Pharaoh and the Hardened Heart
***On the evening of March 9, 1898, a French Egyptologist, Victor Loret, entered a burial tomb that his workers had discovered a month earlier in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. Throughout that night Loret combed the corridors and chambers amidst many objects, some of which had been vandalized by ancient robbers. Yet some 2,000 objects had survived the thefts intact or partially intact, including a number of royal mummies. One of these mummies was found within its coffin inside its sarcophagus, and today some Egyptologists believe it to be Amenhotep II. If the archaeologists’ identification is correct, this is quite possibly the Pharaoh of the biblical exodus.65
***The reigning chronologies of Egyptian Pharaohs at this time is not known for certain, but some of the circumstances surrounding Amenhotep II and his father, Thutmose III, would seem to be in agreement with what we know of the two Exodus Pharaohs. First, the Pharaoh at the time of Moses’ flight from Egypt (Ex. 1:22) appears to be the same Pharaoh whose death is mentioned in Exodus 2:23. The biblical narrative requires a reign that covered a greater span than Moses’ 40-year sojourn in the Midian wilderness. The only monarch whose reign was long enough to cover so lengthy a period just prior to 1445 B.C. (the conservatively estimated date of the Israeli exodus) was Thutmose III, who reigned for 54 years. Second, Amenhotep II’s son, Thutmose IV, states in an inscription that he was not the legitimate heir. Presumably, the firstborn son of Amenhotep II was the heir but had died before a natural succession could take place. This statement by Thutmose IV would agree with the Bible’s statement in Exodus 12 that Pharaoh’s firstborn son died in the 10th plague. Finally, history suggests that Amenhotep II was prevented from carrying out military campaigns for a handful of years near the beginning of his reign, and this would certainly have been the case if Amenhotep II had lost his army in the Red Sea.xlvii
***If this speculation is correct, Amenhotep II was the Pharaoh before whom Moses stood and upon whom God brought the 10 plagues. In fact, God’s judgment of Pharaoh and the Egyptians pre-figures the judgment which God will someday exercise over every people, tribe, and nation when earth’s present history is over. In Pharaoh’s case divine judgment in this life came in a series of stages. It is important to understand that if a series of judgments comes upon a man (or nation) during this life on earth, God’s aim, at least in the initial stages, is to turn him from his wicked way, not to destroy him (or them). This is true even while God takes no pleasure in the way of the wicked. “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, saith the Lord God, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ezek. 33:11). Here the “death” spoken of is spiritual, not physical, since those spoken of are described as able to repent (see Supplement). And yet we know from John 6:44 that no man will (i.e., ‘bothers’ to) repent unless God draws him.66 These wicked of Ezekiel are not (yet, at least) of a type who have placed their hearts into a position where there is no practical remedy regarding their repentance (cp. 2 Chr. 36:16), though they are, in fact, currently under the condemnation of God because of their unbelief (Jn. 3:36). During the approximate first half of the exodus narrative, we may insert Pharaoh’s name to personalize the sense of the verse, i.e., ‘I have no pleasure in the death of Pharaoh, says the Lord God, but that Pharaoh turn from his way and live.’ How Ezekiel 33:11 squares with the Calvinistic idea that God reprobates men (such as Pharaoh) according to His good pleasure would seem to be a contradiction left for Calvinists to explain. Presumably, Calvinists would appeal to the idea that the ‘wicked’ in this verse are the elect who will be saved, since the verse implies they are able to repent. This means that Calvinists would still maintain that God does take pleasure in the death of the wicked who are ‘non-elect,’ i.e., the great majority of men whom they hold to be reprobated. With Calvinism there is often this turning of Scripture on its head by inserting redefinition into Scripture whenever their doctrinal distinctives make it necessary. Again, such a forced conclusion is brought into play because Calvinists hold to the idea of divine reprobation. They believe, for example, that every decision Pharaoh ever made during the 10 plagues was foreordained by God, and that it pleased God to foreordain not merely the plagues, but also Pharaoh’s responses to them.
***So before we enter into a detailed examination of the ‘hardening’ of Pharaoh’s heart, a further introductory word ought to be said about the so-called divinely ordained histories of men. As for my former Calvinistic viewpoint, I too once believed that God had somehow foreordained all human history, whether Egyptian or Jewish, or modern day Gentile or Jewish. At some point, however, I found myself slipping away from the idea that God had foreordained all human activity, and the one biblical passage responsible for drawing me away from Calvinistic error was a statement about divine judgment; (in fact, it was one that Christ uttered when He was particularly angry, which implies His good pleasure was not being realized):
Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes (Mt. 11:21).
***As a Calvinist I had always believed that God knew the future because he had predestinated history. This is the standard reason Calvinists give. For example, Reformed philosopher James Spiegel states in his book, The Benefits of Providence:
Martin Luther emphatically reiterated the classical doctrine of God, saying, “it is…essentially necessary and wholesome for Christians to know that God foreknows nothing contingently, but that he foresees, purposes and does all things according to His immutable, eternal and infallible will.”xlviii
***…The Puritan theologian Jonathan Edwards…affirmed the doctrine of exhaustive divine foreknowledge, which includes the voluntary actions of human beings. And divine foreknowledge of all events, Edwards argues, implies the predetermination of all things. For if the prior knowledge of the event in infallible, “then it is impossible it should ever be otherwise…and this is the same thing as to say, it is impossible but that the event should come to pass: and this is the same as to say that its coming to pass is necessary.”xlix
***Arthur W. Pink likewise concurs with Luther and Edwards:
Few…are likely to call into question the statement that God knows and foreknows all things, but perhaps many would hesitate to go further than this. Yet is it not self-evident that if God foreknows all things, He has also foreordained all things? Is it not clear that God foreknows what will be because He has decreed what shall be? God’s foreknowledge is not the cause of events, rather are events the effects of His eternal purpose. When God has decreed a thing shall be He knows it will be. In the nature of things there cannot be anything known as what shall be unless it is certain to be, and there is nothing certain to be unless God has ordained it shall be.l
But despite what Reformed thinkers like Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, and A.W. Pink believed, Matthew 11:21 states that Jesus knew what the future could have been. This means that Christ knew (and knows) history contingently.67 So, in my own de novo review as a Calvinist (see chpt. 3), I realized that God didn’t have to predetermine history in order to know what would happen. In fact, occasionally non-Calvinists had told me that divine foreknowledge was not determinative, but I stubbornly disbelieved them, perhaps in part because they shared no Scripture with me that pointed to contingent histories, such as Matthew 11:21. Once I discovered this truth about Christ knowing contingent histories, it was still largely a mystery to me, of course. I could not explain how Christ knew such things, but clearly He did, and clearly Matthew 11:21 was stating that He did. This discovery offered me the hope that answers could be found outside the Calvinistic model. (This was important to me, for if man’s will were not free, then how could God justifiably judge him?) At last, I saw a proposition about foreknowledge that involved mystery apart from predetermination. No longer, then, did I feel compelled to believe in the contradictory premise that God foreordained everything while somehow not foreordaining sin. True, the statement of Matthew 11:21 was fairly beyond my understanding, i.e., like another fact I likewise couldn’t grasp which posited God as an uncreated Being. But these facts about God’s foreknowledge and His eternal existence stayed within appropriate biblical bounds because of the lexical evidence. That is, they appealed to Scriptural mysteries based on a proper historical-grammatical hermeneutic, not on lexical special pleading, which would have led to an irrational mysticism about God’s moral nature (and therefore quite another thing).
***I sometimes ask myself how I would explain a particular Bible passage were I still a Calvinist. I can imagine my reply to Matthew 11:21 if that were still the case. Jesus, I would say, was merely implying that He would have imparted new natures to the people of Tyre and Sidon in order that they would have responded in faith to His miracles. These are the kind of ‘explanations’ I’d be left with as a Calvinist. Of course, the whole force of Matthew 11:21 is undone with such an unnatural explanation, because clearly Christ is angry that Chorazin and Bethsaida are not choosing to repent as other cities would have done under the same circumstances. This comparison of cities goes to the whole point about why Chorazin and Bethsaida would receive greater condemnation. But again, were I a Calvinist, I would also have to explain why Christ is angry in this passage, since in the Calvinist view everything Providence does is suppose to accord with His good pleasure. I think I would begin by claiming that if Christ was angry at man’s sin, it was simply because it pleased Him to be angry. Everything is pleasurable for God, even His anger. In other words, I would frame the debate Calvinistically so that all divine anger would actually be pleasure. Thus, since the Bible says that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, then the tone of Matthew 11:21 must mean that God is not taking pleasure in ‘pleasure’, but pleasure in ‘anger.’ In effect, there is nothing that truly displeases God, it is only that it appears to displease Him. Therefore even sin serves God’s purposes and plans in some sense; and thus all things do work together for the good of the believer, even the believer’s sin, as necessary.
***Second, (were I a Calvinist) I might add that Christ, in expressing His ‘anger,’ was at the same time expressing it idiomatically. On the one hand He would have to be angry at sin because He is holy and recognizes that man can only choose sin, while on the other hand His ‘anger’ is a mere idiomatic expression of the fact that He understands that His sovereignty ordains all the final decisions which men decide on their own. Yes, it is a mystery how Christ can be angry while at the same time express it in an idiomatic way to state that He cannot be angry at His sovereignty, but our job is to accept Scripture, not explain it. God doesn’t expect us to understand everything, but only to trust Him. The carnal-minded man will always suppose he can unwrap the unfathomable judgments of God in order to give others a ‘reason’ for his faith. All he offers us, of course, is man’s reason, not God’s reason. God’s reason is different. This is a mystery to us, but if God were so small that we could understand Him, He wouldn’t be big enough to worship.
***Let me now stop my Calvinistic persona. As I reread the last sentences of the preceding paragraph, I have to admit I sound like I’m exalting God, debasing man, and sounding pretty humble, overall. There I was, proceeding to tear down every absolute statement about God and man, pleasure and anger, and good and evil so that they were indistinct from each other, yet doing it in a way so that readers would find it winsome and encouraging. But in reality this depresses me, so I need to make a brutally honest statement about books on Evangelical apologetics addressing the sovereignty of God. If I wanted to write a ’successful’ book to help people through their problems, I wouldn’t write the kind of book I’m writing. Instead I would write about the problem of evil through the lens of Calvinism, because that’s the kind of books Evangelicals are largely reading (i.e., buying) today. I’m not saying that Calvinistic books are written because their authors want to make money, because I believe these Calvinist authors genuinely think they are helping people understand the Bible and the nature of God. Nevertheless, I look at Evangelicalism and then at the only response to Calvinism that has been getting much attention these days—Open Theism—and wonder what is happening. Here’s the only Christian response to Calvinism that seems ‘above the radar’ these days, and it’s a theology that believes God can be mistaken about the future! So, as I again consider Matthew 11:21 and the positions of Calvinists and Open Theists, I feel disconcerted. Are these Christians reading the same Bible I am? Is this really the best we Christians are willing to believe?
***Part of God’s judgment of us, His own house, is a result of how we understand the nature of God and His judgments, i.e., what we believe. The Bible tells us that “the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:17). As we now look further into God’s judgment of those who disobey the good news of God—and Pharaoh will be our test case—it is important to understand the Bible correctly, lest we invite a certain judgment of God upon ourselves for teaching that His nature and judgments are something other than what they are.
And Whom He Will He Hardeneth
For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth (Rom. 9:17-18).
***This well-known passage in Romans 9 regarding Pharaoh has troubled many Christians and invited many explanations down the years. For a long time Calvinists have not needed to do much explaining about God hardening a man’s heart, since the KJV translation has long seemed self-explanatory: God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and Pharaoh hardened his own heart. For the Calvinist this has been a clear demonstration that God has already disposed what man will come to propose-a perfect example of the two statements of the Westminster Confessions. And certainly Calvinists are right to point out that Exodus seems to state that the Lord would harden Pharaoh’s heart, that afterward He hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and that finally Pharaoh hardened his own heart. In fact, the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart appears some 20 times within the space of 11 chapters. Nevertheless, a closer examination of the exodus narrative will reveal some interesting points about what the Bible really means when it says, “the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” For the main problem regarding this phrase lies in the translation, not the autographa.
***To begin with, it is essential to note that three different Hebrew words are used in the biblical text for the ‘hardening’ of Pharaoh’s heart. Of the KJV appearances of hard/harden in the exodus narrative, one of these three Hebrew words is generally used to refer to those instances when the Lord ‘hardens’ Pharaoh’s heart; a second word usually alternates with this first word to state that either Pharaoh’s heart was ‘hard’ or that Pharaoh ‘hardened’ his own heart; and a third word is mentioned but twice, once in Exodus 7:3 and again in Exodus 13:15, forming a kind of introduction and summary68 to what God said would happen, and, in fact (as events proved), what did happen regarding Pharaoh’s heart in the course of the plagues. In both instances this 3rd Hebrew word appears to have a meaning of hard, tough, stubborn, or indurate. In fact, only this third Hebrew word really has a meaning of hard/hardened.
