My Question: Why did God harden Pharaoh's Heart?

Hi everyone,

I am leading a group of bright, genuine Christian thinkers who are wrestling with the idea of pre-destination. Their question is why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart (Ex 9:12)?


Hi @freddykwan91 I found this thread helpful as I searched an answer to this question.

I personally take this literally that God used Pharaoh for his purposes. A scripture I often think of is Proverbs 21:1 which says:

The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord , like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.

I believe that the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart so he would cause the plagues to intensify and eventually send the Israelites out of Egypt.


Hi Freddy,
This has been a tough one for me as well. I don’t know how much time I have now to go into it; if I run out of time I will try to revisit this post and expound/clarify. If you read carefully the account of the struggle between pharaoh and Yahweh in Exodus, you will see that pharaoh hardened his own heart first. After a point, God hardened it further. Pharaoh (who claimed divinity) was against the LORD from the beginning.
In Romans 9, which is a chapter I have always approached with mild fear and have always fought to understand (in terms of reconciling the apparent “arbitrary” tone it seems to convey to my conscience and that of others whom I have talked to with the justice, goodness and practical love of God), Paul addresses this.
In verse 17, it says that pharaoh had been raised up by God, that He might show His power in him. In verses 15 & 16 it talks about God being a God of mercy. Now, Gods power was shown — in pharaoh’s destruction. But was it not also shown in other kings and figures in history in their submission to Yahweh? For example Nebuchadnezzar.
So these “vessels of wrath” in Romans 9… are they helpless? Choice-less? I don’t believe so. Earlier in Paul’s letter to the Romans, he gives us a clue: he says their own choices, which come from their (self-) hardened and impenitent hearts, are storing up for themselves wrath. They are vessels, filling themselves up with the wrath of God. Romans 3, verses 5 and 6. Also consider verses 7 and 8.
This is all I have time for now, but there is more to discover, maybe this can be a starting point for thinking and discussion for you.
I know reformers will disagree with me. I will say many verses in the Bible seem to allude to predestination; but there are way too many verses, I would argue, that also undermine that doctrine.
I wonder if we’ll ever know, even after we are called Home, where exactly the line was between God’s power and our free will.
In the end, I know that, no matter the finality of the issue, I don’t need to fear the truth.
Either way, God will be found to be perfect in wisdom, justice and love.

I hope this helps, at least as a start! I will try to revisit this thread when I have time…

May the Spirit of Truth, the Counselor and Comforter of our souls, guide your heart and mind in Christ Jesus!

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Brian I should have noticed the link to the thread in your post. Haha, my whole post was pretty much superfluous.
Oh well.

What a great resource and community this is!
Praise God!

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Going a little further with the implications and direction of your (and my) original question concerning pharaoh’s heart (and, ultimately, predestination):
Verses like Deuteronomy 29:4 and others are troubling to me too. But when the Holy Spirit helps me to consider all of Scripture, and I ask Him to help me understand, I am reassured.
For example, in Deuteronomy 29:4 Moses is addressing Israel concerning an additional covenant between them and the LORD. He seems to be hinting at their failure to uphold their part of the previous covenant, and says,

“But to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.”

I find myself as described by Paul in Romans 9 asking, “If you have not given, why then Lord do you find fault?” But then the Holy Spirit helps me. He brings to my mind James 4:1-5, and I have to consider that the LORD has not given because they have not asked. Then the Spirit asks me, “Does the LORD not grant the desires of the heart?” Scripture tells me He does, and it’s a two-edged sword, a forked road. Matthew 7:7-10; Romans 1:24-32.
Then I must ask differently — I must ask the Lord to search my heart and cleanse it, that I may chase Him; that He will give me a heart that runs after Him, to the glory of His Name.
I doubt what I’ve written above is anything unknown to most people here, but I find it incredible to sometimes be aware of God helping me understand His word, and, consequently, Himself.
I’m still a very young Christian (maybe only three years now), I don’t have any illusions that I’m saying anything profound; I guess I’m just sharing my own excitement in how the Father has given us what we need: Scripture, prayer, and His Own Spirit to help us understand.
He is good!