Trinity Journal 5 NS (1984) 129-154
Copyright © 1984 by
AN EXEGETICAL AND THEOLOGICAL CONSIDERATION
OF THE HARDENING OF PHARAOH'S HEART IN
EXODUS 4-14 AND ROMANS 9
G. K. Beale
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
The ninth chapter of Romans has been one of the key texts
throughout church history for debates concerning predestination,
reprobation and free will. One of the crucial passages in this perplexing
chapter has been vv 17-18, where Paul alludes to God's hardening of
Pharaoh's heart (Exod 9:16 and chaps 4-14). While this problematic
passage was not a primary point of debate in the Augustinian-Pelagian
controversy, it did become important beginning with the discussions of
the Reformation period. In trying to refute Erasmus' claim that
Pharaoh first hardened his heart freely apart from divine influence,
Luther attempts to argue that God was the ultimate cause. John Calvin
agreed with Luther, but Sebastian Castellio and Jacob Arminius
agreed with Erasmus. The debate has continued even into the twentieth
century, especially undergoing scrutiny in recently published literature.1
It is surprising, however, that apparently no writer in the history of this
discussion has ever attempted to exegete all of the hardening predictions
as they appear in consecutive order throughout their context in Exod
4-14.2 Many attempt to solve the issue by focusing on only one
hardening statement and determining its implications for the others,
often according to their own theological predispositions.3
1 Those most recently arguing along the lines of Castellio and Arminius are R. T.
Forster and V. P. Marston (God's Strategy in Human History
House, 1973] 69-78, 155-77); J. D. Strauss ("God's Promise and Universal History" in
Grace Unlimited [ed. C. H. Pinnock;
also J. W. Wenham, The Goodness of God (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity, 1974) 123.
For the most recent Calvinistic view see John Piper, The Justification of God (Grand
Rapids: Baker, 1983) 139-54.
2 In this respect, one of the best studies is that of Martin Luther (Bondage of the Will
Tappan: F. H. Revell, 1957J 195-212), although the most complete exegetical and
contextual study very recently is that of F. Hesse. Das Verstockungsproblem im Alten
Testament (BZAW74; Berlin: Alfred Topelmann, 1955). In addition, since the first draft
of the present article was completed, John Piper has published a thorough exegetical
survey of the hardening statements as they occur consecutively in Exodus 4-14 (The
Justification of God 139-54). As will be seen, Piper's work lends impressive support to
the argument of this article.
3 This is true of both the Arminian and Calvinistic traditions.
130 TRINITY JOURNAL
Nevertheless, the historical debate has generated the following
questions: (1) Who is the ultimate cause of Pharaoh's hardening? (2) If
the hardening is at all associated with God, is it an unconditional or
conditional judgment with respect to Pharaoh's sin? (3) When Paul
refutes the idea that God is unjust (v 14) in rejecting Esau rather than
Jacob before they were born (vv 10-13), does he give an understandable
explanation for this refutation (ga<r, v 17), or does he merely refute the
idea without offering any rationale in defense of God's rejection?4
(4) Does the hardening involve God's dealing with certain individuals
or nations only on the plane of history or does it have reference to a
general principle concerning God's eternal rejection of man from
salvation? The purpose of this study is to attempt to answer these
questions through a contextual exegesis of each hardening passage in
Exod 4-14.5 Perhaps the conclusions may contribute to a better under-
standing of Paul's allusion to Pharaoh's hardening. Therefore only
brief comment will be made about Romans 9 at the conclusion of this
discussion, since a thorough exegesis of that chapter is not intended
II. The Contextual Idea of Exodus 1-15
In Exodus 1-15 Yahweh is seen as beginning to fulfill the patriarchal
means of redeeming Abraham's seed out of
this "actualization of promise" context that God's revelation of his
name as YHWH takes on most significance; this divine name em-
phasizes God as the one who is to effect his patriarchical promise, since
intrinsic to the meaning of the name itself is that of God as a
"controlling and effecting reality."6 In view of this it is understandable
that Moshe Greenberg says, "The plague story, then, revolves around
the theme: revelation by God of His name--his essence, his power, his
authority--to Pharaoh, to the Egyptians, and to all men. . . [it is a]
demonstration of God's essence to the arrogant pagan world and
III. The Terms Used for Hardening
Exodus 4-148 uses three terms for hardening: hazaq ("to be strong"),
4 This question is the corollary of that posed by John Piper concerning the basis of
Paul's denial that God is unjust in electing Jacob over Esau ("Prolegomena to Under-
standing Romans 9:14-15: An interpretation of Exod 33:19," JETS 22  204).
5 This article is a revision of part of my 1976 Th.M. thesis at Dallas Theological Seminary.
6 Cf. W.
Eichrodt, The Theology of the Old Testament (vol. I;
times in contexts revealing him as a controller of historical events. Most of these
occurrences are found in Exod 4-15.
7 Moshe Greenberg, "The Thematic Unity of Exodus 3-11," WCJS 1 (1967) 153.
8 Verse references in chap. 8 of exodus are from the MT, while versification according
to the English version is placed afterword in brackets.
BEALE: HARDENING OF PHARAOH'S HEART 131
kabed ("to be heavy") and qasa ("to be difficult").9 In contrast to qasa,
hazaq and kabed are used abundantly throughout the OT and are fluid terms.
In the light of OT usage, the essential idea of hazaq is that of
"having power to accomplish a function" or it may secondarily refer to
a strong desire which is prerequisite for accomplishing something.10 It
can also mean "to be firm, secure," which usually stresses the strength
of something to continue to perform its function.11 The use of the word
with respect to Pharaoh is probably similar to that in Josh 11:20,
where Yahweh gives the Canaanites a strong desire to fight and
carry out a military campaign against
in the Canaanites' destruction ("For it was of the Lord to make strong
their hearts"). Likewise, Pharaoh exhibited a "strong will" in refusing
Kabed has the central meaning of "heaviness, weightiness." In its
most concrete usage it refers to a quantitative heaviness (of wealth,
animals, people, etc.) but it can also indicate a qualitative weightiness,
referring to an intensification of the quality of actions or attitudes.12
From this fluid backdrop, kabed in Exod 4-14 may be seen to be used
qualitatively rather than quantitatively, with a stress on Pharaoh's
attitudes rather than on actions. Pharaoh's rejection of God's requests
becomes so psychologically intensified that it results in an immovably
heavy volition which cannot be changed.
The primary use of qasa in the OT revolves around the idea of
"being difficult." It is often used qualitatively to refer to such an
intense performance of an activity that the activity becomes "cruel,
fierce or severe." Men's dealings with others become so intensely
wrathful that they are said to be "cruel" (Gen 49:7); a person's speech
becomes so emphatically wrathful that it is "fierce, harsh;"13 a battle
can be fought so intensely that it becomes "severe."14 The word also
9 Hazaq in the Piel occurs seven times (4:21; 9:12; 10:20, 27; 11:10; 14:8, 17), and five
times in the Qal (7:13, 22; 8:15; 9:35; 14:4); kabed occurs once as an adjective (7:14),
four times in the Hiphil (8:11, 28; 9:34; 10:1); qasa occurs twice in the Hiphil (7:3;
13:15). Contemporary OT critics base part of their theory for diverse sources in Exod
4-14 on these different terms used for hardening and the supposed different theology
associated with each. The present approach assumes unity of authorship, since this was
presumably the way Paul would have viewed Exodus.
10 "power in accomplishing functions," especially of a military nature (cf. Qal in Josh
17:13; Judg 1:28; 7:11: I Sam 17:50; 2 Sam 2:7; 10:11-12; 16:21; I Chron 19:13; cf. Piel in
Judg 3: 12; Exek 30:24; Hos 7: 15; Nah 2:2; 3: 14; 2 Chron 26:9, 32:5; cf. Hiphil in 2 Kings
15:19; Isa 41:13; 45:1; Jer 51:12; Ezek 30:25; Nah 3:14; Dan 11:21; 2 Chron 26:8); "to
strengthen," in the sense of "encouraging one to carry out an assigned function" (Deut
11:8; 31:6-7,23; Josh 1;6-7,9; 10:25).
11 E.g. cf. in Qal, 2 Kings 14:5; Isa 28:22; Ezra 9:12; 2 Chron 25:3; 2 Sam 18:9; cf. Piel,
Isa 33:23,54:2; Jer 10:4; Ps 64:5; 147:13.
12 E.g., when a person continually exhibits a certain quality, it could be said that he is
"weighty" in that quality. Sometimes it indicates a stress on the quality of man's or God's
activities (cf. Judg 20:34, the intensity of a battle; cf. I Sam 5:6, 11, the intensity of divine
judgment). On occasion it may refer to an emphasis on the quality of man's attitude (cf.
2 Chron 25:19, an improperly high attitude, i.e. pride.).
13 Cf. Gen 42:7; I Sam 20:10; 2 Sam 19:44; I Kings 12:13; 1 Kings 14:6; 2 Chron 10:14.
14 Cf.2 Sam 2:17. Cf. also Cant 8:6.
132 TRINITY JOURNAL
means "difficulty" with reference to an action that cannot easily be
performed.15 When the judges of
role in certain cases, these cases were said to be "difficult" (Exod 18:26;
Deut 1:17). A possible transitional link may lie between this root's
qualitative and resultative meanings: the intense severity or fierceness
of an action may be viewed from the difficult result it produces (2 Sam
2:17).16 In Exod 7:3 and 13:15 it appears to refer to the severely
stubborn nature of Pharaoh's volition which made his decision in favor
In conclusion, these three verbs in Exod 4-14 are all related to
refusal to obey Yahweh's command to release
or not the verbs are fundamentally synonymous can only be answered
after an exegesis of their contexts.
