Thursday, July 29, 2010

Who hardened Pharaoh's heart? (Part 2)

Pharaoh’s heart was hard, and that is why he would not let the people go. Repeatedly, he hardened his own heart even further (see Exodus 7:13, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 12, 34, 35; 10:20, 27). However, it is also true that “the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart” (Exodus 9:12; 10:20, 27; 11:10; see also 4:21; 7:3; 10:1). So how are we to understand this? Who hardened Pharaoh’s heart? Was Pharaoh’s heart hard because the Lord had hardened it? Or did God harden the king’s heart only as a punishment because Pharaoh had first hardened it himself? There are differences of opinion among commentators.

One viewpoint is that God did nothing to make Pharaoh’s heart hard. Those who take this viewpoint, that Pharaoh’s heart was hard because of his own choice, believe that God was actually trying to bring Pharaoh to repentance. The phrase “so that Pharaoh (or the Egyptians) might know that I am God” or a similar thought, appears frequently (Exodus 7:5, 17; 8:10, 19, 22; 9:14, 16, 29; 11:7). The knowledge of God mentioned is more than intellectual knowledge, so the statement is really an evangelistic invitation. The fact that a “mixed multitude” went up out of Egypt (Exodus 12:38) indicates that there were many Egyptians who did believe, and, therefore, the invitation was evangelistic in its outreach.

Another viewpoint is that God did everything to harden Pharaoh’s heart. Advocates of this viewpoint argue that the Bible says nothing explicit about God trying to bring Pharaoh to repentance. The first time anything is said about Pharaoh’s heart, it is God who is speaking to Moses, and He is saying, “I will harden his heart so he will not let the people go” (Exodus 4:21). Since that is the first reference to this hardening, it is probably right to think that Pharaoh’s later hardening of his heart was the result of God’s prior determination. (Of course, God can harden hearts simply by withholding a softening grace, since our hearts are both hard and also harden naturally apart from any direct action by God or anyone else.)

Furthermore, Exodus 9:16 reports a word of God to Pharaoh in which He says: “I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” The apostle Paul quotes this verse in Romans 9:17, concluding, “Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden” (Romans 9:18). This means that God is sovereign in the matter of salvation and that He owes no one anything.

Whether God intervened in a positive way to harden Pharaoh’s heart or hardened it merely by allowing Pharaoh to harden it himself is beside the point. In fact, the manner in which Exodus mixes verses about God hardening Pharaoh’s heart and Pharaoh hardening his own heart indicates that the question of which came first was not even an issue with the writer. In the final analysis, God determines all things, regardless of what the immediately preceding cause may be. What matters in everything is the glory of God. As Paul shows in Romans 9, God’s power, wrath and justice are glorified in His passing by the unrepentant, just as His grace, mercy, and compassion are exalted in the salvation of those who are being saved. In this case, God glorified His justice, power and wrath in His judgments upon Egypt. He displayed His mercy in His redemption of the Israelites.

A third viewpoint is that God and Pharaoh were both involved in hardening Pharaoh’s heart. Sincere Christians have debated the question of the sovereignty of God and the free will of man for centuries. It would seem that both are involved here. Still providing for the sovereignty of God in hardening Pharaoh’s heart, there is also a circumscribed area of freedom in which Pharaoh was responsible for his own choice to harden his heart. Though God twice predicted what would be the outcome, yet it was Pharaoh who consistently hardened his own heart during the first five plagues, and only then does the text consistently say that during the second five plagues (six through ten), the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart. God’s purpose of revealing Himself and His power can be effected in more than one way. This is not the only instance of God’s using a ruler to show His power and glory to His own people, as well as to the unbelieving world. In addition to Pharaoh, there are other instances in the Old Testament where God displayed His glory by hardening a heart, i.e., Sihon (Deuteronomy 2:30), the Canaanites (Joshua 11:20), Absalom (2 Samuel 17:14), and Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:15). On the other hand, Cyrus, whose position was similar to Pharaoh’s, also gave glory to God, in the fact that he very responsively and willingly let the people of Judah return to their land (2 Chronicles 36:22-Ezra 1:8; 5:13-6:14; and Isaiah 44:28-45:13). Pharaoh also could have been raised up by God to show His power and to proclaim His name in the same way that Cyrus did, but Pharaoh chose to be obstinate. In either case, the purpose that “they might know that I am God” was effected.

Christians believe in only one God. We are not polytheistic as the Egyptians were. But many things can take the place of God in our lives: our reputations, money, pleasure, another person, even an imagined right to use our time and talents as we ourselves see fit. God will not compromise with idolatry. The first of the Ten Commandments says, “You shall have not other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). What things are functioning as gods in your life? Are you willing to repudiate them?

Our false gods do not go by the name of “gods,” but anything that sets itself up against God is an idol and should be opposed by Christians. Godless philosophies, such as extreme nationalism, secularism, humanism, and materialism are idols that must be opposed, just as Moses opposed the false gods and goddesses of Egypt.

Pharaoh wanted to compromise with God once he understood that he was dealing with a power greater than his own. However, God will not compromise. He is sovereign, and those who oppose Him will be broken ultimately as Pharaoh was. Are you fighting against God in some area of your life, obeying when you must but trying to win as many concessions from Him as possible? It is important that you abandon such folly and give yourself wholly to Him who is all wise, all-powerful and wonderfully good.