***The root of the first word (Heb. chazaq)69 li (pronounced khaw-sak) comes from a root that literally means to fasten upon; hence, to seize, be strong (figuratively, courageous, causatively strengthen, cure, help, repair, fortify), to bind, restrain, conquer, and is thus a verb thought by translators to have various meanings both figuratively and causatively. The variations of all these words maintain an augmented aspect to them, such as to make strong, courageous, prevail, etc. Some rabbis, for example, have interpreted the word chazaq to say that God strengthened (not hardened) Pharaoh’s heart so that Pharaoh would not fail in courage, in which case Pharaoh’s choice would have been disabled. While I agree that chazaq means “strengthen,” I think the Rabbinical view is faulty on at least two accounts: 1) the Bible teaches that man’s will is capable of exerting its choice either for or against God under any circumstances (see Chpt. 17); and 2) The biblical narrative does not describe Pharaoh as fearful, but rather unimpressed both with Moses’ sign70 and first plague prior to the Lord’s ‘hardening,’ which begins after plague six., i.e., “(Pharaoh) set not his heart upon it” (Ex. 7:23). However, the idea that strengthened ought to have been used by the KJV instead of hardened has at least Robert Young’s approval in his long-regarded Literal Translation (Exodus 4:21):
And Jehovah saith unto Moses, ‘In thy going to turn back to Egypt, see — all the wonders which I have put in thy hand — that thou hast done them before Pharaoh, and I — I strengthen his heart, and he doth not send the people away;71
Young appears to be alone among translators in advocating that strengthen ought to be the rendering instead of harden. Indeed, the Hebrew word chazaq does, in fact, have a meaning of “strength” or “strong” as it appears in the Old Testament. In fact, the idea of “strength” is implied in nearly all, if not all, of the remaining ‘chazaq’ words in the Old Testament. The breakdown in the KJV is as follows: “strong” 48 (occurrences), “repair” 47, “hold” 37, “strengthened” 28, “strengthen” 14, “harden” 13, “prevail” 10, “encourage” 9, “take” 9, “courage” 8, “caught” 5, “stronger” 5, “hold” 5, misc. 52; total—290 occurrences. The word “repair” is found 35 times in Nehemiah 3 in the record of Jewish families who worked side by side to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls; thus, even in the description of “repairing” there is the aspect of strengthening (the wall). As for chazaq being translated as “harden,” it appears this way 13 times and is almost exclusively restricted to Exodus (again, among the 290 occurrences in the Old Testament). A rare exception might be argued for Jeremiah 5:3 “they have made their faces harder than a rock,” but even here it may simply mean “stronger,” as in “stronger than steel,” i.e., “stronger than rock.” In fact, the best way to get a real sense of how often the word chazaq means strength or strong, or is implied to mean strength, such as “lay hold” (in which case perhaps British understatement has hindered the reader from seeing the idea of seizing, or fastening), is to go through a hardbound copy of Strong’s Concordance (or, more easily, do an online BlueLetterBible.com search and read each reference in which chazaq appears). Thus, by looking up in Strong’s the various English words which the KJV rendered for chazaq (i.e., strong, repair, hold, strengthened, strengthen, harden, prevail, encourage, take, courage, caught, stronger, hold, etc.), one gets a real sense of what chazaq truly means.72 For example, the Lord tells Joshua four times in Joshua 1 to be strong (chazaq) and courageous, and in Exodus God is said to have delivered the Israelites “with a strong (chazaq) hand” (13:9) which He did by sending a “mighty strong (chazaq) west wind” which divided the Red Sea. Chazaq also appears some 42 times as strength, such as when Samson prays for the Lord to “strengthen me, only this once.” The meaning of seize or fasten (hence, implying strength) is present in Judges 19:29 (”[the Levite] took a knife, and laid hold (chazaq) on his concubine”); 2 Samuel 1:11 (”David took hold (chazaq) of his clothes, and rent them”); Isaiah 4:1 (”seven women shall take hold (chazaq) of one man”), 2 Samuel 18:9 (”and his [Absalom's] head caught hold (chazaq) in the oak”), etc.
***Thus whenever one reads Exodus and finds the word harden for the Hebrew word chazaq, it is an exception to the way chazaq is always, or nearly always, translated in the Old Testament even by the King James translators themselves. Presumably, the translation resulting in harden in Exodus was thought to be justified by the context of the Lord’s dealings with Pharaoh. For it is much less awkward (or is it?) to say that “The Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart,” than to say, “the Lord strengthened Pharaoh’s heart.” Indeed, to say that the Lord ‘hardened’ Pharaoh’s heart is to say that God hardened Pharaoh in advance of any choice Pharaoh himself made. And that would mean God was arbitrary in judgment. The more meaningful question, therefore, is to ask why Young’s Literal Translation rendered Exodus 9:12 the way it did, i.e., “The Lord strengthened Pharaoh’s heart.” The answer, first, is that one must remember that though the word “strengthen” in English has positive and good connotations, its definition is not restricted to such connotations. For example, we would all recoil from the statement, “Adolph Hitler had strength of character,” yet, denotatively understood, Hitler did, in fact, have strength of character in the sense of having a strong character. We hasten to add that Hitler’s strength was guided to evil, but I give this example to show how a word often has a connotative (associated) ‘definition’ besides its denotative (actual, technical) definition. I believe this will explain why the KJV translators chose “harden” over the more exacting and transliterated term “strengthen” in the Exodus narrative.
***Second, it must also be understood that the strengthening of Pharaoh’s heart ascribed to the Lord (as we will argue in the rest of this chapter) is merely that of allowance. That is, the Lord strengthened Pharaoh’s heart by allowing the Enemy to strengthen Pharaoh’s heart. Such strengthening by the Enemy would have been done by an intense campaign of thought-suggestion. And yet we must remember that, as strong as the Enemy’s thought suggestions are, Pharaoh himself decided upon his own heart’s intention (i.e., his will). Indeed, one must remember at all times that it is Pharaoh’s heart that is strengthened, not some negated vacuum merely called Pharaoh’s heart by certain theologians who, audaciously, would retain Pharaoh’s heart in name only. That is, it cannot be called Pharaoh’s heart unless Pharaoh himself makes his own choices. Unfortunately, translators other than Young seem not to grant this common sense definition, and thus they apparently think that saying “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart” is somehow more palatable than saying “God strengthened Pharaoh’s heart.” Thus, while many translators have substituted “harden” for “strengthen” to describe God’s activity upon Pharaoh’s heart, the overwhelming use of “strong” and “strengthen” for the Hebrew chazaq throughout the rest of the Old Testament would argue that the translators’ preference for harden in the Exodus narrative was due more to editorializing upon the word chazaq, rather than from any straightforward, denotative treatment of the word. Apparently, the reason for such editorializing was because the translators felt compelled to use “harden,” or else the passage would appear to be saying that God was strengthening Pharaoh’s evil heart, i.e., rather than hardening him to a point where Pharaoh chose rebellion for himself (as though that made sense). Doubtless, the other reason “harden” was chosen by translators was that God’s manner of speaking was not understood to be idiomatic. Thus they failed to see that God is speaking as though He is the causal agent when the context shows that He is merely acting in deference to His wishes. Readers of the Bible should imagine what it must be like for God to express Himself when confronted by a king like Pharaoh who is no more than a speck within the dust on the scales that represent the nations of the earth (Is. 40:15). To such an audacious Pharaoh God speaks as though He Himself, not the Enemy, shall be the one strengthening the king in the king’s own course. But, in fact, the fermenting process of Pharaoh’s stubbornness accelerates during the plagues, because (we will argue) the Enemy adds his influence which Pharaoh ultimately regards as the truth, and so Pharaoh further augments his own heart against God. As to why Pharaoh should do this, rather than to respond to a fair and just God, is Pharaoh’s own contribution to what the Bible elsewhere calls “the mystery of iniquity.” The point here is this: we must always remember while reading the Exodus narrative that God’s realm of causal activity is the bringing of plagues, not Pharaoh’s responses.
***Later in this chapter we will give additional reasons for why neither God Himself nor the Enemy could be the causal agent behind Pharaoh’s heart. For while God intensifies Pharaoh’s conscience so that Pharaoh might do right (through the influence of Moses’ speeches and His own further thought-suggestion), the Enemy, it appears, gains God’s permission after the 6th plague to attempt to sear Pharaoh’s conscience thoroughly, so that Pharaoh should do intensive wrong (the Enemy plans to accomplish this through thought-suggestion, though presumably it will be done with greater intensity than what God feels is just when promoting His own thought-presentations to men). Again, Pharaoh alone ultimately decides the final condition of his own heart in either case. The example of another Old Testament king, King Ahab, in his stubborn persistence in listening to his false prophets (1 Kings 22), will be reviewed later in this chapter to show how God sometimes speaks idiomatically to say that He is the causal agent, when, in fact, the context shows that He is merely acting in deference to His wishes. Whether therefore one prefers to translate chazaq to read ‘strengthen/strong‘ or ‘harden/hard,‘ the main thing to be understood is that God is speaking idiomatically of the Enemy’s activity. However, though God speaks idiomatically as the casual agent who strengthens Pharaoh’s heart, it is true, at least, that in Pharaoh’s case God had come to a point where the Egyptian king had so spurned God that the Lord desired to give him up.
***The meaning of the second Hebrew verb rendered by the KJV as “harden” is the word kabad (pronounced kaw-bad ). The word kabad literally means to be heavy (from a primitive root meaning liver, because the liver was held to be the heaviest organ in the body), in a bad sense (burdensome, severe, dull) or in a good sense (numerous, rich, honorable), and may also mean abounding with, more grievously afflicted, glorify, boast, etc. The meaning of the two verbs chazaq and kabad in the plague narrative of Exodus 4-14 do not therefore have the same exact meaning. Nor do they have the same primitive root. The point here is that if God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in the way Calvinists claim—unilaterally and apart from any ability for Pharaoh to act in any other way than ‘freely’ and in perfect conformity with God’s will—why, then, throughout Exodus does Scripture predominately use one word (chazaq ) to describe the kind of ‘hardening’ the Lord does, but two different words (chazaq and kabad) to describe the kind of ‘hardening’ Pharaoh does? If, as Calvinists claim, Pharaoh is merely receiving the construct of God, why isn’t the same word always used in both cases to tell us this? Certainly, if God wanted to convince us that Pharaoh did nothing but receive God’s constructs, Scripture could have been clearer on the point. One would think, for example, that the Bible would have rendered matching verbs in those statements about Pharaoh that are paired with the Lord’s statements. Thus, “the Lord ‘kabad ‘ Pharaoh’s heart,” should be followed by, “Pharaoh ‘kabad ‘ his heart,” or again, “The Lord chazaq Pharaoh’s heart” followed by, “Pharaoh ‘chazaq ‘ his heart.” Numerous times in Exodus, however, different verbs for harden are used within these paired statements. The point for the Calvinist is not whether the verbs ever match, but why they should not always match. This, in fact, ought to be the case if Calvinism is correct. That is, like Earth’s moon which does nothing but reflect that element of the sun it receives and gives to the earth, so Pharaoh, too, if the Calvinist is right, ought likewise to reflect naught but the construct of God in whatever he does. But simply put, the Hebrew language does not bear this Calvinistic assumption out. There are at least two suggestions the Calvinist may offer for why the verbs in Exodus do not always match within these paired statements (besides their argument of ’sovereign’ will vs. ‘revealed’ will, which tries to pass off God’s will as one will while being two wills). The first is that these must be Hebrew synonyms that are used to alleviate word redundancy for the reader. This suggestion, however, is hardly plausible, since Strong’s concordance shows that multiple uses of one of the words (chazaq) is used six times within a succession of seven occurrences of ‘harden,’ and also because one of the two main words for harden is used almost exclusively when ‘hardening’ activity is referred to the Lord. The other objection the Calvinist may offer, one that is legitimate, in fact, is that the two Hebrew verbs have somewhat different meanings. Thus they might claim that the intent of the passage is not meant here to be a tour de force example proving the Calvinistic doctrine of total sovereignty, vis-à-vis, such that God has already disposed what Pharaoh will come to propose. With this objection—that the words are lexically different—we would agree, but where does that leave the Calvinist? Not only would Calvinists have to give up their example of God allegedly hardening Pharaoh’s heart, which they claim supports a doctrine of reprobation, but it would also suggest that the discussion of Pharaoh in Romans 9 (with its supposed view toward reprobation) ought to be looked at anew. In fact, I would say that a fresh translation reflecting the words’ different meanings ought to be the case. At any rate, if one truly understood Hebrew as the Hebrews did at the time of the Pentateuch, one would certainly not be left with the same impression which the KJV translation has been leaving upon English readers for centuries.
***Now I find this tampering of God’s Word by the King James’s translators disturbing. One does not even have to be trained in translation work to see the problem. For example, since the Hebrew language of Exodus primarily uses two different words for the verb translated ‘to harden,’ why didn’t the KJV at least choose synonyms, such as to harden and to stiffen, in order to alert English readers that something was going on in the Hebrew language which they might want to investigate for themselves? Instead, all three Hebrew verbs were reduced in translation to one word, hardened, and this is undoubtedly the chief reason why English readers have thought for centuries that Pharaoh simply hardened himself along the same lines to which God had supposedly ordained him. For centuries, this translation error in the KJV has been promoting the idea that Pharaoh was little more than a marionette on strings acting out debase behavior for which he would be blamed, even though he was arguably under the command of an all-controlling Puppeteer. In the end, Calvinists simply promoted the idea that God could be exonerated in the process because He was God, and that man could be condemned in the process because he was man. And in this manner the Calvinistic doctrine of reprobation has survived up to today, i.e., the Puppeteer pulls all the strings, but the marionette gets all the boos.
