If God makes a positive declaration
through prophecy that someone will sin, does that make God
the author of sin? It has been said that God cannot
positively decree, ordain or predetermine that a person will
sin without being the author or originator of that sin.
In Exodus 4:21, God positively declares that He will harden
the heart of Pharaoh so that Pharaoh would not let the
children of Israel go. This passage of scripture shows
us conclusively that God is Sovereign, even over the sins of
It is certain that Pharaoh’s refusal to
release the Isrealites was sin, Ex 9:34. Even Pharaoh identifies
his refusal as sin, Ex 9:27, Ex
10:16-17. Did God decree, ordain or predetermine that
Pharaoh would sin? Most certainly He did. God
can and does permit people to sin and it may be said that
God permitted Pharaoh to sin. But this is more than
just a bare permission because God said, I will harden his
heart, that he shall not let the people go. Does this
mean God is the author of sin? A careful study of the
scriptures reveals that, No, He is not the author
of sin. As we shall see, God can and does decree,
ordain or predetermine that a person will sin but
that does not make God chargeable for it.
The Apostle James
sets the record straight when he says:
Let no man say when he is tempted, I am
tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither
tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he
is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when
lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it
is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my
beloved brethren. James 1:13-16
Let it be clearly understood, the
scriptures that follow may look like God was tempting
Pharaoh to sin. But this is absolutely not the case.
God knew everything that Pharaoh would do and had already
determined the outcome of all Pharaoh’s actions, Is 46:10.
In every case it was Pharaoh who was tempted, when he was
drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. And
when Pharaoh’s lust had conceived, it brought forth sin: and
sin, when it was finished, brought forth Pharaoh’s death.
On this point we must not err, my beloved brethren.
Let there be no mistake, Pharaoh is held fully accountable
for all his sins and he suffered the just consequences of
In the account that follows we will see:
- Eleven times the scriptures record
that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart; marked in
- Three times the scriptures record
that Pharaoh hardened his own heart;
underlined in red.
- Four times the scriptures record
that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened without
specifying who hardened it; marked in
indicates the circumstances were
hardening Pharaoh’s heart, as in each of the other times.
Also, Ex 9:34-35 indicates that when Pharaoh's heart
was hardened, it was Pharaoh who was hardening his
- One time the scriptures record
that God hardened the hearts of Pharaoh and his entire
army: underlined in
This story originates in
Genesis when God spoke to Abram and said,
Know of a surety that thy seed shall be
a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve
them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And
also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and
afterward shall they come out with great substance. Ge
Speaking on this passage in Acts 7:6,
And God spake on this wise, That his seed
should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring
them into bondage, and
entreat them evil
four hundred years.
Thus, Pharaoh’s condemnation
for his own sin is certain.
Turning our attention to the book of
Exodus, we read,
And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou
goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those
wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but
I will harden his heart,
that he shall not let the people go, Ex 4:21.
Here we see God clearly decreeing,
ordaining or predetermining that He would harden Pharaoh’s
heart so that he would not let the people go. At this
point, one might wonder how God could not be charged with
Pharaoh’s sin. What we will learn is God did not
harden Pharaoh’s heart through a direct action upon him.
Pharaoh’s heart was hardened through the secondary
circumstances that tempted him of his own lust and caused
his heart to be hardened. All these circumstances
revealed what was already in his heart.
That God may decree or predetermine
that a person will sin and not be chargeable for that sin is
an apparent dichotomy. But, by faith, we must believe
the entire Bible. We cannot chose to believe only
the parts of the Bible we feel comfortable with or else we
will find ourselves refusing to believe the whole counsel of
The First Sign:
The Rod Becomes a Serpent
Ex 7:3 And
I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply my
signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt.
Here we observe one of the reasons why God
was going to harden Pharaoh’s heart, was to multiply his
signs and wonders. Therefore, from God’s perspective
His hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was not to make Pharaoh
sin, Pharaoh was already a sinner, but it was to multiply
his signs and wonders. Later in the scriptures we see
that these signs and wonders were not only to bring glory to
God but they were used to remind the Israelites of the
greatness of the LORD God.
Ex 7:11 Then Pharaoh also called
the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt,
they also did in like manner with their enchantments.
7:12 For they cast down every man his rod, and they
became serpents: but Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods.
