Pharoah's Preparation: The Hardening of Pharoah's Heart
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Exodus, chapter 9. We will begin to look at that portion of the book of Exodus which deals with the bringing of the plagues on Pharaoh in order that God's people might be permitted to leave the land of Egypt. That section begins about chapter 7 and continues through chapter 14. I do not believe that we will be able to understand what is contained in chapters 7-14 if we do not interpret them in the light of the paragraph which begins with verse 13 of chapter 9:

Exodus 9

13And the LORD said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
14For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth.
15For now I will stretch out my hand, that I may smite thee and thy people with pestilence; and thou shalt be cut off from the earth.
16And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.

We want to look at the preparation of Pharaoh for the deliverance of the children of Israel from the land of Egypt, and I want you to see what God said about why He wanted to prepare Pharaoh.

God's Purpose In Israel's Deliverance

God could have delivered the children of Israel by the mere lifting of His finger. He did not have to take several months to deliver them, as these chapters indicate He did. He did not have to wait until one man told them to go. He could have delivered them without all of that, but He had a purpose. His purpose was that the Egyptians, the Israelites and the whole world would know that He was God. Keep that in mind, because that will explain why some of the things that happen to you, happen even if you are in the will of God. It will explain why God does not do some of the things that you expect Him to do and some of the things you think surely God could do.

God's glory is at stake. God has a purpose. The reason God permits us sometimes to lie on beds of affliction is not necessarily that He is angry with us, and not that He could not raise us up in answer to prayer, but that God's glory may be manifested. Sometimes the reason God lets every human effort and every human power be completely exhausted is that men may be thrown completely upon God, and God will be able to manifest His glory to the whole of man, and the whole of man will be able to praise the Lord.

The Problem of Pharaoh's Hard Heart

One of the mystifying things that I think we had better deal with in these seven chapters is Pharaoh. I say he is mystifying because God says that He hardened Pharaoh's heart and made him do what he did. People who do not willingly accept the truth of God's Word, and who are consistently looking for something at which they can poke their finger, delight to take this thing up and say, “How could God be just and yet harden the heart of Pharaoh? What kind of a God is it who would make a man do a thing like that?”

But in these very same verses of Scripture we are told that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. Immediately someone comes along and says, “That's the Bible for you; it's full of contradictions. One minute it says one thing and the next minute it says something else.” How can we resolve these various statements about Pharaoh and the hardness of his heart? That is the first thing I would like for us to deal with.

God Hardens Pharaoh's Heart

So the first thing I would like for us to do is to notice those passages of Scripture where we are very definitely told that God hardened the heart of Pharaoh. Even after I have made the statement that I have just made, there will be some people who will say, “Well, I don't care what the Bible says; I still don't believe that God would harden a man's heart.” We must care what the Word of God says, so we had better be sure that it says it to begin with. I suggest that we start in the book of Exodus with the first reference to the hardness of Pharaoh's heart and go from one Scripture to another to establish beyond all doubt that God did harden the heart of Pharaoh. Turn, please, to chapter 4, verse 21:

Exodus 4

21And 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: (notice carefully) but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.

Notice that statement; there can be no doubt about it. God said, “I will harden his heart that he shall not let My people go.” Now turn to chapter 7, verse 13. This is a paragraph which tells how Moses cast down his rod and it became a serpent. The magicians of Pharaoh cast down theirs, and even their rods became serpents. Aaron's serpent swallowed up all the other serpents. In verse 13 we read:

Exodus 7

13And he [God] hardened Pharaoh's heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

The Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart. Now turn to chapter 9, verse 12:

Exodus 9

12And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had spoken unto Moses.

There it is again: The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh. Then glance over at chapter 10, verse 1, where we read:

Exodus 10

1And 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:

Then verse 20 of this same chapter:

Exodus 10

20But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go.

Then verse 27 of this same chapter:

Then chapter 11, verse 10:

Exodus 11

10And 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.

Then in chapter 14, after the children of Israel had departed from the land of Egypt and were on their way into the wilderness, Pharaoh repented that he had let them go, and he decided to pursue them. In chapter 14, verse 4, God said:

Exodus 14

4And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD. And they did so.