IV. Hebrew and Egyptian Views of the Heart
In the OT leb ("heart") may denote intellectual activity (204 times)
emotional activity (166 times), volitional activities (195 times)17 and
personality or character. The heart is also seen to be spiritual in that
many of its decisions concern one's religio-ethical relationship with
God.18 Perhaps the heart may be seen as that faculty which combines
into a psychical unity the volitional, intellectual, emotional and spiri-
tual aspects of a person. Among these the volitional, decision-making
aspects should be viewed as primary but always influenced by the
thoughts and emotions, all of which impinge on the spiritual.19 Conse-
quently, the heart is often viewed as the inner, spiritual center of one's
relationship to God.
15 Whether of giving birth (Gen 35:16), performing labor (Exod 1:14; 6:9; Deut 26:6) or
answering a request (2 Kings 2:10). The metaphor of the "stiff neck" in the OT compares
steer (cf. Jer 17:23; 19:15 [see Jer 5:5 and Hos 4:16]; Prov 29:1; Neh 9:16, 17, 29; 2 Chron
30:8; 36:13; Exod 32:9; 33:3, 5; 34:9; Deut 9:6,13).
16 Cf. Deut 15:7; 1 Sam 20:10; 1 Kings 12:13-14; 14: 6f.; Cant 8:6.
17 Statistics are derived from H. Wheeler Robinson ("Hebrew Psychology," The
People in the Book [ed. A. S. Peake;
that about a third of the 851 uses of leb "denotes the personality as a whole, the inner
life, the character" (ibid. 362).
18 Cf. Eichrodt, Theology. 2.142-4. E.g. Deut 5:29; 29:4; 1 Sam 16:7; Prov 4:23; 5:12;
6:21; Ezek 11:10; 36:26; Joel 2:13. Cf. F. H. von Meyenfeldt, "Einige algemene
beschouwingen, gegrond op de beteknis van het hart in het Oude Testament" in
Wetenschappelijke bijdragen (Festschrift D. H. Th. Vollenhoven; ed. S. U. Zuidema and
K. J. Popma; Potchefstroom: Franeker-T. Wever, 1951) 61, who observes that heart in
the OT is used 318 times in a religious sense (see further von Meyenfeldt's Het Hart [Leb,
Lebab]in het Dude Testament [
19 For similar conclusions cf Eichrodt Theology. 2.142-5; A. R. Johnson, The Vitality
of the Individual in the Thought of Ancient
76-88; and E. Jacob, Theology of the Old Testament (New York; Harper and Row, 1958)
20 See H.
Bonnet, "Herz," Reallexikon der Agyptischen Religionsgeschichte
W. deGruyter, 1952) 296-7;
57-8, 63-4, 126, 137.
BEALE: HARDENING OF PHARAOH'S HEART 133
may be that the concepts of the heart ('ib) as an inner spiritual centrum
and volitional, decision-maker were emphasized even more by the
Egyptians than by the Hebrews.21 Indeed, these aspects became so em-
phasized that the heart came to be viewed as the "seat of destiny,"
determining one's life.22 It is probably because of this apparent
autonomy of the heart that it came to be seen as a "second being of
man, next to and outside of him,"23 and it even came to be said "that
'the heart' of a man [is] his God himself."24 The heart was also seen as
a divine instrument through which a god directed a man25 and the
organ by which man could receive and comprehend divine command-
The spiritual-intellectual-volitional emphasis is found in the Exodus
plague narratives, as will be seen in the exegetical section.
V. An Exegetical Survey of the Hardening Passages
The hardening predictions will be exegeted contextually as they
appear in consecutive order in each distinct plague narrative scene.
Their relationship to one another will be investigated, with special
focus upon the subject of the hardening activity and the interrelationship
of the hardening expressions. This exegesis is conducted with the aim
of answering the four theological questions raised in the introduction.
The pre-plague narratives (3:18-7:5)
The first hint of the hardening is found in Exod 3:18-20, where
commands Moses to request
then says that he "knew" (yada'ti) that Pharaoh would not permit this
request. The hint of hardening is found in the prediction of Pharaoh's
refusal of Moses' request in v 19. This "hint" becomes an explicit
prophetic announcement in 4:21.
Exod 4:21 has been the classicus locus of the hardening debates in
Exodus. It will receive special focus here, but it still cannot be
understood fully until it is seen in its contextual and theological
relationships with the other hardening predictions.
In v 2la Yahweh commands Moses to perform wonders, since he
has given Moses the power to do such; however, due to Moses'
uncertainty about his whole mission (cf 4:1-17), Yahweh tells Moses
21 Besides 'ib, hati is another characteristic Egyptian word for "heart," which is
essentially synonymous with 'ib. So Bonnet, "Herz," 297 who argues against A.
Piankoff's attempts to see in hati only reference to the emotions and views 'ib as
referring exclusively to the intellect (Le couer dans les textes egyptiens depuis l' Ancien
jusqu'a la fin du Novel empire [
22 Cf. H. Brunner,"Das Hen ais Sitz des Lebengeheimnisses," ArchFOr 17 (1954-
23 W. Spiegelberg, "Das Hen ais zweites Wesen des Menschen," Zietschrift fur
Agyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde 66 (1931) 36.
24 Morenz, Egyptian Religion 64; Bonnet, "Hen," Reallexikon 297.
25 Morenz, Egyptian Religion 65.
26 Jacob, Theology 164. n. I.
134 TRINITY JOURNAL
that Pharaoh's reaction to the signs will be (4:2lc, welo' yesallah et-
ha'am, "so that he will not send out the people"), so that when this
reaction occurs it will not discourage Moses, but he will remember
Yahweh's prediction and realize that Yahweh is still in control of the
apparent failure. It is evident that v 21b states the definitive cause of
21c, i.e., wa'ani 'ahazzeq 'et-libbo ("but I will harden his heart").
The first consideration of the v 2lb clause concerns the exact
nuance of the Piel stem of 'abazzeq: the specific sense could be
causative, but it is better to see it having an intensive-iterative idea,
looking at a "strengthening and repetition"27 of the hardening action,
with Yahweh as sole subject "busying Himself eagerly"28 in the action.
The sense is that Yahweh will not only be involved in hardening
Pharaoh's heart once, but a repeated number of times,29 as the context
of the following narratives makes evident. The prefixed conjugational
form of the verb does not function as a cohortative, but as a specific
future.30 The relationship of clause b with clause c is expressed by the
purposive waw.31 The specific lexical idea of the verb is that Yahweh
will give Pharaoh the psychological power which would cause the ac-
complishment of a refusing action. Thus, at least from 4:21 it should be
concluded that just as Yahweh gave Moses power to perform a
theocratic function (v 2la), so he gave Pharaoh power for the accom-
plishment of a non-theocratic function,32 although both are to be seen
as contributing to a Heilsplan goal.
A further observation with respect to the time scope of v 21 may be
made, as seen in the verse's relation to vv 22-23: the time period
involved in vv 21-23 is inclusive of 5:1-11:10, i.e., apparently from the
Moses returns to
plague signs (ten miracles), it is predicted that Yahweh will harden
Pharaoh's heart with a view to Pharaoh's refusal. Therefore, there are
two phases of the hardening: (1) that which occurs in 5:1-11:10 before
the final plague and (2) that which occurs subsequent to the final
resulting in Egyptian disaster at the
17). Thus, 4:21 apparently indicates a divine control of Pharaoh's
27 Cf. E.
Kautzsch and A. E. Cowley, Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar (
1963) 141. #52F.
28 Ibid. 141 #52F.
29 That the plural aspect of the Piel is definitely in mind is clear from clause a, i.e.,
Moses was to perform a series of wonders (hammopetim), each of which was to be
received negatively because of the repeated hardening action.
30 So W.
Richter, Die sogenannten vorprophetischen Berufungsgberichte (
Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1970) 122.
31 NASB renders it "so that".
32 It is the volition with which 'ahazzeq 'et-libbo is specifically concerned as 10:27
clarifies ('aba lesalham); YHWH was to influence Pharaoh's intellect and emotions that
his volition was to decide to choose a "refusing" course of action (v 21b), which he would
then perform (v 21c). Most of the instances in the Targum describe the "disposition" or
"design of his heart" being hardened. In the light of our discussion of leb, Pharaoh's
inner spiritual being should also be seen as affected by this course of action.
BEALE: HARDENING OF PHARAOH'S HEART 135
actions in 5:1-11:10.33 But further discussion must bear out whether or
not this is, indeed, the case.
The next passage deserving comment, even though it does not
contain an explicit hardening statement, is Exod 5:2, where Pharaoh is
viewed as exercising his first refusal to Moses' first request. This
appears to be the first partial fulfillment of Yahweh's hardening
prophecy in 4:21. However this could be doubted for two reasons: (1)
If the 4:21 hardening relates only to "sign-reaction," then it cannot be
applied to 5:2, since no signs are given; that is, if 4:21 refers only to
Pharaoh's hardened rejection of miraculous signs which were intended
him to release
fulfillment since no signs are mentioned toward which he could be
hardened. (2) Some would not see Exod 5:2 as the beginning fulfillment
of 4:21 since Yahweh is not mentioned there as causing Pharaoh's
refusal.34 Yet the following reasons argue in favor of a connection between
4:21 and 5:2: (1) Although the 4:21 hardening is integrally related to
the performance of signs, it is even more related to refusal of Moses'
the performance of signs. Hence, signs could be absent and hardening
present.35 The argument rests with the one attempting to prove an
absolute and strictly necessary relation between hardening and "sign-
reaction." (2) Even if the sign theory were valid, it still could not be
shown that Moses did not perform a sign similar to the ones he
characteristic of the plague narrative to assume certain events, without
33 So R. E. Clements (Exodus [Cambridge: University Press, 1972] 30); J. Rhymer
(The Beginnings of a People [London: Sheed and Ward, 1966] 93-4). However, G. Beer
disagrees, viewing 4:21 as an antinomy between human freedom and divine sovereignty
(Exodus [Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1939] 37).
34 I have never seen this first alternative in print, but it is more viable than the second.
If this alternative proves erroneous, the second should also.