Ex 7:13 And
he (God) hardened Pharaoh’s heart,
that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.
7:14 And the LORD said unto Moses,
Pharaoh’s heart is hardened,
he refuseth to let the people go.
When Pharaoh saw his magician’s rods
became serpents like Aaron’s, the scriptures record this
is how God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. It is likely that
Pharaoh thought, If my magicians can turn their rods into
serpents, why should I listen to Moses? This event is no
temptation by God to get Pharaoh to sin but it is God
revealing through secondary causes or circumstances the sin
that was already in Pharaoh’s heart.
The First Plague:
The Water Turned to Blood
Ex 7:19 And the LORD spake unto Moses,
Say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and stretch out thine hand
upon the waters of Egypt, upon their streams, upon their
rivers, and upon their ponds, and upon all their pools of
water, that they may become blood; and [that] there may be
blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of
wood, and in vessels of stone.
Ex 7:20 And Moses and Aaron did so, as
the LORD commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and smote the
waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and
in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were
in the river were turned to blood.
Ex 7:22 And the magicians of
Egypt did so with their enchantments:
and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, neither did he
hearken unto them; as the LORD had
Pharaoh witnessed Moses and Aaron
turning the water to blood but when Pharaoh saw his
magicians do likewise, again Pharaoh’s heart was hardened.
Notice that the scriptures do not specify whether it was God
or Pharaoh hardening his heart. This is because it is
the secondary causes (the magicians turning the water to
blood) that hardened Pharaoh’s heart. It is these secondary causes in every
hardens Pharaoh’s heart.
The Second Plague:
Ex 8:6 And Aaron stretched out his hand
over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up, and covered
the land of Egypt.
Ex 8:7 And the magicians did so with their
enchantments, and brought up frogs upon the land of Egypt.
Ex 8:8 Then Pharaoh called for Moses
and Aaron, and said, Intreat the LORD, that he may take away
the frogs from me, and from my people; and I will let the
people go, that they may do sacrifice unto the LORD.
And Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh: and Moses cried
unto the LORD because of the frogs which he had brought
Ex 8:13 And the LORD did according to the word of Moses; and
the frogs died out of the houses, out of the villages, and
out of the fields.
Ex 8:14 And they gathered them together upon heaps: and the
But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite,
he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto
as the LORD had said.
Under duress, Pharaoh promised to let
the people go if Moses would end the plague of frogs.
But because there was “respite,” Pharaoh hardened his
heart. Again we see that it was a secondary cause, the
respite that caused Pharaoh to harden his heart. We
also see that even God’s goodness to Pharaoh, the removing
of the frogs, caused (not directly but indirectly) Pharaoh
Ex 8:16 ¶ And the LORD said unto Moses,
Say unto Aaron, Stretch out thy rod, and smite the dust of
the land, that it may become lice throughout all the land of
Ex 8:17 And they did so; for Aaron
stretched out his hand with his rod, and smote the dust of
the earth, and it became lice in man, and in beast; all the
dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of
Ex 8:18 And the magicians did so with
their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not:
so there were lice upon man, and upon beast.
Ex 8:19 Then the magicians said
unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God: and
Pharaoh’s heart was hardened,
and he hearkened not unto them; as
the LORD had said.
This is the first time Pharaoh's
magicians have not been able to duplicate Moses and Aaron's
signs. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened
by the magicians when they said, “This is the finger
of God.” The magician's observation is another example
of a secondary cause that led proud Pharaoh’s heart to be
hardened, Ex 10:3. Pride goeth before destruction, and
an haughty spirit before a fall. Pr 16:18
Ex 8:24 And the LORD did so; and there came a grievous swarm
of flies into the house of Pharaoh, and into his
servants’ houses, and into all the land of Egypt: the land
was corrupted by reason of the swarm of flies.
And Pharaoh said, I will let you go, that ye may sacrifice
to the LORD your God in the wilderness; only ye shall not go
very far away: intreat for me.
Ex 8:29 And Moses said, Behold, I go out from thee, and I
will intreat the LORD that the swarms of flies may depart
from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people, to
morrow: but let not Pharaoh deal deceitfully any more in not
letting the people go to sacrifice to the LORD.
Ex 8:30 And Moses went out from Pharaoh, and intreated the
Ex 8:31 And the LORD did
according to the word of Moses; and he removed the swarms of
flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people;
there remained not one.
