On the Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart

“But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you;” Exodus 7:3-4a

What do we make of these verses from the Book of Exodus? Did God take away the Pharaoh’s free will? Did God force the Pharaoh to do evil? If so, does He do the same to people today?

We can find great answers to these questions in the teaching of St. Augustine ( 354-430 AD), a Doctor of the Church. In his “Questions on Exodus”, Question 18, we read:

He continues:

St. Augustine ends with an example:

From this we can glean some basic principles:

  • God can make good use of evil hearts.
  • the quality of evil of each heart came from it’s own evildoing.
  • Pharaoh had such a heart, which was the result of his freely chosen vice
  • Hearts are moved “this way or that” by causes or motives that come from the providence of God
  • These motives are not under the control of evil men, but evil men act in ways established by their own past decisions.

St. Augustine for the win!


Catena, https://catenabible.com/com/5838d9a2205c248f42e5276e, retrieved July 25, 2021

https://sites.google.com/site/aquinasstudybible/home/exodus/questions-on-exodus-by-augustine-of-hippo, retrieved July 25, 2021

One thought on “On the Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart

  1. St. Augustine’s position is corroborated by St. James:
    Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.
    James 1:13-15

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