You are to say everything I order you, and Aharon your brother is to speak to Pharaoh and tell him to let the people of Isra’el leave his land. But I will make him hardhearted. Even though I will increase my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my armies, my people the sons of Isra’el, out of the land of Egypt with great acts of judgment. Then, when I stretch out my hand over Egypt and bring the people of Isra’el out from among them, the Egyptians will know that I am Adonai.”
But Pharaoh in turn called for the sages and sorcerers; and they too, the magicians of Egypt, did the same thing, making use of their secret arts. Each one threw his staff down, and they turned into snakes. But Aharon’s staff swallowed up theirs. Nevertheless, Pharaoh was made hardhearted; and he didn’t listen to them, as Adonai had said would happen.
The fish in the river died, and the river stank so badly that the Egyptians couldn’t drink its water. There was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. But the magicians of Egypt did the same with their secret arts, so that Pharaoh was made hardhearted and didn’t listen to them, as Adonai had said would happen. Pharaoh just turned and went back to his palace, without taking any of this to heart.
Exodus 7:2-5, 11-13, & 21-23
Moshe said to Pharaoh, “Not only that, but you can have the honor of naming the time when I will pray for you, your servants and your people to be rid of the frogs, both yourselves and your homes, and that they stay only in the river.” He answered, “Tomorrow.” Moshe said, “It will be as you have said, and from this you will learn that Adonai our God has no equal. The frogs will leave you and your homes, also your servants and your people; they will stay in the river only.” Moshe and Aharon left Pharaoh’s presence, and Moshe cried to Adonai about the frogs he had brought on Pharaoh. Adonai did as Moshe had asked — the frogs died in the houses, courtyards and fields; they gathered them in heaps till the land stank. But when Pharaoh saw that he had been given some relief, he made himself hardhearted and would not listen to them, just as Adonai had said would happen.
Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh was made hardhearted, so that he didn’t listen to them, just as Adonai had said would happen.
But I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people live — no swarms of insects will be there — so that you can realize that I am Adonai, right here in the land. Yes, I will distinguish between my people and your people, and this sign will happen by tomorrow.
Moshe left Pharaoh and interceded with Adonai, and Adonai did what Moshe had asked: he removed the swarms of insects from Pharaoh, his servants and his people — not one remained. But this time, too, Pharaoh made himself stubborn and didn’t let the people go.
Exodus 8:5-11, 15, 18-19, & 26-28
Pharaoh investigated and found that not even one of the animals of the people of Isra’el had died. Nevertheless, Pharaoh’s heart remained stubborn, and he didn’t let the people go.
The magicians couldn’t even stand in Moshe’s presence because of the sores, which were on them as well as on the other Egyptians. But Adonai made Pharaoh hardhearted, so that he didn’t listen to them — just as Adonai had said to Moshe.
For this time, I will inflict my plagues on you, yourself, and on your officials and your people; so that you will realize that I am without equal in all the earth. By now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with such severe plagues that you would have been wiped off the earth. But it is for this very reason that I have kept you alive — to show you my power, and so that my name may resound throughout the whole earth.
Whoever among Pharaoh’s servants feared what Adonai had said had his slaves and livestock escape into the houses; but those who had no regard for what Adonai had said left their slaves and livestock in the field.
Pharaoh summoned Moshe and Aharon and said to them, “This time I have sinned: Adonai is in the right; I and my people are in the wrong. Intercede with Adonai — we can’t take any more of this terrible thunder and hail; and I will let you go, you will stay no longer.” Moshe said to him, “As soon as I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands to Adonai; the thunder will end, and there won’t be any more hail — so that you can know that the earth belongs to Adonai. But you and your servants, I know you still won’t fear Adonai, God.”
When Pharaoh saw that the rain, hail and thunder had ended, he sinned still more by making himself hardhearted, he and his servants. Pharaoh was made hardhearted, and he didn’t let the people of Isra’el go, just as Adonai had said through Moshe.
Exodus 9:7, 11-12, 14-16, 20-21, 27-30, 34-35
Adonai said to Moshe, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have made him and his servants hardhearted, so that I can demonstrate these signs of mine among them, so that you can tell your son and grandson about what I did to Egypt and about my signs that I demonstrated among them, and so that you will all know that I am Adonai.”
But Adonai made Pharaoh hardhearted, and he would not let them go. Pharaoh said to them, “Get away from me! And you had better not see my face again, because the day you see my face, you will die!” Moshe answered, “Well spoken! I will see your face no more.”
