How can God harden people against Him and then condemn them?

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.

This question is similar to the ‘How can God condemn homosexuality?‘ and the ‘How can God condone genocide?‘ questions and as such will share a number of similar answers and lines of reasoning.

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.





2 thoughts on “How can God harden people against Him and then condemn them?”

  1. This comment is fascinating:
    “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.”
    If this were true, there would be no need for us to have been created at all. God could just run a simulation through his vast imagination. This way of thinking, that God already knows everything and has essentially made all his judgments, removes the purpose of human beings entirely. It demonstrates the utter uselessness of humanity with regard to a god of some kind. It demonstrates the impossibility of an omniscient god co-existing with a purposeful creation.

    1. Hey Neil, thank you for the comments, I appreciate it.

      I’d love to hear more from you regarding this though, can you extrapolate a bit on your statements?

      For example, you state there would be no ‘need’ for us to be created at all, implying there was/is a ‘need’ for us to be created… I don’t believe God ‘needs’ to do anything, this includes creating us, what is your Biblical backing for that idea/train of thought? Additionally, you imply that God could not just run a simulation through His vast imagination… Why couldn’t He? He is God after all, and all-powerful, all-knowing.

      Why would God being omniscient remove the ‘purpose’ of humanity? And on that note, what do you believe our purpose is? What impossibility does it demonstrate?

      I may be misunderstanding you, but from your comments it seems you believe that humanity is for some reason ‘needed’ by God for some specific purpose, and that we cannot fulfill that purpose if God is in fact all-knowing (aka, he knows the past/present/future, exists outside of time, etc.). I look forward to hear more on your thoughts about this subject!

      – Timothy

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