The Mistranslation of Exodus 7:13
***Perhaps the most unfortunate translation in Exodus regarding the Pharaohic aspect of the exodus narrative is found in 7:13, a verse that has misled Christians for a long time. While the NAS is an improvement over the KJV, we will see that it too leaves something to be desired. One of the morbidly fascinating things I have observed, during my personal study of the exodus narrative, is how the KJV and NAS appear to approach Exodus 7:13 with a prejudice toward a Calvinistic interpretation. The KJV, for example, blunders with a total mistranslation: “And he hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” All major translations today, including the New King James Version (NKJV), as well as major Reformed authors like A.W. Pink, recognize that the original KJV (Authorized) translation of this phrase in this verse was a bastardization of the Hebrew. The New King James Version reads, “But Pharaoh’s heart grew hard,” and the NAS reads, “But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened.” Notice that the word “he” was added into the KJV, indicating that another party besides Pharaoh was strengthening Pharaoh’s heart. The necessary correction to the Authorized Version has been made in later translations, including the NKJV, since the verb, although active here (not passive), nevertheless indicates no other agent as the cause. Therefore (and unfortunately), when the KJV renders “And he hardened Pharaoh’s heart,” it introduces 1) a specific and exclusive second person ["he" (God)] and 2) describes this ‘he’ as the causal agent hardening Pharaoh, both of which concepts are without any support in the Hebrew language. This unsupported assumption by the KJV of God’s involvement at this point in the narrative is especially evident in the Hebrew. As can be seen in the chart toward the end of this chapter, God’s statement in Exodus 4:21, that he will strengthen Pharaoh’s heart, shows that the verb in this instance has a Piel stem [Intensive form (note: Hebrew verbs have seven different type stems)] in the Imperfect Mood (incomplete action), and the fulfillment of this prophetic statement is dramatically seen in Exodus 9:12, when for the first time since 4:21 we are told that the Lord actually does strengthen Pharaoh’s heart, and note this quite remarkable thing—that the verb strengthen takes the Piel stem in the Imperfect Mood just as it did in 4:21. Thus the beginning of the fulfillment of the Lord’s statement in Exodus 4:21 does not occur until 9:12 (after the 6th plague), and the fulfillment continues with succeeding statements about the Lord strengthening Pharaoh’s heart, with the verb strengthened taking repeatedly the Piel stem and Imperfect Mood in Exodus 10:20, 10:27, 11:10 and 14:8 (after the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th plagues, respectively). [Incidentally, in Exodus 14:4 the mood is Perfect (completed action) as the Lord seems to be announcing a strengthening of Pharaoh's heart unto a certain completion, and this completion occurs not after the 10th plague but before it. This is because there is also the subsequent hardening of the Egyptians stated in 14:17, among which Pharaoh is apparently accounted as one of them. For the Imperfect form of the verb will strengthen stated prior to plague 10 (found in 14:8) is a strengthening of Pharaoh's heart still not complete, since Pharaoh continues to strengthen his heart even after Israel's departure. For note that Israel's ultimate and final deliverance as fiat accompli will not occur until Pharaoh's army is drowned in the sea. Presumably, then, the incomplete strengthening of Pharaoh's heart mentioned in 14:8, prior to plague 10, is fulfilled in the strengthening of Egyptians in 14:17.] So, then, while it is true that prior to Exodus 7:13 the Lord says “I will strengthen Pharaoh’s heart,” the narrative doesn’t actually state that “the Lord strengthened Pharaoh’s heart” until Exodus 9:12.73 Again, this is very clear in the Hebrew but absolutely lost in existing English translations (especially since there are no marginal notes in these translations to alert readers of the Hebrew’s grammatical significance). Thus, the KJV blunder in Exodus 7:13 is even more unfortunate because it is the first description of Pharaoh’s heart and sets the tone for the entire narrative. Thus by implying that the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, the KJV leads its readers to conclude that the Lord actively hardened Pharaoh’s heart from the very onset of the plagues. Personally, I find it unlikely that the KJV simply made a mistake inadvertently. I think it is more reasonable to conclude that the KJV translators interjected their own thought because they believed the general context supported this idea, even though the original Hebrew didn’t state it. (Indeed, a more careful review of the Hebrew should have led them to the opposite conclusion.) The KJV allegedly italicizes words it interpolates, but it did not do it here with ‘he’ in Exodus 7:13. This mistranslation by the KJV raises an interesting question. How many people (like myself) grew up in KJV-influenced homes and therefore naturally came to conclude that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart from the very outset of the exodus narrative, with the result that Pharaoh couldn’t repent? Everyone? Certainly all but a select few would have reached this conclusion unless they owned commentaries and had taken the time to study them. Frankly speaking, for many years I’ve sat in Evangelical churches heavily oriented toward the KJV, and yet I never remember having heard a challenge raised against the KJV for its Calvinistic assumption that God actively hardened Pharaoh’s heart at the time of the very first plague.
***Unfortunately, it appears that the KJV has proceeded to transfix even some translators who ought to have known better. The NAS, for example, doesn’t seem to intend much of a difference in its overall approach to Exodus 7:13. The NAS’s phrase, “And his heart was hardened” fails to really give the true meaning of the word “strengthened.” Thus we are confused about what was really happening in Pharaoh’s heart. Lest it remain ambiguous, however, the NAS study version I have in front of me has a verse footnote reference meant to be helpful. It occurs at the end of Exodus 7:13 and refers the reader back to Exodus 4:21. There we read, “The Lord said to Moses…I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.” The citing of Exodus 4:21 is thus stated in the NAS verse footnote to be the referenced fulfillment of Exodus 7:13. This verse, in turn, supports the Calvinistic assumption that another party, i.e., God, is the cause of Pharaoh’s hardening of heart. The NAS is thus trying to convince the reader that the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, even though (as we have already noted) Scripture makes no reference to the Lord actually hardening Pharaoh’s heart until Exodus 9:12! Hence the NAS verse footnote should have referred the reader back to Exodus 3:19 as the fulfillment of 7:13, i.e., “But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go, except under compulsion.” That is, Exodus 7:13 has God’s foreknowledge of Pharaoh’s decision in view, not His ‘hardening’ activity. Yet, the linguistic pointers in Hebrew which the NAS ignores (even as the KJV did), tell us that the Lord is referring back to his previous statement in Exodus 3:19 to show his foreknowledge of what Pharaoh will do in his existing condition. Here, then, is the path of verse to footnoted-verse the NAS asks the reader to take (Ex. 7:13, cf. Ex. 4:21):
Yet Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the Lord had said… (supposedly refers to) The Lord said to Moses…I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.
Here is the path of verse to footnoted-verse to which the NAS reader should have been taken (Ex. 7:13, cf. Ex. 3:19):
Yet Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the Lord had said… (actually refers to) But I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go, except under compulsion.
***When Exodus 7:13 is properly understood, it changes the whole tenor of the exodus narrative. Again, remember that the phrase, “The Lord hardened his heart” does not appear until Exodus 9:12 (after the sixth plague). This means that the Bible states seven times that either Pharaoh’s heart was strengthened (i.e., KJV “hardened”) or that Pharaoh strengthened his own heart, before it ever states that the Lord strengthened Pharaoh’s heart. Would not this fact suggest, when we arrive at Exodus 9:12 to find the Lord strengthening Pharaoh’s heart, that this activity of the Lord is, while at the least, the Spirit’s ceasing to strive with Pharaoh any longer, also and arguably more than just this-namely, the Lord’s allowance of the Enemy to more intensely affect Pharaoh’s heart? That the Lord is not described as strengthening Pharaoh’s heart until Exodus 9:12 raises a serious problem for the Calvinist. Who is strengthening Pharaoh’s heart prior to that time? The answer is found in Scripture. It tells us plainly that Pharaoh’s heart is strengthened, and proceeds to show us that, with each divine miracle, Pharaoh only furthers the strengthening of it. Even if the Calvinist wants to point out the numerous times from Exodus 9:12ff where Scripture says that it was the Lord who ‘hardened’ (strengthened) Pharaoh’s heart, he can point to no such scripture to support the same conclusion prior to Exodus 9:12. Therefore to imply that the Lord hardened (strengthened) Pharaoh’s heart from the very beginning of the narrative is to make an argument not merely from silence but also from a gross ignorance of the Hebrew. In fact, one could argue that the omission of any suggestion that the Lord ‘hardened’ (strengthened) Pharaoh’s heart prior to Exodus 9:12 is really an argument for Pharaoh acting in unqualified free will. The Calvinist is thus left with giving us the tired explanation upon our ears that the Lord must have done it anyway, and that the Almighty is not obligated to explain Himself because our carnal minds cannot hope to comprehend His unfathomable judgments.74
***Apparently, it is not convincing enough to Calvinists that the reason the Bible is silent about the Lord strengthening Pharaoh’s heart until after the sixth plague is because that is exactly what happened. When the Calvinist offers his own kind of explanation to claim the presence of the Lord’s activity in hardening Pharaoh during the course of the first six plagues, he places the Lord’s character in contradiction to other places in Scripture which speak of God, at the first, being merciful to all men. Of course, the Calvinist makes his claim for absolute divine sovereignty nonetheless (bolstered by the KJV and NAS), in an attempt to support his doctrine of Reprobation. Thus, when the Calvinist claims that such conundrums about God’s nature are beyond our understanding (e.g., in God commanding Pharaoh to let the children of Israel go but hardening Pharaoh so he could not obey), the Calvinist effectively places his doctrine into the realm of mysticism. He is going beyond what Calvinists and non-Calvinists would both hold to be true, i.e., that Scripture teaches that men cannot know God comprehensively, to claiming that neither can men know God fundamentally. This is a very dangerous position. The Calvinist is implying that we cannot really know the nature of God nor explain it to anyone else. This flies in the face of 1) Romans 1, which tells us that God’s nature is indisputably knowable; and 2) the biblical command that we are to give a reasonable explanation to everyone who asks us about the hope that is in us. Of necessity, then, this sharing of the gospel should involve a reasonable explanation about the nature of God who so loved man that He sent His only Son to die for him. And this biblical command to give a reason for our hope also implies that Scripture can be reasonable to the man who responds to God’s invitation to reason with Him. Thus God obviously has a nature that must be fundamentally understandable.
***The Calvinist, however, can offer no reasonable explanation of God’s nature, since he claims that God is hardening Pharaoh’s heart from the very beginning for the purpose of reprobation. And so he attempts an explanation at the expense of the Scripture, which says that God does not take pleasure in the death (understood here as path) of the wicked (Ezek. 33:11). Moreover, the Calvinist cannot explain how Pharaoh has the will to harden his own heart without relying once again on his dialectical method which ‘explains’ that God’s absolute sovereignty is creating Pharaoh’s thoughts and intents despite Pharaoh’s own choices. And if we were to object to this ‘reasoning,’ the Calvinist is likely to offer a further ‘explanation’ involving Romans 9:19-20, which follows on the heels of Paul’s discussion of Pharaoh’s hardening a few verses earlier, in which Paul states that “the thing formed cannot say to the One who formed it, ‘Why have you made me thus?’ ” The problem with the Calvinist, then, stated briefly (though explained in more detail later), is that he misinterprets Romans 9:19-20 by failing to understand the far (though referred) context of Romans 9, which speaks of God’s irresistibility in judging men and nations, not in eradicating their wills so completely that questions can never be asked. This error in Calvinism arises because Calvinists have not considered carefully the three Old Testament passages which speak of the pot/potter metaphor to which Paul is referring, i.e., Isaiah 29, 45, and Jeremiah 18. The same analogy is there used in these Old Testament passages to describe pots upon the Potter’s wheel which, far from being the willy-nilly, divinely acted-upon vessels which the Calvinist in Romans 9 depicts them to be, are shown in speech and behavior to be their own willful selves, thus speaking to the general theme of Romans 9 regarding irresistible judgment.75
***A few more thoughts should be offered here to show again that the Lord did not actively cause Pharaoh’s heart to be hardened at the beginning of the narrative. That is, we have not emphasized enough that the 2nd Hebrew word we cited earlier (kabad), which the KJV translates as hardened, as in the phrase, “The Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart” (Ex. 10:1), is claimed by Strong’s to be a verb of variable nature. That is, it does not (according to translators) invariably describe negative action, such as to harden). While many translators believe it can mean to harden or to stiffen, they also feel it can mean to make stouthearted or to make courageous, etc. At any rate, the word carries with it a sense of weightiness. Perhaps a more accurate translation would have been “I will make Pharaoh’s heart (heavily) pronounced,” and so also, “The Lord made Pharaoh’s heart pronounced,” and again, “Pharaoh’s heart was pronounced.” God, in effect, would cause Pharaoh’s heart to become pronounced by allowing (not commanding) a lying, demonic spirit to augment what Pharaoh wanted for himself, i.e., to resist God with ever greater intensity. By definition a man like Pharaoh, whose heart increases its rebellion against God, will become pronounced against additional light. It becomes augmented during repeated opportunities (thus, is made heavy), and is augmented (weightier) afterward as a state of the heart (thus, is heavy). As God gave Pharaoh spiritual light, he rejected it; and then when God gave Pharaoh additional light, he rejected this also, etc. Ultimately, as more light was given, more rejection resulted, and the stronger and weightier Pharaoh’s heart became. Thus Pharaoh’s heart grew weightier during the process, and afterward was heavy.