Exodus 10:1-2 & 27-28
Adonai said to Moshe, “Pharaoh will not listen to you, so that still more of my wonders will be shown in the land of Egypt.”
Moshe and Aharon did all these wonders before Pharaoh, but Adonai had made Pharaoh hardhearted, and he didn’t let the people of Isra’el leave his land.
I copied A LOT of scripture today after spending the last two days in the first 9 plagues, but I kept seeing a recurring theme: God sends judgments so that all would know Who He is – His power, His might, His sovereignty, His supremacy and glory – yet Pharaoh’s heart continues to be hardened, whether by God or himself. Many theologians have debated what it means when the bible says “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart” and I’m not sure I fully, 100% understand how or why it happened, other than what Paul writes in Romans 9:
“For to Moshe he says, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will pity whom I pity.’ Thus it doesn’t depend on human desires or efforts, but on God, who has mercy. For the Tanakh says to Pharaoh, ‘It is for this very reason that I raised you up, so that in connection with you I might demonstrate my power, so that my name might be known throughout the world.’ So then, he has mercy on whom he wants, and he hardens whom he wants. (vs 15-18)
Everything God allows serves His purpose of revealing Himself to mankind and exhibiting His power and might, but also His goodness and grace. These judgments, in a sense, are an act of mercy, which caused many of the Egyptians to recognize and fear the God of Israel. It may seem unmerciful of God to harden Pharaoh’s heart – it’s as though he was just a puppet for God’s purposes. But I think Paul gives use a clue in verses 22-24 of chapter 9:
“Now what if God, even though he was quite willing to demonstrate his anger and make known his power, patiently put up with people who deserved punishment and were ripe for destruction? What if he did this in order to make known the riches of his glory to those who are the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory — that is, to us, whom he called not only from among the Jews but also from among the Gentiles?”
Pharaoh was a cruel taskmaster from the beginning, the son of the man who called for an all-out genocide of all the newborn Hebrew males. When Moses and Aaron approach Pharaoh in chapter 5, his response is, “Who is Adonai, that I should obey when he says to let Israel go? I don’t know Adonai, and I also won’t let Israel go.” The Pharaohs of Egypt saw themselves as gods to be worshipped and served, so when Moses and Aaron came speaking of another God to whom the people wanted to out and worship and sacrifice to, Pharaoh was not going to have it. There is a back and forth in the narrative, sometimes it states that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened and sometimes it says that he himself hardened it, out of stubbornness and refusal to listen or take to heart the warnings and signs of Moses and Aaron. Pharaoh seems to be a man who God patiently put up with, deserving punishment and ripe for destruction, but through whom He would use at just the right time in history to make known the riches of His glory to those who are the objects of His mercy.
Job was a righteous man before God, but God gave Satan permission to bring about testing and trials and suffering. His response when put up against the horrible things he suffered, though not fully understanding why God had allowed such things to happen, was to trust all the more in God and His sovereignty. He was able to say, “Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him.” Pharaoh on the other hand, was wicked in his ways before Moses ever stepped foot into his palace. His heart was already hardened to an extent and through all of God’s signs and wonders, which brought great suffering upon him and his people, he continued to be hardened by God and his own flesh. I don’t know how God chooses who will be hardened and who will be broken to the point of crying out to Him in surrender, but I do know that God will always be glorified. The lesson for us is to keep our hearts in a position of humility and fear before God so that no matter what He allows (not causes) to happen in our lives can be a vehicle of bringing Him glory and us closer to Him.
James writes, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” But this verse appears towards the end of a chapter which, in context, deals with persevering through suffering: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect work, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all without hesitation and without reproach; and it will be given to him…
Happy is the one who endures testing, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’—for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He himself tempts no one. But each one is tempted when he is dragged away and enticed by his own desire. Then when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is full grown, it brings forth death.”
How amazing that our suffering not only creates the opportunity to grow closer to God, more in likeness to Christ, but also glorifies our LORD!?! Matt Chandler did an amazing sermon on this just this past week and beautifully lays out what this looks like in our lives.
LORD, even when I don’t understand Your ways, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I! Let my heart be a place where Your Word finds soft, fertile soil – where it can grow deep roots and reap a rich harvest. Let me not be hardened by my own sin, and surround me with faithful friends that will sharpen me. Thank You that every good and perfect gift comes from You and that You work out all things for my good and Your glory. AMEN!