You ain't so bad. You ain't nuthin!
This is a little exercise I did a while back, just tracing a theme through the Scriptures. It raises many uncomfortable questions, especially for those who contend God is a gentleman and cannot/will not ever violate the "freewill" of an "autonomous" human.
Thesis: God uses Pharaoh like a pawn to demonstrate to Egypt, the Israelites, and the world that He is the sovereign of this planet. He took the most powerful man in the world and made him like a puppet and a fool, to show His greatness by way of contrast. The outcome of which should have been great faith in Him and obedience to Him on the part of His people (e.g., Exodus 20:2, Deut 4:34; etc.)
17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: ‘‘I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
13 Then the LORD said to him, ‘‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.
But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him.
The LORD said to Moses, ‘‘When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.
Pharaoh said, ‘‘Who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go.”
3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, 4 he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites.
Yet Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the LORD had said.
But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharaoh’s heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said.
But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said.
The magicians said to Pharaoh, ‘‘This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen, just as the LORD had said.
But this time also Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go.
Pharaoh sent men to investigate and found that not even one of the animals of the Israelites had died. Yet his heart was unyielding and he would not let the people go.
But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said to Moses.
But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.
34 When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts. 35 So Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the LORD had said through Moses.
Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘‘Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these miraculous signs of mine among them 2 that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the LORD.”
But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go.
But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he was not willing to let them go.
Now the LORD had said to Moses, ‘‘I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely.
The LORD had said to Moses, ‘‘Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you—so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.”
Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country.
And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.”
21 ‘‘And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. 22 Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will plunder the Egyptians.”
(The LORD made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and by the people.)
The LORD had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.
And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.
- Seems like that was the plan all along, since "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." (Proverbs 9:10)
(All Scriptures from the New International Version)