35 Regardless of how one views the copulative between 4:21a and 4:21b, a validation of
either view should not rest only on an interpretation of such a fluid word as waw. In 4:21
two functions are in view: (1) Moses' sign-performing function would supposedly
influence Pharaoh to release
Pharaoh negatively toward refusal, thus reversing any positive effect the signs might have
had. However, the idea of a request is also assumed in 4:21 (d. its relation to 3:18-20). In
4:21 it would seem that hardening is primarily related to the refusal of request; it is
possible to have "request" without "signs" and still have "hardening" towards "refusal."
Signs are meaningless without request since they are brought about to convince one who
has already refused, but request is not meaningless without signs. Furthermore, hardening
refers primarily to influence against request, and only secondarily to signs when they
accompany requests, so that there may be the presence of request without signs, but with
hardening. (This is not only suggested by the psychology of hardening, but also by Exod
7:2-4; 14:4, 8, 17; Deut 2:30; Josh 11:20.) Furthermore, in the plague narratives Pharaoh's
acts of refusal, which are appended with explicit hardening notations, may still be seen as
acts resulting from hardening (cf. 10:10-11 with 10:1). See further infra.
136 TRINITY JOURNAL
stating their occurrence.36 (3) the divine omnipotence necessary for a
proper effecting of the Heilsgeschichteplan of Exodus is incongruous
with a "by chance" refusal of Pharaoh, since this refusal was already an
integral part of the plan.37 (4) Another argument for God's control of
Pharaoh is found in 5:22-23. In 5:22 it is said that Yahweh had brought
to have brought harm (hera' la'am hazzeh). Verse 22 specifically refers
previous events where hard bondage was imposed on
which was a direct result of Pharaoh's refusal in 5:2; thus, both
bondage and refusal are included in the thought of v 22, so that
Yahweh should be seen as the ultimate cause of Pharaoh's refusal in
5:2. After 5:22 views Yahweh as cause of the refusal resulting in harder
bondage, v 23 then sees Pharaoh as Yahweh's secondary effecting
agent.38 (5) The divine commentary on the Pharaohs during the whole
Egyptian bondage views their harsh actions toward
being directly caused by Yahweh (Ps 105:25): hapak libbam lisno
'ammo lehitnakkel ba' abadayw ("He turned their heart to hate his
people, to deal craftily with his servants"). The Pharaoh's actions of
Exod 5 were the zenith of this harsh bondage, so that it would
certainly seem to be included in the thought of Ps 105:25. This is
especially interesting, since the hardening of Pharaoh's heart in Exod
14:4 is described in 14:5 with wording similar to this Psalm (wayyehopek
lebab par'oh wa'abadayw, "the heart of Pharaoh and his servants was
turned "). This may be further evidence then that the refusal was a
beginning fulfillment of 4:21.39
36 Cf. even 4:21 where the "request" is assumed and not stated; in addition, many of
the ten plague narratives make the same omission, with the assumption definitely in
mind. In three of the narratives, Moses does not effect the plague as divine intermediary,
but God comes to act more directly in effecting the signs himself. If 4:21 were taken to
mean that God would never effect a sign unless it were through the instrumentality of
Moses, then these three narratives could never have occurred (cf. 8:13-19, 20-28; 9:6-7).
37 Cf. Exod 3:18-20 and note the phrase wa' ani yad'ati ki lo'-yitt'in 'etkem melek
misrayim lahalok (3:19). Space does not allow for a word study of yada , but most
scholars admit the word has a much stronger sense than our Western concept of
foreknowledge. It is generally agreed that it revolves around the nuance "to be actively-
experientially involved in a relationship" (cf. the standard Old Testament theologies, e.g.,
Vriezen, Jacob, Eichrodt, Pedersen, etc.). It is well known that this applies to covenant
relations, but it may also refer to non-covenantal, judgmental relations (Jer 16:21; Ezek
25:14; Ps 106:8). When used of Yahweh the emphasis is upon his "knowing" which
"establishes the significance of what is known." (R. Bultmann, ginwskw: The OT Usage
[of Yada']," TDNT.I.698; cf. further Exod 33:12; Gen 18:19; 2 Sam 7:20; Ps 1:6; 144:3;
Jer 1:5; Hos 13:5; Amos 3:2). "To know anything is to have power over it" (Jacob,
Theology 284). The parallel could be drawn that just as Yahweh used Abraham in his
Heilsgeschichteplan to fulfill a purpose (Gen 18:19), so he did with Pharaoh.
39 Piper, (Justification of God 142-3) makes the same basic observation, but gives no
convincing reason for his assertion that the reference to "evil" is limited only to the
physical realm and not to the moral.
39 Cf. inter alios Clements (Exodus 34): "[in Exod 5] the divine plan at first appears to
be thwarted and the situation temporarily worsens. Yet in reality God is at work in this
. . The Lord Himself is hardening Pharaoh's heart. . . . " F. Hesse (Verstockungsproblem
8) sees kabed ("heavy") in Exod 7:14 as a verbal adjective, which designates a hardened
condition of Pharaoh even before the beginning of the chap. 7 plague narrative.
BEALE: HARDENING OF PHARAOH'S HEART 137
The last pre-plague narrative hardening prediction is 7:3. This is
similar to 4:21, but there are some major differences. First, the Hiphil
'aqseh ("I will make difficult") is used instead of 'ahazzeq in the Piel.
Furthermore, the "request" is explicitly stated in 7:2, so that the
hardening is especially related to Yahweh influencing the Pharaoh's
volition against giving in to the request; 'aqseh probably has the
specific lexical idea of "difficult," i.e., Yahweh's influence upon
Pharaoh's mind and volition would be so "intensely severe" that a
positive decision to the request would become too "difficult" to make,
so that only a refusal could result. Exod 7:4a emphasizes this refusal in
terms of Pharaoh "not listening" to Aaron's request. Exod 7:3b most
likely expresses the purpose of the hardened refusal: Yahweh hardened
Pharaoh's heart so that he could make a pyrotechnic display of his
and "wonders" in
may be contrasted with that of 4:21b-c where it was seen to be that of
Pharaoh not to let
4:21 the sign performance was mentioned before the hardening activity,
whereas here it is mentioned after.
As 4:21-23 denoted the first phase of Pharaoh's hardening, so also
does 7:2-5. The phrase 'et-'ototay we'et-mopetay be'eres ("signs and
wonders in the land") refers to the first ten miracles (nine plagues)
which occur in 7:9-11:10 (cf kol-hammopetim, 4:21a) and are the
precursors of the climbing death plague of the Egyptian first-born
(12:29-31). Exodus 7:5 contains a further clarifying note which 4:22-23
did not clearly specify, viz., Yahweh's "stretching out his hand on
Exod 4:21-22 and must also include the
ance, and, thus, the second phase of the hardening in Exod 14.41
A final note is in order with respect to the nuance of the Hiphil
'aqseh since some have recently questioned the normal causative sense
of the Hiphil hardening predications with God as subject in the plague
narrative, arguing for a "permissive" or "declarative" nuance and even
40 Most translations render the waw connecting the hardening clause with the
following sign clause merely by a simple "and" (so LXX, Vulgate, KJV, Jerusalem Bible,
Luther). However, the NASB renders it in a purposive (resultative?) manner ("that"),
whereas the NIV and RSV" translate it circumstantially (and though). The former views
the hardening as the basis for the signs, while the latter views the signs as instigating the
hardening response of "not listening." The purposive use is favored by the context of
Exod 4-14, since statements are found throughout which harmonize better with it (so
Exod 3:18-20; 9:16,28-30; 10:1-3,29; cf. Rom 9:17). Furthermore, in many of the plague
narratives Pharaoh is not given opportunity to respond to the apparent threat, but the
threatened judgment begins immediately to take place, so that the threat "actually puts
the forthcoming judgment into motion" (C. Westermann, Basic Forms of Prophetic
kundigung narratives appear in Exod 7:14-25, 26[8:1]-8:11; 8:16-28; 9:1-7, 13-35
and 10:1-20 (note esp. 7:17, 19; 8:1, 19; 9:5, 18). This observation fits in better with a
pre-sign hardening scheme.
41 The final phrase of 7:4, bispatim gedolim ("by great judgments"), must also refer to
the same thing.
138 TRINITY JOURNAL
viewing it with the sense of "to help."42 In deciding upon matters of
grammar in crucial and debated theological texts of Scripture, any
interpreter is faced with a tension between his theological assumptions
and the objective facts of grammar. Such is the case here. A canon in
grammatical interpretation in such texts where contexts cannot abso-
lutely determine a particular grammatical option is: the exegete should
conclude with that option which is most usual elsewhere. In the present
case, according to this canon, the basic causative sense of the Hiphil
stem should be preferred over the declarative.43 Consequently, 7:3 most
likely views Yahweh not as permitting or tolerating Pharaoh's harden-
ing, but as its direct cause. While agreeing with Kautzsch and Cowley's
view of qasa as having a basic causative-transitive force, their more
specific classification of it as denoting "the entering into a certain
condition and the being in the same"44 should be seen as less probable
than that normal force of the Hiphil, which "expresses action in some
particular direction."45 If so, the 7:3 hardening expression is a second
prophecy of the first phase of the hardening, stressing Yahweh as
influencing Pharaoh's volition and intellect to act in a refusing direction,
in conformity with the lexical force46 of qasa as explained at the
beginning of this discussion.
The beginning of the first phase of the hardening: the introductory
miracle narrative (7:8-13)
In Hebrew style 7:6 is probably a summary statement of all that
42 Forster and Marston are the most recent advocates of the possibility of such a view.
For example, the Hiphil perfect hikbadti ("I will make heavy") in 10:1 they say has the
possible meaning "that the Lord actively accepted, and would further utilize Pharaoh's
'heavy' heart for his own ends of revealing Himself through increasingly wonderful signs"
(God's Strategy in Human History 167). They feel that it is impossible in these narratives
to distinguish clearly whether or not the Hiphil hardening predictions are causative or
permissive (tolerative), and because of the apparent ambiguity decide in favor of a
43 Even though Foster and Marston in mentioning the declarative sense admit, "We
would like to be cautious here," they go on to cite an incomplete word study by D. F.
