Note: This article was written before the author’s conversion to Orthodoxy.
Arminians like to pretend that all those verses that speak of Pharaoh having his heart hardened by God are negated by references to Pharaoh hardening his own heart. So, instead of taking the literal interpretation that both happened, they say things like this:
In their perpetual quest to find discrepancies in the Bible, to undermine biblical ethics, and to find fault with the actions of God, skeptics have charged that God mistreated Pharaoh by overriding his free will and forcing him to resist the demand of Moses to allow the Israelites to exit Egypt. The skeptics focus on the verses about Pharaoh’s heart, demanding that the God of the Bible is an unjust, cruel being. Steve Wells, the well-known skeptic writer, said: “God begins the process of ‘hardening Pharaoh’s heart’ (see also Exodus 7:3,13, 9:12, 10:1, 20,27, 11:10, 14:4,8), thus making it impossible for any of the plagues that God sends to have any beneficial effect. But according to 1 Samuel 6:6, God didn’t harden the Pharaoh’s heart; the Pharaoh did it himself” (Wells, 2001).
Instead of getting into a whole exegetical hissy over the matter, allow me to simply quote Deut 2:30–
But Sihon king of Heshbon was not willing for us to pass through his land; for the Lord your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, in order to deliver him into your hand, as he is today (Deut 2:30).
Curiously absent from the above passage is any reference to Sihon hardening his own heart. God even gives the reason for doing so: to deliver him into Israel’s hand.
Hey, but that’s not nice! Shouldn’t Sihon have a chance at repenting and stuff?
Absolutely not! And neither do you and neither do I. Grace is not owed to anyone. It’s a gift, He gives it to whomever He pleases.
I’m still waiting for that verse of the Bible that says, “God can do anything other than violate the autonomous free will of man.” I’m yet to find that one.