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There are several passages in the Bible that say that God hardens the hearts of some people, or that He blinds others and lets them pursue their negative tendencies.

Such passages often confuse Christians who do not understand what the author meant. They think that God pushes people into sin, and this gives them an image of a God who has no compassion and is unjust, and that He does not do what He says.

As a result of these misunderstood passages, we find Christians who think that God is harsh and that He does not act any better than some human beings.

 

We can find some examples of these passages when it is written that God hardened the heart of Pharaoh.

Exodus 9:12 But the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh; and he did not heed them, just as the Lord had spoken to Moses.

And God did not do it only once, but on several occasions we can read that He hardened Pharaoh's heart.

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

Exodus 10:27 But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go.

Exodus 14:8 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.

If we read these passages literally and out of context, we will wonder if God is not trying to get Pharaoh to be stubborn, as if God were playing with him like a pawn.

We will see what is really going on.

The first thing that will help us in this process is to read the preceding passages in order to put ourselves in the context of the situation. If we go back a few chapters, we can see that Pharaoh consciously decided to harden his thinking without anyone forcing him to do so. 

Exodus 7:13 And Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the Lord had said.

Exodus 7:22 Then the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments; and Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the Lord had said.

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

Exodus 8:19 Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, just as the Lord had said.

Exodus 8:32 But Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also; neither would he let the people go.

Exodus 9:7 Then Pharaoh sent, and indeed, not even one of the livestock of the Israelites was dead. But the heart of Pharaoh became hard, and he did not let the people go.

So we can see from these passages that Pharaoh himself decided to be stubborn, to be hardened in his thinking. No one forced him, he chose repeatedly to act against what God was telling him through Moses. We know that in the history of Egypt the Pharaohs considered themselves gods and demanded worship from their people in this sense. Therefore we can understand that Pharaoh was not at all willing to comply with what God was asking of him in letting the Hebrews leave his country.

The original word translated as hardened in the Hebrew is KABAD; it gives the notion of a person who honours himself, who is insensitive. And this is the thought that Pharaoh had about not letting the Hebrews out of his land. 

So we come to the point where we can read that this time God hardens the heart, or the mind, of Pharaoh as we can see in these passages quoted above.

 

The apostle Paul took up this situation from the Old Covenant when he quoted this passage about Pharaoh in:

Romans 9:18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.

 

It is this statement of Paul's in Romans 9 above, which will help us to understand better, for we have here the contrast of God's action when He hardens and when He shows mercy. We can safely infer that in this passage "to show mercy" and "to harden" are opposed in their action.

That is, to show mercy is exactly the opposite of hardening in this example.

So if we look at the original word translated as "to show mercy", it is the word ELEEO in Greek. This word gives the notion of having mercy, giving help, or relief. This allows us to understand that by hardening Pharaoh's heart, God simply stopped having mercy on Pharaoh, giving him help or relief.

In practice this means that God in hardening Pharaoh's heart, simply let Pharaoh go according to his own desires and choices to harden himself.

God is love, which is His primary characteristic in the Bible. That is why, even though most of the time people don't realise it, God works tirelessly to help people understand (without forcing them), consider having a saving relationship with Him. This is why Jesus said that no one can come to Him, i.e. go through a new birth, if God does not draw (without forcing), or suggest to that person to do so. In other words, God is therefore in constant action towards humans in order to suggest to them in their thoughts to believe in Him and to have a relationship with Him.

It is easy to understand now that when it is written that God hardened Pharaoh's heart, God simply stopped suggesting to Pharaoh to change his mind. He left him in his own negative choices.

We can also find the same kind of action on God's part in another example.

John 12:40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.”

This is a quote from Jesus from the prophet Isaiah.

Isaiah 6:9-10 And He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ “Make the heart of this people dull, And their ears heavy, And shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And return and be healed.”

The passage from John in the Amplified Classic version gives us another angle of understanding:

John 12:40 (AMPC) He has blinded their eyes and hardened and benumbed their [callous, degenerated] hearts [He has made their minds dull], to keep them from seeing with their eyes and understanding with their hearts and minds and repenting and turning to Me to heal them.

Jesus was talking about the Jewish people who would refuse to believe in Him. Just as God stopped encouraging Pharaoh, He also stopped encouraging some Jews (not all the people) to come to Him.

Did God arbitrarily decide to stop encouraging or drawing certain people to Him?

Not at all!

When God stops drawing a person to Himself, it is because that person has already made his or her choice, which is irrevocable and God knows it. He therefore respects their choice by ceasing to draw them to Him. 

The Bible also tells us that God's will is that ALL should be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). Therefore, it would be inconceivable to try to blind the Hebrews from coming to Jesus on the one hand, and on the other hand express His will that ALL people be saved. This would of course make no sense.

Therefore we can see that when it is written that God has blinded and hardened their hearts, it is also talking about people who have made the choice not to come to God, and God leaves them to their choice.

Fortunately, we can still see today that many Jews are converted and are being born again in Jesus. This shows us that God did not deliberately blind all the Jewish people scattered over the earth so that they could not go through the new birth, but rather that this blindness is on those who have decided to do so.

 

We will see a final passage of Scripture where God acted in the same way.

This time it is about the period of the great tribulation when satan will try to deceive many humans by various strategies.

2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

This is a quote from Psalm 81.

Psalm 81:11-12 “But My people would not heed My voice, And Israel would have none of Me. So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, To walk in their own counsels.

We can see that here too God leaves people to their personal choices.

It is also easy to see that in this period not all humans will have fallen into the demonic trap of the ungodly sent by satan. Many people will still be able to go through the new birth. They will often pay with their lives. Not only will salvation remain available, but many will enjoy it.

Still in the same pattern, God will cease to draw to Himself those who have made a choice not to follow Him. Therefore, and because people will have firmly and willingly chosen not to follow Jesus, God will respect their choice and will no longer draw them to Himself.

 

We now know that God is not unjust, nor does He unjustly prevent people from coming to Him.

 


Bye for now...