In verse 8 of that same chapter:

We are told in a very definite way ten times that God hardened Pharaoh's heart. Let us settle something in our thinking. Whether or not we can understand it, God hardened Pharaoh's heart. Whether or not it is consistent with some particular doctrine that is precious to your own heart and something that perhaps you have always believed, even though these statements at which we have looked may contradict that particular doctrine, let us accept the Word of God for what it says. God hardened Pharaoh's heart.

Resolving the Problem

If the Word of God is true, there is no one who can say anything other than that God hardened Pharaoh's heart. But if we learn to compare Scripture with Scripture, if we learn to search the Word of God, many of the questions that arise in connection with such a truth as this can be resolved; many of the problems can be solved.

Notice with me from the Word of God that God based His act of hardening Pharaoh's heart upon six different things. If you will recognize these six different things, you will find no contradiction in the Word of God, and you will not find this something hard to believe. As a matter of fact, you will be doing just what God said would be the net result: You will praise the Lord.

Based On God's Foreknowledge

What are these six basic things upon which God based His act of hardening Pharaoh's heart? The first thing is found in chapter 3 of the book of Exodus, and I will call it God's foreknowledge. God's hardening of Pharaoh's heart was based upon His foreknowledge. It was based upon what He already knew about Pharaoh. In verse 19, after God told Moses to go into the land of Egypt and present His message to the Israelites and then to Pharaoh, He said:

Exodus 3

19And I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand.
20And I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go.

Remember, before ever Moses made his appearance before Pharaoh, God said to Moses, “I know what is going to happen before it happens. The first thing that will happen is that Pharaoh will refuse because of a hardened heart to let you go. But after I am finished, and after I have accomplished all my work and all my purpose, he will let you go.” So the first thing we need to keep in mind is that God's hardening of the heart of Pharaoh was based upon his foreknowledge. He knew–get this–the kind of man with whom He would be dealing; and on the basis of His foreknowledge, He made this decision about Pharaoh. If you will keep in mind that many of the things that are difficult for our finite minds to comprehend are based upon the foreknowledge of God, you will be able to accept in faith what you cannot understand.

Remember that the Lord Jesus Christ said to Philip one day, “What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter” (John 13:7). Why did He say that? “You don't have all the information right now, but by and by you will have all the information, and then you will see that the thing I have done was the wise thing to do.” Since we do not have God's foreknowledge, there are some things that we will have to accept by faith until we can see as God can see.

Pharaoh's Attitude Toward God

God knew the kind of man that Pharaoh was; and because he was that kind of man, he provided fertile ground for God's activity. This is indicated by the attitude of Pharaoh toward God. You will find it expressed in chapter 5 of the book of Exodus.

Exodus 5

1And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness.
2And Pharaoh said, Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go.

That was the attitude of Pharaoh. He said, “Who is Jehovah, that I should pay any attention to Him? I don't know Him.” Pharaoh's “I don't know Him” did not indicate that he had never heard of God; it simply meant, “I will not recognize His authority. I will do as I want to do whether He likes it or not.” This is a dangerous position; and the very moment an individual takes that position, that individual sets in motion a process within his own being that will result in the hardening of his heart. Remember that. Really, there is nothing mystifying about the statement that God hardened the heart of Pharaoh. Pharaoh set in motion the process that resulted in the hardening of his own heart.

In chapter 1 of Romans is enunciated the second principle upon which God's hardening of Pharaoh's heart was based, and the principle upon which the same process even in our day is based:

Romans 1

18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness [Pharaoh was holding the truth in unrighteousness];
19Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
20For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

No man has the right to say that he does not know about God. No man has the right to say, “I don't know Jehovah,” as did Pharaoh. The reason no man has a right to say that is that the truth concerning God is very plainly revealed in the heavens; and if men say that they do not know God, it is because they deliberately decide so. Notice verse 21:

Romans 1

21Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
22Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
23And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
28And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

This was Pharaoh: “Who is God that I should obey Him? I'll not do as He says. I'll do as I please.” The moment he took that attitude, God gave him over to a reprobate mind, to do the things which were not convenient, all of which resulted in the hardening of his own heart.

