Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pharaoh's Heart

This is in connection with my other post on Egypt here.

When it says that "God hardened Pharaoh's heart". What does that mean? First of all there are two different Hebrew words used for harden in this story. One is the word kabed meaning heavy. The other is chazaq meaning strengthen, hold or encourage. It is used 290 times in the old testament most always with a positive connotation.

Now in the story of the plagues, some of the time that Pharaoh is hardening his heart. Then there are other times it says God is hardening. Now if you believe in the God I do, there is no way God is forcing an emotion onto Pharaoh's heart. That would be control and that is not God. This would be the only time in the Bible that I know of that God changes the heart of an individual for the worse as opposed to the better. Again NOT our loving, gracious, just God.

Now I want you to take a moment to think about who is writing this story. Moses right? Now we know that Moses was raised into adulthood in the house of Pharaoh. So Moses would have known a very important part of the Egyptian religion; that is the Book of the Dead. The Book of the Dead was the instruction manual for the funeral rites, embalming and rituals concerning the afterlife.

In Egypt it was believed that when you died you had to face judgement before entering the afterlife. It was said that the god Anubis who was the overseer of embalming would lead you to the judgement chamber of Osiris god of the underworld. Now what is interesting is how the person was judged. Egyptians believed that the heart held the persons life record. A record of all deeds; good or bad. It was one of the only organs not removed during the embalming process.

So Anubis would place the dead persons heart {life record} on a balance scale against the feather of Ma'at; goddess of truth {see illustration above}. If the heart weighed heavy {kabed} with sin it would be devoured by the demon Ammit {not good}. If the heart was lighter than the feather you had passed the test and could continue to the afterlife with Osiris' blessing. Interested to see what was "sinful" to the ancient Egyptians? Here is a sample list. Seems quite civilized, doesn't it?

Now how does this blend with our story in Exodus? Pharaoh like all other Pharaohs thought themselves to be the god of all gods. I believe it is key to note what God tells Moses before the plagues begin. I have made you {Moses} a god unto Pharaoh, and I will make his heart stubborn or long-suffering to show my power throughout Egypt. {Ex 7:1,3} So I look at Pharaoh as almost being tested like Job. Though Pharaoh was not righteous, God consistently "encouraged" his heart after each plague. So that he could continue to reveal himself to Pharaoh and the people of Egypt.

Now Pharaoh was already stubborn to start with so I don't think it was much of a stretch. But I think God used that stubbornness to a greater purpose. I also believe it ties into the heavy heart being weighed against the truth on the scale. See sometimes Anubis would tip the scale in your favor if you were a Pharaoh. But God was showing he was in charge of the scale. God is the Truth and was Pharaoh's ultimate judge. After the plagues this fact is well known throughout Egypt! God was taking the fate of Pharaoh's heart into his own hands. And God being perfectly just weighed things accordingly. We may even find Pharaoh in heaven one day...who knows? Well...God does.

I found another blogger explain it like here to read it.

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