"Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.” (Exodus 10:1-2)
- So that the Egyptians would see that the God of the Hebrew people was the one true and living God.
- So that the Hebrew people would know the reality of their God, and to never forget it.
God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is then, in a certain sense, a means of God’s grace toward the nations. Yes, God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s already stubborn heart was a sort of means of grace toward him and his people. How so? Because had He not hardened his heart and had Pharaoh let the Israelites worship for a few days, the true and living God would still not have been real to this pagan king, and God is on a mission for His own namesake that all the nations of the earth would know Him. Hardening the heart of Pharaoh was, in a sense, a prerequisite for the miracles that would follow. A prime example of God’s goodness using what was intended for evil (a Pharaoh’s stubborn heart) to accomplish His perfect and good plan to awaken the nations.
So God in His wisdom and grace instigates the drama of Israel’s exodus by hardening the heart of a king who had much to learn about the true and living God and about the ingenuity of his own pagan gods. What follows in chapters 7-12, plague after plague, gives clear demonstration that the God of Israel is true and the Egyptian gods are fakes. This becomes so apparent to the Egyptians that by the end of the ordeal they all fear God and his people (Exodus 12:30-36) and the nations begin to tremble about what was going in with this peculiar Hebrew people group and their powerful God (see Joshua 2:9-11). This doesn’t free Pharaoh from the responsibility of his choices. The hardening of his heart, while it showed to him the reality of the one, true, and living God, also showed the reality of his contempt for that God. His nation would learn in numerous ways what it is to cross with the God of Israel.
Secondly, and more evident, is the effect God actions had on His own people. This can be easily seen and understood considering the circumstances: these are people who were waiting and crying for deliverance for many years. God heard them (Exodus 2:23-25), and His plan of worldwide upheaval and divine deliverance resulted in the people’s belief in Him (Exodus 14:31). The rest of the drama found in the Old Testament unfolds the story of how faithful or faithless them people would be.
Written by Michael Conn.
Michael is a seminary student at Bob Jones University where he will be completing his MA in pastoral theology. To know Michael is to know his passion for ministry. Michael worked closely with Caleb in several different ministry venues including interning at Colonial Hills Baptist Church where Michael became a very close friend with all of the Phelps family. Michael and his fiancee Irene will be getting married in June.