Payne (unpublished) that concludes in favor of a permissive sense. Their conclusions are
not very persuasive since their grammatical interpretations are somewhat based on an
apparent misuse of Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar: in arguing for the declarative meaning
they cite Gesenius in support of the idea that this stem may sometimes be taken this way
(God's Strategy, 167, 177). However, when one turns to the appropriate sections of
Gesenius, one not only finds that the declarative sense is not the most usual, but in
addition that two of the verbs in the Hiphil which are used for the hardening in Exodus
are classified as causative: kabed is rendered "to make heavy," while qasa is classified
under a "causative and transitive" category (Grammar 145, ##53c-e). These writers
misuse Davidson's Grammar in the same way (God's Strategy 167,177), since Davidson
places the Hiphil of kabed in the same causative category as Gesenius, i.e., "to make
heavy" (A. B. Davidson, Hebrew Grammar [Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1943] 96).
44 Kautzsch and Cowley, Grammar 145, #53d-e.
45 Ibid. 145. #F.
46 As the Piel verbal nuance in 4:21 was seen to have a plurative sense, so here the
Hiphil lends itself well to a causative-transitive idea denoting "a series of actions" so that
the hardening action by Yahweh is not to be a singular occurrence but repeated (Ibid.
BEALE: HARDENING OF PHARAOH'S HEART 139
Moses and Aaron did in 7:8-11:10. The first miracle narrative (7:8-13)
is introductory to the first plague narrative (7:14-25), and is crucial in
its relation to the previous hardening predictions. The first problem of
the 7:13 hardening statement concerns the exact function of the Qal
wayyehezaq ("Yet Pharaoh's heart was hardened"), which acts as a
preterite with waw consecutive.
A close examination of the exact verbal nuance of the perfect here is
crucial, since the same verb form is repeated three times in the
following narratives (cf. hazaq in 7:22; 8:15 and kabed in 9:7). The
perfect may be viewed either as denoting aoristic action or perfective
action. If the former be preferred, it would specifically refer to definite
past action and be rendered in a passive sense, with an unstated subject
doing the hardening ("was hardened, strengthened"); if the latter
alternative be correct, it would refer to a present perfect action, which,
in contrast to the aoristic, would conceive of the subject (Pharaoh's
heart) as in a given condition resulting from a preceding action ("was
hard," "had become hard").47 Although both alternatives are possible,
the present perfect is probably preferable for the following reasons: (1)
even though a passive sense is possible for a semantically stative perfect
Qal verb, a transitive-passive nuance is somewhat unusual, and
especially so for the Qal stative of hazaq in the light of its usage
elsewhere;48 (2) the word order in the MT designates the heart as the
subject of the verb; (3) when the writer wants to express the heart as
the object being acted upon, the Hiphil or Piel stems together with the
direct object sign (et) are employed (cf. hazaq 4:21; 9:12; 10:20, 27;
11:10; 14:4, 8, 17).49 (4) the unique use of a verbal adjective (kobed) for
the hardening (7:14) could continue the idea of v 13 and point further
to a perfective condition in v 13.
If this preference is accepted, the verb refers to Pharaoh's heart
already being in a hardened condition before the signs of this narrative
were performed before him. But this still leaves us with the problem of
whether Pharaoh or Yahweh previously caused this subsequent condi-
tion. The hardened condition of 7:13 should probably be traced back
to the first historical instance of Yahweh's hardening of Pharaoh,
discussed in chap. 5. This was a condition of his volition characterized
by a "refusal power" with respect first to request and then to signs. The
47 This is the most basic and usual idea among the verbs in the perfective action
category. For the various options of verbal nuance for the perfect verb, consult P. P.
Jouon Grammaire de l'H'ebreu Biblique (Rome: Institute Bibilque Pontifical, 1947) 294-
300, ##a-m; Kautzsch and Cowley, Grammar 309-313, ##106a-p; B. L. Waltke, "A
Revision of Jouon's Grammaire de L'Hebreu Biblique" (
Seminary, unpub, 1975) 10-30. Perhaps it might be best to designate the verb in 7:13 as
an intransitive, semantically stative perfect.
48 See F. Brown, S.R. Driver and C. A. Briggs (A Hebrew and English Lexicon o/the
Old Testament [
usage in the Qal is to be understood intransitively i.e., "be or grow strong." Cf. similarly
L. Koehler and
Brill, 1951 ).1.286, hazaq: Qal #3.
49 See also 7:3; 8:126.96.36.199
140 TRINITY JOURNAL
waw probably functions resultatively--even after the sign Pharaoh "did not
listen to them," as a result of his condition. This appended phrase appears
five other times directly following a hardening predication, four of which
occur with hazaq (cf. 1:22; 8: 11, 15; 9:12). In sum, it describes
Pharaoh's decision of refusal which was motivated by his volition.
The concluding phrase appended to v 13, ka'aser dibber YHWH
(''as the Lord had said"), is probably the most significant in the whole
plague narrative complex, especially as it pertains to the cause of the
hardening. This phrase may also provide confirming evidence for our
present perfect preference of hazaq and for linking the hardened
condition of 1: 13 to Yahweh's ultimate influence. The phrase occurs six
times between 1:1 and 10:1 as a concluding formula to six different
hardening predictions.50 Because this phrase takes on great importance
in the present argument, it must fully be explained within its pentateuchal context.
Of the approximately 200 times the phrase is employed in the
Pentateuch, nearly 150 of these denote an exact correspondence between
a preceding action and a subsequent action (or word).51 Of these, about
95 refer to acts to be accomplished or having been accomplished in
exact correspondence with the way in which Yahweh previously said
they would. Two of these denote that the performance of a future act
by Yahweh will be effected in exactly the same way as a past act
performed by him (Deut 28:63; 31:4). In other passages it is used in the
same manner except that the future act is to be performed in exactly
the same way it had been previously predicted or commanded by
Yahweh (or occasionally Moses), and either Yahweh or man is to be
the effecter of the action.52 In many of these verses ka'aser appears in
the same concluding formula as in Exod 1:13 (with the exception that
siwwa ["to command"] usually replaces Dabar ["to speak"]). Some of
these uses are found in a context of promise-fulfillment: the previously
spoken word is seen to have been "certainly spoken" so that it had of
necessity to occur,53 and consequently may be viewed in the framework
of prophetic promise.
50 In addition to 7:13, cf. 7:22; 8:11, 15; 9:12, 35. These six formulas not only refer
to the hardening phrase proper, which has reference to Pharaoh's will, but also to the
immediately following phrase, welo' sama' 'alehem ("and he did not listen to them"),
which refers to the action inspired by the volition (cf. 4:21 and 7:3-4).
51 E.g., Exod 5:13; 21:22; 40:15; Lev 4:10, 20, 31, 35; 16:15; 18:28; 24:20; 27:14; Num
2:17; 21:34; 27:13; Deut 2:12, 22, 29; 3:6; 4:33; 6:16; 22:26; 32:50; 34:22. Sometimes the
nature and performance of the future action is in exact correspondence with a previously
spoken word (Gen 18:5; 21:la; 27:14 [cf. Gen 24:4], 19; 34:12; 40:22; 41:13, 21, 54; 43:17;
47:11; 50:6, 12; Exod 8:23; 12:32; Num 14:17; 21:34; 32:25, 27; Deut 19:19; 23:24). Of
the remaining fifty uses in the Pentateuch, about twenty are temporal.
52 Cf. the predictive sense (often with dabar) in Gen 24:51; Exod 13:11; Deut 1:11; 6:3;
10:9; 11:25; 12:20; 13:17; 18:2; 19:8; 26:15,18-19; 28:9. Cf. the preceptive sense in Genesis
(7 times), Exodus (24 times), Leviticus (13 times), Numbers (18 times) and Deuteronomy
53 Cf. Gen 21:la, lb; Deut 26:15; 18:2; 10:9: 2:14: See also the same phrase where it
refers to a future fulfillment of prophetic promise (Gen 24:51; Deut 1:11; 6:3; 10:9; 11:25;
12:20; 26:19; 31:3). In all of the above verses dabar is used with ka'aser and YHWH in
the usual formula of Exod 7: 13ff.
BEALE: HARDENING OF PHARAOH'S HEART 141
It is probably in this precise sense that the ka'aser dibber YHWH
formulas of Exod 7:13ff should be understood. The reasons for this
should already be evident, but are as follows: (1) the majority of the
times when the three words YHWH, dibber and ka'aser occur together
in the Pentateuch, they function within either a promise-prophetic
framework or a promise-prophetic fulfillment framework; (2) the
prophecies of Exod 4:21 and 7:3 are further evidence that 7:13 is a
specific fulfillment of them, especially since 7:13 contains the two most
essential elements of these prophecies as having been accomplished,
i.e., "hardening" and "not listening." However, even if it be somehow
concluded that 7:13 is not a prophetic fulfillment formula, the con-
cluding formula must nevertheless be viewed as denoting an accom-
plished act in which the essential details of the act are performed in
exact correspondence with the previously spoken word of Yahweh.
When one refers back to this spoken word (4:21; 7:3), he finds three
essential details of which the future act was to consist: (a) the heart of
Pharaoh was to be hardened; (b) this hardening was to result in
"not listening" or "letting
hardening act was to be Yahweh himself. The first two elements are
clearly indicated in 7:13, but Yahweh is not directly mentioned. It
should be concluded, though, that Yahweh is viewed as the ultimate
cause of the hardening in this verse because of the predominant "exact
correspondence" character of the ka'aser phrase.54 The same conclusion
should also be drawn at Exod 7:22; 8:11, 15; 9:12 and 9:34.55
Thus the 7:13 hardening is to be seen as either the continuation of
Pharaoh's hardened condition in 5:2 or as the resulting condition of a
second hardening by Yahweh prior to the serpent miracles.56
The first plague narrative (7:14-7:25)
This narrative begins in 7:14 by a declaration of Pharaoh's heart as
being in the same condition as described by 7:13: "Pharaoh's heart is
heavy (kabed)." Apparently the condition of Pharaoh's heart must be
54 In this regard it is significant to see the same usage of the ka'aser formula in Josh
11:20, where Yahweh hardens the Canaanites.
