Did God force Pharaoh to do evil by hardening his heart?
We first see the Lord tell Moses what he is going to do and what is to transpire. Exodus 4:21: “The LORD said to Moses, "When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.”
There were to be ten wonders in all, each time a sign judgment would be delivered for the purpose of freeing Israel. These become more severe as the months go by (approximately 6 months).
Ex 7:3-5 “And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh will not heed you, so that I may lay My hand on Egypt and bring My armies and My people, the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the children of Israel from among them."
As Moses goes to Pharaoh to confront him, it begins to unravel as God said beforehand.
Ex 8:15: “But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not heed them, as the LORD had said.”
The Egyptian magicians continued to imitate the signs performed by Moses and Aaron (beginning at the first sign the rods of the magicians, turned into serpents and were swallowed by Aaron's rod, 7:12-13). Now the magicians acknowledged, "This is the finger of God" (8:19).
Ex 8:31-9:1 “And the LORD did according to the word of Moses; He removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people. Not one remained. But Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also; neither would he let the people go.
The first few time Pharaoh is allowed to act according to his own inclination and he hardens his own heart, refusing to repent.
The Lord hardened his heart, after Pharaoh hardens his heart to the point of no repenting. His sentence is secure by his own will.
Ex 9:11-12 “And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils were on the magicians and on all the Egyptians. But the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh; and he did not heed them, just as the LORD had spoken to Moses.
The hardening of Pharaoh is attributed to God, in Ex 9:12; 10:20,27; 11:10; 14:8; that is to say, ten times in all;
Ex 9:34-35 “And when Pharaoh saw that the rain, the hail, and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet more; and he hardened his heart, he and his servants. So the heart of Pharaoh was hard; neither would he let the children of Israel go, as the LORD had spoken by Moses.
We can see that God was working with Pharaoh’s own human volition. But he is becoming incensed to the word of God, and unaffected by the miracles that are judgments over him and his kingdom.
Ex 10:1-2 “Now the LORD said to Moses, "Go in to Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his servants, that I may show these signs of Mine before him, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and your son's son the mighty things I have done in Egypt, and My signs which I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD."
Ex 10:19-20: “There remained not one locust in all the territory of Egypt. But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he did not let the children of Israel go.“ NKJV
Ex 10:27-29: “But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let them go. Then Pharaoh said to him, "Get away from me! Take heed to yourself and see my face no more! For in the day you see my face you shall die!" And Moses said, "You have spoken well. I will never see your face again."
Each time Pharaohs heart is hardened he becomes more bitter and loses his humanity. The next time you see my face you will die is another threat. He is fed up with this battle of gods, and is trying to intimidate Moses to leave.
Ex 11:9-10: “But the LORD said to Moses, "Pharaoh will not heed you, so that My wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt." So Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh; and the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he did not let the children of Israel go out of his land.”
Ex 14:5-8: “Now it was told the king of Egypt that the people had fled, and the heart of Pharaoh and his servants was turned against the people; and they said, "Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?" So he made ready his chariot and took his people with him Also, he took six hundred choice chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt with captains over every one of them. And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the children of Israel; and the children of Israel went out with boldness.”
God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and we are also told that Pharaoh hardened his own heart (4 times). Both statements are true and do not contradict each other. There was no hope of convincing or converting Pharaoh so his heart would be hardened by God (6 times, 10 times in all). God did not allow him to change his mind and was given no room to do anything else but what his own sinful heart dictated.
The LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart was in reference to the bricks that were hardened by the hot sun in which the Israelites worked as they were mistreated. Each time a sign was given it judged the Egyptians gods.
The word hardened consists of three different Hebrew words used to describe Pharaoh’s condition of the heart, The first is the verb kabed which has the idea of ‘to be heavy, insensible, or dull,’ and is used in 7:14; 8:15,32; and 9:7,34. The next word used is qasah which conveys the sense of ‘being hard, severe, or fierce.’ In the Hifil stem it has the sense of ‘making difficult.’ There are two occurrences of this term, one in 7:3 and the other in 13:15. The final term used for hardening is hazaq, which is one of the strongest terms employed, meaning ‘to be or grow firm, strong.’ It has the sense of ‘growing stout, rigid, or hard.’ Pharaoh hardened his own heart and resisted the demands of God. This is clearly indicated in a number of the passages (7:13, 14, 22; 8:15,19, 32; 9:7, 34-35; 13:15). It is clearly stated that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (7:3; 9:12; 10:1,20,27; 11:10; 14:4,8,17). This act of God is a judicial one and sovereign which brings about the final outcome.