extremely detailed. which means, they are very helpful and very long. They are not for those with short attention spans.


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I’m Tracy

12 thoughts on “Tough Passages: God Hardens Pharaoh’s Heart (Exodus 3 – 14)”

  1. This was a really, really, great post. I am glad you took the time to read and note all the important passages. It is a tough few passages. Raises many questions about the culpability of the Pharaoh. Can he be held responsible for actions that were not entirely his own if god really did harden his heart.

    Something else to consider. How does this reflect upon the free will god gave man. Man was given free will by god however the Pharaoh’s freewill is inhibited so that god can show his powers.

    I hope that you never stop reading and examining and asking questions.

  2. remember, God first warns, then after that he sends judgement on you.

    there are many instances in the bible where a person, usually a king, does something and God punishes him instantly. but later another person does the same thing but nothing happens. i’m sure if the ark were around today and i were to grab it to steady it from falling when the oxen stumble, He wouldn’t smote me, but later i would be judged for it.

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