***Bearing that thought in mind, i.e., that Pharaoh grew fully roused even while God gave him great light, consider this: the word raised in Romans 9:17 literally means to rouse fully, a meaning hardly apparent in the KJV:
For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, “Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.”
***Again, many readers have read this verse without realizing that raised in the Greek literally means to fully rouse, Gr. exegeiro, Paul even departing from the Septuagint here. While Pink notes Paul’s departure from the Septuagint, he nevertheless completely fails to realize that exegeiro means “to fully rouse,” not “to appoint.” Perhaps most of us, when we first became familiar with Romans 9:17, assumed, like Pink, that God orchestrated events so that Pharaoh would become a ruler in Egypt and live a puppet-like existence that was divinely decreed from the cradle to the grave. While it is true that God sets up the thrones of men or allows men to set up their own thrones to rule over others, neither of these is in view in this verse. A more appropriate translation of Romans 9:17 should therefore read:
And in very deed for this cause have I fully roused thee, to show in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.
***Keeping this more accurate translation in mind, let us recall that there are three different Hebrew words in Exodus that were translated to the same English word (harden) by the KJV translators, and thus given the same meaning. The result has been a very Calvinistic-sounding passage in Exodus where Pharaoh is depicted as merely mimicking the kind of constructs God had already determined upon him. When one considers that Romans 8:28 (as already seen) was likewise translated in a way that made it biblically incompatible with other passages, while at the same time sounding more Calvinistic, so also in Exodus have the KJV translators remained true to Calvinistic assumptions at the expense of certain other linguistic considerations. Frankly, the translation of Exodus 9:16 (”for this cause have I raised thee up”) is careless, because the KJV translators saw no relevance in Paul’s citation of this very same statement which God made to Pharaoh in a clearly marked passage in Romans 9. Sadly, the NAS has not fared any better in translating Romans 9:17, opting for the inferior raised instead of stating the transliteration, “For this purpose have I fully roused thee.”
***Furthermore, Paul, in his use of fully roused in Romans 9:17, is not simply discussing the Exodus passage, but is quoting what Scripture records God actually said to Pharaoh in Exodus 9:16. Thus, the translators should have used the more exact Greek word in Romans 9:17 to inform the more variable76 Hebrew verb to stand, so that it was understood that God was speaking figuratively to Pharaoh about ’standing him,’ i.e., about raising Pharaoh’s spirit in the sense of rousing him. This is a far cry from suggesting that God had raised Pharaoh from the cradle to the grave for a specific reprobative purpose, as, for example, A.W. Pink insists. As for whether the verb rouse was used during the era of the KJV translators so that it would have been available for use in the 17th century KJV translation, it should be noted that the word rouse occurs over 30 times in the 16th century works of Shakespeare.77
***Moreover, we should not miss the implication in Exodus 7:3 when the Lord says to Moses that He will harden Pharaoh’s heart and multiply signs and wonders. In this regard note that the verb ‘harden’ is in the Imperfect Mood, while ‘multiply’ is in the Perfect. The idea appears to be that God will still be ‘hardening’ Pharaoh’s heart, though He will have finished (brought completed action to) the multiplying of signs and wonders. This Imperfect Mood for ‘harden’ and Perfect Mood for “multiply” speaks of a ‘hardening’ of Pharaoh after a certain hardening had already been completed, which the signs and wonders (i.e., of the plagues, not the dividing of the Red Sea) had accomplished.
Does God Work in Pharaoh’s Sin, or Despite It?
***Before moving on, we must pause here to consider a certain assumption about God held by many Christians who read through the Exodus narrative. It is unfortunate that some Christians believe that God wanted Pharaoh to reject His light so that the Lord’s name might be proclaimed in all the earth. For God is not the type of Person to employ such means, even for so glorious an end. Indeed, God would not have been any less glorified in a repentant Pharaoh than in a stubborn one (cp. the story of Cyrus). Sadly, it seems that some Christians believe that God is equally or more glorified in the work of sinners, than by the faith of believers. But again, God does not need the darkness of sin to make a greater contrast to the light of His righteousness to gain a greater glory for Himself. For this would make God dependent upon sin in order to effect the greatest expression of His holiness. As such, it would also diminish the degree of perfect glory He always had in Himself prior to creation. This idea of sin redounding to God’s glory should be shunned as readily as that attitude which Paul denounces among Christians who rationalized sin on the basis that it resulted in more of God’s grace and glory (see Romans 6). God is put upon, not glorified, when we sin. Nor, to give another example, would God have been less glorified in Adam and Eve’s continued obedience than in the path of sin they chose. Their disobedience simply resulted in God deciding to provide an atonement for them through the death of Christ. In other words, God did not need an opportunity to prove His love for Adam and Eve, for His love was already so. Man’s rebellion simply compelled God into a show of it. This goes to the point that God’s moral character was already established regardless of the compelling opportunity which led Him to demonstrate His character. In a sense the same is true, albeit often negatively, for men. For a man, for example, not to commit adultery only because the opportunity does not present itself, is no virtue. Jesus says that such a man is already an adulterer because his heart is already committed to the act. Pharaoh is of this committed sort regarding his intention to disobey and defy God. The nature of such rebellion is pointed out in the gospel of John to explain why the Light (Christ) was rejected by men when the Light came into the world, i.e., because men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. In effect, then, Pharaoh is like a man sitting in the darkness upon whom God throws light via a switch. Because Pharaoh prefers darkness he gets up and switches off the light, and then he sits down again. But God turns on another light that is even brighter than the first. Yet because Pharaoh still prefers darkness, he is even more annoyed at this brighter light, and so he gets up in a greater huff to switch off this greater light. But yet again God turns on another light, this one brighter than the previous two. Thus Pharaoh grows even angrier as he gets up from his chair to turn off the light yet again. This kind of rebellion repeats itself in the exodus narrative until Pharaoh is fully roused at a point following the 6th plague. Yet we note that Pharaoh could have light in the room (of his soul) if he merely allowed God’s light to remain shining, but this he will not do. Consequently, his heart is darkened more and more as he sears his conscience with additional rejections of God’s light. Notice, then, that however harsh God’s plagues were upon Egypt, they were also acts of spiritual light. We tend to forget that God’s initial desire was to show mercy upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians. We seem to think that all of Egypt’s plagues, including the earlier ones, were unvaryingly angry expressions of a God determined to have vengeance upon a nation that had enslaved His people. Yet even God’s latter plagues, in which he no longer actively strove with His Spirit to dissuade Pharaoh from his foolish course, were, hypothetically at least, also acts of spiritual light that could have led Pharaoh and the Egyptians to the truth.
Pharaoh and the Lesson of Ahab
***God’s program for all men begins as one of mercy. In fact, God is no respecter of persons, and His Spirit works to convince every man of his need for a Savior. And God will keep doing this unless He gives up on a man because that man has hardened his heart in prolonged, virulent rebellion. At that point such a man, to use an older phrase, ‘has sinned away his day of grace,’ not theoretically, but in a willfully determined and final way, and in this sense irrevocably. Such a man is probably that which Elihu described in Job 36:13: “But the godless in heart lay up anger; They do not cry for help when He binds them.” (NAS) This means that the wicked man is not humbled by life’s difficulties. Instead, he strengthens himself and feels he has no need of God. History has shown that often the worst men in this regard are political rulers, like Pharaoh. Perhaps more accurately stated, we should say that such offenders have merely had more opportunity than others to allow power to “go to their heads.”
***Now the Bible has much to say about the special encounters—pro and con—which God has had with both Jewish and Gentile rulers. One of these encounters (told in 1 Kings 22) is the story of King Ahab of Israel, and it bears directly upon our consideration of Pharaoh and the ‘hardening’ (strengthening) of his heart:
6Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said unto them, Shall I go against Ramothgilead to battle, or shall I forbear? And they said, Go up; for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king. 7And Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the Lord besides, that we might enquire of him? 8And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may enquire of the Lord: but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so. 9Then the king of Israel called an officer, and said, Hasten hither Micaiah the son of Imlah. 10And the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah sat each on his throne, having put on their robes, in a void place in the entrance of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets prophesied before them. 11And Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made him horns of iron: and he said, Thus saith the Lord, With these shalt thou push the Syrians, until thou have consumed them. 12And all the prophets prophesied so, saying, Go up to Ramothgilead, and prosper: for the Lord shall deliver it into the king’s hand. 13And the messenger that was gone to call Micaiah spake unto him, saying, Behold now, the words of the prophets declare good unto the king with one mouth: let thy word, I pray thee, be like the word of one of them, and speak that which is good. 14And Micaiah said, As the Lord liveth, what the Lord saith unto me, that will I speak. 15So he came to the king. And the king said unto him, Micaiah, shall we go against Ramothgilead to battle, or shall we forbear? And he answered him, Go, and prosper: for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king. 16And the king said unto him, How many times shall I adjure thee that thou tell me nothing but that which is true in the name of the Lord? 17And he said, I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd: and the Lord said, These have no master: let them return every man to his house in peace. 18And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, Did I not tell thee that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil? 19And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left. 20And the Lord said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. 21And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him. 22And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so. 23Now therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil concerning thee. 24But Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah went near, and smote Micaiah on the cheek, and said, Which way went the Spirit of the Lord from me to speak unto thee? 25And Micaiah said, Behold, thou shalt see in that day, when thou shalt go into an inner chamber to hide thyself. 26And the king of Israel said, Take Micaiah, and carry him back unto Amon the governor of the city, and to Joash the king’s son; 27And say, Thus saith the king, Put this fellow in the prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and with water of affliction, until I come in peace. 28And Micaiah said, If thou return at all in peace, the Lord hath not spoken by me. And he said, Hearken, O people, every one of you. (vss. 6-28)
By comparing the circumstances of Pharaoh in Exodus with the story of Ahab in 1 Kings 22, it seems quite reasonable to suggest that the Lord, at some point, allowed an evil spirit to incite Pharaoh toward the rebellion to which Pharaoh had already committed himself. We know it is the nature of the demonic world to so interfere in human events. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood,” said the Apostle Paul, “but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12). The Bible does not often highlight these situations in which the Enemy gains the Lord’s reluctant permission, but we may consider them implied (cp. 2 Sam. 24:1ff with 1 Chr. 21:1ff). Indeed, what other situation for involvement would the Enemy have preferred, if not one where God’s people might continue in bondage under the hand of an oppressive and godless ruler? It would be naive indeed to imagine that Satan (whom the Bible refers to as the god of this world and as the prince of the power of the air ) would quietly lay aside, while so much was at stake between Pharaoh and the children of Israel.
***Even so are there two choices of interpretation facing the reader of 1 Kings 22. The first is the Calvinistic view in which God is thought to send lying spirits to deceive men because He (though blameless!) has pleasure in watching wicked men perish in their own foolishness. This view reduces the Bible to a ridiculous book by depicting an arbitrary God who is pleased to put humans into impossible predicaments which God Himself decrees and in which there is no escape. In effect, this is Robert Frost’s view of the Christian God in the Masque of Reason. Sadly, many people conclude that God is exactly this kind of controlling and uncaring Being. This is not a correct view, of course, and thus no necessity is laid upon the Bible student to so interpret 1 Kings 22 along Calvinistic lines. Rather, because the Bible tells us that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked but that the wicked turn from his way and live, we ought to understand that 1 Kings 22 and Job 1—2 (the latter as earlier discussed) show that God takes no pleasure in allowing the Enemy to wreak havoc with men. Therefore God rules over the demonic powers so that they need not overwhelm man. Remember, there is all the moral difference in the world between God ruling over the activity of demons and God ruling the activity of demons. The former means that God reluctantly allows demons to afflict men (and only then upon certain conditions), while the latter means that God commands demons to ‘their’ unrelenting, evil activities. Calvinists believe that God commands demons to do what they do, and that such demonic activity is used by God and somehow inexplicably accords with His good pleasure.
***A fairer reading of 1 Kings 22 shows that God simply acceded to what King Ahab already wanted, i.e., to listen to his false prophets. Twice, in fact, King Ahab of Israel complains to King Jehoshaphat of Judah that the Lord’s prophet, Micaiah, never says anything good about him but speaks of calamity only. Ahab, far from being thankful for God’s warning, is resentful once Micaiah gives him the word of the Lord. The question, then, is why God should be patient with Ahab at all, since the king had rejected His messenger repeatedly? Yet 1 Kings 22 shows God extending even more patience toward Ahab by having Micaiah tell the king exactly what evil spirits had been doing to plot his downfall. Here, then, is another warning by God, and Ahab likewise rejects this further warning, even as he rejected the first. Thus the whole tenor of this passage is certainly against the Calvinistic interpretation that God is commanding demons after His good pleasure to do his bidding. Indeed, if God’s real intent was to command demons to lie and deceive Ahab, why would He bother warning Ahab about it? That would mean God was trying to warn Ahab against the very disaster to which he was trying to entice him! And if that were the case, then God would be acting against Himself.78 Despite what conclusion about God’s nature the Calvinist is forced to embrace (because of his theology), God is not divided against Himself, as Christ made clear.