Process Resulting From Heart Attitude

Go back with me, please, to the book of Exodus as I remind you that there are six things upon which God based the hardening of Pharaoh's heart. One was His foreknowledge. Another was Pharaoh's own attitude of heart, which set in motion a process which resulted in the hardening of his heart. That process is the third thing upon which God based the hardening of Pharaoh's heart. Let us notice in the Scriptures the definite statements that Pharaoh hardened his heart. Turn with me, please, to chapter 8 of the book of Exodus, verse 15:

Exodus 8

15But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

Here is a very plan statement that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. Look at verse 32 of this same chapter:

Exodus 8

32And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.

Then notice in chapter 9, verse 7:

Exodus 9

7And Pharaoh sent, and behold, there was not one of the cattle of the Israelites dead. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.
8And the LORD said unto Moses, and unto Aaron, Take to you handfuls of ashes of the furnace, and let Moses sprinkle it toward the heaven in the sight of Pharaoh.
9And it shall become small dust in all the land of Egypt, and shall be a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast, throughout all the land of Egypt.
10And they took ashes of the furnace, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses sprinkled it up toward heaven; and it became a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast.
11And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils; for the boil was upon the magicians, and upon all the Egyptians.
12[Notice carefully now] And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had spoken unto Moses.

Here, in conjunction one with the other, we are told that the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, that the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, and that Pharaoh hardened his own heart.

Look in that same chapter at verse 34:

Exodus 9

34And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants.

So ten times we are told God hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and four times that Pharaoh hardened his own heart.

Consequence of Natural Law

Notice the fourth thing that must be remembered when we consider the principle of God's hardening the heart of Pharaoh–that God dealt with Pharaoh in such a way that He caused his heart to be hardened. We find a third thing related to this word “hardened.” Not only did God harden Pharaoh's heart, not only did Pharaoh harden his own heart, but the very activity that surrounded him acted as a catalyst to harden his heart. Let us see what it was that God brought to pass in his life as a process, a natural law, that caused the hardening of his heart.

Turn, please, to chapter 7 of the book of Exodus, verse 22:

Exodus 7

22And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, neither did he hearken unto them; as the LORD had said.

The verses surrounding this verse explain that Moses had turned the waters of Egypt into blood, and the magicians in the land of Egypt did exactly the same thing. Pharaoh looked upon the whole thing and what he saw hardened his heart. Verse 22 does not say that God hardened Pharaoh's heart. It does not say that he hardened his own heart. It says that the very thing that he saw with his own eyes hardened his heart. He saw truth opposed to lie, and accepted the lie instead of the truth, as a natural result of the attitude of his heart.

Rejection of Truth Brings Strong Delusion

II Thessalonians, chapter 2, deals with a period of time yet to come upon the earth known as the Tribulation. The Church will be taken out of the world, the Antichrist will make his appearance, and people who will be living on the earth will be living under the rule and the reign of the Antichrist. They will be living in a difficult time indeed. In verse 8, we read:

II Thessalonians 2

8And then shall that Wicked [or that wicked one] be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:
9Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
10And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because [listen carefully now] they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
11For this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
12That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Here we are told that there is going to be a group of people living on the earth who will readily believe a lie in place of the truth. God will have sent them a strong delusion so that they will believe that lie; He will have sent them that strong delusion because when they had the opportunity to love the truth, when they had the opportunity to accept the truth, they did not do it.

Pharaoh had the opportunity to receive the truth, but he loved not the truth. Therefore in the course of time God sent him a strong delusion so that he could believe more in the false power of his magicians than in the mighty power of God. His heart was hardened by the very process of his activity.

The Problem of Familiarity

Turn now to chapter 8 of the book of Exodus and notice verse 18:

Exodus 8

18And the magicians did so with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not: so there were lice upon man, and upon beast.

Let us recognize something. The magicians, ordinary men who had occult power, were able to reproduce three of the plagues that God sent upon Egypt, but only three. There came a time when God said, “That is all. You cannot do more than that.” God permitted them to have power like that of his own servants in order that the heart of Pharaoh might be hardened, and then He called a halt to it. The magicians tried to produce a plague of lice, but they could not.

