The Lord hardened Pharoah's Heart

edited December 1969 in Faith Issues

Why did God harden Pharoah's heart??
By hardening it, the poor man and his nation suffered.
All first born children died.
There were plagues.

If God had not hardened Pharoah's heart, maybe there could have been some peace and people still alive??


  • He had already made his choice. God did not choose for him, and saw that he would not change his mind whatever chances he was given. He had already had every opportunity to obey God's will. God is not to be treated as a fool.
  • Sure, Father - but why is it written that God hardened Pharoah's heart. Why involve God? Could not the scriptures have left it at Pharoah hardening his own heart? It must add something to the story...
  • It is not meant in a literal sense. Obviously God did not actually harden his heart. There are other verses in the Bible that also are not meant to be taken in a literal sense. An example would be how God repented or was sorry for creating man. This does not mean God was sorry; but, it was written to give the reader the idea of how God was very upset. Always read with guidance and do not rely on your own understanding but the understanding of experts (i.e. the fathers).
  • There is an EO Church Father called St. John of Damascus who wrote about this saying: "it is customary of scripture to speak of what God allows as His action"

    Pharoah hardened his heart and God allowed him to. It is interesting to note that in 8:15 and 8:32 it is written: "and pharaoh hardened his heart"

    Also St. John Chrysostom writes in his Homilies on the Gospel of St. John:

    Here again is another question, but it is not so if we rightly consider it. For as the sun dazzles the eyes of the weak, not by reason of its proper nature, so it is with those who give not heed to the words of God. Thus, in the case of Pharaoh, He is said to have hardened his heart, and so it is with those who are at all contentious against the words of God. This is a peculiar mode of speech in Scripture, as also the, “He gave them over unto a reprobate mind” ( Rom. i. 28 ), and the, “He divided them to the nations, that is, allowed, permitted them to go. For the writer doth not here introduce God as Himself working these things, but showeth that they took place through the wickedness of others. For, when we are abandoned by God, we are given up to the devil, and when so given up, we suffer ten thousand dreadful things. To terrify the hearer, therefore, the writer saith, “He hardened,” and “gave over.” For to show that He doth not only not give us over, but doth not even leave us, except we will it, hear what He saith, “Do not your iniquities separate between Me and you?” ( Isa. lix. 2 , LXX.). And again, “They that go far away from Thee shall perish.” ( Ps. lxxiii. 27 , LXX.) And Hosea saith, “Thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, and I will also forget thee” ( Hos. iv. 6 , LXX.); and He saith Himself also in the Gospels, “How often would I have gathered your children—and ye would not.” ( Luke xiii. 34.) Esaias also again, “I came, and there was no man; I called, and there was none to hearken.” ( Isa. l. 2 , LXX.) These things He saith, showing that we begin the desertion, and become the causes of our perdition; for God not only desireth not to leave or to punish us, but even when He punisheth, doth it unwillingly; “I will not,” He saith, “the death of a sinner, so much as that he should turn and live.” ( Ezek. xviii. 32 , LXX.) Christ also mourneth over the destruction of Jerusalem,19261926    al. “being about to destroy Jerusalem even weepeth.”  as we also do over our friends.

  • But I still don't understand.

    If it's a sin to disobey God, and hardening of Pharoah's heart is evil why did God participate in it?????? That's not right.

    It's like someone having the desire to go and rape a woman , and rather than Change his heart, God confirmed and concretised this evil desire????

    Just leave the man with his wicked desire - why harden it for?

    That's the impression I get from your response fr Peter.  Maybe explain it differently??

    Maybe, yet I'm not sure, and I could be wrong, but IT COULD be that God wanted to punish the Egyptians for their injustices against the Israelites, and so hardening Pharoah's heart would have brought calamity to the Egyptians, and showed the Israelites that their God is powerful and always with them.

  • + Irini nem ehmot,

    I think the quote by St. John Damascene explains it perfectly. God did not harden Pharaoh's heart. Pharaoh hardened his own heart. God allowed Pharaoh to harden his heart. However, as St. John Damascene says, '"it is customary of scripture to speak of what God allows as His action'. In other words, whenever we read about God doing something that seems contrary to His nature, it's because He allows it, not because He made a person do it. God does not make us do anything. He never overrides our will.
  • All the patristic quotations explain it well. We must understand that certain phrases are to be understood only as our experience of separating ourselves from God. God is not the cause of any evil. But he does punish iniquity. He did send his angel who did take the first born of Egypt.
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