Pharaoh’s Heart Was Hardened
Pharaoh’s Heart Was Hardened
God spoke to Moses a lot.
In Exodus 3, God appeared to Moses in the burning bush.
In Exodus 4, God spoke to Moses in Midian and appeared to him at a lodging place along the way.
In Exodus 6, God spoke to Moses in Egypt.
In Exodus 4:10 and 6:12, Moses told the Lord that he could not speak well, and then in Exodus 6:30 Moses said for a third time that he could not speak well.
Moses did not go to Egypt with a lot of self-confidence, and it appears that he did not move at all unless the Lord commanded him to do so. At each step along the way, God told Moses what to do, and He also told Moses what to expect.
From the start, God told Moses that Pharaoh would not be willing to let the people of Israel go. God repeatedly said that Pharaoh would not let the people go.
In Exodus 7, God speaks to Moses again. He reveals a little more of His plan and gives the next step in the process. Exodus 7:1 says:
And the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet.” (Exodus 7:1 ESV)
This statement begins chapter 7, but that does not mean there is any gap in time between the last verse of chapter 6 and this verse. Therefore, it follows immediately after Moses’ objection that he was of uncircumcised lips.
God’s answer to Moses was: “And the Lord [Yahweh] said to Moses, ‘See, I have made you God [Elohim] to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet.’” With these words, we understand that God assigned Moses as His spokesman, God’s mouthpiece. He was to speak for God, and Aaron was to speak for him. The Lord says:
You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land. (Exodus 7:2 ESV)
It is essential to understand that Moses was to speak what the Lord commanded and that he was to say all of it. Moses was not making up any of what he said. God told him what to say. He was speaking words given to him by God. Moses had approached Pharaoh with the statement, “Thus says the Lord...” in Exodus 5:1, and he was rebuffed in no uncertain terms. By making Moses “God” to Pharaoh, God makes it clear that it was not Moses that Pharaoh was refusing. Pharaoh was rejecting God.
This is essential for us because God still speaks, and many in this world do not listen. We are not to make up anything of our own. Opinions are not the same as the Word of God. We are to give the world the word of God. However, the world will not listen. The Lord has told us the world will not listen. God told Moses, “Pharaoh will not listen to you.” God tells us the same thing. We have a parallel in the New Testament where Paul uses the incident we are reading about today to illustrate what we can expect from the world.
2 Timothy 3:1-8 says:
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. (2 Timothy 3:1-8 ESV)
We will cover more of the parallels between this and what was happening between God, Moses and Pharaoh, but first, we must understand that just as God warned Moses that Pharaoh’s heart would be hard and ears closed, God warns us that people’s hearts will be hard and ears closed.
God also told Moses in Exodus 7:4 that He would “...lay my hand on Egypt and bring my people out of Egypt by great acts of judgment.” God does this so, “The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” (Exodus 7:5)
There are consequences for closed ears and hard hearts, and Pharaoh serves as an example of what happens to those who refuse to listen to the Lord. The ten plagues that God strikes Egypt with each confront a specific sin or idol with which the Egyptians were buttressing the walls built around their hearts.
However, before we get to those battles, we must first witness the next confrontation. The first time Moses confronted Pharaoh is recorded in Exodus 5. Moses said, “Thus says the Lord...” And, Pharaoh rebuffed him.
In Exodus 7, the confrontation involves a display of power. Pharaoh asks for proof. Exodus 7:8 says:
"When Pharaoh says to you, 'Prove yourselves by working a miracle,' then you shall say to Aaron, 'Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.'" (Exodus 7:9 ESV)
Moses was to have Aaron throw down his staff if Pharaoh said, “Prove yourselves by working a miracle.” God said, “When Pharaoh says...” Pharaoh apparently said ... because Moses told Aaron to throw down his rod. Having asked for proof, we would expect Pharaoh to accept the proof. But instead, he called for his wise men, sorcerers and magicians.
These were the educated men of his days. Pharaoh had his own private collection of magic books and knowledge reserved only for himself and his magicians. We know that the Egyptians practiced embalming and engineering that rival modern accomplishments. They were not ignorant, and they were committed to what could be termed occult practices.