55 Among the few interpreters attempting serious study of the concluding formulas is
Piper, whose discussion confirms the conclusions independently reached here ("Justifi-
cation of God" 144-145).
respect to the implications of the formulas for the ultimate cause of the hardening
(Verstockungsprolem 47-8). A. B. Ehrlich explains that in 4:21 Yahweh's purpose of
telling Moses about the hardening was so that he would not be discouraged when his
signs had no effect on Pharaoh. Thus, when Moses recounts the actual hardening
occurrences in these narratives he expresses his remembrance of Yahweh's prediction of
such in 4:21 by the ka'ser phrase (Randglossen zur
Hebraischen Bibel I [
Hinrichs sche, 1908] 275; so also B. Baentsch, Exodus-Leviticus-Numen m Handkom-
men tar zum Alten Testament I, 2 [
redactor as adding these concluding phrases in order to show that "Yahweh is in total
control of events and causes the hardening" even in chaps. 7-9; see also Luther, The
Bondage of the Will 211).
142 TRINITY JOURNAL
traced back to the same divine cause of the v 13 condition.57 It is
significant that here the hardening is mentioned before the performance
of any signs. The reason for this may be two-fold: (1) the hardened
condition of 7:13-14 warrants the performance of the next miracle, so
that the signs are not a willy-nilly concatenation of events, but always a
dynamic-historical divine response to the "failure" of the previous
miracle; (2) at the same time the writer is likely giving a reason for the
forthcoming negative response to the signs.58 Both motives are probably
in view. The specific idea of kabed here probably shows that Pharaoh's
volition had been given such intense power for refusal, that it became
"too heavy," so that other influences would not be able to move or
change its direction-even signs.
Chap. 7:22b states the concluding reaction of Pharaoh to the signs,
which is the result of v 14, with the same meaning as 7:13, since the
verb again is to be taken with a stative-intransitive force59 ("and
Pharaoh's heart was strong [wayyehezaq], and he did not listen to
them, just as Yahweh said"). The verbatim repetition of the 7:13
hardening statement in 7:22, and its subsequent occurrences (cf.
8:15; 9:1), point both to a continuing inner disposition and an
external response pattern, the latter of which builds drama into the
historical narration and the former imparting further understanding
each sign itself does not effect the release of
continued repetition of the hardening statements and the display of
signs have a literary, rhetorical and theological role.60 Therefore, in the
7:14-25 narrative Yahweh is viewed again as the ultimate cause of the
hardening activity which had brought Pharaoh's heart into such a
condition, as emphasized by the concluding ka'aser dibber YHWH
phrase, which views the hardening as a fulfillment of 4:21 and 7:3. The
narrative thus begins and ends with God's hardening of Pharaoh's
57 See likewise Hesse, Verstockungsproblem 8.
58 This would provide further support for the above argument concerning 4:21 and
5:2ff. that hardening is not contingent upon performance of signs, since the conclusion of
this narrative (7:22) links the hardening to God's influence in 7:13, where the hardening
is viewed as being the primary reason for the signs and not vice-versa. The same
relationship between hardening and signs occurs in John 12:37-40 (cf. Isa 6:9-10).
59 For the rationale see above.
60 The signs also have a dynamic redemptive-historical role in intensifying the
hardened condition of Pharaoh, as well as increasing the amount of revelation for which
he would be held accountable (cf. Matt 11:20-25; 13:10-16). I am grateful to the Rev.
Ivan Davis for pointing out the importance in a discussion such as this of highlighting
the historical integrity of Pharaoh's actions and of the repeated signs.
61 However, G. Fohrer, after admitting that some of the hardening predictions have a
divine cause, says without explanation that 7:13, 22; 8:15 and 9:35 do not apparently
view YHWH as the cause (Uberlieferung und Geschichte des Exodus
Topelmann, 1964] 61). On the other hand, K. Berger affirms that wherever the LXX
renders hazaq by sklhru<nw in the Exodus narratives (cf. 4:21; 7:22; 8:15; 9:12, 35,
10:20,27; 11:10; 14:4,8,17) that God is always the source of the hardening ("Hartherzigkeit
und Gottes Gesetz: Die Vorgeschichte des antijudischen Vorwurfs in Mc 10:5," ZNW 61
BEALE: HARDENING OF PHARAOH'S HEART 143
The second plague narrative (7:26-8:11)
With this narrative the performance of signs occurs first (8:2-
3), with an apparent positive effect (8:4-7); but with relief
from the plague (8:8-10) comes "hardening" (cf. wehakbed ["he
(Pharaoh) made heavy his heart"], 8:11a [15a]). It is probably best to
view the Hiphil infinitive absolute "as a substitute for the finite verb. . .
as the continuation of [the] preceding finite verb" wayyar' ("he saw")62
in 8:11a 15a]. Because of the concluding ka'aser formula, the conclu-
sions for 7:13, 22 are applicable here.
Interestingly, the fact that Pharaoh is viewed as performing the
hardening in 8:11a [15a] is a comment by the writer on the historical
integrity of the narration and about the dispositional reality of
Pharaoh's genuine choice, i.e., his hardened refusals are not mechanistic
mock actions. Nevertheless, in view of the ka'aser formula Pharaoh
must be viewed as YHWH's agent, who truly hardens himself-
however, never independently, but only under the ultimate influence of
In short, in this narrative is seen Yahweh's omnipotence over the
Pharaoh, as Yahweh positively influences him externally with signs
(8:6-8), but then negatively influences him internally with a
power for refusal.
The third plague narrative (8:12-15)
This narrative is similar to the introductory miracle narrative (7:8-
13), with Yahweh's command appearing first, followed by sign per-
formance and concluding with the negative hardening reaction in
8:15 ("But Pharaoh's heart was strong [wayyehezaq], and he did
not listen to them, just as the Lord said."). The conclusions of this
narrative are the same as that in 7:8-13. The hardened condition should
be seen as a result of the hardening of the preceding narrative (cf. again
the stative-intransitive sense of hazaq).
The fourth plague narrative (8:16-28)
The order of events here is almost identical to the 7:26[8:1]-8:11
narrative: divine command (vv 16-19), sign performance (v
20), positive reaction by Pharaoh (vv 21-25), plague relief
(vv 26-27) and a resulting transitive hardening action (v 28),
"But Pharaoh made heavy [wayyakbed] his heart this time also, and he
did not let the people go."64 Since this denotes an activity rather than a
and Cowley, Grammar 345, ##113Y-Z.
reflective sense, which is possible (Verstockungsproblem 9).
63 For this particular sense of agency, cf. the significance of 5:22-23 (discussed supra)
as well as 3:21-22 and 12:33-36; 12:12-13, 23, 27; 13:15; 33:2; 34:11. This idea of divine
actions standing ultimately behind human actions is an apparently common idea in the
A.N.E. (for illustrations and discussion cf. B. Albrektson, History and the Gods [
C. W. K. Gleerup, 1967] 18-21, 36-39, 47, 55, 111;
same concept for the hardening from the viewpoint of the Elohist [Verstockungsproblem
64 The Hiphil prefixed conjugation with waw consecutive functions as a perfect definite
past and should be taken transitively since it is in the Hiphil (cf. Kautzsch and Cowley,
Grammar 145 ##c-e).
144 TRINITY JOURNAL
condition, it should be seen as a third hardening occurrence since chap.
5. Again, the integrity of history and the dispositional reality of
Pharaoh's choice are reflected in an expression of self-hardening.
Again, however, "the king's heart is like channels of water in the
hand of Yahweh, he turns it wherever he wishes" (Prov 21:1), first
influencing it positively, then reversing the positive effect by negatively
influencing him toward a refusal: Pharaoh's "yes" (8:24) is reversed
to "no" (8:28). The conclusions of this narrative concerning the
cause of the hardening are identical to that of 7:26[8:1]-8:11. Not
only does the order of events argue for this identity, but so also does
the phrase gam bapa'am hazzo't ("this time also") of 8:28 which
identifies the hardening activity of this narrative as being of the same
nature as in the previous narratives: Yahweh is the ultimate cause and
Pharaoh's acts are not independent but influenced.65 No doubt this
phrase also highlights the rising drama in the narrative.
The fifth plague narrative (9:1-7)
The order of this narrative is almost identical to 7:8-13: divine
command (9: 1-5), sign performance (9:6-7) and a concluding hardening
("But the heart of Pharaoh was heavy [wayyikbad], and he did not let
the people go."). This is an unusual hardening predication in that the
ka'aser formula is not added, nor is any other phrase explicitly relating
it back to the hardening action of the previous narratives. However,
because of the narrative's identical structure with 7:8-13 and the
observation that all the previous hardening expressions are traceable to
Yahweh as ultimate cause, it is probable that the present expression
should be similarly interpreted. Further, the hardening here can be
traced back directly to the hardening action of 8:28 via its stative-
intransitive verbal nuance, describing a condition which is a result of
the previous activity.66
The sixth plague narrative (9:8-12)
The exact sequence of the previous narrative also appears here. The
main difference is that for the first time Yahweh is the stated subject of
the hardening, so that its cause here clearly lies with him. Since
Yahweh is subject, wayhazzeq ("and he [YHWH] made strong") may
be seen as a definite past, functioning transitively, with leb par'oh ("the
heart of Pharaoh") as object, and should be viewed as the fourth actual
hardening occurrence. This first explicit mention of Yahweh as subject
65 While recognizing the ultimate influence of divine hardening upon Pharaoh's
decisions, H. Frey nevertheless affirms that Pharaoh had free will in order to maintain
an ethical basis for the hardening (Das Buch der Heimsuchung und des Auszugs
and 9:34 stress Pharaoh's "responsibility" (Verstockungsproblem" 45). "Responsibility"
should not be used in such discussions since it cannot be determined whether one means
"freedom," "Accountability," or both.
