Read Exodus 7
Focus on verse 3-4
While I believe that the Bible is inerrant, that is, it contains no errors in it’s original form, I am also aware that it contains numerous theological conundrums for those seeking to connect all the dots. One such conundrum is the issue of God admitting that He would harden the heart of Pharaoh.
But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. (v. 3-4)
This phrase that we find in today’s reading, “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart…” is problematic for all but perhaps the most extreme Calvinists among us. It seems to infer that Pharaoh was predestined by God to not listen to Moses and Aaron eliminating Pharaoh’s ability to choose how to respond of his own accord. It may be an over simplification, but I believe we can have it both ways. I believe that Pharaoh was indeed predestined by God for this purpose, but that his ability to make the choices he made was not in any way inhibited by God in the process. In other words, God did not in any way interfere with Pharaoh’s “will” to choose one way or another. The reason I believe God can do this, is that I believe God is not limited by time and space as we are. God sees the entire universe – beginning to end – all as one picture. As a result, He sees all the choices we make long before we make them, yet His seeing this does not limit our ability to choose freely in the time and space in which we are contained. I admit it does rather make my head spin a little, and I don’t understand it entirely, but that is part of what makes Him God and me not God.
While this may not explain the conundrum sufficiently for some, it helps me to reconcile how God’s character and justice can remain consistent in this situation. Otherwise it leaves us with the notion that God somehow randomly designates some people to be destroyed by no fault of their own.
The point is this case is not so much an attempt to vindicate God (He needs no help in that department) but to establish that while it may be problematic for us to be able to reconcile it within our finite linear thinking, it is not a problem for God to give us unrestrained freedom to make choices while knowing in advance what that choice will be.