Many have undertaken to explain what happened next, but when Aaron threw down his staff, the Scriptures say:
Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs. (Exodus 7:11-12 ESV)
Since many scholars do not believe in magic, many commentaries take the Egyptian staffs turning into serpents as some sort of sleight of hand. If we take the Bible for what it says, the Egyptian sorcerers were able to reproduce the miracle of turning their staffs into snakes.
The Bible speaks of demons, the power of darkness and the devil, and it is not speaking in metaphors. The confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh involved the power of God in Moses and Aaron and the power of darkness in the Egyptian enchanters. The same battle has continued throughout history.
In Matthew 24:24, Jesus warns of those who will perform false signs and wonders.
For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. (Matthew 24:24 ESV)
We know that the devil is a deceiver. Jesus told us:
He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44 ESV)
One of his lies is that he does not exist or that he is inactive in our world. Another lie is that he is somehow equal with God as an adversary. The Bible is clear:
Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4 ESV)
We do not fear the evil one because Jesus won the battle over death and the grave. Satan is a creature, and God, the creator. There is no comparison of power, position or authority. However, God has allowed the evil one to continue to oppose Him at the present time. As 1 John 5:19 says:
We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. (1 John 5:19 ESV)
The confrontation between Moses, Aaron and Pharaoh reflects the battle that is in the world. It is not a metaphor. It was a skirmish in the continuing battle. The staffs were pieces of wood upon which the powers of the unseen world worked.
Please note that everyone present had a staff. Moses’ staff was a shepherd’s tool, and he was instructed by God to carry his staff. The Egyptians’ staffs were the tools of their trade as well. Egyptian hieroglyphics depict staffs of various kinds and common among them are staffs shaped like serpents. These staffs represented authority and position and were related to the priestly or ritual functions of the magicians and sorcerers.
The carrying of staffs seems to have been ubiquitous. Everyone had a staff. They were practical since practically everyone walked everywhere. Having a staff to assist in walking, as well as confrontations with anything met with along the road, was a part of life. The magicians and rulers carried specialized staffs as symbols of authority and position.
When the authority of God was challenged by the authority of Pharaoh, God’s authority swallowed Pharaoh’s. The event was real, and the symbolic meaning was significant.
The Egyptians obeyed authority from gods or spiritual powers. These powers spoke through Pharaoh and through the magicians. There was no higher authority in Egypt. All authority in heaven and earth was resident in these authorities, and these authorities were symbolized in the staffs of the men present in that room. When Aaron’s staff swallowed their staffs, the message was sent that a greater authority was present.
In our day, the greatest authority is the individual, the intellect and the conscience. Each person determines for themselves what is true, what is important, and what is right. No king, Pharaoh, or priest can tell an individual what he or she must do.
The individual appeals to science, religion or conscience as the authority for each decision. The authority to which we appeal is our staff. We lean on it for support.
Let’s return to what Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:1-8. Remember, we read that in the last days, “there will come times of difficulty.” And, we read that people would always be learning but never “able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” That passage ends with:
Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. (2 Timothy 3:8 ESV)
According to tradition, Jannes and Jambres were the two chief servants of Pharaoh whose staffs were among those swallowed by Aaron’s staff.
When Moses met God at the burning bush, he threw down his staff at the command of God, and it became the staff of God. This was an act of surrender and obedience. When Jannes and Jambres threw down their staffs, it was an act of challenge and opposition.
Pharaoh did not choose to surrender. Exodus 7:13 tells us that in spite of the demonstration of God’s authority and power, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen.
The question for us today is what it will take for us to surrender.
You have your staff, the thing that you lean on for authority. What will it take for you to surrender to the God who made you?
Jesus illustrates what this looks like when He met with His disciples after the resurrection. They were professional fishermen; their nets were their staffs. They were experts. They fished all night and did not catch anything. Nothing was wrong with their technique. Nothing was wrong with their nets. But Jesus told them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. There was no change in substance to what they were doing. They just surrendered. They surrendered their nets to the Lord, and He gave the increase.