***Like the warning given to Ahab, God’s mercy in Exodus is extended to Pharaoh in divine warnings about upcoming plagues. After a certain point in the course of the plagues, it may have been that the warning was more for the Egyptians’ sake than for Pharaoh’s, as some of the Egyptians (though not Pharaoh) heeded God’s warning and removed their livestock from the open fields prior to the 7th plague. In short, God’s acts of patience with Pharaoh and Ahab show to what incredible lengths God will go on behalf of sinful men. In fact, Ahab was the only king in Scripture who was ever told of impending disaster in a way that so exposed demonic activity. We should observe in particular that 1 Kings 22:23 describes God in language as though He is the direct, causal agent, when the context of the entire passage shows that He is not. Says Micaiah to Ahab: “Now therefore behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil concerning thee.” (Remember that the word evil in Hebrew may also be translated disaster or calamity; it comes from a root word that properly means to spoil, literally, by breaking in pieces). The point here is that the Lord is described by Micaiah as Someone who has put a lying spirit in the mouth of the false prophets, while the context shows that God is doing this by permission, not commandment (even warning Ahab in the process). The lying spirit helps the false prophets to speak lies into Ahab’s ear about all that the king wants to believe about his future. As for God, it appears that He feels so grieved, just by being permissively involved, that He describes Himself as though He were the direct, causal agent. Again, it is an idiomatic way of speaking, which the entire context of 1 Kings 22 demonstrates. In reality, then, God is not sending Ahab what He wants, but rather what Ahab wants.79
Idiomatic Language in the Phrase, ‘The Lord Hardened’
***Based on our review, the relevancy of 1 Kings 22 to the situation of Pharaoh in Exodus is more than suggestive. The Lord says in Exodus 7:3 (note: not 7:13 )that He will harden Pharaoh’s heart [rightly translated here from qashah 80 (Strong's #7185), the third Hebrew verb mentioned earlier], yet such a statement must be understood in the same idiomatic sense as when the Bible tells us that God sent a lying spirit to Ahab. Both passages use idiomatic language to achieve the sense of Who truly oversees the universe. “The Lord hath sent a lying spirit” in 1 Kings 22 is a stronger way of stating God’s overall governing of the universe than merely stating “God has allowed a lying spirit (etc.).” This subtlety and especially the extent of such idiomatic language is generally foreign to the concrete, Western mind.81
***But to return again to a consideration of the first Hebrew word, chazaq (Strong’s #2388), note that: 1) it occurs for the first time in Exodus 9:12 regarding the Lord’s activity upon Pharaoh’s heart; and 2) that it appears between the sixth and seventh plagues. (See the two charts, beginning p. 296, at the end of this chapter.) As we have seen, this particular Hebrew word is sometimes properly understood as fasten or seize. Thus, an additional meaning for fastened (or seized) beyond the primary meaning of strengthened, which we have already observed for chazaq, may perhaps be implied for Exodus 9:12. This would yield an additional meaning of “the Lord fastened (i.e., seized) Pharaoh’s heart.” What exactly does this mean—to seize, or fasten? In one sense it seems as though it should mean that God seizes Pharaoh with His plague judgments in an inescapable confrontation. Personally, the picture that comes to my mind is that of a cowboy breaking a bronco. The cowboy has fastened himself upon the animal’s back—seizing the horse’s spirit, so to speak, and forcing it into an inescapable ’showdown.’ The fact that the man owns the horse is not even understood by the horse. Instead, the horse is incited against the cowboy for trying to subject him to obedience. Thus the horse does not recognize the cowboy’s authority and so tries to throw him off by trickery and force. If the horse never comes to recognize the authority of the cowboy he may continue to buck until he dies. The main incongruence with this analogy, of course, is that most horses come to accept the will of their master, while most men do not accept the will of their own Creator in heaven nor acknowledge him as Master. And Pharaoh, to be sure, was as most men. As the one in Egypt who stood to lose the highest position and most power, Pharaoh refused to yield to God’s demand for obedience, even when his servants told him, “Knowest thou not that Egypt lies in ruins?” Pharaoh would, in effect, go down bucking.
***Nevertheless, although in one sense it is true that God seized Pharaoh insofar as removing His Spirit from striving with him [therefore relegating Pharaoh to the practical (though technically not hypothetical) impossibility of repentance (i.e., allowing Pharaoh to self-destruct)], it appears here that the primary meaning of chazaq is something different given the context. That is, while the above is true in one sense, i.e., that the Lord fully roused Pharaoh with the bringing of plagues, this is not, at the least, primarily what is being specifically referred to, when the Scripture says that the Lord chazaq Pharaoh (mentioned in 9:12). We may grant this conclusion because the Hebrew verb, with its Piel stem in the Imperfect Mood showing the beginning of the fulfillment of 4:21, had not occurred up through the 6th plague. In other words, up through plague six it has not yet been stated that the Lord strengthened Pharaoh’s heart, despite the fact that the Lord’s activity was, of course, generally present in the sense of His having brought the plagues. Moreover, Pharaoh was given opportunities up to the 6th plague to irretractably repent prior to the Lord’s ’strengthening’ of him. Thus, by default, it appears that the ‘strengthening’ referred to in 9:12 is meant to be idiomatically understood as God allowing the Enemy to seize Pharaoh on repeated occasions after each latter plague event (the Enemy being somewhat like an uncaring cowboy driving his spirited horse to a greater distance in a shorter period of time than what the animal would even have done on its own). Thus all the above reasons are why we may suggest that 1 Kings 22 speaks into Exodus 9:12 here, and that the Bible is implying that this is the point at which God sends a lying (or rebellious) spirit (or spirits) to influence Pharaoh. Again, as in 1 Kings 22, God does this by permission (not commandment) at the behest of the Enemy. The particular strength of this argument is to notice that the Lord ‘hardened’ Pharaoh’s heart at a point in time when the Egyptian magicians could no longer stand before Moses. For note in particular that 9:12 is the first appearance of chazaq insofar as it relates de facto to the Lord’s activity in the entire exodus narrative, and that this appearance comes immediately after we are told in 9:11 about the magicians’ inability to stand before Moses. I believe this fact is very suggestive, since presumably Pharaoh was now without these regular advisors, i.e., those who, sick with boils and having ‘lost face’ (and therefore their moral authority), proved unable to contest with Moses and resist the effects of the Lord’s plague upon their own selves. (We will take up the full significance of this point about the absence of Pharaoh’s advisors in a moment.) Note also that now with the Enemy’s influence Pharaoh would be fully roused, a stated condition to which the Lord gives witness four verses later.
***Now it should be observed that another idiomatic statement follows on the heels of the 6th plague. For in the contiguous passage of Exodus 9:34-10:1, the Hebrew word kabad (made heavy) is used in reference not only to Pharaoh and the Egyptians “hardening” (Heb. kabad, i.e., honoring, making heavy) their hearts (Ex. 9:34), but also in reference to the Lord who hardened” (kabad, honored) their hearts (Ex. 10:1). At first, the Scripture’s use of kabad might strike us as strange, for what could be meant when the Bible tells us that the Lord honored the hearts of Pharaoh and the Egyptians? To answer that, we must look at the lexical meaning of the Hebrew word kabad. And in fact it is most frequently translated as honour in the KJV, thus: “Honour (kabad) thy father and thy mother.” Even more notably for our present discussion is Exodus 14:17: “I will get me honour (kabad) upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host.” Thus God strengthens Pharaoh’s heart according to Pharaoh’s own course, and by so doing, honors Pharaoh’s heart. Again, it seems awkward to say that God would ‘honor’ an evil Pharaoh, but what is merely being stated here is that Pharaoh’s heart has been strengthened to a heavier state, and that God has thus honored Pharaoh’s heart by deferring to it for a time (in the sense of allowing him to rule over His people Israel despite his not letting Israel go), even though He does not approve of what Pharaoh is doing. That is, God defers to Pharaoh’s heart for the purpose of allowing Pharaoh’s choice to exalt itself unto effect over God’s own ideal plan.82 (Again, this has nothing whatsoever to do with God approving of Pharaoh’s decision.) Thus Pharaoh was one of those willful vessels whom Paul says God endured with much longsuffering, obviously not because God Himself ordained that His own patience be so tried(!), but rather that other vessels might erstwhile receive mercy, and perhaps also that it might be shown evident that man is the god that Christ said he was—a god who decides his own intention in all matters unto eternal liability (see Jn. 10:34); for in fact that is part of the unchanging definition of man. (Yet it should be noted that we, as creaturely gods, are still subject to the eventual and inescapable judgment of the Creator God Himself—the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has an eternal past and upholds all forms83 by His own power.) Now observe that these two statements about the Lord strengthening (chazaq, Ex. 9:12) Pharaoh’s heart and the Lord honoring (kabad) Pharaoh’s heart (Ex. 10:1) occur on either side of a very specific warning that the Lord gives Pharaoh in Exodus 9:13-19, in which He warns the Egyptian king to put his men and cattle under cover to save them from an upcoming plague of hail. Some of the Egyptians heed the warning, but Pharaoh refuses to listen and the seventh plague ends in great disaster for Egypt. Note the timing here, for it was immediately prior to this warning that the Lord stated the effect of His strengthening of Pharaoh’s heart in 9:12, which apparently effected Pharaoh’s servants, too. Thus God states in 10:1 that He has ‘hardened’ (kabad, i.e., honored) Pharaoh’s heart and the hearts of his servants. This statement in 10:1 as rendered by the KJV makes God appear as if He were hardening, and therefore forcing, Pharaoh and his servants to disbelieve Him. Calvinists would certainly hold this position, i.e., that Pharaoh and his servants simply mimicked the constructs of disbelief which God had already determined upon them.
***Calvinists apply the same kind of deterministic interpretation implied in the KJV’s Romans 9:18: “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.” The NAS gives the accurate lexical rendering in this case, changing ‘will’ to ‘desire,’ thus stating that God desires to harden certain people, such as Pharaoh. On the surface this sounds like God wants these people to be damned according to His desire (good pleasure). Thus the NAS renders it, “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and he hardens whom He desires.” On the surface of things, this sounds like some men are predestined to be damned. Though a Calvinist will often (to state it colloquially) ‘talk out of both sides of his mouth’ in order to dance around this issue of how God, if He hardens people, is not then responsible for the evil actions of those He hardens, the Calvinist nevertheless believes that men are hardened and therefore never really have a chance at receiving God’s mercy. (Indeed, if this assessment of the Calvinist is not true, then why is there a doctrine of Reprobation?) The question, then, is whether the Bible really teaches that God desires to ‘harden’ people without ever giving them repeated chances of repentance?
***I believe a first step in understanding what the (NAS) Scripture means when it says that the Lord desires to harden people (such as Pharaoh) is to consider whether God ‘desires’ to do everything He ‘does.’ Take Job 1—2, for example. When God places Job’s children into Satan’s power to do unto them as Satan himself wishes, is it right for us to say that what subsequently happened to Job’s children was something God desired ? No, it is clear from the entire context of Job 2 that God merely allowed this event because He was incited to do it. He even says He was incited to do it. So the only sense in which God could be said to desire that Satan have power over Job’s possessions (including his children), is in the sense that God desired to allow Satan to have such power, which (in this case) is as much to say that He did not at all desire that Satan use his power as he did. Thus, when God says that He ‘ruined’ Job, He speaks idiomatically as though He were the causal agent, when, in fact, the narrative shows He is not.
***An example, here, will further clarify how idiomatic expressions work. Let us say that a parent tires of telling his child not to touch the electric element on the family’s kitchen stove. Yet one day he sees the child about to burn his finger on a heating element that was accidentally left on at its lowest setting. But rather than intervene, he allows the child to do what he wants. Soon the child is crying in pain (due more to surprise than actual hurt), and the parent attends to the slight wound. Would we say that the parent desired that the child hurt himself? No, certainly not. The parent would have preferred that the child be obedient. He might even describe the finger-burning incident to another parent by saying, “My son kept trying to touch the hot stove at our home, so finally I set his finger to it.” Here the parent is using language in an idiomatic way. What is being said is understood in the context of the conversation not to have literally taken place. Rather, the parent allowed the child to hurt himself slightly, so that a greater danger would be avoided when the parent was outside the house or in a far corner of the home where the child could not be as immediately watched. Now, the way Bible students know when idiomatic expressions are being used is to understand what is being communicated in the entire context of a given passage and in the general message of the Bible. And we have now seen what “hardening” means in context. Thus, were the Bible to state that God ‘desires’ to harden certain men, it could only mean that God would desire to allow men to harden themselves (which may include their acquiescence to the augmenting work of the Enemy). But, in fact, the Bible never states that this is the case with God at the beginning of His relationship with any man. It would appear that God only desires to indurate a man if that man has spurned God repeatedly to a point of instinctual rejection. So, when God does allow a man to become indurate He does so for a simple reason, because it pleases Him that His Spirit should not always strive with man. Therefore, to claim that a man is damned from the very beginning is to deny that God has love for every man and is no respecter of persons (see Rom. 2:11). Further, the Scripture states repeatedly in the prophetic books that sinners should repent, and elsewhere states that God does not desire the death of the wicked (Ezek. 33:11), and that God “is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9 ).84
***Again, the idiomatic expressions of God’s permissive will in Job 1—2 and 1 Kings 22 (the latter speaking of God ’sending’ a lying spirit) thus help us to understand Exodus 10:1. When the Lord says that He hardened (honored) the heart of Pharaoh, we understand that it doesn’t mean that God made the Egyptian king reject Him. Pharaoh had been on the path of disbelief for a long time before God ever used Moses to confront him. The Egyptian king could have responded differently at any one of many points but chose not to repent; “Who is the Lord God that I should obey his voice?” Pharaoh wanted to believe what Pharaoh wanted to believe, and God upheld the form of Pharaoh in his choice. By “form” I mean that God sustained Pharaoh’s earthly body despite Pharaoh’s disobedience. God also allowed the Enemy (the Devil and/or his demons) to influence Pharaoh because Pharaoh had continually shown that he wanted to rebel against God. That is what Pharaoh wanted for himself. God will often keep evil spirits at bay until a person’s own will has become very, very determined. Furthermore, because Pharaoh hardened his own heart he cannot be excused as simply a victim of demonic activity. Indeed, he has no more excuse than would King Ahab of Israel. When we further consider that Pharaoh was a man who actually claimed to be of deity (this belief was part of the structure of Egyptian religion) and subjected with great cruelty an entire race to slavery for his own aggrandizement—a race, in fact, that suffered partial genocide only a few generations earlier (see Exodus 1)—we have to admit that Pharaoh and his predecessors had been in the process of searing their consciences and strengthening their hearts against God long before God ever appeared to Moses in the burning bush. When Moses appears in Pharaoh’s court, the Egyptian king still believes he is in control. God instructs Moses to perform a miraculous sign to show the Egyptian king that he will not be in control of any contest with Yahweh, the God of Israel. Pharaoh, however, foolishly refuses this chance to avoid judgment. God then strikes Egypt with a series of six plagues, offering Pharaoh a window of repentance after each one of them. Still, Pharaoh will not listen. At this point (as we have been contending here in this chapter) God ’strengthens’85 Pharaoh’s heart, i.e., releases him to his own wayward decision by deciding not to strive further with him and, presumably, to allow demonic forces to augment what Pharaoh has been desiring all along. (There will still be opportunities for repentance, but they will not be realistic ones, per se.) In effect, God has been asking Pharaoh in the course of the first six plagues, “Is rebellion what you really, really, really want?,” and Pharaoh has been replying, “Yes, rebellion is what I really, really, really want.” So finally God says, “So be it.” As C.S. Lewis has stated this matter of man’s will in opposition to God’s: “Either man says to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ or God says to man, ‘Thy will be done.’ ” So Pharaoh grows ever more stubborn until the Lord uses the 10th plague to kill his firstborn son. At that point Pharaoh lets the Israelites go, though a short time later he changes his mind and chases after them.
