[Exodus 10] Is God Unfair to Harden Pharaoh’s Heart? In chapter 10 of Exodus, God explains to Moses that Pharaoh’s heart will be hardened and why. Was God unjust in hardening Pharaoh’s heart? Many suffered and died because Pharaoh refused to let the people go. Likewise, today infidels and unbelievers question why an allegedly “good God” allows human suffering. The answer to this vital question is found in today’s study.
[Exo 10:1-29 KJV] 1 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before him: 2 And that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son’s son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I [am] the LORD. 3 And Moses and Aaron came in unto Pharaoh, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me? let my people go, that they may serve me. 4 Else, if thou refuse to let my people go, behold, to morrow will I bring the locusts into thy coast: 5 And they shall cover the face of the earth, that one cannot be able to see the earth: and they shall eat the residue of that which is escaped, which remaineth unto you from the hail, and shall eat every tree which groweth for you out of the field: 6 And they shall fill thy houses, and the houses of all thy servants, and the houses of all the Egyptians; which neither thy fathers, nor thy fathers’ fathers have seen, since the day that they were upon the earth unto this day. And he turned himself, and went out from Pharaoh. 7 And Pharaoh’s servants said unto him, How long shall this man be a snare unto us? let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God: knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed? 8 And Moses and Aaron were brought again unto Pharaoh: and he said unto them, Go, serve the LORD your God: [but] who [are] they that shall go? 9 And Moses said, We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds will we go; for we [must hold] a feast unto the LORD. 10 And he said unto them, Let the LORD be so with you, as I will let you go, and your little ones: look [to it]; for evil [is] before you. 11 Not so: go now ye [that are] men, and serve the LORD; for that ye did desire. And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence. 12 And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come up upon the land of Egypt, and eat every herb of the land, [even] all that the hail hath left. 13 And Moses stretched forth his rod over the land of Egypt, and the LORD brought an east wind upon the land all that day, and all [that] night; [and] when it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts. 14 And the locusts went up over all the land of Egypt, and rested in all the coasts of Egypt: very grievous [were they]; before them there were no such locusts as they, neither after them shall be such. 15 For they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left: and there remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the field, through all the land of Egypt. 16 Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste; and he said, I have sinned against the LORD your God, and against you. 17 Now therefore forgive, I pray thee, my sin only this once, and intreat the LORD your God, that he may take away from me this death only. 18 And he went out from Pharaoh, and intreated the LORD. 19 And the LORD turned a mighty strong west wind, which took away the locusts, and cast them into the Red sea; there remained not one locust in all the coasts of Egypt. 20 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go. 21 And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness [which] may be felt. 22 And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days: 23 They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days: but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings. 24 And Pharaoh called unto Moses, and said, Go ye, serve the LORD; only let your flocks and your herds be stayed: let your little ones also go with you. 25 And Moses said, Thou must give us also sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice unto the LORD our God. 26 Our cattle also shall go with us; there shall not an hoof be left behind; for thereof must we take to serve the LORD our God; and we know not with what we must serve the LORD, until we come thither. 27 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go. 28 And Pharaoh said unto him, Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in [that] day thou seest my face thou shalt die. 29 And Moses said, Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more.
In v. 1 of our chapter, the Lord reiterates to Moses why He has hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that He might show His power and make His glory known both to the Egyptians and to the Israelites in time to come. Does this mean that God has capriciously moved upon Pharaoh without Pharaoh’s will involved to make him a whipping boy before the nation of Israel? The answer lies in the original language meaning of the word hardened. The Hebrew here is “kabad,” and in using this specific word, we see the truth of what is actually happening. Kabad is a word distinctly connected with God’s person, specifically His glory. For God to have any other effect on Pharaoh, He would necessarily have to be different than who He was and of the things that are possible in God, He will not, in fact, cannot change His immutable nature. Thus punishment upon Pharaoh was unavoidable just as hell is unavoidable for Christ rejectors, infidels, and unbelievers. God does not choose punishment for punishment’s sake, but punishment results in the lives of those who refuse Him because of His unchangeable nature.
