Words of Hardening
a word study
“Do you always dismount from your bike that gracefully?” asked Moshe with a friendly smile. He was relaxing on his front porch with his customary pitcher of sweet tea. Jerry grinned back at his friend and mounted the porch stairs two at a time. He dropped his backpack off his shoulders and settled into a chair across from his neighbor. “Looks like you are ready to do some studying,” observed Moshe, as he filled a glass and handed it to his young friend.
Jerry gratefully accepted the sweet tea with a murmur of thanks and raised the glass to his lips. After he had quenched his thirst, he reached into his backpack and pulled out a pen and notebook. “You said I would need to bring a notebook for the next story on God’s sovereignty.”
“I’m glad to see you remembered,” said Moshe, taking a sip of his tea before setting his glass on the table. “The story of Pharaoh is going to take a bit of work to make sure we understand it correctly.”
Jerry flipped open his notebook to a blank page and uncapped his pen, saying mischievously, “I’m fine with that - as long as you do all the work!”
“Well, I hope you are fine with doing the work yourself because that’s what is going to happen!” retorted Moshe.
Jerry gave an exaggerated sigh of resignation. “Aye, aye, master Moshe! Where do you want me to start?”
Moshe chuckled. “Well, Jerry, we need to figure that out. The sovereignty of God in the life of Pharaoh is a big topic, and we need to decide how we are going to tackle it.” Jerry tried to look suitably impressed as Moshe continued.
“Jerry, if you approached almost anyone who was knowledgeable about the bible and asked which story most clearly demonstrates the sovereignty of God, there is a good chance he would point to the story of Pharaoh and the plagues in Egypt. It is one of the most widely recognized demonstrations of God’s sovereignty in all scripture. Why, I’ll bet there isn’t a single bible student who has not wondered at God’s dealings with this man. Undoubtedly, the most intriguing aspect of the story is the method by which God exercised His sovereignty.” Moshe paused for a sip of tea before continuing. “You remember that in the stories of Joseph and Moses, God demonstrated His sovereignty by working within the confines of His creatures’ choices. But in this story, God exercised His sovereignty by performing a particular operation on the heart of Pharaoh to accomplish His will. The Bible refers to this operation as the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart.”
Jerry wrote down in his notebook, ‘Harden Pharaoh’s heart - important.’ Then he looked up. “What does that mean, to harden Pharaoh's heart?”
“That’s a very good question,” replied Moshe. “This particular procedure played such a significant part in the account of Pharaoh that it is almost impossible to understand God’s exercise of His sovereignty if the operation is not correctly understood. We will need to do some work to answer that question.”
“You mean, do a study on the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart?” asked Jerry. Moshe nodded. “Where and how would we begin?”
“Well,” replied Moshe, “We probably want to identify a small, simple task as a starting point so that we don’t get overwhelmed before you, I mean, we, get started.”
Jerry grinned. He could see who would be ending up with the bulk of the work. “Ok,” he said. “What is your, I mean, our first step?”
Moshe pretended not to notice his slip of the tongue and gave the matter some thought. “Hmm,” he said thoughtfully. “I suppose a nice, simple task would be to locate all the scriptures that mention Pharaoh’s hardened heart and make a list of the verses.”
“Ok,” said Jerry, and wrote down, ‘Step 1: Find and list vss of P’s hard heart.’ Looking up, he said, “That doesn’t sound too hard. What's the next step?”
Step 2: Look up the Hebrew words
“Let's see. I think the next logical step would be look up the Hebrew word for hardening,” replied Moshe. “We’ll probably want to stick to the Old Testament to start out with.”
“Sounds good to me,” said Jerry, “Less work is better!” Putting his pen to paper, he wrote, ‘Step 2: Look up Heb word.’ In the margin, he wrote ‘OT only’ and underlined it. “Is that all?”
“I think so, for now,” nodded Moshe, then added, “If there happens to be more than one Hebrew word, you should categorize your verses according to each Hebrew word.”
Step 3: Categorize verses according to Hebrew words
“Do what?” asked Jerry, puzzled.
Moshe tried again, “I mean, you should take your list of ‘harden’ verses and group them by each Hebrew word.”
“Oh,” said Jerry, and wrote down, ‘Step 3: Group vss by Heb word.’
“That should be good for now,” said Moshe as he finished off his tea. “When you get done, bring me what you've found and we can, you know, compare notes.”
Jerry looked at Moshe for a second. Then, with a straight face, he tore out a clean sheet of notepaper and pushed it over to Moshe.
“What's this for?”
“For your notes.”
Moshe laughed and took the sheet as Jerry stuffed his notebook in his backpack. “Thanks again for the sweet tea,” said Jerry. He shrugged on his backpack and ambled off the porch to his bike. “See you later,” he called as he rode out the driveway.