The Question: The Bible says God hardens people’s heart against Him. How can God harden people against Him and then condemn and judge them? That is unfair, if God is truly good and just he cannot do that.
The basis of the question is that the Bible says God is just (Deuteronomy 32:4, Proverbs 11:1, Isaiah 61:8) and merciful (Ephesians 2:4-5, Psalm 86:5, Lamentations 3:22-23) and impartial (Romans 2:11, Acts 10:34), and yet it states in several places that God ‘hardened’ peoples heart against Him (Exodus 4:21, Deuteronomy 2:30). So if God is actively ‘hardening’ someones heart against Him, essentially influencing that particular person to ‘disobey’ or go against God’s will, how can God in good conscience afflict judgement or condemnation on that person?
Well first off keep in mind God knows all things past, present and future, so God already knows the choices that person will make throughout their life and has essentially already passed judgement on them. So saying He ‘shouldn’t’ judge or condemn them because He ‘hardened’ their heart against Him in one particular instance of their life doesn’t make much sense; as God knows how their life would have turned out regardless and will I’m sure take that into account when He does judge them.
Additionally, the Bible doesn’t say that God hardened so-and-so’s heart and then ‘sent them to hell’ or anything like that, nor does it say He never gave them opportunity to follow Him and do good with their lives prior to or after God hardened their hearts.
Making the assumption that God just hardened a random person’s heart to prove some point or achieve some goal and then ‘discarded’ that person to hell or whatnot is silly (at least to me); however that line of reasoning seems to be what people are thinking of when they bring up this question.
I’ll use the case of Pharaoh in Exodus since that is the most commonly known Biblical instance of God ‘hardening’ someone’s heart. Nowhere in the Bible does it say Pharaoh was ‘good’ or following God prior to God ‘hardening’ his heart against Him. In fact judging by the state of the Jewish people that Pharaoh and Egypt had enslaved, all evidence points to the opposite.
So here was a, by all accounts ‘evil’ person who was responsible for the abuse and enslavement of Israel that God choose to make an example out of due to, I believe his past and current actions and choices. God ‘hardening’ his heart wasn’t making him change his ways or go from being ‘good’ to ‘evil’, I think it was just making him take a bit more time and require a bit more persuading through miraculous signs before he finally conceded to let Israel go. It wasn’t a huge sway in personality or morals that God implemented in Pharoah or anything like that.
Taking that into consideration, trying to say God is ‘unjust’ for ‘hardening’ Pharoah’s heart really doesn’t add up.
I think we as humans focus way to much on trying to ‘reason’ out God and attach our own ideas of what we think He should be like. The fact is we can never comprehend His designs or reasoning, and while we may not understand why He does something, that doesn’t mean that something is wrong.
Accepting that He knows better than we do is paramount in my opinion to developing a relationship with God and achieving a better understanding of Him.