Who hardened Pharaoh's heart?

God reveals his plan to Moses: Exodus 4:21-23
The plagues: Exodus 7-11
Pharaoh decides to pursue the Israelites: Exodus 14:1-9

What we have in Exodus is this: God says at the beginning that he will harden Pharaoh's heart (Ex 4:21, 7:4-5). The hardening of Pharaoh's heart is then described in several different ways:

However, when the Bible says Pharaoh hardens his heart, it also says that this happened "just as the Lord had said" (Ex 8:15). In particular, consider Exodus 9:34-10:2:

When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts. So Pharaoh's heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the LORD had said through Moses.

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these miraculous signs of mine among them that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the LORD."

In other words, Pharaoh's hardening his heart is considered to be the same as God hardening Pharaoh's heart. I take this to mean that Pharaoh did the actual hardening, as we see it - he decided on his own to not listen to God and let the Israelites go. But God knew in advance what Pharaoh would do in any given situation, and deliberately placed Pharaoh in this situation (i.e. God decided that Pharaoh would be born at the time and place that he was and thus placed him in this position of power). (See Exodus 9:13-16.) Thus God brought about the situation, namely that Moses would encounter a pharaoh whose heart was hardened against God, though Pharaoh hardened his heart of his own free will.

Other responses (offsite)

Related articles

Top of page