66 See the above discussion of 7:13, 22 and 8:15.
BEALE: HARDENING OF PHARAOH'S HEART 145
of the hardening, together with a concluding ka aser dibber YHWH
clause (v 12), serves to identify Yahweh as the subject of the previous
. . . hardening statements also coupled with the ka aser formulas, all of
which now become more clearly seen as prophetic fulfillments of Exod
4:21 and 7:3-4.67
The seventh plague narrative (9:13-35)
This narrative, as has been the case previously, follows the same
order as the second and fourth plague narratives 7:26[8:1]-8:11 and
8:16-28. Again, the Hiphil wayyakbed ("he made heavy") is
employed with the same sense as in 8:28. The "hardening conclu-
sions" here coincide with the earlier conclusions of the 8:16-28
narrative, although this narrative adds the fact that the hardening
action which Pharaoh performs under Yahweh's influence is "sin"68 (cf.
9:27, 34). The phrase wayyosep labato' ("he sinned again"69 or "he
continued to sin."70) in v 34 connects the hardening statements of v 34
with all the previous ones.
It is evident that vv 34-35 do not function separately (cf. the
copulative), but as a unity ("he sinned again and made heavy
[wayyakbed] his heart [v 34b] . . . and Pharaoh's heart was strong
[wayyehezaq] . . . just as Yahweh said [v 35]."). Together they again
seem to display the familiar transitive-intransitive pattern: v 34 has a
transitive hardening expression (the fourth such thus far), and v 35
follows with a semantically stative-intransitive verb, describing the,
resulting condition of the hardening activity in the previous verse. In
fact, these verses appear to be a summary of the hardening motif
throughout chaps. 7-9. In this light, v 34 may also be subsumed under
the previous hardening statements which are linked to God's influence
in 4:21 and 7:3.
Exod 9:30 carries significance in that it appears to be an interpre-
tation by Moses on the basis of Pharaoh's past reactions. He is
affirming both the historical and theological integrity of the hardening
narratives ("I know that you do not yet fear the Lord."). Moses seems
finally to discern the reality of the hardening decree of Yahweh in 4:21
fill and 7:3, which has now become for him the practical basis of his
expectations about Pharaoh's future negative responses, as Yahweh
reaffirms to him m 10:1-3. There is a hardening factor in Pharaoh
which is quite independent of his relationship to the signs (cf. 10:29).71
The eighth plague narrative (10:1-20)
This is the most complex plague narrative thus far: hardening (v 1),
divine command (vv 1-2), positive reaction by Pharaoh (vv 8-9), his
67 Cf. Piper (Justification of God 145) whose argument is very similar to my own on
this point (see below).
68 For the difficult problem of theodicy to which this conclusion drives us see further
69 So NASB and BDB 415, yasap: Hiph #2a.
70 Cf. Koehler and Baumgartner, Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti.l.387, yasap: hif #5.
146 TRINITY JOURNAL
negative reaction (vv 10-11), sign performance (vv 12-15), Pharaoh's
positive reaction, admittance of sin, relief (vv 16-19) and the typical
concluding hardening remark (v 20). Since 9:34-35 seem to function as
a literary device for summarizing the sequential hardening predica-
tions--the hardening motif--of these narratives, the Hiphil hikbadti
("I [Yahweh] have made heavy his heart, 10:1) begins a new section
that looks ahead, and functions best as a prophetic perfect rather than
a definite past referring to the previous action. The verb here shows
Yahweh has determined not only the hardening later in this narrative,
but the rest of the events involved (cf. v la and 1b).72 Pharaoh's
volition is reversed four different times in this one narrative (vv 8-9, 10-
11, 16-17, 20). The reversal in vv 10-11 should be seen as partial fulfill-
ment of the hardening prediction in 10:1, both viewing Yahweh as
ultimate cause of the hardening. Verse 20 should be seen in the same
way ("But Yahweh made strong [wayhazzeq] Pharaoh's heart, and he
did not let
the sons of
The ninth plague narrative (10:21-29)
The sequence here is identical to that of 7:26; [8:1-8:11; 8:16-
28 and 9:13-35, with the hardening predication taken in the same
sense as 10:20, with the same theological conclusion. Note the explicit
connection in v 27 between "hardening" and Pharaoh's volitional
faculty ("But Yahweh made strong [wayhazzeq] Pharaoh's heart, and
he was not willing to let them go.").
The introduction to the death plague (11:1-10)
Verse 9 is a prediction that Pharaoh will again be hardened so that
Yahweh can bring on the death plague of chap. 12. Verse 10 is the
summary of the whole narrative from 7:6-10:29,73 viewing Yahweh as
the ultimate cause of all the hardening occurrences throughout:74 "And
Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh; yet
Yahweh made strong [wayhazzeq] Pharaoh's heart, and he did not let
the sons of
first phase of the hardening. The concluding hardening remark in 13:15
(hiqsa, "he was stubborn") denotes that the hardening influence was
directed toward Pharaoh's intellectual-volitional faculty in such an
intensely severe manner that a decision for release was impossibly
"difficult" to reach.75
71 This again testifies to the thesis that hardening is the inceptive cause for signs and
72 So Hesse, Verstockungsproblem 10. D. F. Payne argues that the Hiphil in 10:1, even
though it denotes that Yahweh is "behind" the hardening and that it was "part of God's
plan," still asserts that he "could not however deduce from the statement itself whether
Pharaoh had any volition in the matter or not" (Forster and Marston [God's Strategy
168] citing Payne [source unpublished]). But our exegesis has shown that although
Pharaoh did have volition, it was always under the influence of Yahweh.
73 Cf. the summary statement at the beginning of the narrative in 7:6.
74 See Piper's explanation from the parallels of 4:21; 7:3-4 and 11:9-10, which gives
evidence in favor of my observation here (Justification of God 150-51).
BEALE: HARDENING OF PHARAOH'S HEART 147
The second phase of the hardening (14:1-31)
In this second phase the hardening is not directly related to the
performance of signs. However, its nature continues to exhibit the
"reversal" characteristic of the hardening influence. A Prediction of
hardening occurs again in 14:4 and is explained in 14:5: the fulfillment
fit of the prediction in v 5 describes the hardening influence of v 4 as
expressing itself through causing Pharaoh's intellectual-volitional faculty
to "reverse" the former decision concerning the release of the Israelites,
continuing effectuation of his reversing influence begun in v 5, as does
VI. Conclusion to the Exegesis
The three hardening terms are synonymous in the sense that they
always refer to an intellectual-volitional power of refusal with respect
to a decision of Israelite release. This decision also affected the center
spiritual being, as suggested by
evident that hazaq and kabed, in particular, refer to this "volitional
power of refusal" as a reversal from an opposite volitional decision.
The result of this reversed power is almost always mentioned immedi-
ately following each hardening predication.77 On the other hand, there
do seem to be possible distinctions in usage among the three words.78
The term hazaq may specifically stress the volition's strong desire to
refuse Israelite release.79 The idea with kabed may emphasize the
qualitative intensity of the volitions's power with respect to refusal, so
that such a power of decision is seen to be so psychologically "heavy"
that it cannot be changed by anyone except Yahweh. Qasa stresses the
result of this intense power as it relates to Pharaoh's reason, i.e., this
75 Here Pharaoh is viewed as the cause; but, in view of the preceding discussion, he is
to be seen as an agent under the causative influence of Yahweh. The Targum says that it
was "the word of the Lord" that hardened Pharaoh's heart in 13:15 (cf. J. W. Etheridge,
The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathon Ben Uzziel on the Pentateuch [
KTAV, 1968] 483).
76 That this "change of heart" was not a "strengthening of a previously made decision"
is evident not only from context, but from the term wayyehapek, which is probably
another term for "hardening." Its basic nuance is that of "turn" and often refers to a
"turn in the opposite direction." Cf. Exod 10:19 (wind "turned the reverse way"); Esther
9:1 ("to be turned to the contrary"). One of its predominant uses m the Pentateuch is
that of a reversal in something's intrinsic nature (cf. Exod 7:15, 17, 20; Lev 13:3,
4, 10, 16, 17, 25, 55; Deut 23:6). Cf. especially Ps 105:25 where hapak is used with reference
to YHWH changing the hearts of the Egyptians to hate
77 This is found usually in the form of welo'sama'alehem or welo' silla et ha'am.
78 Compare the following discussion with our introduction. While we can agree with
Piper that the three terms do not have "Fundamentally different meanings (Justification
of God 142), he is perhaps too simplistic in not recognizing their secondary semantic
79 Contra Piper who sees the idea of strengthening as completely lost (Justification of
148 TRINITY JOURNAL
power makes a decision for release too "difficult" ever to be reached.80
Exegetical Conclusions: Yahweh as the Ultimate Cause of Pharaoh's
The exegesis of the plague narrative complex has shown a definite
pattern of a hardening motif (1) the introductory miracle narrative
(7:8-13) and the first plague narrative (7:14-25) describe a "hardened"
condition (7:13, 14,22), which assumes that a previous action has
occurred that caused the condition. Our exegesis has argued that this
first action occurred in 5:2 (or somewhere soon after) as a beginning
fulfillment of 4:21, which views Yahweh as cause of the hardening. (2)
A second hardening act (8:11) occurs in the second plague narrative
(7:26[8:1]-8:11) with the resulting condition again (8:15) de-
scribed in the third plague narrative (8:12-15). (3) The same
pattern occurs a third time in plague narratives four (8:16-28)
and five (9:1-7) respectively; (4) then in the sixth narrative (9:8-12)
Yahweh is explicitly identified as the subject of the previous hardening
acts, mainly by showing that he is to be identified with all the previous
ka'aser prophetic fulfillment clauses. (5) The seventh narrative (9:13-
35) summarizes the pattern of the preceding narratives by employing
vv 34-35 as a concluding emphasis of the transitive-intransitive ("act-
condition") hardening pattern. What further substantiates this pattern
is that the transitive hardening predication are always in the Hiphil of
kabed81 and the intransitive hardening statements are in the Qal of
The significance of this pattern83 lies in the observation that even when
Pharaoh is subject of the hardening, or when the subject is unmen-
80 It is sometimes deduced that the hardening predictions are metaphorical pictures of
the malfunctioning of the ethico-religious faculty. So K. L. Schmidt ("Die Verstockung
des Menschen durch Gott," TZ 1  1-2) and Piper (Justification of God 140-42), the
latter of whom gives the most cogent explanation of a metaphorical meaning. While the
idea of malfunctioning is certainly part of the intended meaning, the metaphor is
imprecise, and, in fact, the meaning is probably not even derived from any metaphor
because: (1) hazaq and kabed may be too flexible in their verbal nuances to be
designated as obvious pictorial terms and then metaphorically applied (cf C. Brook-
Rose, A Grammar of Metaphor [
phrase "he hardened his heart," heart is probably not even a pictorial reference to the
actual organ, whose underlying significance is intellect, volition, spiritual faculty, etc, but
is perhaps best understood as a "dead metaphor," like "foot of a mountain" or "leg of a
table." Therefore, heart is best taken as a literal reference to the intellectual-volitional
faculty of man, which has ethico-religious implications, affecting the spiritual centrum of
life (cf. Hesse, Verstockungsproblem 7-8, 22 and supra).
