I’m reading through Exodus 7-11 – the great plagues of Egypt, which I’m preaching on soon, and I’m puzzled by the parts where Pharaoh’s heart becomes hardened/stubborn and is therefore disobedient to God by refusing to let Moses and the Israelites go.
Sometimes it seems to be portrayed as Pharoah himself becomeing stuboorn:
Ex 8:15 But when Pharaoh saw that relief had come, he became stubborn…
Ex 3:32 But Pharaoh again became stubborn…
But on most other occasions it looks like God is doing the hardening – making him stubborn and therefore making Pharaoh unable to obey:
Ex 7:3 But I will make Pharaoh’s heart stubborn…
Ex 9:12 But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and just as the Lord had predicted to Moses, Pharaoh refused to listen….
Ex 10:1 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Return to Pharaoh and make your demands again. I have made him and his officials stubborn.
Is Pharaoh operating under diminished responsibility?
Don Carson (in For the Love of God) says we need to remember three things when coming to this passage:
- Pharaoh is already a wicked person. The hardening of his hard is a judgement on a wicked man, albeit an earlier judgement than usual.
- In all human interactions, God is never entirely passive – “God hardened his heart” and “Pharoah hardened his heart” are mutually complementary
- God does do other things like this in the Bible, albeit rarely (1 Kings 22, Ezek 14:9, 2 Thess 2:11-12)
Any other thoughts?