QUESTION: "I was going through Exodus and was reading about the plagues and noticed something the significance of which I don't understand and am hoping someone can help me understand. In the first 5 plagues it always says in some way that Pharaoh hardened his heart, but in the last 5 it says that the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart. Why the change? I guess it just does not make sense to me. Is there some significance to the last five plagues that I am missing?"
ANSWER FROM THE ELDERS: The elders and ministers have researched your question and found that a former professor at Ozark Christian College, Wilbur Fields, did a special study on the exact question you asked - the Hardening of Pharaoh's Heart. We think the following information taken from Bro. Fields' study does an excellent job of answering your question. Here is what he wrote:
"In the passages about the hardening of Pharaoh's heart, sometimes it says that (1) Pharaoh hardened his own heart; sometimes that (2) his heart was hardenened - without any clear incidication as to whetehter God or Pharaoh himself was the main agent in the hardening; sometimes that (3) God hardened his heart. Conclusions about the hardening of Pharaoh's heart: 1. In the very first reference to Pharaoh's not letting Israel go places, the basic choice about and blame for hardness falls upon Pharaoh himself (Exodus 3:9). 2. God promised that He would further harden Pharaoh's heart, since Pharaoh himslef had started in this evil way (4:21). 3. After the first five plagues, either the statement is made that Pharaoh hardened his own heart, or the scripture is indefinite about who hardened it. Pharaoh himself made the first choices, and started his own troubles. 4. After the sixth plague, God hardened his heart. Probably Pharaoh sensed to some degree that he was being pushed by a power outside of himself. He was being shown what might be the consequences of further determined hardness. 5. After the seventh plague, God again left the choice of response to Pharaoh. Pharaoh confesses that he has sinned (9:27). But he sinned yet more, and hardened his own heart again (9:34). 6. After all these opportunities to choose right had been spurned by Pharaoh, God finally stepped in and hardened his heart after the last three plagues. Because Pharaoh chose to go the way of disobedient hardness, God pushed him down his self-chosen route to the bitterest end of his folly." "Take heed lest any one of YOU be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." Hebrews 3:13