One good question when you read the account of Pharaoh and the Israelites is the question who hardened his heart? Did he harden his heart towards God or did God harden his heart?
Exodus 7:3-4 says, “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my people the Israelites.” It seems unjust for God to harden Pharaoh’s heart and then to punish Pharaoh and Egypt for what Pharaoh decided when his heart was hardened. Why would God harden Pharaoh’s heart just so He could judge Egypt more severely with additional plagues?
First, Pharaoh was not an innocent or godly man. He was a brutal dictator overseeing the terrible abuse and oppression of the Israelites, who likely numbered over 1.5 million people at that time. The Egyptian pharaohs had enslaved the Israelites for 400 years. A previous pharaoh—possibly even the pharaoh in question—ordered that male Israelite babies be killed at birth (Exodus 1:16). The pharaoh God hardened was an evil man, and the nation he ruled agreed with, or at least did not oppose, his evil actions.
Second, before the first few plagues, Pharaoh hardened his own heart against letting the Israelites go.
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One of my favorite theologians, the ever witty Dr Jim West has just been going through his King James Bible (KJV) and realises that:
I John 2:2 declares ‘And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world’ (KJV). There’s just one problem with this translation: ἱλασμός doesn’t mean ‘propitiation’, it means ‘expiation’.
When you ‘propitiate’ a deity you do the same thing as the natives do when they trundle up a volcano and toss a virgin in it to stop the angry god from destroying you and your fellow islanders.
When ‘expiation’ occurs you do the same thing as the Israelites did when they put their hands on the scapegoat and sent it off into the wilderness. That goat ‘bears your sins away’ where they can’t harm you anymore and their effects are ameliorated.
This is why accurate translation matters. The difference between rendering ἱλασμός propitiation and expiation is the difference between pagan ritual and revelation. …Read More!