WHAT IF GOD HAD
NOT HARDENED PHARAOH’S MIND?
of Moses, Prince of Egypt, as the Deliverer must have been a shock to all
Egyptians. Moses, the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, was now turning against
Egypt and was demanding the liberation of millions of slaves. As the
biblical narrative reveals, the new Pharaoh reacted with absolute refusal
and continued to do so even though the God of Moses manifested His
undeniable superiority over all the gods of Egypt.
The book of Exodus
reveals that Pharaoh’s irrational, self-destructive attitude was not totally
his own but was, in large part, God inspired: “And I will harden Pharaoh’s
heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 7:
3-4). Thus, great destruction befell the mighty Egyptian nation, until the
people of Egypt begged Israel to leave.
But what if God had
not hardened Pharaoh’s heart? What if He had allowed Pharaoh to witness the
first plagues and had become quickly convinced that it would have been
futile, and suicidal, to resist such mighty Being? Or why not simply give
Israel favor by “softening” Pharaoh’s heart, and thus making the departure
much easier to occur?
The answer to these
valid questions is that, had God made Israel’s liberation easy and
uneventful, several critical and necessary aspects in God’s plan would have
been left unaccomplished.
First of all, the
great judgment of God would not have befallen a terribly sinful nation.
Egypt was a very idolatrous and degenerate nation. In fact, in Leviticus
18:3 God commands Israel not to emulate the Egyptians: “After the doings of
the land of Egypt, wherein you dwelt, shall ye not do.” The rest of the
chapter lists heinous sins that were quite common among the pagan nations of
the time and that, invariably, invite God’s mighty judgment. The Egyptians,
like the Canaanites, had reached their fill of sin, and God was ready to
judge them with horrific punishments.
Egyptians had treated the Israelites harshly and cruelly. They had turned
all of Israel into a nation of slaves and had, on certain occasions, such as
the killing of the baby boys of Israel, shown callous cruelty. God
remembered, and gave Egypt a just recompense.
Thirdly, Israel was
being reintroduced to its great God after four hundred years of separation.
Because they were slaves, and because they lacked religious leadership, they
had lost most, if not all remembrance of God’s ways. God needed to make it
abundantly clear to them that He was their God and the supreme God of all as
well. He also had to give undeniable evidence that He was superior to all
the Gods of Egypt and that He, and only He, was the ruler of all the earth.
God had to show Israel that He was Lord and Savior; that He delivers the
weak from the strong; and that great salvation belongs to Him only. This
great truth was especially reinforced by protecting Israel from the great
plagues, by sparing the Firstborn of Israel and by snatching Israel from the
previously invincible Egyptian army.
Lastly, the great
wonders God performed in Egypt were to remain as signs of His great power
for all generations -- including our own.
If God had not hardened
Pharaoh’s heart, all of these critical factors would not have been
addressed. But all were addressed within a short period of time, simply
because God, in His great wisdom, made the heart of one man impenetrable.
By hardening Pharaoh’s heart, God punished Egypt as it well deserved; He
manifested Himself as the supreme ruler of Heaven, and Earth and as the
Savior and protector of Israel; His great works were recorded so that
Israelites and Christians would be reminded perennially of His mighty acts
and His mighty judgment over evil.