Exodus 9

Exodus 9:  The Hardened Heart

“Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” ( Hebrews 3:7)

“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  ( Hebrews 10:31)

So far in this story, we have seen the following plagues:  Nile turned into blood; the plague of frogs throughout the land, including in the Pharaoh’s bed; the plague of lice; and the plague of flies.  We also observe a pattern of the Pharaoh’s behavior:  a plague- a plea for prayer- a promise of release and then a hardening of the heart and the failure to keep his promise.

Do you see the three-fold purpose of God in these plagues?  First, God is manifesting His power to Pharaoh and his officials and proving to them He, Almighty God is who He says He is and can do what He says He can do. Second, God is exposing to both the Egyptians and the Hebrews the futility of the many false gods the Egyptians worship. And thirdly, God is showing the Hebrews, His people how He will fight for them and they need not fear or worry.

Here is something else we observe in this story: when God is dealing with a hard heart, if less judgment does not work, He will send greater.  Do not harden your heart when you hear His voice for it is surely a fearful thing to  fall into the hands of the living God.

Do you not realize we are God’s children? Do you not realize  He will fight for us, defend us, protect us?  The Hebrews will be told by God to tell their children and grandchildren what He has done for them. Have you shared with your children, grandchildren and loved ones what God has done for you? How He lifted you out of the miry pits and set you on the solid rock.We have a duty to pass on our story of God’s work in our lives so that the next generations may know God is who He says He is and can do what He says He can do. We must tell the story of how the Lord redeemed us and delivered us from the slavery of sin. We each have an Exodus story if we have been redeemed.


Once again Moses and Aaron confront  the Pharaoh and repeat the same message:  “ This is what  the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go and continue to hold  them back, the hand of the Lord will bring a terrible plague on your livestock in the field – on your horses, donkeys, camels, cattle, sheep and goats. But the Lord will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and Egypt, so that no animal belonging to them will die.”

“ Tomorrow the Lord will do it. And the next day, the Lord did it.” In James 4 we read:  “ now listen you who will say, “ Today or tomorrow we will go to this city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money. Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.” Only God knows what will happen tomorrow and the next day and the next year and forever. In this instance, God is telling them it will happen tomorrow, so that those Egyptians who feared God would have time to bring their livestock in from the fields and out of danger. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Of course the next day, it happened just as the Lord said it would and the Pharaoh still remained unyielding and his heart grew harder and he would not let the people go.


The next plague appears without warning. Sometimes that is the way trouble strikes- one day there is no problem, the next day it strikes suddenly without warning. The Lord tells Moses and Aaron to take the soot from the furnace ( where bricks were made) and toss it into the air in the presence of the Pharaoh. And the soot from the furnace will become a fine dust settling over the land of Egypt and producing  boils on men and animals.  The furnaces and the soot represented the results of the bondage and affliction of the Hebrews and now God had turned the residue of the furnaces into a plague upon the people who had inflicted this punishment on God’s people. Truly, vengeance is mine, says the Lord. And surely your sins shall find you out- then the sins that you enjoyed will come to be as painful as the boils on these in this story.

Now we are reminded of the sovereignty of God in these next verses. God is going to send His full force of plagues upon Egypt. God could have wiped out the whole nation of Egypt at anytime in a blink of the eye. But God is long suffering and He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked and He wants all to come to repentance.

God tells the Pharaoh in verse 14 (KJV) prior to the seventh plague of hail: “For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart..” Not just his body and the people and the land and livestock but a plague upon the Pharaoh’s heart- a heart that God will harden. “ I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Apart from the sovereign will of God the Pharaoh would not have been ruler of Egypt.  Does this mean whoever we have as president, our leadership and government has been the result of God’s sovereign will?  Let’s see what Scripture says:  “ Everyone must submit himself to governing authorities for  there is NO AUTHORITY EXCEPT THAT WHICH GOD HAS ESTABLISHED. THE AUTHORITIES THAT EXIST HAVE BEEN ESTABLISHED BY GOD.” ( Romans 13: 1)   Now just to be clear, when government asks us as Christians to do something God has commanded us not to do- we are to obey God and not man. ( Acts 5)

But what we see in this story is how God has raised up the Pharaoh to resist God’s Word in order that God might show His power and that His Name will be proclaimed in all the earth. The Pharaoh will become an example for all times in history as  to what happens when one does not heed the voice of God and falls into the hands of the Living Almighty God. The Pharaoh is a poster boy for the hardened heart.

Herein lies the question that has been asked for centuries:  was the Pharaoh’s free will and choice in the matter overruled because God predestined the Pharaoh for destruction to reveal His Mighty power?

There is no doubt that God raised up the Pharaoh to show His power for the scripture is clear: “ I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”

Since Paul tells us these things were written to teach us. Let us consider the lesson of the hard heart.

God would later tell Moses in Exodus 33:  “ I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy and compassion on whom I will have compassion.” Paul writes in Romans 9: “ Therefore God will have mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden.” Paul knew this teaching would bring the question: “ Then why does God still blame us? For who resists His will? “  To which Paul replied, what is man to talk back to God? Shall what was formed say to Him who formed it, why did you make me this way? Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? What if God, choosing to show His wrath and make His power known bore with great patience the objects of His wrath- prepared for destruction?

