What does it mean when “Pharaoh’s heart was heavy?” Does that mean it was filled with remorse or was made more stubborn?

The word used when God makes Pharaoh’s heart “heavy” is chazak. This word also means courageous, strong, obstinate, hard, etc. For example, when Jews finish reading the Torah, they should say Chazak or “strength.” This word usually describes God’s power; there are other words like chabad or chesed that describe God’s glory and his love (loving-kindness). So the big question is, why does God make Pharaoh “chazak”? I think God wants a worthy adversary. By making Pharaoh strong, he seems stronger by besting him. Or perhaps the author of this passage wants people to know that even Pharaoh’s strength was made by God.

As a parallel, many second-temple people used the Egypt story as code for talking about their Babylonian or Persian oppressors.¬†Jeremiah had promulgated the view that if Babylon was “chazak” or strong, God made it that way as an instrument to punish his own people. To this day we still use “Jeremiad” to talk about how suffering is a purifying punishmentt from God.

As illustration, when the story of the Persian conquest of Babylon is told in Kings and the prophets, Yahweh is the cause of Persia’s victory over Babylon, and Yahweh is using King Cyrus of Persia as a tool (in essence, he’s making him “chazak” to punish the Babylonians and free the Judeans). When the Persians tell of Cyrus’s victory, on the other hand, they give credit to the Persian god Marduk. https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/W_1880-0617-1941

In the same way, some fundamentalist Christians believe Trump was chosen by God to deliver his people from Barack Obama and the liberals they see as the new pagans. They argue that Trump was no more unlikely a choice than Cyrus to be an instrument of God. 

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