81 Cf 8:11, 28, 9:34 (note the adjectival exception of kabed in 7:14).
82 Cf. 7:13, 22; 8:15; 9:35 and, uniquely, the Qal intransitive of kabed in 9:7. When
Yahweh is subject, the stem is usually Piel, thus denoting his intense involvement in the
83 The pattern in 7:8-9:35 seems to betray and point to the work of one mind rather
than many conflicting sources, which were harmonized by a theologically ingenious final
redactor-contra Hesse (Verstockungsproblem 18-19,45ff.), W. Fuss (Die Deuteronomis-
tische Pentateuchredaktion in Exodus 3-17 [
and R. R. Wilson ("The Hardening of Pharaoh's Heart," 18-36).
BEALE: HARDENING OF PHARAOH'S HEART 149
tioned, these statements describe a resulting condition traceable to a
previous hardening action caused by God (cf 7:13, 14, 22; 8:15;
9:7, 35). Therefore these statements cannot refer to Pharaoh inde-
pendently hardening his heart, as many commentators argue. This is
not to say that the reality of Pharaoh's volitional decisions and
accountability should be overlooked or ignored; the concern of this
study is about the ultimate cause of the hardening.
Beginning with 10:1 the predications are usually in the Piel and have
Yahweh as subject, thus denoting his integral involvement (though cf.
13:15). Thus, the exegesis has shown these hardening patterns, together
with 4:21, 7:3 and 10:1ff, involved Pharaoh in a hardening nexus from
which he could not escape nor exercise any totally independent self-
determining actions, since Yahweh was the ultimate cause of the
Exegetical Conclusions: The Purpose of Pharaoh's Hardening
As the narratives develop there is a thematic progression with
respect to the purpose of the hardening: (1) that the uniqueness of
Yahweh's omnipotence would be demonstrated to the Egyptians (7:17;
8:6, 18; 9:16; 10:1-2; 14:4, 17-18; (2) that Yahweh's acts would
16); (3) then 14:4, 17, 18 summarizes the whole purpose of the
Heilsgeschichte program: it is for Yahweh's glory.
Having said this, the overarching theme of Exod 1-14 may now be
stated: Yahweh hardens Pharaoh's heart primarily to create an Israelite
Heilsgeschichte, necessarily involving an Egyptian Unheilsgeschichte--
all of which culminates in Yahweh's glory. Yahweh caused the kabed
heart, both of which culminate in his own "'ikkabeda (Exod 14:4, 17, 18).
VII. Theological Implications of the Exegetical Conclusions
Do the above exegetical conclusions help us toward answering the
four questions raised in our introduction with respect to Rom 9 and, if
so, how? With respect to the first two questions concerning the
ultimate cause of the hardening and its conditional or unconditional
nature, the above conclusions lead to some straightforward yet difficult
answers. First, our study has shown that God was the ultimate cause of
all of the hardening actions throughout Exod 4-14 so that at no time
was Pharaoh's volition independent of Yahweh's influence when he
hardened his heart. This may be especially significant since the hard-
ening may be viewed as a polemic against the Egyptian idea of
Pharaoh's deity and the belief that Pharaoh's heart was the all-
controlling factor both in history and society.84 Second, it is never
84 Cf. a Memphite mythological text where the gods Re and Horus exercise absolute
control over everything by means of their hearts (J. B. Pritchard, "The Theology of
Pharaoh was viewed as the divine incarnation of these two gods, Helmer Ringgren
rightly concludes that the heart of the living Pharaoh also was seen as possessing the
same power (Word and Wisdom [Lund: Haken Ohlssons Boktryckeri, 1947] 22).
150 TRINITY JOURNAL
stated in Exod 4-14 that Yahweh hardens Pharaoh in judgment because
of any prior reason or condition residing in him.85 Rather, as stated in
the exegetical conclusion, the only purpose or reason given for the
hardening is that it would glorify Yahweh. Therefore, the divine
hardening of Pharaoh was unconditional.86 All that can be said is that
Yahweh deemed it necessary to include Pharaoh's disobedient refusal
in the historical plan, which was to glorify himself.87
A classic and important objection to this idea is that it associates
God too closely with the cause of sin.88 No doubt the theologian must
be very careful in discussing God's relation to sin. Nevertheless, the
above exegesis shows that Exod 4-14 says that God was the ultimate,
unconditional cause of Pharaoh's volition while holding him account-
able for his disobedient volitional acts. While many theologians see an
antinomy between divine sovereignty and human freedom in Exod 4-
1489 and Rom 9, the present evidence places the mystery between
divine sovereignty and human accountability.90 Paul's apparent expres-
(Verstockungsproblem 54). Many have attempted to deny this by saying that since
Yahweh is not mentioned as subject until 9:12, Pharaoh had to be the subject of the
previous predications. (M. Erb, seemingly indifferent theologically, affirms the basic
argument presented here ["Porosis und Ate"; unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Eberhard-
86 However, Jewish tradition viewed the hardening of Exod 4:21 and 10:1 as a
retributive judgment for some preceding sin (cf. respectively R. Exodus v 7 and xiii.3).
For the most thorough exegetical argument in favor of the conditional view see J.
Morison's 550 page work An Exposition of the Ninth Chapter of Paul's Epistle to the
Romans (London: Ward and Co, 1849), 306-384. Cf. further C. Hodge, Epistle to the
Romans (London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1972) 399;
W. G. H. Thomas,
Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966) 257; F. Leenhardt, Epistle to the
Romans (London: Lutterworth, 1961) 254; R. C. H.
Lenski, Interpretation of
Epistle to the Romans (Minn: Augsburg, 1961) 616-17.
81 The systematic theologian may assert that Pharaoh's hardening was contingent upon
his fallen position in Adam, but neither Exodus nor Romans even hints that this was a
reason for the hardening. In fact, Rom 9:11 seems to indicate that the pre-natal election
and rejection of Jacob and Esau was contingent neither on works nor on any condition
residing in them. This may be evident further from observing that the "purpose of God"
in preferring Jacob for blessing and Esau for cursing is based on his choice (kat'
e]klogh<n), so that the ultimate cause of the selection and rejection lies within the
determining, unconditional being of God himself. Hence, the divine dealings with both
Jacob and Esau are not based on or influenced by either their actions or their natures
which give rise to such actions. So Calvin (Romans 215) and Piper (Justification of God
Eichrodt, Theology. 2.426 n. 5; J. Daane, The Freedom of God (
Eerdmans, 1973) 80.
89 So G. Fohrer, "Action of God and Decision of Man in the Old Testament" in
Proceedings of the Ninth Meeting of Die Outestamentiese Werkgemeenskap in Suid-
Afrika (1966) 131-9; H. W. Robinson, The
Religious Ideas of the OT (
Duckworth, 1949) 179; G. C. Berkouwer, Divine Election (
90 So J. Hempel, Das Ethos des Alten Testaments (Berlin: A. Topelmann, 1964) 54;
and apparently Hesse, Verstockungsproblem 46-54, 96, who speaks of this sovereignty-
accountability distinction as a Spannungsverhaltnis and the ultimate theological Meister-
frage of Exodus 4-14 (cf. ibid. 51, 54 and 96).
BEALE: HARDENING OF PHARAOH'S HEART 151
sion of this antinomy is found in the hypothetical Jewish objection
which he anticipates in his allusion to Pharaoh's hardening, i.e., how
can God blame a man for sin, since man cannot resist God's decree
(boulh) which includes sin (cf. Rom 9:19).91
This antinomy leads directly to our third question concerning
whether or not Paul gives an understandable explanation in Rom 9:17
supporting his denial that God is unjust (9:14). Neither Moses nor Paul
leaves room for the possibility that God was unjust or immoral in his
dealings with Pharaoh or Pharaoh had a peccatum alienum. Paul
alludes to Exod 9:16 in affirming the justice of God: "For this very
purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate my power in you, and that my
name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth." Paul's wording
comes closer to the LXX than the MT, since he sees that God's power
was demonstrated in Pharaoh and not merely before his eyes. In this
regard, Paul's use of e]cegei<rw could be synonymous with 'amad (MT)
or diathre<w (LXX), but its LXX usage elsewhere denotes an "arousing"
or inciting," so that here it may well be a reference to God's internal hardening
or inciting of Pharaoh's heart.92 Thus, Paul seems to be alluding to Exod
9:16 as a summary of the purpose of the hardening throughout Exod
4-14--that God's name should be proclaimed "in all the world." If God had
not repeatedly hardened Pharaoh, there would have been no drawn out series
of plagues and there would have been no proclamation of God's omnipotence.
