How could Pharaoh be responsible for his sin if God was the one that hardened his heart?

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How could Pharaoh be responsible for his sin if God was the one that hardened his heart?

Dear Jeff,

Paul writes in Romans 9:17-18 that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. So if that is the case how could Pharaoh be responsible for his sin if God was the one that hardened his heart?

Good question and worth a good answer.

Hmmm, lets see if I can explain this.
God promised
(The LORD said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. Exodus 4:21)  and (But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart 7:3) Moses that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart.  

Yet the Exodus account shows us time and time again that Pharaoh was the one who was unwilling to listen therefore hardening his own heart.

Exodus 7:13 Yet Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the LORD had said.

 7:22 Pharaoh’s heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said

8:15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said

8:19 The magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen, just as the LORD had said

8:32 But this time also Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go

9:7 Yet his heart was unyielding and he would not let the people go

 

As you see the story unfold God gives Pharaoh opportunities to either repent or continue to be rebellious and in opposition to God and His plans. Every time God showed Pharaoh mercy and ended a plague in Egypt, Pharaoh would respond in stubborn disobedience and arrogance.

So it was actually the mercy of God that was hardening Pharaoh’s heart. God of course knows everything and knows how we will respond. God hardened his heart by giving him chance after chance to repent. Pharaoh held true to form and did what he wanted to do! Every time God gives people a chance to repent even today, many like Pharaoh of old, will harden their hearts in disobedience, rebellion, and unbelief.

Some people, Pharaoh being one of them, just can’t handle God being God…doing what only God can do…and giving us the chance to believe and follow or choose our own path.

Our path is the destructive one…always.

Passages like that in Scripture can be tough, but understand Scripture in light of Scripture. Put the pieces together and when you are done the puzzle makes sense.