January 23, 2010

Exo 14-16: The Hard Hearted

Posted in Choice, Foundations, Moses tagged , , , , , , at 7:45 pm by Steve

When God intercedes in the affairs of men, He does so with a unique perspective of time and outcomes. When Exodus states that God “hardened Pharaoh’s heart” the form of verb suggests a future orientation such that God is viewing a process that is occurring not necessarily a consequence God is causing to happen by divine force. There appears to be an interesting progression in the use of the verbs from one in which Pharaoh’s heart is strengthened and therefore becomes unyielding because of growing pride, to one of burdensome and weariness that reflects the problems associated with positions of power and authority.

The struggle between God’s foreknowledge and Pharaoh’s free will is ultimately at stake in understanding these passages. According to Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch, God is long-suffering toward Pharaoh until he showed himself to be intransigent. While others in Egypt responded to the plagues as signs and wonders, Pharaoh remained obstinate and became more of what he already was.

In a larger sense the relationship between God and Pharaoh is best reflected in light of Romans 1:24-25 “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.”

The hardness of Pharaoh’s heart was the consequence of his choices and his stubborn attitude toward any authority other than his own given the life into which he was born. The problem with Pharaoh’s position of absolute power is that it doesn’t allow for a lot of wiggle room when things don’t work out the way they should. Pharaoh is boxed in and his hardness of heart becomes a burden rather than a strength. In the face of God’s authority and sovereignty, Pharaoh goes down the wrong path and each step make his life and heart harder and harder. It’s all about choices.

The verbs that are most commonly used in Exodus to describe the state and or action of Pharaoh’s inner being as growing sense of strength, pride and arrogance that builds in Pharaoh over time bringing about certain events. The debate over whether God interferes with Pharaoh’s ability to freely choose is somewhat alleviated by looking at the form of the verbs, the process of development, and the context in which they are found.

tae: the mark of the accusative, prefixed as a rule only to nouns that are definite.

ble n.m. inner man, mind, will, heart

qzx  [to strengthen, strong, to grow firm]

Exodus 4:21 – action God takes on Pharaoh’s inner being [verb piel imperfect 1st person] future oriented. It suggests what is foreshadowed based on Pharaoh’s past history.

7:13  – describing the state of Pharaoh’s heart

7:22 – remained in its current state

8:19 – Pharaoh’s hardness of heart was resolute and established

9:12 – Action God takes toward Pharaoh [piel waw consec imperfect 3rd person]

9:35 – the state of Pharaoh’s heart such that he took action and would not let the people go.

10:20 — verb piel waw consec imperfect 3rd, seems to be concerned less with the causation of the event than the final state of being

11:10 — verb piel waw consec imperfect 3rd person, “the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart” Consequential action, the logical outcome of the preceeding events

14:4 — piel waw consec perfect 1st person, Consequential, because of the nature of God and the nature of Pharaoh, hardness and stubbornness is the logical result.

14:8 — piel waw consec imperfect, consequential action, because the Israelites were out of Pharaoh’s hand, his heart became stubborn and he pursued them.

 To be hard, severe, fierce, make hard, stiff, stubborn, fig. of obstinacy.

 Exodus 7:23 – action God takes toward Pharaoh’s heart

 To refuse, refusing to obey commands;

Exodus 7:14 – describing the state of Pharaoh’s heart (perfect tense, is unyielding, or stubborn)

dbeK’ vb. be heavy, weighty, burdensome, honored,

Exodus 8:11 – Pharaoh’s heart became burdened and weighted down

8:32 – the action of Pharaoh toward his own situation

9:7 – in response to the death of the animals, pharaoh remains unyielding

9:34 – because of Pharaoh’s sin, his heart is burdened even more and therefore unyielding

10:1 — verb hiphil perfect 1st person, the subject brings about a state of being, in this case heaviness of heart brought about by God.

John Goldingay in Old Testament Theology: Israel’s Gospel provides a helpful discussion of this:

To soften or harden something impersonal such as butter or jelly, we use physical manipulation, heating or cooling it, but to soften or harden a person, we present them with facts or images or stories so that they can do their work in generating a response on the part of the person. Similarly, Yhwh’s softening or hardening need not involve some equivalent to physical manipulation, as if God reaches into the brain and directly changes the way it works. To judge from other aspects of God’s working with human beings, more likely God softens and hardens in the same personal way that human beings adopt in personal relations. God makes things happen by influencing people. To soften people, God presents them with facts or images or stories of divine love or power, or of human possibilities of action or achievement. These do not force them to a positive response, but give them, for example, extra stimulus and opportunity to trust or love or worship. To toughen people, God presents them with other facts or images or stories – for instance, perhaps, reminding the Pharaoh of the loss he will incur through letting the Israelites go. That, too, does not force or manipulate Pharaoh to decide to hold on to Israel. What happens depends on how Pharaoh responds to the facts or images or stories—on whether he himself toughens his resolve. (353).”

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