How can Pharaoh be blamed if God makes him tyrannical? Are you and I free to choose in life, or are our choices fated?
Three times in Exodus 10 we read that the Lord hardens Pharoah’s heart so that Pharaoh will not relent and let the Israelites go free (v. 1, 20, 27). How is that fair? If Pharaoh has no choice, then how can he be held responsible for his actions? Perhaps, though, Pharoah’s free will and God’s sovereign will are not mutually exclusive.
I found this paragraph from Walter Brueggemann to be helpful in thinking through the relationship between “fate and choice:”
It is perfectly credible, given what we have seen of recalcitrant tyrants in modern times, that Pharaoh should choose to be destroyed rather than to yield (v. 20). Even such choices, however, do not (according to the narrator) fall outside Yahweh’s sovereign intention. The juxtaposition of fate and choice in Pharoah’s behavior is not unlike that of Saul in the narratives of 1 Samuel. He is, indeed, fated by Yahweh to fail, but he also chooses his own destruction in a series of choices. Paul Ricoeur has observed about the power of sin in the narrative of Genesis 3 that the human couple are both victims and perpetrators of their destruction. So it is with Saul, and so it is with Pharaoh. And so it is with all of our hard-heartedness in which we choose what has been given us.”
I think that Brueggemann gets it right. What do you think?