Ex 8:32 And
Pharaoh hardened his heart
at this time also, neither would he let the people go.
Once the flies were gone, as with the
respite in Ex 8:15, Pharaoh again, through secondary causes
(i.e. the respite), hardens his heart.
Fifth Plague: The
Livestock Killed with a Murrain
Ex 9:3 Behold, the hand of the LORD is
upon thy cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon
the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the
sheep: there shall be a very grievous murrain.
Ex 9:4 And the LORD shall sever between the cattle of Israel
and the cattle of Egypt: and there shall nothing die of all
that is the children’s of Israel.
Ex 9:5 And the LORD appointed a set time, saying, To morrow
the LORD shall do this thing in the land.
Ex 9:6 And the LORD did that thing on the morrow, and all
the cattle of Egypt died: but of the cattle of the children
of Israel died not one.
Ex 9:7 And Pharaoh sent, and,
behold, there was not one of the cattle of the Israelites
dead. And the heart of Pharaoh was
hardened, and he did not let the people go.
Through secondary causes Pharaoh’s
heart is hardened because none of the children of Israel’s
cattle were dead. It is the circumstances God is
bringing into Pharaoh’s life which reveal the sin of his
heart and how great that sin is!
Ex 9:8 ¶ And the LORD said unto Moses
and unto Aaron, Take to you handfuls of ashes of the
furnace, and let Moses sprinkle it toward the heaven in the
sight of Pharaoh.
Ex 9:9 And it shall become small dust in all the land of
Egypt, and shall be a boil breaking forth with blains upon
man, and upon beast, throughout all the land of Egypt.
Ex 9:10 And they took ashes of the furnace, and stood before
Pharaoh; and Moses sprinkled it up toward heaven; and it
became a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and
Ex 9:11 And the magicians could
not stand before Moses because of the boils; for the boil
was upon the magicians, and upon all the Egyptians.
Ex 9:12 And
the LORD hardened the heart of
Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the
LORD had spoken unto Moses.
Whether Pharaoh’s heart was hardened
because the magicians could not longer stand before Moses or
not is difficult to ascertain. But Pharaoh’s
stubbornness is plainly evident, 1Sa 15:23.
Undoubtedly, it was through Pharaoh’s continued stubbornness
and pride that his heart was hardened, Ex 10:3.
Thunder and Hail Mixed with Fire
Ex 9:23 And Moses stretched forth his
rod toward heaven: and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and
the fire ran along upon the ground; and the LORD rained hail
upon the land of Egypt.
Ex 9:24 So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail,
very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the
land of Egypt since it became a nation.
Ex 9:25 And the hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt
all that was in the field, both man and beast; and the
hail smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of
Ex 9:27 And Pharaoh sent, and
called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them,
have sinned this time: the LORD is righteous,
and I and my people are wicked.
Ex 9:33 And Moses went out of the
city from Pharaoh, and spread abroad his hands unto the
LORD: and the thunders and hail ceased, and the rain was not
poured upon the earth.
Ex 9:34 And when Pharaoh saw that
the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he
more, and hardened his heart,
he and his servants.
Ex 9:35 And the
heart of Pharaoh was hardened,
neither would he let the children of Israel go;
as the LORD had spoken by Moses.
In this passage we gain more insight
into Pharaoh’s heart when he acknowledges for the first time
that he has sinned and that he and his people are wicked.
However, the scriptures reveal that he sinned even
more by refusing to let the people go and that he did so by
hardening his heart. On this occasion his heart was
hardened when the hail and thunders were ceased. This
is the same way it was hardened as when there was a respite
in Ex 8:15.
Interlude Between Seventh and
Ex 10:1 And the LORD said unto
Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I
have hardened his heart, and the heart of his
servants, that I might shew these my signs before him:
Ex 10:2 And that thou mayest tell
in the ears of thy son, and of thy son’s son, what things I
have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among
them; that ye may know how that I am the LORD.
Ex 10:3 And Moses and Aaron came
in unto Pharaoh, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD God
of the Hebrews, How long wilt thou refuse to humble
thyself before me? Let my people go, that they
may serve me.
This passage identifies that the way in
which God was hardening Pharaoh’s heart was not through a
direct action upon him, but through Pharaoh’s pride and
stubbornness, Pharaoh refused to humble himself.