In v. 3, Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh with chastisement, questioning the king’s lack of humility and refusal to keep his word. If Pharaoh refuses to let the people go (v. 4), a plague of locusts will be unleashed on the nation. This plague is described in detail so that Pharaoh might make an informed decision. This clarifies the necessity of preaching the word of God, not just the blessing but also the consequences of sin. When God called the Prophet Ezekiel, his command was to spell out clearly to the rebellious Israelites what was before them:
[Eze 2:5 KJV] 5 And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they [are] a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them.
The scriptures make plain to us the penalties of transgression:
[Eze 18:20 KJV] 20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die.
[Pro 13:15 KJV] … the way of transgressors [is] hard.
[Pro 13:15 KJV] 15 Good understanding giveth favour: but the way of transgressors [is] hard.
[Pro 15:10 KJV] … he that hateth reproof shall die.
[Rom 6:23 KJV] 23 For the wages of sin [is] death; but the gift of God [is] eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
[Isa 1:19-20 KJV] 19 If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: 20 But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken [it].
The children of Israel needed this underscored for them. As these truths were necessary for them, so they are handed down to us (1 Cor. 10:11) as our example. The God of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the same God who hardened Pharaoh’s heart and chastised Egypt for her sins. He is the same God that allowed the generation that came out of the wilderness to lead their bones in the desert because of unbelief. It is a fearful thing in both the Old and New Testament to fall into the hands of a living God, and Exodus reminds us of this over and over to our good and not to our detriment.
In v. 8, Pharaoh calls Moses and Aaron before them and wants to negotiate the terms of release. Moses refuses saying they will leave nothing behind, not their flocks, their herds, their young or old – all will go out in the release. How many times do we try to negotiate with God? Children are excused from God’s presence in our churches because we feel the adult services will not appeal to them; thus we negotiate away the conviction of God in their hearts and wonder why when they are too old for youth programs instead of joining the adults they leave the church having found nothing to hold their interests.
Ask yourself the question, what are you leaving behind in Egypt? Your unsaved spouse? Your children who resist going to church or following the Lord? What about your goods? How much money do you leave behind in Egypt because you feel free from any obligation to support God’s work with your giving? We are either in Christ or under the Law and the Law demands of us what the Lawgiver demanded of Pharaoh – and that is full surrender.
Pharaoh finds Moses’ demands inconvenient for him, and the hand of God spreads over the nation, and the locusts come in unprecedented numbers. Pharaoh again relents and feigns repentance before Moses, and the Lord sends a west wind and drives the locusts into the Red Sea till not one was left in all the coasts of Egypt (v. 19). Yes, there is a modicum of regret, but Pharaoh’s heart is unchanged and hardens once again to God’s command. Thus (v. 21) preternatural darkness comes upon the land of Egypt – a darkness that could be felt physically upon the people.
Again (v. 24), Pharaoh calls Moses and tells him to take the people and go. Moses is not content with that and demands that Pharaoh must not only let them go, but he must also enrich the people with sacrificial animals – to the point that not one hoof will be left behind to take into the wilderness for sacrifice. The verse doesn’t stipulate only the livestock of the Israelites but implies that Moses demands EVERY LIVESTOCK ANIMAL fit for sacrifice throughout the land of Egypt must be given to the people of God to serve Him in their sojourn. This is a type and shadow of the great transfer of the wealth spoken of to come in the end times spoken of in Isaiah 60:11:
[Isa 60:11 KJV] 11 Therefore thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; that [men] may bring unto thee the wealth of the Gentiles, and [that] their kings [may be] brought.
Moses is not just asking for their own livestock but for Pharaoh to laden them with the livestock of Egypt, and when the people do go forth, the scripture records that they went out with the wealth of Egypt on their backs. Does Pharaoh relent? No, in v. 27-29, we see that Pharaoh not only changes his mind but warns Moses if he sees his face again that will be his death. Moses agrees that yes, the king will see his face no more, but the end is not to be as Pharaoh might hope.
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