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Weekly Torah Portion: Va'era (And I Appeared) "THE HARDENING OF PHARAOH'S HEART'

Va'era (And I appeared)
Torah: Shemot (Exodus) 6:2 - 9:35
Haftarah (Writings and Prophets): Ezekiel 28:25 - 29:21.
B'rit Hadasha (Gospel): Luke 11:14-22; Romans 9:14-17; 2 Corinthians 6:14 - 7:1.
7:3 “I will harden Par`oh’s heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt.”(HNV)
The real fight that Moses and Aaron- representing YHVH and the prophet who prepared His way- had with Pharaoh, was YHVH establishing His truths in the world and exposing religious lies. YHVH could have easily blown the entire Egyptian royal family, and all the dynasties before them, to shiny shambles sparsely spread across the Sahara Desert, then been done with the entire situation. He could have raptured His chosen people out of Egypt to the Promised Land, skipping their trials in the wilderness, fitting with what many Christian theologians believe will happen in the End Times. Likewise, He could have destroyed the entire 10th Legion of Rome before the Temple could be destroyed, as He did the Assyrians when they came to destroy Jerusalem.
YHVH, however, wants His people to see His salvation and decide for themselves what is right, with signs and wonders, even with a chance for the hardened hearts of the wicked to believe. Pharaoh did not know YHVH (see Exod. 5:1-2), and YHVH wanted to show him and his people the truth, to battle the prevailing false religion of the age. Like Noah and his seven family members suffering trials of the deluge, before their glorious deliverance and REST in a new world, the Israelite's had to witness their deliverance in the most trying of times. The battle is for truth in the world, and YHVH'S people are not exempt from its demands and temptations.
Now according to our point of view the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was not because of a pre-determined decision that the Eternal Creator had made. That would violate the principle of the freedom to choose. YHVH gave Pharaoh many chances to turn from his sin, as it is written in 2 Peter 3:9, “YHVH is not slow concerning his promise, as some count slowness; but is patient with us, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”(HNV)
In 1 Timothy 2:4, it is written,
“who desires all people to be saved and come to full knowledge of the truth.”(HNV)
Rambam writes, “Do not think in the same way as the senseless nations of the world, and in the way of the majority of the ignorant in Israel, that the Consecrated One, may he be blessed, from the beginning of his creation of man decided if man should be righteous or evil. It is not this way. There is no one that can force another, or push, or draw him to one of these two ways. It is only the person himself, who by his own decision will go in the way that he wishes.”
YHVH said to Moshe that he would harden Pharaoh’s heart so that he would be able to multiply his signs and wonders. We see however, that the Eternal did not harden Pharaoh’s heart until after five plagues had come. During the first five plagues, which according to Midrash literature, lasted for 5 months, it was Pharaoh himself who made his heart so strong that he did not listen to the words of the Eternal.
In Exodus 4:21, YHVH said that he would strengthen Pharaoh’s heart. The Hebrew word is chazak, which means “strengthen oneself/be strong”, “be courageous”, “harden oneself”. The Eternal promised that he would strengthen Pharaoh’s heart so that he would be able to continue in his rebellious attitude and not lose the strength to resist the Eternal. If YHVH had not made Pharaoh’s inner man strong, He would not have been able to perform the last great wonders before the whole world. YHVH was, therefore, taking advantage of Pharaoh once he had decided to go the way of rebellion.
In Exodus 7:3, we see that the Eternal said that he would harden Pharaoh’s heart. The Hebrew word is kashah, which means, “be hard”, “difficult”. This is the only time that the word “harden” is found in relation to Pharaoh.
During the five first plagues, we can see how Pharaoh strengthens his own heart in rebellion. In Exodus 7:13, 22; 8:19 (8:15, in the Hebrew text); 9:12, 35; 10:20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8, 17; we find the word chazak, “strengthen”.
In Exodus 7:14; 8:15 (8:11 Heb.), 32 (28 Heb.); 9:7, 34; 10:1, the word kavad is found. It means “be heavy”, “weigh”, “be a burden”, “receive honor”.