Also, the LORD that the purpose of
allowing Pharaoh to continue defying God’s will, was so that
the Israelites would be able to tell their descendants the
great things God had done that they might know that the LORD
Ex 10:14 And the locusts went up
over all the land of Egypt, and rested in all the coasts of
Egypt: very grievous were they; before them there were no
such locusts as they, neither after them shall be such.
Ex 10:15 For they covered the
face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and
they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of
the trees which the hail had left: and there remained not
any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the field,
through all the land of Egypt.
Ex 10:16 Then Pharaoh called for
Moses and Aaron in haste; and he said,
I have sinned
against the LORD your God, and against you.
Ex 10:17 Now therefore
forgive, I pray thee, my sin
only this once, and intreat the LORD your God, that he may
take away from me this death only.
Ex 10:18 And he went out from
Pharaoh, and intreated the LORD.
Ex 10:19 And the LORD turned a
mighty strong west wind, which took away the locusts, and
cast them into the Red sea; there remained not one locust in
all the coasts of Egypt.
Ex 10:20 But
the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart,
so that he would not let the children of Israel go.
The Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart not
by directly hardening it but by taking away the locusts.
If anything, God’s goodness towards Pharaoh led Pharaoh to
harden his heart because the locusts were gone.
Further, Pharaoh admits that he is to blame for his sin in
verses 16 and 17, thus God is not left chargeable for
Ex 10:22 And Moses stretched forth his
hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all
the land of Egypt three days:
Ex 10:23 They saw not one another, neither rose any from his
place for three days: but all the children of Israel had
light in their dwellings.
Ex 10:24 And Pharaoh called unto
Moses, and said, Go ye, serve the LORD; only let your flocks
and your herds be stayed: let your little ones also go with
Ex 10:25 And Moses said, Thou must give us also sacrifices
and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice unto the LORD our
Ex 10:26 Our cattle also shall go with us; there shall not
an hoof be left behind; for thereof must we take to serve
the LORD our God; and we know not with what we must serve
the LORD, until we come thither.
Ex 10:27 But
the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart,
and he would not let them go.
As in Ex 8:15, Pharaoh’s heart was
hardened because the darkness was ended and Moses would not
compromise and leave the flocks and herds.
Tenth Plague: The
Death of All
Ex 11:1 ¶ And the LORD said unto Moses,
Yet will I bring one plague more upon Pharaoh, and
upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go hence: when he
shall let you go, he shall surely thrust you out hence
Ex 11:4 ¶ And Moses said, Thus saith the
LORD, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt:
Ex 11:5 And all the firstborn in the
land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the
maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn
Ex 11:6 And there shall be a great
cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none
like it, nor shall be like it any more.
Ex 11:9 And the LORD said unto
Moses, Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you; that my
wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.
Ex 11:10 And Moses and Aaron did all
these wonders before Pharaoh: and
the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart,
so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of
God reiterates that the purpose of the
ten wonders and the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart each time
thus far are to multiply His wonders in the land of Egypt.
Ex 12:29 ¶ And it came to pass, that at
midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of
Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne
unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon;
and all the firstborn of cattle.
Ex 12:30 And Pharaoh rose up in
the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians;
and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a
house where there was not one dead.
Ex 12:31 And he called for Moses
and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth
from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel;
and go, serve the LORD, as ye have said.
Ex 12:32 Also take your flocks
and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me
Now with the tenth and final plague,
Pharaoh thrusts the people out of Israel. Just as God said,
He no longer hardens Pharaoh's heart and Pharaoh lets the
The Israelites Camp
by the Red Sea
Ex 14:1 ¶ And the LORD spake unto
Ex 14:2 Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn
and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea,
over against Baalzephon: before it shall ye encamp by the
Ex 14:3 For Pharaoh will say of
the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the
wilderness hath shut them in.
Ex 14:4 And
I will harden Pharaoh’s heart,
that he shall follow after them; and
I will be honoured upon
Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know
that I am the LORD. And they did so.
Ex 14:5 And it was told the king
of Egypt that the people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and
of his servants was turned against the people, and they
said, Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from
Ex 14:6 And he made ready his
chariot, and took his people with him:
And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt,
and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the
children of Israel went out with an high hand.
