How does God harden hearts w/o violating free will?


Well-Known Member
Something that has been lingering in the back of my mind for a while but never really got an answer was how God was able to harden Pharaoh's heart in Exodus. After all, we're told that God will never violate our free will, so he can't just simply change our minds for us. So how does he do it?

I think I may have found an answer, at least in part. If I'm wrong, please let me know. That said, I believe that we are spiritual beings, in addition to being physical beings. God, being spirit, can reveal himself to us on that level. We are largely cut off from our spiritual perceptiveness and will not regain it fully until the Rapture or we will gain that at the expense of loss of our body at death. However, God can improve the connection with our spiritual perceptiveness and show his spirit to us so that we are in better communication with him, as Jesus was and is, or he can further sever the connection and hide himself from us so that our sinful flesh takes over. Remember the guy who couldn't see the armies of the Lord all around him until Elijah prayed that God would open his eyes. I think it's something like that, but on a more underlying level. Knowledge of God and communication with him makes it impossible to reject him if you are someone who would choose him in the first place, but he knows who will reject him, and so hides himself from them so that they harden their hearts.

Everlasting Life

Through Faith in Jesus
You have asked a good question that many have wondered about. What you'll notice in Exodus is as the various plagues start to happen and then there's a reprieve it says that Pharaoh hardened his heart, each time. However, in Exodus 9:12 (I believe that's the first time) we started to read that the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, but then after that it's Pharaoh who hardens his heart again, and then the Lord hardens Pharaoh's heart, until finally Pharaoh, of his own free will hardened his heart one to many times and God simply seemed to confirm Pharaoh's consistent choice to harden his heart. As I read it, it seems that God allowed Pharaoh to choose whether he hardened his heart in the beginning, and then as Pharaoh continued in his decisions, God, in seeing Pharaoh's consistent hardening of the heart no matter what happened, saw that was the choice Pharaoh was determined to choose.

It seems that in chapter 10, when it's apparent that Pharaoh had made his choice consistently, showing that his heart's intentions was to sin against the Lord, the Lord then decided to keep or cement Pharaoh in his decision of hard hardheartedness, didn't destroy him just yet but let him live a bit longer in order to show the Lord's power and glory:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, so that I may perform these signs of Mine among them, and that you may tell in the presence of your son, and of your grandson, how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I performed My signs among them, so that you may know that I am the Lord.”

Exodus 10:1-2

At this point Pharaoh is now being used to show the Israelites just who God is and that He is most certainly the One to fear and worship rather than Pharaoh and his gods.

Here's some more information on this:

A Christian friend and I study the Bible together and she is confused why God seems to take away a person’s free will by hardening their hearts, such as He did with Pharaoh, and in Psalm 105:25, “Whose hearts He turned to hate His people.” These are just a few examples in the Bible. She feels that these people didn’t have a chance to make their own decision. I am concerned that this can cause a “seed” of unbelief or doubt in her heart, since she is a fairly new Christian. Could you please address this?

If I recall, Exodus contains 14 references to Pharaoh’s heart being hardened. Seven attribute the action to God and seven are Pharoah’s own doing. But it’s important to remember that Pharaoh claimed to be a god and set himself in direct opposition to the God of Israel (Exodus 5:2). It seems to me like he gave up certain rights when he did this.
Psalm 105:25 also refers to the Egyptian leaders who ordered the death of all newborn male babies to limit the Jewish population. In Genesis 12:3 God said He would curse the people who cursed Abraham’s offspring.
God doesn’t want any to perish but for all to come to repentance (1 Tim. 2:1-4, 2 Peter 3:9), but people who deliberately set themselves up as His enemy are only getting what they deserve.
In the 10 commandments God said He would punish those who hate Him and love those who love Him (Exodus 20:5-6). He’s doing exactly what He said He would do.
You should caution your friend against blaming God for the actions of men. She should get to know Him better before she starts questioning His motives.

Everlasting Life

Through Faith in Jesus
I should also add, Pharaoh was responsible for the knowledge and understanding of Who the Lord is as God showed Himself to Pharaoh and yet he still made his choice to reject God (reminds me of Lucifer).

In the same way all humankind is responsible for what they know and understand about God as seen by His Creation, known through our conscience and as we have access to His Word. Humankind is responsible for the decisions they make in regards to following and obey the Lord in repenting and placing saving faith in Jesus for their salvation.

In this time of wonderful Grace, God is incredibly patient, not willing that anyone perish. He did all that was in His power to make eternal life available for all, through repentance and faith in Jesus......if they so choose.


Aspiring Man of God
"How does God harden hearts w/o violating free will?"

He gives them what they want.

The opposite to this (but same principle) might be Matt 5:6

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Or similarly James 4:7-8

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. [...]