(The above information is from BSF Notes, BSF International, Lesson 7, “Battle Against the Gods of Egypt – Exodus 6:28-10:29”

18 comments:

thekingpin68 said...

'A third viewpoint is that God and Pharaoh were both involved in hardening Pharaoh’s heart.'

God as cause1, the cause of all things, this could be called primary cause, with pure motives. Pharaoh as cause2, or secondary cause with wrong motives. Demonic beings could also perhaps serve as a cause2 or secondary cause with wrong motives. I suppose angelic beings too could potentially be cause2 or secondary cause with pure motives.

Within compatibilism there are multiple causes of significantly free thoughts and actions.

Further:

As long as the thoughts and actions are not forced or coerced and are done with significant human freedom they are considered morally significant.

For a human being to be drugged and forced to have thoughts and do actions by another human being or beings, for example, would make the thoughts and actions not morally significant.


I do admit though that human beings do greatly influence others at times.

But human beings may not have the access to the human spirit that angelic beings do.

So, there could be a debate on whether or not a human being could be cause2, a secondary cause of significantly free and morally significant human actions.

Jeff said...

Thanks, Russ, for your scholarly perspective and additions.

thekingpin68 said...

AS

According to the police official, under Islamic law an underage girl can be charged with adultery or related crime whether or not she had willing underage sex or was raped.

That is a law of a twisted religion.

My take is that many men in authority there like having control and use of underage sex.

Outside of adult age and marriage, that is simply the abuse of sexuality.

I am going to put this in thekingpin68 comments as well.

Jeff said...

thekingpin68,

That is a law of a twisted religion.

My take is that many men in authority there like having control and use of underage sex.

Outside of adult age and marriage, that is simply the abuse of sexuality.


Agreed.

I am going to put this in thekingpin68 comments as well.

Cool.

Thanks, Russ.

Cammie Novara said...

"Those who take this viewpoint, that Pharaoh’s heart was hard because of his own choice, believe that God was actually trying to bring Pharaoh to repentance." You're absolutely right.

Jeff said...

Thank you for your comment, Cammie.

Jeff said...

BTW, Cammie, I like your site:
Intelligent Design Facts

satire and theology said...

I reason that God can bring to repentance whom he wills, but this will not be forced or coerced.

Jeff said...

Thanks, Russ.

I believe God works all things to His glory.

He chooses a remnant to be saved, and if He did not do that, no one would be saved, since no one comes to Him unless He draws them. On the saved, He demonstrates His mercy; on the lost, He demonstrates His justice. If no one were saved, God might theoretically be seen as unloving. If no one were punished for sin, God could theoretically be seen as unjust. However, it is only by His grace, mercy and compassion that He saves any of us, and there is nothing to force Him to save any of us, nor does He have any obligation to save any of us. Every one of us is fully deserving of eternal hellfire, and if He caused all of us to burn in Hell forever, He would be fully in His right to do so, and He would owe us nothing, since, after all, He is the One Who created us, and He can do with us as He pleases. Thankfully, He sent His Son, Christ Jesus, God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, to die on the cross to pay for the sins of the Elect.

thekingpin68 said...

Tor Sun

thekingpin68 said...

Blogger Draft Beta:

A friendly warning for those that try it, and I have been using it for the very useful additional blogs stats...

-It is more difficult to write the text in Draft, as more Blogger errors occur. So, I go back to the default program to type a post.

-The Beta program labels certain comments as SPAM, and in fact three of my comments were placed there until I found them and took them off the SPAM list.
Two were duplicates.

Jeff said...

Thanks for the warning, Russ. That doesn't sound too appealing yet, until they improve it.

satire and theology said...

Blessings for you in tough times, Jeff.

In Christ's name...amen

Jeff said...

Thank you very much, Russ. Things are tough, but God is faithful.

thekingpin68 said...

Blogger Stats is now a regular feature with my Blogger, so I dumped Draft.

Blogger Stats claims satire and theology has had over 10, 000 page views the last two months whereas Stats Counter states over 6, 000 for one month and 7, 000 for another month. Hmm.

Well, I know Uncle Chuck has left comments on my thk68 blog from his home and Stats Counter has missed the page views, so I lean toward Blogger being more accurate.

The stats for thekingpin68 the last two months are closer but still higher with Blogger.

Stats Counter was much better than Site Meter that missed quite a view visits.

Blessings to you, Jeff.

Li Martins said...

Dear Jeff!!! I'm so sorry I've been away for so long. I pretend to continue my blog from next month. I hope everything goes right :) Thanks for your support... I miss our talks!! See you soon. Bye.

Jeff said...

thekinpin68,

Blogger Stats claims satire and theology has had over 10, 000 page views the last two months whereas Stats Counter states over 6, 000 for one month and 7, 000 for another month. Hmm.

You would think they would be the same. But maybe one records total hits and the other records unique hits, or something like that?

Blessings to you, Jeff.

Thanks, Russ.

Jeff said...

Dear Jeff!!! I'm so sorry I've been away for so long. I pretend to continue my blog from next month. I hope everything goes right :) Thanks for your support... I miss our talks!! See you soon. Bye.

Hi, Li! Good to hear from you again! I had been wondering what happened to you, and I was concerned about you. I'm so glad to hear from you again! I hope things are going well for you. I have not updated my blog in quite some time, as you can see. I have been very busy with various financial and security problems. Hope to hear from you again soon! Great hearing from you!