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Reference: Hardening


Both in the OT (1Sa 6:6) and in the NT (Ro 9:17 f.) Pharaoh's hardening is regarded as typical. In Exodus, two explanations are given of his stubbornness: (1) 'Pharaoh hardened his heart' (Ro 8:15,32); (2) 'the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh' (Ro 9:12). The former statement recognizes man's moral responsibility, and is in accord with the exhortation, 'Harden not your hearts' (Ps 95:8; Heb 3:8). To the latter statement St. Paul confines his thought when he insists on the sovereignty of God as manifested in the election of grace (Ro 9:18); but having vindicated the absolute freedom of the Divine action, the Apostle proceeds to show that the Divine choice is neither arbitrary nor unjust. The difficulty involved in combining the two statements is philosophical rather than theological. 'The attempt to understand the relation between the human will and the Divine seems to lead of necessity to an antinomy which thought has not as yet succeeded in transcending' (Denney, Expositor's Greek Testament ii. 663). The same Divine action softens the heart of him who repents and finds mercy, but hardens the heart of him who obstinately refuses to give heed to the Divine call. 'The sweet persuasion of His voice respects thy sanctity of will.' The RV rightly renders Mr 3:5 'being grieved at the hardening of their heart'; grief is the permanent attitude of the Saviour towards all in whom there is any sign of this 'process of moral ossification which renders men insensible to spiritual truth' (Swete, Com, in loc.).

J. G. Tasker.

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