***The further commands that God gives to Pharaoh about letting His people go are still commands which God would delight in seeing obeyed. But now, in the absence of obedience, and because divine patience is exhausted, God will now take pleasure (albeit a lesser pleasure than were the man to repent)86 in allowing Himself to cease from striving against Pharaoh with His Spirit, even unto the man’s own hardening.
***Let us consider, then, the overall mercy which God showed to Pharaoh, and how Pharaoh nevertheless stubbornly rejected en masse all of God’s offers for leniency. As we do, we feel no obligation to believe, as Calvinists insist, that the Lord hardened (chazaq) Pharaoh’s heart in the sense of designing his destruction from the very beginning, i.e., of seeing that Pharaoh cooperated with a divine plan for his own reprobation. Rather, the idiomatic way in which God sometimes speaks, as in the phrase, “The Lord strengthened Pharaoh’s heart,” must be remembered as a pronounced decree. And such a pronouncement does not nullify God’s greater desire to see Pharaoh repent and obey, though in fact no man chooses to come to God apart from divine merciful urging. At any rate, idiomatic references must be recognized for what they are. And in short, active verbs (e.g. Romans 9:17 “I harden“) do not always indicate causality. Indeed, the process of man’s self-reprobation, as seen in Pharaoh, is what Romans 1 actually teaches us. Men knew God but glorified Him not as God. They also refused to thank Him for His blessings and worshipped the creation instead of the Creator. Therefore God finally gave them up to their own desires. Even so, Pharaoh knew God but refused to glorify Him. Consequently, he grew futile in his imagination and served the creation (e.g., numerous Egyptian gods, including Ra the Sun god) instead of the one true Creator God. Notice again with what mercy God approached the hard-hearted, unsaved Egyptian king. He did not demand at the first that Pharaoh bend his knee and worship God, but merely that Pharaoh recognize within his own mind that a God of Israel existed. Even this Pharaoh would not do. Plague upon plague arrived by divine command as God ratcheted up the tension on Pharaoh. Finally, because of their boils, the magicians could no longer stand before Moses nor presumably also before Pharaoh. No longer, then, could Satan make use of these courtiers who had stood by Pharaoh’s side and often incited the Egyptian king with tricks, and by giving chorus to Pharaoh’s roused indignation against Moses and Aaron. These magicians were now absent from Pharaoh’s presence, as those whose boil-infested bodies argued their own counteracting ineffectiveness and loss of moral authority. Surely this change in circumstance would hardly have been lost upon the Devil. Other means must be found to replace the influence of the magicians—(the false prophets, so to speak, of Pharaoh’s court). As we contemplate Satan’s methods, and how hundreds of years afterward he (or his underling) would act to harden the heart of King Ahab of Israel (not to mention the Enemy’s much earlier attempt to harden the heart of Job), is it, indeed, so far-fetched to presume that Satan would use whatever means God would allow him, in order to incite Pharaoh to greater rebellion? Remember, when Exodus 9:12 states for the first time that the Lord strengthened Pharaoh, this statement occurs in the very next verse after we are told the Egyptian magicians could no longer stand before Moses. We can imagine, then, what likely argument the Devil presented to God when asking to commence direct activity upon Pharaoh’s mind. “Will you deny Pharaoh any advisors and overwhelm him? Have you not robbed the king of his counselors—counselors to whom he is entitled? And if boils make it impossible for a man to stand before Pharaoh, shouldn’t Pharaoh have counselors like those whom he himself would choose?” Thus, in Exodus 9:12 I am contending that God gave Satan permission to directly influence Pharaoh’s heart. Satan may have used the magicians previously, but now his direct influence would presumably be even greater. Granting this, the appearance of qashah (the third Hebrew word in this study) in Exodus 7:3, which precedes the entire narrative of plagues, serves as a kind of marker of introduction (the word will not return until its reappearance in 13:15), in which God states (by His foreknowledge) the synopsis regarding Pharaoh, due to Pharaoh’s own responses after demonic activity seizes and fastens him to his own miry path following the latter plagues of 7, 8, and 9. The final result we observe is that Pharaoh “would hardly (stubbornly refuse to) let the children of Israel go” (Ex. 13:15). There is one other noteworthy feature about Exodus 7:3. It is the only time this particular Hebrew verb (qashah) is used in the Exodus narrative to refer to God’s activity. In fact, it is God Himself who says He will qashah (harden) Pharaoh’s heart, and note again that we do not come across this word referring to the Lord’s activity until its fulfillment in Exodus 13:15 (again, see charts beginning on p. 296). Let us remember that qashah literally means dense, tough, severe, cruel, fierce, etc. When the Lord says that He will qashah (make dense, tough, severe, i.e., harden) Pharaoh’s heart, I believe He is synopsizing the entire process of ‘His’87 strengthening and honoring of Pharaoh’s heart, according to Pharaoh’s own hardness.
Further Similarity Between Exodus and Job
***Now, note further that the only time the 2nd Hebrew word,
kabad, refers to the Lord’s honoring of Pharaoh’s heart (Ex. 10:1) is after the first time we are told that the Lord chazaq (strengthened) Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus 9:12. An interesting, approximate parallel can thus be observed between Satan’s activity in Exodus and his activity in the book of Job (which we examined earlier). The form of attack is somewhat different, since Satan’s primary goal for Pharaoh is to strengthen a heartset already publicly manifest, while with Job the goal was to remove the supporting superstructure of his possessions so that Job’s real character (according to Satan) would emerge publicly, thus putting God to shame. For Satan the difference between the two men is merely one of profession, not of actual heart. But the main point in Job 2 is to note how God idiomatically states to Satan that He is the causal agent of events, when contextually it is understood that He is merely allowing Satan to act in deference to what He truly wants. Now observe further that this statement of God to Satan in Job 2:3 (about being incited to ruin Job) occurs in the immediate aftermath of Satanic activity, which commenced when Satan received permission to attack Job for the first time. In other words, the process is:
1) Satanic activity is undertaken against a target after the Lord grants Satan permission (compare Job 1:12 with Ex. 9:12). Also, compare the Satanic activity of Job 1:13-19 (aimed at suggesting to Job that God ought to be rebelled against) with the Satanic suggestion that led to the ‘hardening’ (strengthening) of Pharaoh and his servants (see Ex. 9:34).
2) The Lord speaks idiomatically to say that He was the direct causal agent, even though the overall biblical context shows that He is not causally responsible (cp. Job 2:3 with Ex. 10:1 and Ezek. 33:11).
The following comparisons of Satan’s activity should help to explain some of the similarities between Exodus and Job:
Job 1:12 Satan gains permission to ‘emerge’ the character of Job in an attempt to demonstrate its hypocrisy and rebellion.
Ex. 9:12 Satan gains permission to strengthen Pharaoh’s heart to augment the rebellion already demonstrated.
Job 1—2 The result of Satan’s activity leads God to idiomatically say that He had ruined Job. The context, however, shows that God was incited and merely allowed Satan to do what he wanted.
Exodus 10:1 The result of Satan strengthening Pharaoh’s heart leads God to idiomatically say that He had done the strengthening. Indeed, we also know this statement must be idiomatic since the book of James tells us that God tempts no man to sin (1:13).
Granting our argument thus far, note further that the word appearances describing the Lord’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart involving Strong’s word #2388 (chazaq) form separate instances, and, according to the principle we find in Job, would likewise presumably be separate instances in Exodus, i.e., in which the Lord granted the Enemy direct and further access to influence Pharaoh by strengthening his already rebellious heart.88 Moreover, note carefully in the book of Job how Satan had to be granted separate permission for the two rounds of trial which he brought upon Job. Thus Satan could do nothing without God granting the permission to allow him his activity upon two separate occasions. Even so, in Exodus Satan would have presumably had to petition God during (or after) each separate plague (each of which constituted further, divine positive testimony) before hoping to intensify the strengthening of Pharaoh’s heart against God through Satanic suggestion, and this would explain the repeated idiomatic statement that “the Lord chazak (strengthened) Pharaoh’s heart.”
***To continue the comparison, we may also reasonably presume that God responded to Satan after the second round of Job’s trial even as He did following the first. That is, presumably, God again pointed out to Satan that Job had maintained his integrity and not cursed God, despite Satan’s inciting of Him ‘to ruin’ Job’s health without cause. The Bible leaves many such statements merely implied, and while I am not at all arguing that such presumptions ever be granted the status of Scripture, it remains to be shown by any who would deny us the use of such presumptions how they are not biblically informed. Thus, granting the above assumption, we may further hypothesize that the reason the exodus narrative does not tell us that God kabad (honored, made heavy) Pharaoh’s heart other than the one appearance found89 in Exodus 10:1, is because such subsequent idiomatic utterances by God, while not explicitly stated in the biblical record, may nevertheless be taken as implied, as coming after each plague and after the activity of the Enemy, even as presumably God likewise similarly replied to Satan after Job’s 2nd round of trial even as He did after the 1st round, that is, when God said He had ‘ruined’ Job. Again (and at any rate), the culmination of all the influential activity of the Enemy and even of Pharaoh himself upon himself is Pharaoh’s induration (hence Strong’s #7185, to render stubborn, indurate, obstinate). This synopsis is arguably why Paul chose the Greek word skleruno (i.e., to indurate, to render stubborn), since it equates in Greek to the 3rd Hebrew word we have been studying, i.e., qashah, that is, when, in Romans 9:18, Paul speaks of God hardening Pharaoh. In other words, Paul is simply following the idiomatic and synopsistic usage of qashah as it appears in the exodus narrative. To prevent any contradiction within true biblical theology, we must always maintain that God’s intent and greatest desire for Pharaoh, while remedy was realistically possible, was that spiritual death of this wicked man be prevented.
The Process of Hardening
***Although much discussion in this chapter has revolved around the strengthening, honoring, and hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, we will nevertheless return to the subject of Pharaoh in the next chapter in order to critique A.W. Pink’s view of Pharaoh’s hardening within the context of the doctrine of Reprobation. At this point, however, it might be helpful to review the definitions of the three Hebrew words we have been studying, and to show from Strong’s Concordance the actual order of their appearances in the exodus narrative. Remember that all three words were translated by the KJV and NAS as hard/harden).
(Strong’s #2388: chazaq), from a primitive root meaning to fasten upon; hence, to seize, be strong (figuratively, courageous, causatively strengthen, cure, help, repair, fortify), obstinate, to bind, restrain, conquer, sieze, fasten. (Note; although Strong’s lists “harden” among the definitions, I have omitted it here, based on my argument that it is unwarranted, even as it is in #3513.)
(Strong’s #3513 and related word #3515; kabad), meaning heavy, weighty, honored.
(Strong’s #7185: qashah) meaning dense, tough, severe, hard, cruel, fierce.
***Note below in the chart the first appearance of chazaq (#2388), and also the only appearance of kabad (#3513), as both relate idiomatically90 to the Lord’s activity, the former occurring immediately prior to the seventh plague, the latter occurring just after it.
