An Exegetical And Theological Consideration Of The Hardening Of Pharaoh’s Heart In Exodus 4-14 And Romans 9 -- By: G. K. Beale

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 05:2 (Fall 1984)
Article: An Exegetical And Theological Consideration Of The Hardening Of Pharaoh’s Heart In Exodus 4-14 And Romans 9
Author: G. K. Beale


An Exegetical And Theological Consideration
Of The Hardening Of Pharaoh’s Heart In
Exodus 4-14 And Romans 9

G. K. Beale

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

I. Introduction

The ninth chapter of Romans has been one of the key texts throughout church history for debates concerning predestination, reprobation and free will. One of the crucial passages in this perplexing chapter has been vv 17–18, where Paul alludes to God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart (Exod 9:16 and chaps 4–14). While this problematic passage was not a primary point of debate in the Augustinian-Pelagian controversy, it did become important beginning with the discussions of the Reformation period. In trying to refute Erasmus’ claim that Pharaoh first hardened his heart freely apart from divine influence, Luther attempts to argue that God was the ultimate cause. John Calvin agreed with Luther, but Sebastian Castellio and Jacob Arminius agreed with Erasmus. The debate has continued even into the twentieth century, especially undergoing scrutiny in recently published literature.1 It is surprising, however, that apparently no writer in the history of this discussion has ever attempted to exegete all of the hardening predictions as they appear in consecutive order throughout their context in Exod 4–14.2 Many attempt to solve the issue by focusing on only one hardening statement and determining its implications for the others, often according to their own theological predispositions.3

Nevertheless, the historical debate has generated the following questions: (1) Who is the ultimate cause of Pharaoh’s hardening? (2) If the hardening is at all associated with God, is it an unconditional or conditional judgment with respect to Pharaoh’s sin? (3) When Paul refutes the idea that God is unjust (v 14) in rejecting Esau rather than Jacob before they were born (vv 10–13), does he give an understandable explanation for this refutation (γάρ,v 17), or does he merely refute the idea without offering any rationale in defense of God’s rejection?4 (4) Does the hardening involve God’s dealing with certain individuals or nations only on the plane of history or does it hav...

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