And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh which I have put in your hand. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.” (Exodus 4:21)
The Hebrew phrase translated as “harden his heart” could also be rendered, “make his heart stubborn.” So then, are we to conclude that God purposely made Pharaoh sinful? Or is it that the All-Knowing God was well aware of what was already in the heart of Pharaoh? The two Hebrew letters that comprise the “heart” of the word Pharaoh — resh and ayin — form the Hebrew word ra’ which means “evil.” I fell it is more likely that God knew that Pharaoh’s arrogance and wicked heart would not allow him to concede to a God he did not know. In fact, in Egyptian culture, Pharaoh was considered to be as god.
Nineteen times the Bible mentions the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart; ten of those times it is ascribed to Pharaoh. In other words, each time Pharaoh hardened his heart, it became less likely that he would relent later. In the end, God hardened his already hardened heart. This, in fact, seems to be the pattern that we see where others are concerned.
Before he killed his brother, Abel, God encouraged Cain to do what was right (Genesis 4:7). Instead, he did what was in his heart, Scripture stating clearly that Cain was “of the wicked one” because he chose to be (1 John 3:12). Esau was rejected by God because Esau first rejected God in that he despised the birthright. In the end of days, people will harden their hearts against God as well; the Bible says that:
“They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds.” (Revelation 16:11)
It is hard to imagine how and why people reach such a state but they do. In fact, Paul predicted that the time when come when God would subject mankind to a “strong delusion” and that they would believe a lie. Why? Because they refused to believe the truth and “had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12). It would seem that if someone is intent to be a certain way, then God will allow them to be just that. Only, later on, they will realize that was not beneficial.
Where you and I are concerned, we need to make sure that our hearts remain tender and pliable, always ready to receive from God what He has to say. Scripture says that, “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:18). Let us daily remind ourselves to be this kind of person.
Blessings and Shalom,