Rom 9:15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
Rom 9:16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
Rom 9:17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
Rom 9:18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
Exo_9:12 And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had spoken unto Moses.
Pharaoh and Egypt received much wrath from God, but beforehand God gave Pharaoh many great signs and miracles, and opportunities to recognise Him, and to obey Him. In Generations past Egypt had known the blessings of God because they recognised and believed. This sounds much like the world today – we have known God’s blessings first hand and we believed but now we have strayed, very very far. Those who refuse to hear and obey God basically choose the wrong side, they chose satan who fights with God – and that puts them at war with God without realising it. By refusing to repent and listen we harden our hearts and receive God’s judgement and end up spending eternity separated from Him. That is Hell.
Do you want to wage war with God? Pharaoh tried it, it devastated Egypt whom never fully recovered. They were ravaged with famines, plagues and diseases. Egypt the wealthy country was also stripped bare of much of their possessions and the entire army was washed away and drowned. None of this had to happen if Pharaoh listened. But I believe God was very merciful toward them, because He did not totally destroy them like he did previously with Sodom and Gomorrah.
I don’t follow that God literally hardened Pharaohs heart. But more so that God had a plan and chose not to extend his mercy to Pharaoh, leaving Pharaoh to harden his own heart at his own free will. Pharaoh made his own conscious choice to disobey and fight against God. Pharaoh was a gentile, and Pharaoh’s Egypt was blessed due to the presence of Israel the blessed nation (began with Joseph). God did not make any promises in those days to extend his mercy to gentiles and Jesus was yet to be born on this earth. Below are some verses that mention Pharaoh hardening his own heart.
Exo_8:32 And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.
1Sa_6:6 Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? when he had wrought wonderfully among them, did they not let the people go, and they departed?
God knew that extending his mercy to Pharaoh would be futile and that Pharaoh would never turn his heart towards the Lord; hence when Pharaoh finally allowed the Israelites to go, he later pursued them with his entire army waging war against God’s will. When the scripture says that God hardened Pharaohs heart, God being omniscient knew that by making these demands of Pharaoh, to free the Israelites, that Pharaoh, being left to his own devices will harden his own heart against Him. I believe God does not harden hearts, he actually does the opposite and He tells us this in Ezekiel 36:26-27.
God said in Ezekiel 36:26-27 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” Much is to do with the condition of our hearts, God can change our hearts if we just surrender to Him, He will throw away this heart of stone (hardened heart) and place within us a heart of flesh filled with His Spirit. His Spirit that will guide us, teach us and intercede for us and lead us into righteousness through Jesus Christ.
You could view it this way, God did harden Pharaohs heart by causing a reaction, by making a simple request that Pharaoh did not like; Pharaohs reaction to God’s request is what caused a hardening within Pharaohs heart – but Pharaoh had a choice and could have obeyed. God knew Pharaoh will resist and used Pharaohs reactions to further His almighty plan. God is in control and Pharaoh reacted exactly how God knew he would – God used it in His plan. But don’t accuse God of playing games with our lives. God is righteous; God was more than fair and gave Pharaoh many chances to acknowledge that He, our God is the almighty, he had ample time to submit and surrender and do what is asked, what is right, to do what he should do. God is patient and slow to anger, and God wrought many miracles for all to see and God was glorified. Even today God is being very patient, because God does not change – but we are in the last days and time is running out.