Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart Part 1 of 3

A problematic portion of Scripture involves the hardening of the king of Egypt, Pharaoh, in his heart. The text states that it was God that hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Ex. 4:21; 7:3; 10:1, 27; 11:10; 14:4). The question becomes, “What does this really mean?” The tendency is to take a deterministic interpretation of these difficult passages, which is one straightforward way of doing it. By deterministic what I mean is that God has determined these earthly events without any free choice in the matter from a human perspective. However, this creates great theological problems in one’s mind because it would be a clear contradiction of other Scriptural passages denoting the love of God for all mankind desiring their salvation (John 3:16, 1 Tim. 2:4, 2 Pet. 3:9), not to mention His impartiality (2 Chronicles 19:7, Job 34:19, Acts 10:34, Rom. 2:11, Gal. 2:6, Eph. 6:9, Col. 3:25, 1 Pet. 1:17). We also conclude from other Scripture passages that God does not tempt man to do any wrong (James 1:13-17).

So here with the example of Pharaoh we have an obvious dilemma. Could there be another option in interpretation for us to consider that would better fit the unity of Scripture and give us a more proper understanding of our Creator? The answer lies in what I call a relational interpretation of this difficult portion of Scripture. Please let me explain.

In this narrative of Scripture, there are many references to knowing the LORD. The book starts out with the fact that a king arose in Egypt who did not know Joseph (Ex. 1:8). It is easy to correlate the relationship of knowing Joseph to knowing the living God because of all that the LORD had revealed in Joseph’s time and the prosperity that the LORD allowed in Egypt because of a former Pharaoh’s knowledge and obedience to what the LORD was doing to save the people of God (Gen. 41:16, 38). The previous Pharaoh, in Joseph’s time, at least acknowledged God and allowed the LORD to do His work in the famine situation. As a result, the LORD poured out His favor upon him and the land of Egypt (Gen. 47:5-11).

However, as generations passed, this particular Pharaoh, which is in question, has obviously not known God (Ex. 5:2 “Key Verse”). For whatever reason, he has rejected the living God that favored his ancestors and his land. It is a fulfillment in many ways of God’s covenant to Abraham that the LORD will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you (Gen. 12:3; 27:29). The slavery and bondage of the sons of Israel is the result and they cry out to God for release from their oppression. The sons of Israel knew God and in faith called out to Him. God heard their groaning and remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Ex. 2:24). God saw the bad situation and took notice of them and set out to rescue them by His mighty Hand (Ex. 2:25). He then miraculously called Moses and reluctantly Moses and Aaron accepted their mission as the LORD’s mouthpiece (Ex. 4:15).

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