Pharaoh’s heart was hardened again
through secondary causes. Pharaoh regrets loosing his
slave labor and he pursues after the people because he
thinks they are entangled in the land and that the
wilderness had shut them in. Also we see that God is
bringing this to pass in order that He may gain honor over
Pharaoh by demonstrating his deliverance with a high hand
and ultimately destroying Pharaoh and the Egyptian army in
the Red Sea.
The Israelites Pass
Through the Red Sea
Ex 14:16 But lift thou up thy
rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it:
and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through
the midst of the sea.
Ex 14:17 And I, behold,
I will harden the hearts of the
Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and
I will get me honour upon Pharaoh,
and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his
Pharaoh’s heart was hardened one last
time by seeing the Israelites escaping through the Red Sea.
Not only was Pharaoh’s heart hardened but his entire army
foolishly pursues the Israelites into the sea. God’s
final honor over Pharaoh after destroying the Egyptian
nation, destroying all their livestock, all their crops and
finally all their first born is to destroy Pharaoh and his
army in the sea.
Ex 14:26 And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch
out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the
Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.
Ex 14:27 And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the
sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the
Egyptians fled against it; and the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in
the midst of the sea.
Ex 14:28 And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the
horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after
them; there remained not so much as one of them.
God hardened the heart of Pharaoh for
the purpose of destroying him and bringing honor to his
name. As we consider this, we turn to the Apostle Paul’s exposition to the church at
Ro 9:15 For he saith to Moses, I
will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have
compassion on whom I will have compassion. (Ex 33:19)
Ro 9:16 So then it is not of him
that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that
Ro 9:17 For the scripture saith
unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee
up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name
might be declared throughout all the earth. (Ex 9:16)
Ro 9:18 Therefore hath he mercy
on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
It is God’s sovereign prerogative why
he has mercy on one and hardens another. But it is a
fact that God operates in this manner.
Paul anticipates that many would object to the way God dealt with Pharaoh
and says in the next verse:
Ro 9:19 Thou wilt say then unto
me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his
Indeed, who has resisted the will of
God? But the issue is not one of God forcing Pharaoh
to do something that was against his will; rather it's the
way Pharaoh was made that determined his response to
his circumstance. Thus Paul concludes with:
Ro 9:15 Nay but, O man, who art
thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say
to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
No one may dare reply against God.
God formed Pharaoh specifically for the purpose of
justifiably destroying him for his sins and showing His
power over Pharaoh and declaring his name throughout the
earth. God’s name is still being declared throughout
the earth for his great power in dealing with Pharaoh and
all other sinners upon the earth whose destruction continues
to bring glory to God. Therefore, Paul continues,
Ro 9:21 Hath not the potter power
over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto
honour, and another unto dishonour?
What a power this is to make man as
he wishes, some to honor others to dishonor! This
power of God is not only one of ability but one of
authority. Regardless of whether mankind likes it or
not, God has the power and the authority to make his pots of
clay exactly as he pleases. Then to answer the
question of why God does this, Paul concludes with:
Ro 9:22 What if God, willing to
shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with
much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to
Ro 9:23 And that he might make
known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which
he had afore prepared unto glory,
Ro 9:24 Even us, whom he hath
called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
Paul puts this forth as a question but
it has a rhetorical answer. What if God does these
things in the manner just described? He does it
because He will show his wrath and His longsuffering towards
sinners who justly suffer their destruction. And he
does it because He will make known the riches of his glory
on sinners who are the recipients of his mercy.
God orchestrated events that ended with
Pharaoh's sin. But these events merely revealed what was
already in Pharaoh’s heart’s desire to do. God did not
put that sin there. Pharaoh’s succumbing to temptation
was all of his, born out of his lust for power and hatred of
Because the subject of how God may
decree a person will sin and yet not be the author of it is
a difficult doctrine to grasp, sometimes through
misunderstanding a person might be led into error. For that reason,
many have chosen not to discuss it. However, it is
provable from the scriptures that anyone who is led to sin
through a misunderstanding of this subject only does so
because they are revealing the sin that is in their heart.
The spiritually minded person will not falter but give glory
to God for his sovereign majesty as He reigns and rules all
the affairs of His creation.
God told Moses these things were
brought to pass in order to bring Him much honor and glory.
If we are able to lay hold of these great truths, we will
likewise bring much honor and glory to His holy name.
Elder James Taylor