As we have been reading the book of Exodus this phrase (or something similar) has continued to jump out at me. I find this phrase interesting and I wonder why God would do that. Why would he harden Pharaoh's heart? To what end? Pharaoh did a great job of hardening his own heart so why did God need to help him out the other times?
- Three times Yahweh declares that he will harden Pharaoh’s heart (Ex. 4:21; 7:3; 14:4).
- Six times Yahweh actually hardens Pharaoh’s heart (Ex. 9:12; 10:1; 10:20; 10:27; 11:10; 14:8).
- Seven times the hardening is expressed in the passive form to indicate that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, without giving any indication as to the source (Ex. 7:13; 7:14; 7:22; 8:19; 9:7; 9:35; 14:5).
- And three times we are told that Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Ex. 8:15; 8:32; 9:34).
2) A second explanation is that the image of God hardening Pharaoh's heart is a type of figurative speech know as “metonymy", where one word is used is place of another.
The Bible is replete with examples that illustrate this figure of speech. John reported that “Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John” (John 4:1). In reality, Jesus did not personally baptize anyone (John 4:2). But His teaching and influence caused it to be done. Jesus, the subject, is mentioned, but it is the circumstance of His influence that is intended. His teaching was responsible for people being baptized.
Notice that in a very real sense, all four of the following statements are true: (1) God hardened Pharaoh’s heart; (2) Moses hardened Pharaoh’s heart; (3) the words that Moses spoke hardened Pharaoh’s heart; (4) Pharaoh hardened his own heart. All four of these observations are accurate, depicting the same truth from different perspectives. In this sense, God is responsible for everything in the Universe, i.e., He has provided the occasion, the circumstances, and the environment in which all things (including people) operate. But He is not guilty of wrong in so doing. From a quick look at a simple Hebrew idiom, it is clear that God did not unjustly or directly harden Pharaoh’s heart. God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), He does not act unjustly (Psalms 33:5), and He has always allowed humans to exercise their free moral agency (Deuteronomy 30:19). God, however, does use the wrong, stubborn decisions committed by rebellious sinners to further His causes (Isaiah 10:5-11). In the case of Pharaoh’s hardened heart, God can be charged with no injustice, and the Bible can be charged with no contradiction. Humans were created with free moral agency and are culpable for their own action
Anyway, hope that lends some insight, I had fun reading all the different takes on this.