One may read Bible passages that speak of God hardening one’s heart and be perplexed. It surely isn’t plausible that a moral God causes people to sin. The Bible says God hates evil but then to suggest God secretly causes people to commit evil acts seems ludicrous. Exodus 7:3 says: “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart…” But, numerous times in the context of this story Pharaoh is said to harden his own heart: “But this time also Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go” (Ex 8:32). There must be a plausible explanation for only a mindless writer or editor would seemingly contradict themselves in practically the same breath.
One possible interpretative solution is to suggest the objectionable phrase is simply God withdrawing His influence because of choices made. There is a self-hardening in evil. Why isn’t it acceptable to interpret the more objectionable phrase by the explanatory phase occurring in the same context, which harmonizes with the rest of Scriptures’ portrayal of God’s character? Also, the idiom of the Hebrew language may explain such speak. William Green points out in Turkey due to the idiom of the language one might say: “I made my steamer run away” rather than “I missed my steamer” (Classical Evangelical Essays, Walter Kaiser, Editor, p. 211).
God could also have been active in hardening Pharaoh’s heart. Thomas Talbott in The Inescapable Love of God suggests the Hebrew word used for hardening literally means “to strengthen.” God could have given Pharaoh the courage to carry out the true desires of his heart (74-75). God’s hardening is not arbitrary. It is not as if God hardens one’s heart despite their wish to be moral. God doesn’t require evil to accomplish good. God would have gladly accepted Pharaoh’s change in heart at any time. God though giving Pharaoh the courage to fulfill his immoral desires could accomplish good in the long-run that may not happen otherwise.
God may further harden someone, that has chosen to rebel, for their own benefit. A loving God only asks us to do what is in our best interest. God’s wrath is simply the more severe form of God’s love. Parents often must show tough love by creating consequences that hopefully may change a child’s mind for their well-being. God strengthening Pharaoh’s heart allows Pharaoh to see the destruction of his sin. God sometimes may go to great measures so we might consider the welfare of all we impact. It isn’t necessarily immoral “For God to bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all” (Rom. 11:32).
There is no evidence that God violated Pharaoh’s freedom. Scriptures as a whole suggest that God allows the freedom to continue to act on one’s evil choices. Sometimes, we may not interfere in a child’s life, allowing further destruction, knowing that may be the only way for them to eventually change for their own good. God not destroying evil allows mercy in the long-run as people in time recognize the devastation of their behaviors and seek forgiveness which prevents further acts of destruction. This story surely conveys that God used Pharaoh for His purposes to accomplish His will, which is always centered on His love for all people including Pharaoh.