In this passage of Exodus, we have the reiteration that God tells Moses to speak to Pharaoh, and that Aaron will be his mouthpiece. It it interesting that God tells Moses that he shall be “Elohim” (God) to Pharaoh, and Aaron shall be the prophet. This is actually how the chapter begins. We saw this same declaration back in chapter 4, but here it is in a slightly different context. It is one thing for God to tell Moses this at the burning bush, but for it to be said again just before entering the court of Pharaoh is something altogether noteworthy.
When the Bible says the same thing twice, it needs to be noted. Something is trying to be conveyed here. Why would Moses be “Elohim” unto Pharaoh? Why isn’t Moses the spokesman of Elohim, and therefore Aaron is just the guy who is speaking on Moses’ behalf? The answer lies within Egyptian tradition. Pharaoh is not simply a human prophet or “frontman” for the gods, but the Egyptian Pharaohs were claimed to be gods incarnate. Certain Pharaohs were considered to be one of the gods in the flesh, and they had their palace and burial place decorated to commemorate that. Moses is “Elohim” unto Pharaoh, just like Pharaoh is supposedly “incarnate god” to the Egyptians.
The passage as a whole revolves around a certain notion: God will harden the heart of Pharaoh. Why is Moses and Aaron to go unto Pharaoh? Because God will release His people through mighty acts and judgments. Why can’t God just perform the mighty acts and judgments, and thus cause Israel to go out apart from Moses and Aaron addressing Pharaoh? There are a couple reasons for this, and probably the most difficult to grasp is that God works alongside of humanity, and not independently.
Pharaoh is to know of the judgments of God. He is to know of the coming wrath. In fact, there is extremely good Scriptural support that God does not send judgment without also first sending warning. Thus, between God’s fairness and His drive to work hand-in-hand with His creation (instead of independently), we have the reasons for why God would send Moses and Aaron at all. He certainly has every ability of bankrupting Egypt and causing it to collapse, thus giving more than sufficient means for Israel to leave. But, that isn’t how God works. Ever.
Instead, God will harden the heart of Pharaoh. Even here, the question can be asked: Why?
Why does God need to harden the heart of Pharaoh? Why can’t the command go forth, and then let Pharaoh to decide whether he wants to obey or not? Why would God deliberately harden the heart of Pharaoh, and thus keep His people in tribulation for another few weeks or months? These sorts of questions will ruin you. You will either find no comfortable answer, and therefore be left with questions that force you to lose your faith, or you will find the deepest, most intimate, and apostolic answers, which will uncover to you the very essence of who God is.
So, why does God harden Pharaoh’s heart? Notice Deuteronomy 2:30. What does it say? “But Sihon, king of Heshon, would not let us pass through, for the LORD your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that He might deliver him into your hand, as it is this day.” Notice Joshua 11:20. “For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that He might utterly destroy them, and that they might receive no mercy, but that He might destroy them, as the LORD had commanded Moses.”
This phrase is specific to the deliverance from Egypt and the conquest of Canaan. Maybe you can find it elsewhere (and please correct me if I’m wrong), but I can’t find the phrase anywhere else. It isn’t in Judges, it isn’t in Samuel, it isn’t in Kings, and it isn’t in the later history after the exile. You don’t find this hardness in the New Testament, except to point it our from the past. Even Paul saying, “God has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and hardens whom he will harden”, it is only a statement in a larger context pointing back to Pharaoh, and decreeing that God has hardened Israel in these last days so that they would now be “not His people”, as Hosea has proclaimed, only the then be the selfsame people that God will turn to and proclaim, “they are my people”.
What am I getting at?
Go to Revelation 16. This concept of hardening the heart is only found in Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Joshua, only to then be used of Paul to claim that Israel has now been hardened so as to no longer be God’s people (but only temporarily). Notice Revelation 16:13 and onward: “And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of the great day of God Almighty. (Jesus speaking) Behold, I am coming as a theif. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame. And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.”
Two things: first, notice that the gathering together of the nations for the final battle against Jesus at His second coming is prompted by demons. Second, notice that Jesus’ “thief-like” coming isn’t the rapture (as if it happens before the tribulation), but His legitimate, actual second coming, which is what all of the prophets and apostles have always declared.
Now go to Revelation 17. There is a great harlot that sits on many waters, and she is riding the scarlet beast. This beast is the self-same beast mentioned in Revelation 13, which is the Antichrist Kingdom. There is something happening here, a mystery. The beast somehow represents the whole kingdom of Antichrist, and yet the Antichrist himself as well. The beast that comes out of the waters is a hybrid, or a composite, of the four beasts of Daniel 7. There are seven heads on the beast, just like when you add up the heads on the four beasts of Daniel, there are seven altogether. Here we have the seven-headed beast, along with the ten horns, which is the Antichrist Kingdom.
