The Bible repeatedly mentions Pharaoh’s heart being hardened as a result of the demands God made and the signs He performed in Egypt (Exodus 7:13, 14, 22, 23; 8:19; 9:7, 35; 14:5). The question is, who was ultimately responsible for Pharaoh’s stubbornness?
The scriptures affirm that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8, 17) but also that Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Exodus 8:15, 19, 32; 9:34-35; 10:3; 13:15). The answer to this apparent discrepancy lies in understanding how Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, not by subverting Pharaoh’s free will, but by simply making demands that Pharaoh did not like. Pharaoh hardened his own heart because of his own stubborn pride and rebellion.
Just as the sun has different effects on wax and clay (it softens one and hardens the other), so the word of God has different effects on those who hear it. When a Christian goes door to door to share the gospel, he will inadvertently make some people angry while others will be appreciative, depending on the receptivity or lack thereof of each one (cf. Acts 28:24).
God’s actions and demands in Egypt softened the hearts of some (Exodus 4:30-31; 9:20; 10:7) but hardened the heart of Pharaoh. It was not simply a matter of what God said or did that made the difference but rather the brazen opposition of Pharaoh’s obstinate will.
--Kevin L. Moore
Originally appearing in the Voice of Truth International 38:94.