Is Life Fated, Or Are We Free? [#EatThisBook – Exodus 10]

by Andrew Forrest

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.”


Madagascar was hit by a terrible locust plague in 2013.

I think that Brueggemann gets it right. What do you think?

You May Also Like


Susan September 5, 2014 - 2:19 pm

I am befuddled by the fate/choice idea. They seem mutually exclusive to me. I have the same dilemma when I study God’s plan for Jesus’ death and resurrection, and God’s using Judas to help achieve that and we blame Judas for his treachery. Is remedial Bible study available?

Andrew Forrest September 5, 2014 - 9:06 pm


You are asking great questions.

Basically, I think you’ll have to make peace with the idea that, although impossible for us to understand, somehow God is both able to know what we’ll do while still allowing us to be free to do it. The betrayal by Judas is part of the plan, but Judas is still free not to betray Jesus.


Leave a Comment