So what about the passages where God hardens peoples hearts? The main confusion people encounter in this regard has to do with Calvinist’s teachings that say passages which speak of God hardening human hearts prove God’s selective election & determinism from the foundation of the world. That God hardens the hearts of people not elected for heaven so they won’t receive salvation.
How can we reconcile the notion of the loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ (God made flesh) John 1: 1-5, willingly suffering and dying on the cross to pay for the sins of the world (John 3:16-17), with this frightful suggestion that God for no reason at all hardens people’s hearts to keep them from coming to Him ? It just doesn’t make any sense at all!
We need to take into consideration the whole counsel of the Word of God, & God’s character to make sure we are not misrepresenting Him.
The first time Scripture speaks of God hardening someone’s heart, it is in reference to Pharaoh:
– God speaks of hardening Pharaoh’s heart: Ex.4:21, 7:3, -God hardens his heart Ex. 9:12, 10:1, 20, 27, 11:10, 14:4
– Pharaoh hardens his own heart: Ex.7: 13, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 24-26, 34; 12:31 & 13:15, 1 Sam. 6:6. His servants did also Ex. 9:34
– Also, God to Sihon (King of Heshbon) an Amorite, Joshua 11:19-20, they were occupying the promised land that God gave to Israel (Ex.3:8, Deut.7:1), what was the reason of God’s judgment? Numbers 21:20-26, Deut. 20:17-18.
Also Israel, God’s people hardened their own hearts: Zech. 7:11-14, This happened so many times: Ezekiel 12:1-2, Psalms 95:8, 96:8-9, Matt.19:8, Jer. 9:14, 16:.12, , Matt.13:15, John 12:37-43, etc.
Hardening can happen to anyone, even believers: Heb.3:7-9, 3:13, Romans 2:5, Mark 6:51-52, 8:17-19. That’s why we ALL need to guard our hearts Prov.4:23.
Exodus 2:23-25 And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them.
- God told Moses: Exodus 3:19-20 And I am sure (H3045= know) that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand. And I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go.
This verses shows God’s Foreknowledge & also that Pharaoh already had a hardened heart, he was prideful & didn’t recognized God’s authority (Ex.5:1-2). God knows the heart of men (Prov. 21:2, 1 Sam.16:7). (So there is always the possibility that the hardening was caused indirectly, that God did things (plagues) toward Pharaoh and his people that caused the heart of Pharaoh to react in a hardening way & God knew this would happen. – But let’s put this possibility aside & say it was done directly, still doesn’t prove election or determinism).
- Ex. 4: 21-22 but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go. And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn.
We read that in the first five plagues, and in the seventh, Pharaoh hardened his own heart. What is stated as a future statement in Exodus 4:21 becomes an accomplished statement in Exodus 7:13, with Scripture using the same verb and form of the verb (harden -H2388) as was found in Exodus 4:21. And even after that we read pharaoh hardening his own heart several times, meaning he had a choice.
God’s hardening simply refers to the resolve in Pharaoh’s heart to keep the Israelites & not let them go. The root meaning of the Hebrew word in Ex.4:21 translated “to harden” (H2388) is ‘to strengthen‘ God hardened Pharaoh by strengthening the resolve he had already formed in his own heart, that he might continue his resistance until God’s redemptive purposes were fulfilled.
- Ex. 6:1 Then the Lord said unto Moses, Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh: for with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land.
It certainly was not to cause him to be lost eternally nor this prove that he was elected to hell before the foundation of the world. Pharaoh was raised up (as king –Dan.2:21, 4:25; 5:21) to show God’s power. But God takes no delight in the wicked choices of evildoers and does not want any to perish ( Eze. 18:32, Ezekiel 33:11; John 3:16-17, 2 Peter 3:9 ).
The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was to ensure that he would remain in his chosen rebellious condition of not letting the Israelite go until the redemptive purpose of the Passover was accomplished (which by the way, is a foreshadowing of Israel’s hardening to accomplish the true Passover with Christ). But the Scriptures never suggests that God refuses Pharaoh the ability to refrain from his morally evil actions.
Another purpose was to prove to Israel (His people) that God was their only deliverer (Ex. 6:6-7, 10:1-2; 13:14-16) God in delivering his people desired to make His glory, name & power known to Israelites, Egyptians & also throughout the whole earth (Ex.9:16, Exodus 14:31), to show them that He is the only true God.
- Exodus 7:4–5, “I will lay my hands upon Egypt and deliver hosts, my people, the Israelites, from the land of Egypt with great acts of judgment. And the Egyptians shall know that I am God when I stretch out my hand against Egypt.
It was judgment, Pharaoh and Egypt had brought these judgments on themselves with 430 years of slavery and mass murder. God gave Pharaoh up to his own sin. They, Pharaoh & his servants were hardened already by their own sin & rebellion against God. The plagues, as terrible as they were, actually demonstrate God’s mercy in not completely destroying Egypt, like Sodom & Gomorrah.
It is extremely important to see that Pharaoh had a free will, or freedom of choice, before & throughout the whole process:
- “How long will ye refuse to humble yourself before Me? Let My people go, that they may serve Me” (Ex.10:3).
Why did God asked him this if Pharaoh wasn’t able to repent? Was God lying? The Scriptures say: “God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar Romans 3:4
This verse proves Pharaoh & his men were able to repent if they wanted to do so, they had a choice. Denying this & omitting this verse (& others that disprove election & determinism) while teaching only the ones that may show their bias on election, is wrong. Those who teach that God hardening Pharaoh’s heart means he was predestined for hell, are in err & unwillingly are making God a liar.
What incalculable damage is done through Calvinism’s ideology that portrays God as a liar who says He loves all men but really doesn’t, and who says He desires all men’s salvation, but secretly plots their demise. How can this possibly be the God found in the pages of scripture?
This are the reason we cannot change the Word of God, not add or take away from it, specially in doctrines of salvation, where peoples’ eternal destiny is at stake.
- “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” Deuteronomy 4:2 – Deut. 12:32, Proverbs 30:6, Galatians 1:8-9 ;Revelation 22:19; Acts 17:11.
Those hardened or cut off are NOT born in this condition, but have “grown hardened” over years of rebellion , their hearts or conscience becomes dull or hardened because of continual & unrepentant sin in their lives (Acts 28:24-27, Matt. 19:8, 1 Tim.4:2, Rom.2:5, Heb 3:13).
. . . . Continues on Pt2.
– Others use of verb ‘Chazaq’ H2388:
The Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart “The only time chazaq is translated as “harden” is in reference to Pharaoh in Exodus. In all other occurrences, chazaq is translated as “strengthen”, “encourage”, “repair”, “fortify”, etc. Here are a few examples:
- Joshua is encouraged (Deut 1:38).
- Jonathan helps David find strength in God (1 Samuel 23:16).
- The neighbors assisted Judah (Ezra 1:6).
- The Levites helped the priests complete a task (2 Chron 29:34). “
–Hardened Hearts– Jewish Explanation
–Did Pharaoh Have Free Will? – by a Jewish Rabi, (they know Hebrew well & the Old Testament)