How do I know this?
When you look at Daniel 7, you find that each beast represents a different kingdom, just like the statue of Daniel 2 represented different kingdoms. Yet, there is a continuum from Genesis 4, the city called Enoch, unto the Tower of Babel, and ultimately unto Babylon, which is the first kingdom mentioned in Daniel 2 and 7. Look at Revelation 17:9-11. The seven heads represent more than just the amount of heads upon those four beasts, and the kings are more than just the kings of Daniel 11. We have here the seven oppressors of Israel: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and finally the Antichrist. This is why “five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come.” The first five of those kingdoms by this point were no longer oppressive super-powers. Rome was the dominating force, and there was to be another oppressive force against Israel that would rise up as a world super-power after Rome.
Let us look at the woman for a minute. Who is this woman? Look at verse 6: “I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.” Now examine the words of Jesus. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who have slain all the prophets.” Or, what about, “Would it be right for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem?” What about Peter ending his first epistle, saying that the “saints in Babylon greet you”? Peter wasn’t in Babylon; Babylon didn’t exist anymore. Peter is writing from Jerusalem.
The woman is called a harlot. Go to Ezekiel 16. In Ezekiel 16, you have the prophet speaking the word of God over Judah and Jerusalem. In verse 15 you have it begin, “But you trusted in your own beauty, played the harlot because of your fame, and poured out your harlotry on everyone passing by who would have it.” Now, just because Israel is called a harlot doesn’t mean that Israel is the harlot of Revelation 17. Let us get better evidence than this one verse. When you continue through Ezekiel 16, you come to verses 35 and onward, where we find statements like, “I will gather your lovers with whom you took pleasure… I will gather them all around against you and will uncover your nakedness to them, that they may see all your nakedness. And I will judge you as women who break wedlock… I will bring blood upon you in fury and jealousy… They shall also strip you of your clothes, take you beautiful jewelry, and leave you naked and bare. They shall also bring up an assembly against you, and they shall stone you with stones and thrust you through with their swords. They shall burn your houses with fire, and execute judgments on you…”
Go back to Revelation 17. You find in verses 16 and onward, “And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh (compare Psalm 14:4, Micah 3:3, Jeremiah 10:25, 1 Corinthians 10:21, etc) and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.” Now look at Revelation 18:4, “And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.”
What am I getting at here?
When we look at Exodus 7:1-7 and the other places where God hardens the hearts of the wicked kings, it is in relation to Israel being freed from oppression and bring brought into the Land of Canaan. When you examine the Old and New Testament in regard to the end times, it seems like there is a small pattern in only a handful of verses. Jeremiah 16:4-5 is a more obvious depiction of this small pattern. It claims that Israel, after they have been judged for their iniquity, will no longer say, “As the Lord who brought us out of Egypt,” because what God is going to do is going to surpass what He did when He brought Israel out of Egypt.
You have in the end times a “new exodus” of sorts. Somehow, Jerusalem itself is made to be the “Egypt” and “Babylon” that must be judged. Somehow, Israel herself is the one hardened, but unlike Egypt and Babylon, she shall not be utterly destroyed. Instead, the cry goes forth to “come out from her”, and God speaks over and over again (even in Romans 9) that though “not all Israel is Israel”, and though they are the people who have been made “not my people”, as Paul will conclude later, “all Israel shall be saved”, and they who were “not my people” shall be the very ones who are now called “my people”.
Here is the great mystery, and incredibly difficult concept to grasp. Somehow God only hardens the hearts of they who He shall send judgment upon in regard to His people. Yet, there comes a time and place – which has indeed already come, and is at hand – when God shall send judgment upon His own people, hardening His own people’s hearts, so as to bring deliverance and salvation. Do you see the extreme difficulty that this produces? The pre-tribulation rapture then neuters this view by claiming that the mechanism of Israel’s deliverance (the church – Rev 12:6, 13-17, Rom 11:11, 25-31, etc) is supposed to be gone. Replacement theologians neuter this understanding by claiming ethnic Israel means nothing, and neither does the land itself. But, if it means nothing, then why does the entirety of God’s cosmic redemptive paradigm utterly revolve around that people, and that land, to such a degree that God gathers all nations at the end of the world unto Israel and Jerusalem – at Har Megiddo – where Jesus shall then return? It has great significance, and we need to know our place as His people in this end time stratagem, or else we will be destined to always seeking “more”, “deeper”, “bigger”, and “powerful”, because we have not the actual authentic thing.