Exodus 8

19Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God: and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

“Pharaoh, this is God. We are but men. What you have seen up to this time may have been ordinary, it may have been extraordinary, but this is God.” You will notice in verse 19 that Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said. You will notice that it does not say that God hardened his heart; it does not say that he hardened his own heart; it just says his heart was hardened by virtue of what he saw.

It is possible to become so familiar with spiritual things, and for those spiritual things to become so commonplace, that your heart will be hardened in the midst of them and truth will fall on deaf ears. Old-time evangelists used to have a phrase for it; they used to call it “Gospel-hardened.” They would say that people were so Gospel hardened that no one would respond to a simple invitation to receive Jesus Christ. That was what was wrong with Pharaoh; he was miracle hardened. He had seen so much, and had refused to acknowledge God in relation to it, that the very process hardened his heart.

Will you notice verse 35 of the next chapter:

Exodus 9

35And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the LORD had spoken by Moses.

Here again, it does not say that God hardened his heart, it does not say that Pharaoh hardened his own heart; it says that his heart was hardened.

If you follow this through to its natural conclusion, at what do you arrive? Pharaoh's heart was hardened because he repented once too often. We will see as we look at the plagues that were visited upon him that when the going got rough, he said, “I'm sorry; go ahead and do what you were going to do, Moses,” and as soon as the thing was lifted, he said, “I am not sorry any more.” And when the time came that this plague was lifted, his heart was hardened and he refused to let the people go.

To Show Forth God's Glory

The fifth thing upon which God based his action we touched upon at the very beginning of our discussion. God hardened the heart of Pharaoh that His glory might be displayed. Will you look at chapter 10 of the book of Exodus, verses 1 and 2:

Exodus 10

1And 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 signs before him:
2And that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son's son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am the LORD.

Why did God harden Pharaoh's heart? That the Israelites might be able to tell their children the story of how God dealt with Pharaoh, and in so doing prove that God was God.

Notice chapter 11, verse 9:

Exodus 11

9And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you; that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.
10And 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.

God hardened the heart of Pharaoh that His glory and His majesty might be revealed.

A Monument to God's Wrath

For the sixth and last thing upon which God based the hardening of Pharaoh's heart, we will have to go to the book of Romans. We have suggested before that the best commentary on any portion of the Word of God is the commentary of the Holy Spirit as He makes mention of it in some other portion of His Word:

Romans 9

14What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
15For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
16So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
17For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, [listen carefully now] 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.
18Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
19Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?
20Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
21Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
22What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
23And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.
24Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
25As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.
26And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.
27Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:
28For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.
29And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Savaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.
30What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.
31But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.
32Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;
33As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

Going back in this chapter to verse 17, the Spirit of God said that God was pleased to select, without any permission from anyone, one man who would be an everlasting monument to the power of his wrath. And in the same paragraph we are told that He selects many, many people to be monuments to His matchless, everlasting grace, as he saves them from sin. People who deserve to go to Hell, people who deserve to be destroyed, God chooses as vessels of mercy to show forth His everlasting grace. Why is it that our minds are so arranged that we are troubled about one monument to the wrath of God, yet pass over the numberless monuments to the matchless grace of God?

Conclusion

May I remind you that this thing that troubles so many folk, the hardening of Pharaoh's heart, was based upon six things that should help us understand. First, it was based upon God's foreknowledge; God knew the kind of man Pharaoh would be so he selected him to be the monument of His wrath. Second, this process of hardening was based on Pharaoh's attitude toward God; He did not want to retain God in His knowledge, so the natural laws of operation had to go into effect. Third, God's hardening of Pharaoh's heart was based upon the hardening of Pharaoh's heart by Pharaoh himself. Fourth, the very circumstances and the way in which Pharaoh responded to those circumstances could not do other than harden his heart. Fifth, Pharaoh's heart was hardened that God's glory might be displayed. Last, God hardened the heart of Pharaoh on the basis of His sovereign might as God; and none of us can question that.


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