God, Moses, Pharaoh – who hardened his heart first?

I have heard it said repeatedly that Pharaoh hardened his heart first and then God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.

Most people who say that begin looking at Exodus 8:15. But I think we need to look further back in the book than 8:15. So, I took us all the way back to Ex 3:19-20.

Notice the first few verses I am using are a prophecy:

Exodus 3:19-20
19 “But I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go, except under compulsion . 20 “So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My miracles which I shall do in the midst of it; and after that he will let you go.

Exodus 4:21
21 The LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power ; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.

Exodus 7:3
3 “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt.

Exodus 7:13
13 Yet Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said.

Exodus 7:22
22 But the magicians of Egypt did the same with their secret arts ; and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said.

Exodus 8:15
15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not listen to them, as the LORD had said.

Exodus 8:19
19 Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said

Exodus 8:32
32 But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and he did not let the people go.

Exodus 9:7
7 Pharaoh sent, and behold, there was not even one of the livestock of Israel dead. But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.

Exodus 9:12
12 And the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not listen to them, just as the LORD had spoken to Moses

Exodus 9;34-35
34 But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned again and hardened his heart, he and his servants. 35 Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not let the sons of Israel go, just as the LORD had spoken through Moses.

Exodus 10:1
1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may perform these signs of Mine among them

Exodus 10:20
20 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the sons of Israel go.

Exodus 10:27
27 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he was not willing to let them go.

God told Moses what would happen – multiple times (Exodus 3:19-20; Exodus 4:21; Exodus 7:3). Then if you notice the first verse which speaks of the event itself (rather than about what would happen), it is not at all obvious who hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Ex 7:13,22).

It is not until Exodus 8:15 that it is obvious that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. In 8:19, it is again NOT obvious who hardened Pharaoh’s heart. In 8:32, Pharaoh hardened his own heart again. In 9:7, it is again NOT obvious who did it. In 9:12, it is obvious GOD hardened Pharaoh’s heart. In 9:34, Pharaoh sinned again and hardened his own heart. In the NEXT verse, Exodus 9:35, it is NOT obvious who hardened Pharaoh’s heart (although contextually, I’d bet it was Pharaoh). In 10:1, 20, 27, it is obvious GOD has hardened Pharaoh’s heart. So It is NOT clear to me who started the hardening first, but it appears to be God, given the fact He said He WOULD do so in order to make him release his people.

So no, I do not think these verses can be used to show God gives people over to their own sin. But I DO think these passages show that sometimes God hardened the people’s hearts, and sometimes they harden their own.

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