From all these texts we learn that when a person is walking in stubborn rebellion against the will of YHVH, he will come to a point where the grace of the YHH is withdrawn. Then there is no longer the opportunity to repent. He has crossed over the line and is condemned to be a vessel of wrath prepared for destruction, as it is written in Romans 9:22,
“What if Elohim, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath made for destruction”
After having passed the point of no return, the YHVH strengthens the person in his rebellion. This has a threefold purpose. First of all, he does this to confirm the decision that the person has made, that he has the right to live according to his free choice.
Secondly, he does it to show those around that what earlier looked like repentance was only a façade, as in Exodus 9:27 "So Pharaoh sent, called for Moses and Aaron and said to them, “I have sinned this time. YHVH is righteous, while I and my people are wicked."
So when the judgment comes, no one can say that Elohim (God) punishes those who have repented. The rebellion of the individual is apparent to everyone and therefore no one can make the mistake of saying that the heavenly punishment is unjust.
Thirdly, YHVH hardens the sinner in order to show his power through the great judgments that will be revealed. Then the people of Israel and other people can know his great power, see Exodus 7:4-5; 9:15-16.
Exodus 9:15-16 Surely by now I could have stretched out My hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. 16 However, I have let you stand for this reason: to show you My power, and that My Name might be proclaimed throughout all the earth.
Who’s Doing What?
Shemot [Exodus] 8:15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not to them, as YHVH had spoken.
Shemot [Exodus] 8:28-32 And Pharaoh said, “I will let you go, that you may sacrifice to YHVH your Elohim in the wilderness;
only you shall not go very far away; entreat for me.” 29 And Moshe said, “Behold, I go out from you, and I will entreat YHVH that the swarms of flies may depart from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people, tomorrow; only let not Pharaoh deal deceitfully any more in not letting the people go to sacrifice to YHVH.”30 And Moshe went out from Pharaoh, and entreated YHVH. 31 And YHVH did according to the word of Moshe; and he removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people; there remained not one. 32 And Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and he did not let the people go.
Shemot [Exodus] 9:4-7 “And YHVH shall make a distinction between the cattle of Israel and the cattle of Egypt; and there
shall nothing die of all that belongs to the children of Israel.”
5 And YHVH appointed a set time, saying, “Tomorrow YHVH shall do this thing in the land.” 6 And YHVH did that thing on the morrow; and all the cattle of Egypt died; but of the cattle of the children of Israel not one died. 7 And Pharaoh sent, and, behold, there was not so much as one of the cattle of the Israelites dead.
But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.
Shemot [Exodus] 9:11-12 And the magicians could not stand before Moshe because of the boils; for the boils were upon the magicians, and upon all the Egyptians. 12 And YHVH hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not to them, as YHVH had spoken to Moshe.
Shemot [Exodus] 9:34-35 And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants. 35 And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the children of Israel go, as YHVH had spoken by Moshe.
Shemot [Exodus] 10:16-20 Then Pharaoh called for Moshe and Aharon in haste; and he said, “I have sinned against YHVH your Elohim, and against you. 17 Now therefore forgive, I pray you, my sin only this once, and entreat YHVH your Elohim, that he may take away from me this death only.” 18 And he went out from Pharaoh, and entreated YHVH. 19 And YHVH turned an exceeding strong west wind, which took up the locusts, and drove them into the Red Sea; there remained not one locust in all the border of Egypt. 20 But YHVH hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he did not let the children of Israel go.
Shemot [Exodus]10:24-27 And Pharaoh called to Moshe, and said, “Go ye, serve YHVH; only let your flocks and your herds be stayed; let your little ones also go with you.” 25 And Moshe said, “You must also give into our hand sacrifices and burnt-offerings, that we may sacrifice to YHVH our Elohim. 26 Our cattle also shall go with us; there shall not a hoof be left behind; for thereof must we take to serve YHVH our Elohim; and we know not with what we must serve YHVH, until we get there.” 27 But YHVH hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let them go.
Shemot [Exodus] 11:9-10 And YHVH said to Moshe, “Pharaoh will not hearken to you; that My wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.” 10 And Moshe and Aharon did all these wonders before Pharaoh; and YHVH hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he did not let the children of Israel go out of his land.
All of these decisions/Sins made by Pharaoh are what caused the full hardening of his heart into a heart of stone and are what lead to his own destruction.

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