This week’s Torah Portion is Parashat Va’era. The reading is Exodus 6:2-9:35. Here is a brief commentary from Baruch:
The Bible tells us that HaShem hardened the heart of Pharaoh, but what does this mean? Many incorrectly believe that G-d touched Pharaoh’s heart in such a way that Pharaoh could have not responded to Hashem faithfully even if he had wanted. However when one examines the Scripture that are involved in this issue a very different reality presents itself. It is most significant that each time that the Scripture states that G-d hardened the heart of Pharaoh it was immediately after HaShem had manifested His power before Pharaoh. For example, in Exodus chapter 7 Moses and Aaron appear before Pharaoh and Aaron casts his staff before Pharaoh and it became a snake. So too did the “wise men” of Egypt, and even though the snake of Aaron swallowed the snakes of the “wise men” of Egypt, Pharaoh paid no heed to these things. It was immediately after Pharaoh’s unwillingness to respond to a manifestation of Hashem’s power, that one reads,
“And He (G-d) strengthened the heart of Pharaoh and he did not listen to them (Moses and Aaron) just as HaShem spoke.” Exodus 7:13
Likewise in regard to the plague of blood, it is because the “wise men” of Egypt were also able to do this miracle that one reads again that G-d strengthened his heart. Pharaoh did not understand that what Moses and Aaron were doing was not enchantment, but the work of the Living G-d. Hence in the plague of lice that followed, Hashem had Aaron turn the dust of Egypt into lice. This miracle the “wise men” of Egypt could not duplicate. Even though they remarked to Pharaoh that such a deed could only be done by the “finger of G-d”, Pharaoh was not moved by their words, or the power of G-d. Once again that familiar verse appears,
“And He (G-d) strengthened the heart of Pharaoh and he did not listen to them (Moses and Aaron) just as HaShem spoke.” Exodus 8:15
In chapter 9 there is a significant change in Pharaoh. Previously, when confronted by Moses and Aaron with the command, “Send forth My people” Pharaoh’s response was,
“Who is HaShem that I should listen to His voice to send Israel, I do not know Hashem…” Exodus 5:2
During the plague of hail, Pharaoh acknowledged that it was indeed not enchantment that brought the hail, but HaShem. Pharaoh also acknowledged that he had sinned and the one who said, “Who is the L-rd that I should obey His voice” ran and beseeched Moses to intercede in his behalf to stop the plague. Even though Moses did this and G-d heeded this request, Pharaoh once again did not submit to Hashem. For one reads,
“And Pharaoh saw that the rain ceased and the hail and the lightening, he continued to sin and this caused his heart to be hard, he and his servants. And He (G-d) strengthened the heart of Pharaoh and he did not listen to them (Moses and Aaron) just as HaShem spoke.” Exodus 9:34-35
It is most significant that the word “hardened” is in the hiphil. The hiphil, is a verbal stem that is the causative, that is, it shows that something caused Pharaoh’s heart to be hardened. What was that? The answer is that in spite of all the manifestations of the power of G-d and the fact that Pharaoh was convicted by the reality of the Living G-d and even by his sin before HaShem, Pharaoh was unwilling to respond in obedience to Hashem. Here is the main point of this brief article: when an individual is convicted by the reality of G-d and is unwilling to respond properly to Him, the end result is that his heart will be made hard.
Hence, the way G-d hardened Pharaoh’s heart was not to supernaturally make it hard so Pharaoh could not obey G-d, but rather his heart was hardened through several manifestations of HaShem’s power and presence. This is why one reads,
“And HaShem spoke to Moses; Pharaoh will not listen to you on account of the numerous miracles in the land of Egypt. And Moses and Aaron did all these miracles before Pharaoh and HaShem strengthened the heart of Pharaoh and he did not send forth the Children of Israel from his land.” Exodus 11:9-10
These verses provide a stern warning for those who fail to repent and ignore the L-rd’s pleading to respond to Him. Failure to do so will leave one with a hard heart and make the likelihood of turning to Yeshua in the future less likely.