***Note also that Exodus 7:13 has here been changed to reflect the correct translation; thus, ‘The heart of Pharaoh was strengthened.’ Observe also that the word “that” in the phrase, “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that he shall follow after them [(i.e., follow after the children of Israel)]” is assumed by the translator. This treatment of ‘that ‘ may, in the minds of some readers, lead them to infer that God is the causal agent, when, in fact, it should be taken idiomatically as a connective referring only to the Enemy’s purpose in his activity.
***Finally, where it says below that Pharaoh strengthened himself, it may be assumed that other human agencies—the magicians and sometimes Pharaoh’s servants—helped in this process, though presumably to a lesser degree of intensity than that which God allowed the Enemy to commence between the 6th and 7th plague. In addition, the Hebrew verb stem and mood are given where applicable:
Ex. 4:21 (#2388) but I will strengthen his heart, that he
Piel (Intensive); Mood Imperfect (Incomplete action)
Ex. 7:3 (#7185) I will indurate (harden) Pharaoh’s heart,
Hiphil (Causative); Imperfect (Incomplete action)
Ex. 7:13 (#2388) And Pharaoh’s heart was strengthened
Qal (simple, causal, active); Imperfect (Incomplete action)
Ex. 7:14 (#3515) Pharaoh’s heart is weighty [honored]
No Tense Given,91 hence, presum. a stated condition (i.e., adj.)
Ex. 7:22 (#2388) Pharaoh’s heart was strengthened
Qal (simple, causal, active); Imperfect (Incomplete action)
Ex. 8:15 (#3513) honored (made weighty) his heart, and hearkened
Hiphil (Causative); Infinitive (object -ing; hence, “he, giving weight to his heart, hearkened not….”)
Ex. 8:19 (#2388) Pharaoh’s heart was strengthened
Qal (simple, causal, active); Imperfect (Incomplete action)
Ex. 8:32 (#3513) And Pharaoh honored (made weighty) his heart at
Hiphil (Causative); Imperfect (Incomplete action)
Ex. 9:7 (#3515) heart of Pharaoh was honored (made weighty)
Qal (simple, causal, active); Imperfect (Incomplete action)
Ex. 9:12 (#2388) Lord strengthened the heart of Pharaoh
Piel (Intensive); Mood Imperfect (Incomplete action)
Note: Seventh plague occurs
Ex. 9:34 (#3513) sinned yet more, and honored (made weighty) his
Hiphil (Causative); Imperfect (Incomplete action)
Ex. 9:35 (#2388)the heart of Pharaoh was strong
Qal (simple, causal, active); Imperfect (Incomplete action)
Ex. 10:1 (#3513) I have honored (made weighty) his heart,
Hiphil (Causative); Perfect (Complete action)
Ex. 10:20 (#2388) the Lord strengthened Pharaoh’s heart,
Piel (Intensive); Mood Imperfect (Incomplete action)
Ex. 10:27 (#2388) the Lord strengthened Pharaoh’s heart,
Piel (Intensive); Mood Imperfect (Incomplete action)
Ex. 11:10 (#2388) the Lord strengthened Pharaoh’s heart,
Piel (Intensive); Mood Imperfect (Incomplete action)
Ex. 13:15 (#7185) Pharaoh would hardly (stubbornly refuse to ) let us go
Hiphil (Causative); Perfect (Complete action)
Ex. 14:4 (#2388) I will strengthen Pharaoh’s heart,
Piel (Intensive); Perfect (Complete action)
Ex. 14:8 (#2388) So the Lord strengthened the heart of
Piel (Intensive); Mood Imperfect (Incomplete action)
Ex. 14:17 (#2388) will strengthen the hearts of the Egyptians
Piel (Intensive); Participle (unbroken continuity, emphasizing to be; i.e., “I will be strengthening to the strengthening of”)
***We should observe that the occasions when the Enemy was given permission to strengthen Pharaoh’s heart (i.e., granting our argument) are occasions when the Piel stem indicating an intensive activity would be appropriate (and in fact are present).
***Below is another chart showing the occurrence of the three Hebrew words (Eng. strengthen, honor, harden) in relation to the chronology of plagues:
4:21 And the Lord said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will strengthen (seize) [Piel (Intensive); Imperfect (Incomplete action)] his heart, that he shall not let the people go.
7:3 And I will harden (indurate, harden) [Hiphil (Causative); Imperfect (Complete action)] Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt.
God turns Moses’ rod into a serpent in the presence of Pharaoh, has it eat the magicians’ snakes, then turns it back into a rod again.
7:13-14 (corrected from “And he hardened Pharaoh’s heart”) And Pharaoh’s heart was strengthened [Qal (simple, causal, active); Imperfect (Incomplete action)], that he hearkened not unto them;92 as the Lord had said. And the Lord said unto Moses, Pharaoh’s heart is weighty (honored), he refuses to let the people go.
Moses lifts up his rod in the sight of Pharaoh and smites the Nile’s waters; the Nile and its tributaries become blood (1st plague).
7:22 And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: and Pharaoh’s heart was strengthened [Qal (simple, causal, active); Imperfect (Incomplete action)], neither did he hearken unto them; as the Lord had said.
God brings frogs to cover Egypt (2nd plague); Pharaoh promises to free Israel if God will remove the plague; God removes the frogs.
8:15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he honored (gave weight to) [Hiphil (Causative); Infinitive (object -ing; hence, "he, giving weight to his heart, hearkened not...")], his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said.
God brings gnats to cover Egypt (3rd plague).
8:19 Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God: and Pharaoh’s heart was strengthened [Qal (simple, causal, active); Imperfect (Incomplete action)], and he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said.
God brings a swarm of flies to cover Egypt (4th plague); Pharaoh promises to free Israel; God removes the flies.
8:32 And Pharaoh honored (gave weight to) [Hiphil (Causative); Imperfect (Incomplete action)] his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.
God strikes the livestock of Egypt, and all the cattle die (5th plague).
9:7 And Pharaoh sent, and, behold, there was not one of the cattle of the Israelites dead. And the heart of Pharaoh was weighted (honored) [Qal (simple, causal, active); Imperfect (Incomplete action)], and he did not let the people go.
God strikes the Egyptians and the animals of Egypt with boils (6th plague). The magicians are not able to stand before Moses because of their boils.
9:12 And the Lord strengthened (made strong, or seized, and so similarly below) [Piel (Intensive); Imperfect (Incomplete action)] the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had spoken unto Moses.
The Lord sends hail mingled with fire (7th plague). The nature of this plague is unprecedented in Egypt. Pharaoh promises to free Israel if God will stop the plague. God stops the plague.
9:34-10:1 And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and gave weight to (honored) [Hiphil (Causative); Imperfect (Incomplete action)] his heart, he and his servants. And the heart of Pharaoh was strengthened [Qal (simple, causal, active); Imperfect (Incomplete action)], neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the Lord had spoken by Moses. And the Lord said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have honored (made weighty) [Hiphil (Causative); Perfect (Complete action)] his heart, and the heart of his servants, that93 I might show these my signs before him:
God sends a plague of locusts (8th plague). Pharaoh promises to free Israel. God removes the locusts with a great west wind.
10:20 But the Lord strengthened [Piel (Intensive); Imperfect (Incomplete action)] Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go.
God sends three days of darkness upon the land of Egypt (9th plague). Pharaoh promises to let Israel go if they will leave their livestock behind. Moses replies that the livestock are needed for sacrifice.
10:27 But the Lord strengthened [Piel (Intensive); Imperfect (Incomplete action)] Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go.
God instructs Moses to tell Pharaoh that He will kill the firstborn of Egypt (10th plague), from the throne of Pharaoh to the (lowly) maidservant behind the mill. The firstborn of Egypt’s beasts will also die.
11:10 And Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh: and the Lord strengthened [Piel (Intensive); Imperfect (Incomplete action)] Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of his land.
Note: The phrase in the above verse (”these wonders”) appears to refer only to the first nine plagues, since the Lord had yet to bring the last plague. Pharaoh and the Egyptians are defeated by the 10th plague (death of their firstborn sons and beasts). The Hebrews avoid the death of their firstborn by believing God regarding the Passover, a special meal which involved the slaying of an unblemished lamb (which, as esp. the gospel of John shows, pointed to the coming Messiah, the Lamb of God).
13:(14)-15 And it shall be when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What is this? that thou shalt say unto him, By strength of hand the Lord brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage: And it came to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly (stubbornly refuse to) [Hiphil (Causative); Perfect (Complete action)] let us go, that the Lord slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man, and the firstborn of beast: therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all that openeth the matrix, being males; but all the firstborn of my children I redeem.
14:4 And I will strengthen [Piel (Intensive); Perfect (Complete action)] Pharaoh’s heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honored upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord. And they did so.
The firstborn in every Egyptian household and the firstborn among Egyptian beasts die in the 10th plague. The Egyptians, gripped with terror that they might all die, plead with the people of Israel to get out of their land. After the Israelis leave, Pharaoh and his servants regret that they have let Israel go.
14:8 And the Lord strengthened [Piel (Intensive); Imperfect (Incomplete action)] the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand.
14:17 And I, behold, I will strengthen [Piel (Intensive); Participle (unbroken continuity, emphasizing to be; i.e., "I will be strengthening to the strengthening of")] the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.
The Egyptian army pursues Israel into the Red Sea and is drowned.
The Mercy of God
***One of the lessons we can learn from the exodus is that God does not remain unknown to the Egyptians just because Pharaoh acts foolishly. In the end Jehovah’s name and power is demonstrated at considerable cost to Pharaoh and the Egyptians. But this is never the preferred way of God. He does not prefer the death of the wicked in the process of making His name known, but prefers that they recognize Him and obtain His mercy. Moses chose to heed the sign of the burning bush in the Midian wilderness, but Pharaoh refused to heed much greater signs and wonders in the heavens. Nevertheless, God is not mocked, and His power and mercy will not be subject to anonymity just because a ruler or a nation does not wish to retain Him in their knowledge.
***As we look back upon the example of Pharaoh, perhaps the most important lesson to understand is that God is not arbitrary in His dealings with men but is patient with all. He gives all men opportunity for repentance before ever thinking to bring upon them irreparable destruction. In short, God’s judgments, when they finally come, are fair because they are in accord with His good nature.
***Finally, we tend to think the story of the exodus stops with Pharaoh’s death, but in a sense it does not. Hundred of years later the Enemy is described in 1 Kings 22 as still relentlessly trying to defeat the children of Israel, this time by persuading King Ahab, ruler of the northern tribes of Israel, to go to an ill-advised war. Pharaoh, Ahab, and many other men throughout history have met incredibly tragic and unnecessary ends because of allowing the Enemy to feed into their own foolish desires. What sadness God must feel to know that He can deliver a ruler and people if only they will look to Him. The examples of Sidon, Chorazin, Bethsaida—all were cities that Christ said needlessly perished. Even the city of Jerusalem could have averted its destruction in 70 A.D., had only it recognized its Messiah. As Christ said:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that kills the prophets, and stones them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! (Mt. 23:37).
***Biblical stories about cities and nations are so old that we practically forget that these histories could have been different. Indeed, the book of Exodus, too, could have turned out different: it didn’t have to read the way it does. God has a plan for good for every nation, but so often a ruler and nation reject that plan. Sadly, this is what Pharaoh and the Egyptians did. As we look back upon the exodus narrative and think about the nature of God, each one of us ought to ask the question: Does God really cause a person’s heart to be hardened? And what will one believe about the Lord strengthening Pharaoh’s heart if one refuses to take such a statement as idiomatic expression? The only alternative I personally see is to accept the contradiction that God commands repentance from certain persons whom He predestines unto disobedience. Unfortunately, this conclusion is exactly what the Calvinist accepts. He embraces this contradiction along with certain other contradictions in his general apologetic, calls them non-contradictions, and then proceeds with great ingenuity to defend these contradictions. This is the methodology of Calvinism—to embrace contradictionism without naming it as such (nor admitting to it). Furthermore, Calvinists attempt to defend their contradictionism with (of all things!) Scripture, such as when they allege that ‘God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.’ The result of their influence has played a significant part in formatting the current, distressing state of today’s Evangelical apologetics. For Calvinist theology makes it impossible to have a consistent and true biblical hermeneutic, i.e., the general guiding principle that when two statements are in direct conflict with one another94 at least one of them is figurative or idiomatic. To the extent that Calvinists have taken idiomatic phrases to be literal, and literal phrases to be idiomatic or figurative, their theology has strayed. The current result is that the logic of Scripture has been cast aside regarding the nature of God, though of course consistency of argument has been maintained. The problem is grave—to wrongly assign idiomatic or literal phrases in key verses is to potentially cast away every truth in the Bible regarding God’s nature. Thus, to reinterpret Scripture for the purpose of justifying a contradiction, such as the alleged co-existence of God’s absolute sovereignty with human freedom, is to lay the foundation for ‘biblically’ justifying other contradictions using the same irrational method. It just becomes a matter of inventiveness and willingness.95
65 Exodus 9:15 (KJV) speaks of Pharaoh being “cut off from the earth,” which would make it appear that Pharaoh died in the Red Sea with his army. However, (Robert) Young’s Literal Translation (YLT) for Exodus 9:15 reads: “for now I have put forth My hand, and I smite thee, and thy people, with pestilence, and thou art hidden from the earth.” If this translation is correct, it would seem to leave open the possibility that Pharaoh might have survived the plagues. In fact, the Bible does not definitively state that Pharaoh was with his army when his men and horses drowned in the Red Sea; nor is Pharaoh mentioned in the Israeli song of victory in Exodus 15. (See p. 337, footnote 100)
66 This is a very sobering thought. Most men are in the habit of hardening their hearts against God every day. As they do so, they move ever closer to a point where God may give up struggling with them, in which case there would then be no realistic chance that they would ever be saved. This ought to motivate us toward developing sensitivity toward sharing the gospel with others whenever the Spirit leads us to, as well as motivating us to lead a more godly life in general. I suspect all of us, at one time or another, need encouragement and greater determination to do this.
