Who Hardened Pharoah’s Heart?

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Picture of a stone heart

Today’s Bible reading* tells us that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. (Exodus 7:3 and Exodus 4:21 from yesterday’s reading as well as future readings of Exodus 10:1-2, 20, 27, 11:10, 14:4)

But in Exodus 8:15, 32, we’re told that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. Several times, we’re told that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, though we don’t know who hardened it on those occasions. (Exodus 7:13, 22, 8:19; 9:7, 35)

So who hardened Pharaoh’s heart? And does it matter?

What is a hard heart anyway? I think we can answer that from Ezekiel 36:26–27 (CSB).

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place my Spirit within you and cause you to follow my statutes and carefully observe my ordinances.

Ezekiel describes a hard heart as a heart of stone and he describes a soft heart as a heart of flesh. From his descriptions, it seems that a heart of flesh would be inclined to follow God’s Word, as it’s empowered by God’s Holy Spirit. The fact that God promises to give His people an obedient heart demonstrates that people’s hearts are not naturally inclined to follow God’s Word or even be interested in the things of God. In fact, John 6:44 tells us that no one can come to faith in Jesus unless they’re drawn by God. We don’t have a “free” will to choose to follow Jesus. Yes, we are that deeply flawed by the Fall.

So again, who hardened Pharaoh’s heart? We know that his heart — like all of ours — was hardened by the Fall. But these verses imply that God caused a greater hardening and Pharaoh accepted that additional hardening for the purposes of God. God glorifies Himself by hardening Pharaoh’s heart. (Exodus 7:3-5)


Have you been given a new heart that gives you an interest in the things of God? How soft is your heart? How moldable is your heart?

Spend some time today asking God what changes you need to make so you’re more sensitive to His voice.

* Chapters covered in today’s reading:
– Exodus 5
– Exodus 6
– Exodus 7
– Exodus 8
– Exodus 9

This devotional was originally published on February 5, 2021.

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