by D. A. Carson
In EXODUS 4 two elements introduce complex developments that stretch forward to the rest of the Bible.
The first is the reason God gives as to why Pharaoh will not be impressed by the miracles that Moses performs. God declares, “I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go” (4:21). During the succeeding chapters, the form of expression varies: not only “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart” (7:3), but also “Pharaoh’s heart became hard” or “was hard” (7:13, 22; 8:19, etc.) and “he hardened his heart” (8:15, 32, etc). No simple pattern is discernible in these references. On the one hand, we cannot say that the pattern works up from “Pharaoh hardened his heart” to “Pharaoh’s heart was hardened” to “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart” (as if God’s hardening were nothing more than the divine judicial confirmation of a pattern the man had chosen for himself); on the other hand, we cannot say that the pattern simply works down from “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart” to “Pharaoh’s heart was hardened” to “Pharaoh hardened his heart” (as if Pharaoh’s self-imposed hardening was nothing more than the inevitable out-working of the divine decree).