Hebrew Idiom for Exodus 10:20

Hi Moriel,

Can you explain this Hebrew Idiom,   and what is the correct English translation.

For example, when Exodus 10:20 says that “the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart”

Thanks in advance


The Hebrew term is “v’ yehizek” (from ‘mehizek’ ) literally meaning “to strengthen” in its infinitive ‘Lehizek’ as in : “to make his resolve steadfast”; God strengthened (or as it were ‘solidified’) what was already in Pharaoh’s heart.

Thus, elsewhere in Exodus passages, without reference to the Lord, we read that Pharaoh hardened his own heart (the Hebrew infinitive for this action would be not “Lehizek” but the reflexive “L’hithazek”).

In other words, the Lord (YHWH) did not initially cause Pharaoh to refuse to let the sons of Israel go, but rather (as it were in judgment) gave him over to that which Pharaoh ‚   himself had already purposed. The Hebrew meaning does not etymologically or grammatically support the false theological contentions of hyper Calvinists that the Lord arbitrarily hardened Pharaoh’s heart in order to judge him, but rather the Lord re-enforced (strengthened, made steadfast) the wicked intent already in Pharaoh’s heart (even though being omniscient, the Lord certainly foreknew what would happen and so forewarned Moses).

This giving over of a reprobate person by God to a wicked intent or practice in which the reprobate already persists, or in which they are already persisting, is an act of divine judgment that virtually assures eventual destruction. There are similar instances of this kind of action by God in 1 Kings with Ahab’s false prophets, ‚  and eschatologically where the rejectors of truth who will follow the man of lawlessness (antichrist) are caused to believe a lie in judgment for their rejection of truth in 2 Thes. chapter 2. Another important example of this is in Romans chapter 1 where God gives homosexuals & lesbians over to the unnatural perversions of a sexually reprobate mind in judgment in order ‚   to secure the inevitability of their eventual demise. We see this in the arrogant confidence homosexual & lesbian activism demonstrate today, unable to recognize that this arrogant confidence in their sin is an expression of the fact that God has ‘strengthened’ their resolve to continue in these ultimately self destructive proclivities.

We might compare this “mehizek” to a “sting” operation by ‚   police of a hypothetical illegal drug trafficker. An undercover agent posing as a buyer purchases controlled substances from a major dealer, not once but several times. There is a multiple count indictment, a guaranteed conviction, ‚  and a much stiffer sentence. The police don’t close in after the first few buys, but lead the dealer into a trap. S/he thinks s/he is pulling it off with impunity ‚  until s/he is in a legal quagmire from which there can be no escape or even a plea bargain.

There is more to be said about this subject both linguistically and doctrinally, but it is too involved to address at length by e mail. ‚   Additionally, while we don’t mind answering the occasional Hebrew or Greek question, we can only explain linguistically related exegetical matters up to a limited point unless the inquirer has a knowledge of scriptural languages. However, Moriel does have recorded teaching titles dealing with aspects of this subject, including “the Damascus Road” and “The Spirit of Truth & the Spirit of Error” available in the newsletter or online catalog.

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