God sets the terms for whom He will have mercy and compassion on. If one accepts God’s terms He will show mercy and compassion. If they reject His terms they will not experience God’s mercy and compassion. What are His terms? They are not secret “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son, that whosoever should believe in Him , should not perish ( experience his wrath) but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” ( John 3)

The terms are clear, are they not?  Later Paul would write:  “ For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” ( Romans 1:21)  And “ Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain knowledge of God, He gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.” ( Romans 1:28)

God’s offer is to replace our hard hearts of stone with a new heart. He repeats this offer all through scripture all through recorded time.  Did He not tell Cain who was angry because God had accepted Abel’s sacrifice but not his:  “ if you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door, it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

Has not God shown the Pharaoh time after time through the plagues and miracles that He is God and if Pharaoh will do what God commands him to do- He will not experience His wrath.

The attitude of the stubborn unbeliever is that God is not just, but unjust. And what Paul is saying because God is who He says He is: creator of all things, sustainer of all things, owner of all things, governs all things, He is Lord over all and He dispenses His mercy and judgment in perfect wisdom. Consider that He is able to work all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Consider He is in such control, that He determine the time and place in which each of us would be born.

He is infinitely wise and perfect. Paul is moved to praise Him with these words:  “ Oh the depth of the riches of His wisdom and knowledge  of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His Counselor? Who has ever given to God that God should repay him?  For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever! Amen” ( Romans 9)

What moves God to wrath is continuous rejection of His Mercy on His terms. After a period of time and repeated rejections one risks their rejections developing obstinate unbelief that results in a heart of stone- a hardened heart like the Pharaoh.

Let us consider the steps that lead to a hardened heart as this story was written to teach us the danger of following in the footsteps of the Pharaoh.


The Pharaoh was presented with overwhelming evidence that God was who He said He was and could do what He said He could do.  All of us have experienced the stubborn desire to do or have things the way we want them, even when our way is not God’s way. Every time we say no to God’s way, we are following in the footsteps of the Pharaoh and in danger of God having to deal with us a believers with chastening, but with an unbeliever of reaching that ‘ once-too-often” rejection of God’s will for our lives and risk a heart hardened in unbelief.

Let’s look at the story of the Pharaoh for it provides us with a check list of signs of a hard heart.

  1. The first sign is stubbornness. Surely we see the Pharaoh is as stubborn as the proverbial mule. He refuses to obey God. Have you ever done something you knew you shouldn’t do, but did it anyway?  Of course we all have.  Now get honest with yourself: has God confronted you with a truth over and over again and you have failed to respond?  That is a danger signal of a hard heart being developed.  For an unbeliever it can result in not being able to see- blinded to the truth to the end, rejecting God’s terms of mercy and instead receiving His wrath. For a believer- it can mean God will increase the chastening and rebuking and you may be headed for a scourging or a life in the wilderness.
  2. A lack of concern for spiritual things is the second sign of a hardening heart. This means for the believer- Gods’ work is second to their work. You are more concerned about your business than God’s business.
  3. Not recognizing sin and refusing to deal with it. Feeling bad over your sin for a while is not the same as repenting and turning away from your wicked ways.  Godly sorrow results in true repentance.  The heart that is not broken over sin in their  life is a heart that is hard.
  4. Pride is a sign of a hard heart. We pretend to be experts, ‘know-it-alls’, who think we are always right. A hard heart develops an un-teachable spirit.
  5. Another sign of the hard heart is acknowledging sin but making a deal with God rather than turning from sin. We give God the reasons and rationale for our sin. This has been going on since the Garden of Eden. Our sins break the heart of the Lord Jesus. He wept over our sins, as He longed to gather us as a mother hen does her chicks- but we would not . Why? We have hearts  hardened by disobedience.

Now that we defined the hardening heart; recognize its signs and see the results, what must a believer do?  First of all remember this as you grow and mature as a Christian- sin should bother you more, not less.  You understand the enemy of your soul who is the prince of this world and your old nature are in a conspiracy to conform your thinking about sin and thus harden your heart to its reality.  How does this occur? On a daily basis- through television, movies, entertainment, books, until what was once considered immoral, and language that was considered offensive are accepted as entertainment and the new rules of morality are really nothing but old-fashioned sin.

We are called a peculiar people, a royal priesthood.  We are not in this world just for our own pleasure or well-being.  If God chose the time and place I would be born it was for a reason and a purpose. We are to be salt and light. Salt that has lost its savor is of no use- light hidden under a bushel cannot dispel darkness.   These are signs of a hard compromised heart.

What do we need to do?  There is only one absolute answer and solution for the problem of a hard heart- true repentance. Allowing God to change your heart until your heart’s desire is to do the will of God.  Then you will see a change in behavior. We try to change our behavior without changing our heart and it never works for long.  That is why we are told to ‘ guard our hearts with all diligence – for out of the heart comes the issues of life.  As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.

Answer and prescription for a hard heart- true repentance.

“ I will sprinkle clean water on you and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” ( Ezekiel 36)

“Search me,O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” ( Psalm 139)

“ Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions and wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. “ ( Psalm 51:1,2)

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me…..The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” ( Psalm 51: 10, 17) {Notice the steadfast spirit comes as a result of a pure heart}

Surely God in His Mercy and compassion would have forgiven Cain if he did what was right. And surely God showed the Pharaoh, time after time He would not pour out His wrath if the Pharaoh would do what is right.

“ If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and purify us from all unrighteousness. “ ( I John 1:9)

We see what happens to the Pharaoh and his refusal to obey God.

God does nothing that is not infinitely wise and perfectly good. He is God and He has the right to do anything and He always does what is right.

To those of us who are the redeemed, we have no one to thank but God.

To those who have resisted and resisted like the Pharaoh until their hardened hearts are forever set in obstinate unbelief and thereby suffer the destruction of Gods’ wrath-they have no one to blame but themselves. Because what may be known about God was revealed to them, for God Himself revealed it to them. They are without excuse.

Such is the way of the hardened heart- so today if you hear His Voice take heed and do not harden your heart!


Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14