Ex. 7-11, 14 Plagues, Hardness of Heart, and God

This section of Exodus is both troubling and freeing. The trouble comes with the plagues meant to convince Pharaoh to send the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses still needs convincing that he is God’s leader and speaker.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “See, I make you as God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall speak to Pharaoh that he let the sons of Israel go out of his land.”  (Ex. 7:1–2 NAS)

That reassurance is strong for both Moses and Aaron. But God isn’t finished. Now comes one of the troubling passages:

But I will harden [make hard קשׁה  hiphil] Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. (7:3)

Some take this as the only thing mentioned about Pharaoh’s heart. But notice the pattern:

Yet Pharaoh’s heart was hardened [made strong חזק ], and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is stubborn [made heavy כָּבֵ֖ד]; he refuses to let the people go.  (7:13-14)moses-and-pharaoh-the-final-plague

But the magicians of Egypt did the same with their secret arts; and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened [made strong חזק], and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said. (7:22)

But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened [made heavy כָּבֵ֖ד] his heart and adid not listen to them, as the LORD had said. (8:15)

Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened [made strong חזק], and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said. (8:19)

But Pharaoh hardened [made heavy כָּבֵ֖ד hiphil] his heart this time also, and he did not let the people go. (8:32)

But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened [made strong חזק], and he did not let the people go. (9:7)

And the LORD hardened [made strong חזק Piel] Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not listen to them, just as the LORD had spoken to Moses. (9:12)

But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned again and hardened [made heavy כָּבֵ֖ד hiphil] his heart, he and his servants.  35 Pharaoh’s heart was hardened [strengthened חזק qal], and he did not let the sons of Israel go, just as the LORD had spoken through Moses. (9:34-35)

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened [made heavy כָּבֵ֖ד hiphil] his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may perform these signs of Mine among them, (10:1)

But the LORD hardened [made strong חזק piel] Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the sons of Israel go. (10:20)

But the LORD hardened [made strong חזק piel] Pharaoh’s heart, and he was not willing to let them go. (10:27)

Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh; yet the LORD hardened [made strong חזק piel] Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the sons of Israel go out of his land. (11:10)

[God said] “Thus I will harden [made strong חזק piel] Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, and cthe Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.” And they did so. (14:4)

The LORD hardened [made strong חזק piel] the heart of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he chased after the sons of Israel as the sons of Israel were going out boldly. (14:8)

As for Me, behold, I will harden [made strong חזק piel] the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. (14:17)

So what?

A lot of information. But as we examine these passages, we note a couple of items.

1. Pharaoh hardens his heart first, and at various places, later the texts indicate the LORD hardens his heart. So both are at work in this: Pharaoh to maintain his kingdom and power, God to demonstrate His power of salvation through defeating Pharaoh and by doing so delivering His people.

2. Three different words are used

make hard קשׁה hiphil (used only once at the beginning)

made heavy כָּבֵ֖ד hiphil

made strong חזק Piel (used in two verb forms, but after 10:1 used only in Piel form [intensive]

Thus, while Pharaoh begins the hardening process, God is the one confirms that, (prophetically in chapter 7 and in actuality throughout the rest of these chapters).

Paul comments on the purpose of this whole episode:

For the scripture says to Pharaoh: “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may demonstrate my power in you, and that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” (Romans 9:127 NET)

The rest of Romans 9-11 focuses on God’s mercy as the key to understanding His actions in the past, in the present, and in the future.

So much more can be written, but this is a blog post, not a book. Thus, just enough space to note the three different words, and the role of God and Pharaoh in the issue of hardening of Pharaoh’s heart.

Personally any one of the plagues would have been enough to convince me—at least I think so, until I really examine my heart. I am probably like Pharaoh in too many ways (arrogant, prideful, stubborn, etc.). And I am like Moses in too many ways (slow to catch on, weak, offering excuses). There is enough for God to convict me. In repentance, my only hope is God’s mercy, in Jesus Christ.

 

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About exegete77

disciple of Jesus Christ, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, teacher, and theologian
This entry was posted in Exodus, Old Testament and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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