What About Pharaoh? God Hardened Pharaoh’s Heart
Some consider God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart as clear evidence that God predestinates people to reprobation and ultimately, to condemnation. The Arminian view is that Pharaoh, of his own volition, had long set his heart against Israel and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and for His part, God offered Pharaoh five opportunities to honestly repent and live before finally strengthening Pharaoh’s resolve to follow through upon the hardness of heart that Pharaoh harbored against Israel long before God instructed Moses to deliver Israel from the hand of Pharaoh.
Read Exodus 2:22-25. God provides us two reasons for delivering Israel:
- 1) He heard their groanings.
- 2) He remembered His covenant (in other words: the time had come for Him to honor His covenant).
God’s desire to deliver the sons and daughters of Abraham was because the Israelites were hopeless and helpless, lost in slavery. Now ask yourself if Pharaoh is typical of all persons? Remember that Pharaoh is a type of federal head who is Egypt in the sense that he is Egypt’s head and reflects the stubbornness of Egypt against Israel. Remember also that through the nation of Egypt God sought to display his greatness so as to draw Egypt and the other nations to repentance and thus nearer to Himself. In consideration of Pharaoh, I’m led to believe that both Pharaoh’s position and person is extraordinary and not typical of all persons. Consider, if you will, that,
- 1) Pharaoh is the federal head of Egypt. This is not directly stated in Scripture but is deduced from Scripture.
- 2) As federal head, Pharaoh represents the stubbornness of Egypt toward the nation of Israel and God was about to bring Egypt under judgment for cursing Israel under the Abrahamic covenant.
- God’s honoring of the Abrahamic covenant is not explicitly stated in the text but deduced from a comparison of the texts of Israel groaning and God’s promise to bless those who bless Israel (Abraham) and to curse those who curse Israel (Abraham). The suzerain covenant (an unconditional covenant between a sovereign and his people) between God and Abraham and Abraham’s descendants is viewed as the reasonGod brings judgment to Egypt.
- 3) God sought to display his greatness so as to draw the nations to repentance and thus nearer to God. This is explicitly stated as God’s goal for bringing judgment to Egypt.
Summary: Under the idea of federal headship, Pharaoh personifies Egypt. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart to accomplish his immediate goal of revealing himself through his judgment to the nations to bring them to repentance and faith in fulfillment of his eschatological goal to have a people to call his own with which to share his blessedness with.
Have you considered that when God promised Moses to harden Pharaoh’s heart in order to bring great judgments against Egypt, that his judgment wasn’t a personal judgment against Pharaoh but a corporate judgment against Egypt that God used to further unfold His plan of redemption of the human race in human history that He had first promised in the Garden (cf. Gen. 3)?
A corporate judgment instead of a personal judgment seems to stand in better agreement with the text where God would rather have seen Pharaoh “return from his old ways and lived,” and where the Hebrew text makes clear that Pharaoh hardened his own heart during the first five plagues. After the first five warnings went unheeded while Egypt suffered, Pharaoh’s submission would have meant prudence, not repentance. Because Pharaoh resisted evidence, experience and even the testimony of his own court magicians, only then was his heart hardened by God to further resist. For though the first five of God’s plagues were disciplinary, the final five where purely penal. Although penal, the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was not to wickedness but with the nerve to follow through the inclinations of his heart that already existed. In other words, after the first five disciplinary plagues where God saw Pharaoh harden his own heart, God then confirmed the path that Pharaoh had chosen and strengthened Pharaoh’s resolve to act on his evil inclinations to further resist God even when prudent self-interest would have mitigated against such unrivaled foolhardiness.
1. Remember the Abrahamic covenant: “I will bless those who bless you, and whosoever curses you I will curse” (Gen. 12:3). Oppression of Abraham’s children was Egypt’s sin and this oppression placed the nation of Egypt in a hostile relationship with the Lord of Hosts. Pharaoh and Egypt had already hardened their hearts against the children of Abraham long before the story of the Exodus. As a result, Egypt was already due judgment by the time the events of Exodus unfolded.