Thus, Paul sees hardening as the key to the proclamation of the divine name.93
That Paul understands Exod 9:16 in terms of hardening is clear from his summary
of this allusion in Rom 9:18b ("he hardens whom he wills").94
But how does Paul's use of Exod 9:16 argue for God's justice? The
phrase "proclaim the name" of Yahweh is also found in Exod 33:19, a
91 This hypothetical objection becomes real in R. Exod xiii 3, which gives the following
evaluation of Exod 10:1: "Does this not provide heretics with ground for arguing that he
had no means of repenting since it says: For I [Yahweh] have hardened his heart?" The
Midrashic writer then explains the hardening in the following way: "God warned
Pharaoh five times before chap 10:1, and finally God hardened Pharaoh's heart as a
retributive penalty for him hardening it himself previously."
92 ]Ecegei<rw may be understood in Rom 9:17 as "to appoint," "to rise up on the scene
of history," etc. M. Stuart has shown that throughout the LXX e]cegei<rw is best viewed
under a more subsuming idea of "incite," "stir up," "excite," "arouse," rather than merely
through the idea of "historical appointment": e.g., 2 Chron 36:22; Ezra 1:1,5; Pss 7:6;
34:23; 43:23, 56:8; 58:4; 77:65; 79:2; 107:2; Cant 2:7; 3:5; 4:16;
8:4-5; Ecclesiasticus 22:7; Jonah 1:4; Hag 1:14; Zech 2:13; 4:1; 13:7; Isa 38:16; Ezek 2:2; 2
Macc 13:4. Stuart concludes that the LXX usage denotes a "sense of bringing out of a
state of rest or inaction or inefficiency into a contrary state, i.e., in the sense of exciting"
(Epistle to the Romans [Andover: Flagg and Gould, 1832] 396), so that this meaning
may be in Paul's mind with reference to God's inciting Pharaoh's heart to disobey his
command to release
reference to Cyrus, only three verses after the potter-clay metaphor to which Paul alludes
in Rom 9:20 (cf. also Isa 29:16; 64:8). See Piper for a full discussion of e]cegei<rw; his
conclusion is similar to that reached here, but is arrived at by means of different
argumentation (Justification of God 146-8, 158-60).
93 So also Hesse, Verstockungsproblem 50.
94 That v 18b is a summary of v 17 is clear from observing that v 18a ("He has mercy
on whom he desires obviously is the summary of vv 15-16.
152 TRINITY JOURNAL
verse to whom Paul alludes in Rom 9:15 to support God's justice in the
election of Jacob over Esau. If it can be determined how Exod 33:19 is
a rationale for divine justice, perhaps this may be the key to Paul's use
of Exod 9:16.95 John Piper has argued that the proclamation of God's
name and the demonstration of his glory in the OT are synonymous,96
so that Exod 33:19 "God's glory and his name" refer fundamentally to
his "essential nature mainly to dispense mercy. . . on whomever he
pleases apart from any constraint originating outside his own will. This
is the essence of what it means to be God. This is his name"97 and it is
what brings him glory. This meaning of "proclaiming the name"
certainly seems applicable also to the Exod 9:16 phrase98 and generally
coincides with our exegetical conclusions, yet specifically in this context
it now refers to the unconditional dispensing of judgment rather than
Hence, Paul is arguing in Rom 9:17 that God's justice/righteousness
(sedeq) is shown and consists in his acting for his name's sake or glory,
i.e., acting unconditionally according to his intrinsic nature. Thus, for
Paul, God's actions would be unjust if they were responses conditioned
by the creature, whether they be actions of judgment or mercy. While
Paul's readership may not have been completely satisfied with his
explanation of this theodicy, Paul himself is constrained to conclude,
"Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are his judgments and unfathomable his ways!"
In response to the final question posed in the introduction, God's
hardening and rejection of Pharaoh (and the Egyptians) does not
appear to be limited to divine dealings only on the temporal, historical
level, but appears to have a continuity with a rejection from eternal
salvation.100 This may be evident from the following considerations in
Exodus: (1) hardening of the heart probably has implications in the
95 Although Exod 9 uses siagge<llo and Exod 33 has kale<w, the two verbs are
virtually synonymous in their contexts. It is notable that two of the only other three OT
uses of the phrase found in Exod 9:16 show that "proclaiming the name" of Yahweh is to
extol his justice and sovereignty (cf. Deut 32:3; Ps 21:23, 32).
96 J. Piper, "Prolegomena to Understanding Romans 9:14-15," 214-15.
97 Ibid. 215. See supra.
98 The Targum of Exod 9:16b reads "that they might acknowledge the might of My
name in all the earth." In the OT the sem YHWH most often refers to God's holiness as
it is demonstrated by power, so that the phrase "stands for God's essential nature
revealed to men as an active force in the lives of the people" (A. P. Ross, "Popular
Etymology and Paranomasia in the Old Testament," unpub Ph.D. dissertation [Univ of
99 See Piper (Justification of God 55-68) where he further discusses Exod 33:19 and
Rom 9:15 and strikingly applied his conclusions to Rom 9:17-18 in the same way we
have (ibid. 160-62). Note that the name of YHWH also expresses his sovereignty in
judgment elsewhere (cf. Ezek 6:13-14; 7:27; 11:10, 12:15-16; 12:25).
100 Contra Forster and Marston, God's Strategy in Human History 66-77. However, it
is also possible to agree with Piper (Justification of God 46, 156-7, 160), who says that
although he cannot determine whether Pharaoh was consigned to eternal punishment,
the principle of God's hardening relationship with him is applied by Paul to the sphere of
BEALE: HARDENING OF PHARAOH'S HEART 153
spiritual realm affecting Pharaoh's eternal destiny, since in the OT leb
("heart") refers very often to the inner, spiritual center of one's
relationship with God,101 as is also true of "heart" in the Egyptian
literature; (2) this is supported by observing that Pharaoh's hardening
of his heart is referred to as "sin against the Lord " for which he needs
"forgiveness" (10:16-17; cf. 9:34). Therefore the hardening does not
merely concern Pharaoh's intellectual-volitional faculty, but also the
spiritual center of his being, since he repeatedly disobeyed God's
command and deserves judgment. This is significant in the Exodus
account, since the Egyptians viewed Pharaoh as divine and sinless
while living, and believed at death he was exempt from judgment but
became the god (Osiris) presiding over judgment after his death.
In addition to this, other terms in the immediate context of the
Rom 9 hardening statement are used there and elsewhere in the pauline
corpus with reference to the eternal destinies of people,102 so that it
would appear likely that Paul has the same concerns in Rom 9:17 and
that he likewise understood the Exodus hardening. The context also
points to a concern for eternal destinies in Rom 9, since Rom 8:29-39
refers to assurance of eternal salvation and Rom 10-11 focus on the
Could Paul have expressed such grief about his hardened brethern and
wished himself "accursed" on their behalf if issues of eternal destinies
were not at stake?103 Therefore the hardening is not limited to unique
historical situations, but is an expression of a gnomic principle of
God's eternal dealings. The principle of such dealings is based on God's
unconditional nature, as Paul's use of Exod 9:16 has shown. That such
a principle is in Paul's mind is apparent from. Rom 9:18, where he
generalizes the individual OT examples of the divine dispensing of
mercy and hardening;104 the former explains God's dealings with the
das Zentrum des religiossittlichen Lebens" (Verstockungsproblem 21), he later states that
to interpret Pharaoh's hardening in terms of an eternal rejection (ewige Verwerfung),
which he sees Paul doing, is to go beyond the meaning in Exodus, since God has only a
historical--not a spiritual--relation with Pharaoh (ibid 33-4). For a discussion of those
commentators who argue against and those who argue for an idea of eternal reprobation
in Rom 9:17 see Piper (Justification of God 156-7), whose own argument lends support
to our present explanation (ibid. 157-60). Cf. also O. Schmitz, "Verstockung," RGG 5,
1574, who says hardening in the NT always concerns man's failure to respond to the
announcement of salvation and it always relates to divine judgment.
102 See discussion of the usage of the following words in Piper;. Justification of God:
a]pwleia (182-184), e]lee<w (158), te<kna tou? qeou? (i.e., ta> te<kna th?j e]paggeli<aj) and ta>
te<kna th?j sarko<j (49-52). Cf. likewise Paul's usage elsewhere of words synonymous with
sklhru<nw (ibid. 157-8) and kale<w (Rom 8:30; 9:7, 24-25; I Cor 1:9; 7:22, 24; Gal 1:15;
5:8, 13; Eph 4:1, 4;
1:9-10; and o]rgh?j (Rom 1:18; 2:5, 8; 3:5; 4:15; 5:9; Eph 2:3; 5:6; Col 3:6; I Thess 1:10;
2:16; 5:9 and elsewhere in the NT.
103 See likewise the thorough discussion of Piper, Justification of God 29-30, 40, 46.
104 Note the generalized use of the relative pronoun(o]n). My conclusions about Exod
4-14 and Rom 9:17-18 are given extensive support in Piper's work (ibid. 138-62), which
also shows how the whole of Rom 9:1-23 provides further confirmation of these
conclusions (his discussion covers 300 pages).
154 TRINITY JOURNAL
Israelite remnant and Gentiles, while the latter explains the present
rejection of the majority of the Jewish nation.
The results of this study lend support to the idea that there is an
equal ultimacy or parallel between election and reprobation in terms of
unconditionality.105 Rom 9:18 appears to be the clearest textual expres-
sion of such a symmetry.
In the light of these results, it is appropriate that Paul concludes
9-11 with, "For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory, Amen" (Rom 11:36).
105 Contra Berkouwer, Divine Election 212; J. Daane, "Something Happened to the
Canons," RJ 21 (Feb, 1971) 21-22; and H. R. Boer, "Reprobation: Does the Bible Teach
It?", RJ 25 (April, 1975) 7-10; idem, "Reprobation in Modem Theologians," RJ 15
(April, 1965) 13-15, who argue that there is no biblical evidence for unconditional
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