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EXEGESIS > Old Testament > Pentateuch > Exodus > Ex. 4:21 - God and Pharaoh

God and Pharaoh
Ex. 4:21

I will harden his heart,
so that he will not let the people go.

Facts according to the Scriptures

    * God stated that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart.

The verse above plainly states this to be true; it is God Himself who affirms that He will harden the heart of Pharaoh; there is no mistaken what is stated.
The prediction is made more than once: “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply My signs and wonders in the land of Egypt” (Ex. 7:3).

Because God knew the future and because He knew what He would do, namely harden Pharaoh, He informed Moses: “I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not even by a mighty hand” (Ex. 3:19).

Related to this is the fact that God is Sovereign in all things (see: God is Sovereign and Theistic Determinism)

    * God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.

God kept His word; He did exactly what He stated that He would do.

Testimony of Scripture that God hardened Pharaoh:

The Lord said to Moses: “Pharaoh’s heart is hard; he refuses to let the people go” (Ex. 7:14);

But the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh (Ex. 9:12);

Now the Lord said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his servants” (Ex. 10:1);

But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the children of Israel go (Ex. 10:20);

But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go (Ex. 10:27);

The Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the children go out of his land (Ex. 11:10);

I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that he will pursue them; and I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord (Ex. 14:4);

And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh the king of Egypt (Ex. 14:8);

And I indeed will harden the hearts of the Egyptians (Ex. 14:17);

Additional testimony of Scripture regarding God’s hardening of individuals:

Num. 21:21-23
Deut. 2:30
Josh. 11:19-20
Ps. 105:25
Jo. 12:40
Rom. 9:17-18

    * Pharaoh hardened his own heart.

Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the Lord had said (Ex. 7:22);

But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not heed them, as the Lord had said (Ex. 8:15);

But Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also; neither would he let the people go (Ex. 8:32);

But the heart of Pharaoh became hard, and he did not let the people go (Ex. 9:7);

Pharaoh . . . hardened his heart, he and his servants. So the heart of Pharaoh was hard (Ex. 9:34-35).

Problem and Solution for Some

The Problem – if God hardened Pharaoh, then Pharaoh cannot be responsible for his sin; if God hardened Pharaoh, the God is responsible for Pharaoh’s sin.

The Solution – God hardened Pharaoh after Pharaoh hardened himself; some understand the hardening by God to be the inevitable consequences of one who continues in sin: the senses become dull and sin becomes easier.


* Both the problem and the solution are predicated on false premises, premises that do not originate in Scripture.

* Such reasoning ignores the plain statements of Scripture.

* Such reasoning begins with Pharaoh and not with God; in other words, there is a veiled attempt to defend Pharaoh at the expense of God.

* Responsibility is not based on ability; Kant popularized the concept of “Ought implies can”; but this thinking is inconsistent with Scripture; the question of responsibility and ability must be discussed in terms of:

One, the fact that man is creature not Creator; man is the clay not the Potter.

Two, man’s identification with Adam and the depravity that accrues to all men because of him; see: Interpretation of Adam’s Act and The Principle of Identification.

Three, the fact of Law, and the fact that all are required to keep the Law; to keep the Law is to do right before God, the one and only God.

Four, the fact of Command; man’s responsibility is established because God has commanded.

Five, the personal sin of man and the sinful state of man that impact ability.

* Hardening is allowing and hastening the heart to pursue its own course.

* The Old Testament story of Pharaoh is used in the New Testament as an illustration of God’s Sovereignty; Rom. 9:17-18; see: God is Sovereign and Theistic Determinism.

* Man has no right to question the doing of God; God does not have to answer the questions and musings of man; see Rom. 9:20.

See:  Ex. 6:1-13 - I am the Lord

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