A Reexamination Of Pharaoh’s Hard Heart With Regard To Egyptian Religion -- By: Jerry M. Hullinger

Journal: Journal of Dispensational Theology
Volume: JODT 16:47 (Apr 2012)
Article: A Reexamination Of Pharaoh’s Hard Heart With Regard To Egyptian Religion
Author: Jerry M. Hullinger


A Reexamination Of Pharaoh’s Hard Heart With Regard To Egyptian Religion

Jerry M. Hullinger

Jerry M. Hullinger, Th.M., Th.D., professor of Bible, Piedmont International University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina

When one reads the phrase “the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart,” historic images arise regarding the debates between Augustine/Pelagius, Calvin/Arminius, Luther/Erasmus in addition to current day discussions regarding the tension of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. While this is an important issue,1 it is the modest suggestion of this article that this theological controversy, while having merit in the arena of theology, has actually obscured the real significance of the hardening motif in the Exodus narrative. It is the purpose of this study to examine Pharaoh’s hard heart from a religious rather than a theological perspective in an attempt to discover what this would have meant in the 15th century BC Egyptian setting.2

The General Religious Background Of The Plague3 Narrative

Basic Egyptian Religion4

The Importance Of Religion

If one is to understand ancient Egypt, one must understand ancient Egyptian religion. Never has there been a civilization which revolved more around its religious ideas than did Egypt. Montet stated well that “the Egyptians were the most scrupulously religious of mankind. They regarded the gods as the owners of the entire universe and the fount of all prosperity, aware of all human desires and capable at any moment of taking a hand in mortal affairs.”5

The Complexity Of Religion

Given the fact that religion so permeated every area of the culture, there is a degree of frustration in attempting to find some cohesion in the system. Therefore, it is important to realize at the outset that this religion is a complex and seemingly contradictory collection of a multitude of gods and goddesses. The complexity is further compounded by the facts that these gods and goddesses were represented in many forms, as well as being responsible for many, often overlapping, areas of responsibility. DeVries noted, “the religion of ancient Egypt is a vast labyrinthine subject. Much of the religious literature appears as a hodgepodge of heterogeneous conflicting statements. In general, the religion may be described as a complex polytheism.”

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