67 Consider also Matthew 11:23: “And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.” Note that for Christ to have made such a statement about Sodom remaining to the present day, He would have had to foreknow what generations of Sodomites would believe, as well as what activities and movements would take place regarding the surrounding people groups in that particular geo-political area over the course of 2,000 years. Although it may be conceivable that Christ, as the Son (and one Person of the Trinity), chose during the Old Testament era to limit His foreknowledge of certain events and human choices (such as perhaps implied in the statement regarding Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac, “Now I know that you will withhold nothing from me….“), this does not mean that the Father (at least) did not know in advance what Abraham was willing to do. It is possible that Christ, in wanting to demonstrate to man a fuller expression of His desire to identify with humanity from humanity’s own viewpoint, chose to limit for a certain time His foreknowledge about certain future events and human choices at certain times. Note in the New Testament that Christ voluntarily limited His foreknowledge of the Father’s set day for His (the Son’s) Second Coming, and therefore total foreknowledge has not extended to all the Persons of the Trinity (by choice). Yet, Christ was not always ignorant about the future or even its contingent possibilities, as seen in His observation that Sodom would have been preserved to the present day had they seen the miracles He had done in Capernaum (as Matthew 11:23 makes clear). This would suggest that Open Theism, for example, is mistaken to suggest that God exhaustively knows the past and present, but has no foreknowledge about what human choices will be in the future.
68 —regarding events through the ninth plague.
69 Hebrew verbs are shown in their basic forms.
70 i.e., the turning of Moses’ rod into a serpent and back into a rod.
71 Though I agree with the minority translation Young gives for chazaq, I believe the future tense of the majority translation should have been preserved, since 9:12 et al. show 4:21’s fulfillment.
72 Obviously, reviewing these other English words will be restricted to Strong’s numbered word for chazaq (#2833). The website [www.blueletterbible.com] actually has a feature to allow for a Hebrew or Greek word’s reversible look-up.
73 Furthermore, the remainder of 9:12 indicates that it is the fulfillment of 4:21, for 9:12 reads, “And the Lord strengthened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not listen to them; just as the Lord had spoken to Moses.” As for the NAS claim (see argument on pp. 262-263 in this chapter) that 7:13 is the fulfillment of 4:21, it will be shown later why the fulfillment of 7:13 is 3:19, not 4:21.
74 To support Calvinism’s deterministic view of reprobation, G. K. Beale actually foregoes an immediate explanation of mysticism and takes a different approach in his article, “An Exegetical and Theological Consideration of the Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart in Exodus 4-14 and Romans 9″ (in which he discusses the three Hebrew words translated to harden). He suggests that God was hardening Pharaoh’s heart prior to the first time Scripture actually records that God hardens Pharaoh’s heart. Thus, he states: “Although the 4:21 hardening is integrally related to the performance of signs, it is even more related to [the] refusal of Moses’ request to release Israel. The hardening of 4:21 is not conditional on the performance of signs. Hence, signs could be absent and hardening present. The argument rests with the one attempting to prove an absolute and strictly necessary relation between hardening and “sign reaction.” ” The burden of proof, however, is very much on Beale’s end, since all the biblical statements that actually state that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart obviously follow Pharaoh’s reactions to successive plagues. Moreover, Beale, to support his argument, cites Moses’ complaint as recorded in Exodus 5:22, as though it must be true and not the mere biblical recording of a saint’s opinion about God in the midst of his impatient, accusative exasperation, thus Beale: “Another argument for God’s control of Pharaoh is found in 5:22-23. In 5:22 it is said that Yahweh had brought harm to Israel….” But (contrary to Beale) we note the actual passage: “Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord, why have you brought harm to this people? Why did you ever send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and You have not delivered Your people at all.’ ” Finally, one wonders how repetitive the Scriptures must be, regarding the Lord’s ‘hardening’ of Pharaoh’s heart (in its successive statements which follow plagues 6,7,8,9, and 10), in order for Beale to think that his criteria has been met for “an absolute and strictly necessary relation between hardening and ’sign reaction.’ ” One is reminded of the Scottish philosopher David Hume, who kept insisting that there was no strict proof of causal relationship just because one always saw that trees bent away from the direction of the wind, and then only when the wind was blowing. Also, Beale, as someone trying to tie divine reprobation to the exodus narrative, does not appear to interpret the Hebrew chazaq to mean strengthen in the Pharaohic context but follows instead the usual translators’ bias of harden.
75 Incidentally, one wonders why the Calvinist seems to treat his own position as though finding a proof-text for God’s absolute sovereignty over here in the Bible, and then finding a proof-text for human freedom over there in the Bible, formed a sufficient explanation. Why is it not understood by Calvinists that any biblical passage about the subject of sovereignty, such as Isaiah 29, 45, and Jeremiah 18 in their extensive, contextual detail, ought to affirm both sides of Calvin’s ‘antinomy’? Or have Calvinists really given up the hope for a unified field of intelligible knowledge?
76 (in the hands of some translators, that is).
77 Expect the Calvinist to claim that God roused Pharaoh by raising him expressly for reprobation. Thus one expects that the Calvinist (if he becomes aware of our argument) will resurrect his old trick of using irrational argument and thus treat yet another word, in this case, rouse, as merely one more activity of divine irresistibility. Doubtless, this method of redefining terms to fit the Calvinist template will be used by Calvinists against any book that gets ‘above the radar’ in exposing Calvinism. In other words, any book that makes it into the repertoire of books exposing the Calvinistic misdeeds of defining synonyms as non-synonymous, and non-synonyms as synonymous (resulting in eisegesis), may likely be turned on its head by Calvinists, and its author accused of doing the very thing of which Calvinists themselves are guilty.
78 It would also mean that God was tempting Ahab to do evil, which could not have been the case, since God tempts no man (see Ja. 1:13).
79 Even as a Christian I may be tempted to ask why God permits this, i.e., the existence of anything outside His will. But if I so object, I condemn myself in the question—for again, I accuse God with the very same free will that I claim ought not to exist! The answer as to why God permits evil is evident, nonetheless. God has desired that men and angels have free will to decide the spiritual course of their own lives regardless of the outcome. (Incidentally, there is a general effect of calamitous outcome not always in line with a theory of individual quid pro quo that works itself through the world because of man’s sin.) The worship God desires is that of people freely choosing to respond to Him in love. As Christian thinker Paul Little has stated about God’s desire to bring free will into creation: it is even as a man who would prefer a wife over a car, even though a wife will not always do as he pleases, and though the car can be steered according to his whim.
80 —suggested pronunciation: kaw-shaw.
81 God appears to have revealed to Ahab more about the (behind-the-scenes) judgment process than to Pharaoh, perhaps because Ahab, though evil, was king over the northern tribes of Israel, God’s people, and had humbled himself on one occasion when the Lord pronounced a curse against his male descendents (because of Ahab’s acquiescence in the murder of a man whose property Ahab had then confiscated).
82 That is, God’s ideal plan would have been the release of Israel prior to the plagues, but failing that, then as early as possible during the course of plagues.
83 —by ‘forms,’ I mean (for example), that God upholds a man’s form as the Sustainer of creation, though He never decides man’s content , whether good or evil. While it is true that God preserves both the form of the world in which sin takes place and also the eternally forward existence of man, man alone commits sin and sustains it unless it becomes remitted in Christ by God’s grace which we accept by our faith.
84 A.W. Pink offers the argument that the pronoun us in the phrase to us-ward in 2 Peter 3:9 must refer to the elect, since Peter’s salutation at the beginning of the epistle is addressed only to saints. This is a forced argument for the following reasons. First, if Peter is speaking of the elect who are already saved, by what grammar do we understand that such elected saints (i.e., those who are already saved and to whom the epistle is addressed) should come toward this knowledge of the truth, i.e., should yet come unto the knowledge of the truth of salvation? For by definition the elect, contextualized here in this passage as “saints,” are those who already have come to the knowledge of the truth. I suppose, then, that Pink is referring to the future elect. But note in 2 Peter 3 the judgment context prior to verse 9. Peter observes that men were willfully ignorant of the watery judgment (that came in Noah’s day), even as they now resist the Spirit by mockingly stating, “Where is the promise of His coming?” Peter then states that God is not slow regarding His promise, as some men define slowness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that anyone should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Furthermore, Peter states in verse 16 that Paul also mentions these things in all his epistles, “in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as [they do] also the other scriptures…” Observe then, that Peter’s reference about divine long-suffering, judgment, and mercy in Paul’s writings would certainly include Romans 9, a chapter universally conceded by theologians to be difficult of perception. And note especially that Paul states in Romans 9:22-23 that God is long-suffering with those who disbelieve, while other vessels receive (i.e., take the proffered) mercy. Thus Paul states that: “God, desirously willing to make his wrath known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels fitting themselves to destruction, and [Gr. kai, also, i.e., also (for the reason)] that he might make known [note: Gr. subjunctive mood, showing the following matter to be contingent on the vessels' decisions (and therefore obviously not on the 'irresistible' activity of an all-sovereign God)] the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which He has before prepared unto glory.” Even so, the us in 2 Peter 3:9 corresponds to all those toward whom God has exhibited long-suffering, which, the reader will observe, are the wicked (which, contextually in Rom. 9, includes Pharaoh), among whom some become righteous through their belief in God’s mercy. Thus the “anyone” and “all” of 2 Peter 3:9 may be understood as universal, lost man, especially as we consider our second point. To wit, observe that any preacher may, in a sermon addressed to believers, use the pronoun us to urge his hearers as members of the larger community of the world to consider an abstract argument. Paul actually does this in Romans 4:24 when he says “But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.” By using the conditional future tense (”shall…if we believe”) and the pronouns us and we, Paul is obviously asking his Christian readers to imagine for the moment (and for argument’s sake) that they are general members of the larger, unbelieving community of the world. Observe, then, that the pronoun us in Romans 4:24 is used to mean a group other than the saints at Rome to whom Paul specifically cited in his salutation. Even so, though Peter does not use the conditional tense as does the more philosophically-minded Paul when the latter addresses his Roman audience, nevertheless Peter expects his own hearers to understand that as vessels of mercy they are nevertheless part of the us of universal man with which God has been long-suffering.
85 If God took equal pleasure in avenging the blood of Christ as in bestowing grace upon sinners, then God, following the resurrection of Christ, may as well have saved the Spirit the trouble of trying to convince the world of sin, since the same amount of divine pleasure could have been realized either way. This is not the case, of course, because God’s beneficent nature is preferential to, as the hymn says, both “giving and forgiving.”
86 If God took equal pleasure in avenging the blood of Christ as in bestowing grace upon sinners, then God, e.g., following the resurrection of Christ, may as well have saved the Spirit the trouble of trying to convince the world of sin, since the same amount of divine pleasure could have been realized either way. This is not the case, of course, because God’s beneficent nature is preferential to, as the hymn says, both “giving and forgiving.”
87 Again, the word is in single quotation marks to show the idiomatic nature of the phrase, “The Lord strengthened Pharaoh’s heart,” i.e., to show the non-causal nature of the divine permission which granted Satanic activity to commence.
88 That God did so because He was willing to be glorified among the Egyptians, even if judgment were the only way to achieve it, does not mean that such divinely granted permission to the Enemy was tantamount to what God would have preferred for the Egyptians. Nor does it mean that God was insincere when He commanded Pharaoh to repent and humble himself (see Ex. 10: 2-3).
89 i.e., as it refers to the Lord’s activity upon Pharaoh’s heart during the plague events.
90 It might be argued, with some justification, that the idiomatic nature we claim for chazaq and kabad, as it relates to the Lord’s activity upon Pharaoh’s heart, is in some measure due to the connotative meaning of the words strengthen and honor as used in the English language. In other words, perhaps the idiomatic nature of these words in Hebrew was more (or very) readily understood, such that it seemed to the Hebrews a more natural way of expressing the matter in such contexts.
91 According to the source I have available, i.e., Blueletterbible.com
92 “them” refers to Moses and Aaron.
93 Again, if by the word ‘that,’ the translators meant to imply in order that, their view should be discarded. For God never desires that man sin.
94 i.e., granting that the translation of both statements is correct.
95 For example, this confusion of definition is exactly what the Catholic Church came to embrace because of their amalgamation of grace and works, a view made possible by the irrational method.
xlvii Turner, Allan. “Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus?” [http://www.allanturner.com/pharaoh.html].
xlviii Spiegel, James S. The Benefits of Providence. (Wheaton, Illinois, Crossway Books, 2005). p. 23.
xlix Spiegel, p. 25.
l Pink, Arthur W. [www.reformed.org/books/pink/pink_sov_06.html]; Chapter Six: “The Sovereignty of God in Operation.”
li For all the occurrences of the three Hebrew words translated ‘hardened,’ see online at [http://www.apostolic-churches.net/bible/strongs. html]. Also, Strong, James. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1986) lexical section. BlueLetterBible.com is also helpful and fairly easy to use.