Hardening the Heart: Thoughts on Parashat Va’era

The notion of hardening the heart occurs 20 times in the book of Exodus.

Ten of these occurrences state either that Pharoah hardened his [own] heart (8:28, 9:34) or say that Pharoah’s heart hardened, suggesting that this was something that Pharoah did on his own (7:13, 7:14, 7:22, 8:11, 8:15, 9:7 , 9:35). The other ten occurrences attribute the heart hardening to God (4:21, 7:3, 9:12, 10:1, 10:20, 10:27, 11:10, 14:4, 14:8, 14:17).

The idea that God intentionally hardened Pharoah’s heart has always troubled me. Why would God do that? And how, if God made this happen, can we blame Pharoah and hold him accountable for his actions? Continue reading