The exact role God played in Pharaoh’s eventual destruction had always been one of those troublesome questions niggling at the spine of my subconscious. Why did God seemingly not give Pharaoh a chance? It did not seem consistent with the character of God that most of the other parts of the Bible painted about God.
Well, the wonderful thing about the Bible is that it gives you questions, but it also provides you with the answers you seek. Many times, we’re quick to chalk the things we don’t understand in God’s Word down to some mystery of God we were never meant to understand. Or hold it up as a contradiction, and thus, a proof that the Bible is perhaps not as accurate as it is claimed to be.
But you see, God calls us to love Him with all our heart, soul and might (Deuteronomy 6:5). The soul is the seat of our emotions, intellect and will. God doesn’t expect us to suspend every atom of our reasoning in our walk with Him- He expects us to heavily involve our minds as much as we can.
As we apply our minds to the transforming power of the Word, we’re able to understand with our minds why God did some things, and how He did them. We may not always have all the answers, but we eventually will have all the answers that matter.
But back to Pharaoh’s heart. What the average Christian carries around in their mind (as I used to, for most of my life so far) was that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and that was all there was to it- Pharaoh did not have a choice; he was doomed to destruction. While this may not be exactly incorrect, careful study reveals there’s more to the story.
So when God first talks about the heart of Pharaoh to Moses in Exodus 4:21, He talks about hardening Pharaoh’s heart, but in a predictive sense. Something He has not yet done but will do. The same way we know what’s going to happen to people who do not accept the gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. It is predictive. The next time this subject matter is mentioned in Exodus 7:3, it’s also in a predictive sense.
The first time it was mentioned that God actually hardened Pharaoh’s heart was in Exodus 7:13. But note that between the first mention and Exodus 7:13, Moses and Aaron had spoken to Pharaoh two or three times, but with no positive outcomes. In fact, Pharaoh increased the burdens and hardship of the people of Israel. This tells you a lot about the state of his heart before Exodus 7:13.
But from that point till chapter 10 when it begins to be consistently recorded that God hardened the heart of Pharaoh, there’s something that keeps popping up; “he (i.e. Pharaoh) hardened his heart” or “Pharaoh hardened his heart”. Is it now clear that Pharaoh actually had a chance to repent, but when he refused to, he was helped along this path of perdition?
“Tell them, ‘As sure as I am the living God, I take no pleasure from the death of the wicked. I want the wicked to change their ways and live. Turn your life around! Reverse your evil ways! Why die, Israel?’(Ezekiel 33:11, MSG)
“Why die?!” God is asking this question of many people today. But a large amount of humanity is bent on going the way of Pharaoh, though the end result of this way is already declared. If you’re reading this, and you’re yet to make that choice, choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19-20). It’s pretty easy (Romans 10:9-10).
P. S.: Big shout out to “The Bible Project” Team. They were very much instrumental in the writing of this piece. They’ve got great videos on YouTube, and awesome plans on the Bible app “YouVersion”. Kindly check them out. Thank you for reading!