Bits of Torah Truths, Parashat Bo, Is the Lord hardening your heart?

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This weeks reading, from Parashat Bo (Shemot / Exodus 10:1-13:16), details the last plagues that God brought upon Egypt and Pharaoh drives the Children of Israel out.  In Shemot / Exodus 10:1 the Lord tells Moshe א  וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָֹה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה בֹּא אֶל-פַּרְעֹה כִּי-אֲנִי הִכְבַּדְתִּי אֶת-לִבּוֹ וְאֶת-לֵב עֲבָדָיו לְמַעַן שִׁתִי אֹתֹתַי אֵלֶּה בְּקִרְבּוֹ:  10:1 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may perform these signs of Mine among them, (NASB) according to the Scriptures, the Lord hardened Pharaoh and his servants Heart for the purpose of performing the signs before them.  It is interesting to note, while studying these Scriptures, the Moshe used two different words to describe the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart.  The Hebrew Bible uses the word חזק in Shemot / Exodus 4:21, 7:13, 9:12, 9:35, 10:20 and כבד in Shemot / Exodus 7:14, 9:34, 10:1 to describe the Lord who hardens Pharaoh’s heart.  It is also interesting to observe that in some instances these words are alternated from one verse to the next, see 7:13-14, and 9:34-9:35.  What can we learn from the way the Hebrew text speaks regarding the Lord hardening the heart.  Do these words reveal different aspects of the hardening process?  The BDB Hebrew Lexicon states the word חזק is defined “adj. strong, powerful, vigorous, firm, forceful, intense, overpowering,” and כבד is defined “adj. heavy, weighty, massive, burdensome, laborious; difficult, unwieldy.”

כתבי הקודש / The Holy Scriptures

ספר שמות פרק י
א   וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָֹה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה בֹּא אֶל-פַּרְעֹה כִּי-אֲנִי הִכְבַּדְתִּי אֶת-לִבּוֹ וְאֶת-לֵב עֲבָדָיו לְמַעַן שִׁתִי אֹתֹתַי אֵלֶּה בְּקִרְבּוֹ: ב   וּלְמַעַן תְּסַפֵּר בְּאָזְנֵי בִנְךָ וּבֶן-בִּנְךָ אֵת אֲשֶׁר הִתְעַלַּלְתִּי בְּמִצְרַיִם וְאֶת-אֹתֹתַי אֲשֶׁר-שַֹמְתִּי בָם וִידַעְתֶּם כִּי-אֲנִי יְהוָֹה: ג   וַיָּבֹא מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן אֶל-פַּרְעֹה וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו כֹּה-אָמַר יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֵי הָעִבְרִים עַד-מָתַי מֵאַנְתָּ לֵעָנֹת מִפָּנָי שַׁלַּח עַמִּי וְיַעַבְדֻנִי:

Shemot / Exodus 10:1-3
10:1 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may perform these signs of Mine among them, 10:2 and that you may tell in the hearing of your son, and of your grandson, how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I performed My signs among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.’  10:3 Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me? Let My people go, that they may serve Me. (NASB)

Studying these words and their usage, the word חזק (H2388) is used 266 times throughout the Hebrew Bible and is used as a means to fasten upon, seize, or be strong.  The word כבד (H3513) is used 109 times meaning to make weighty or heavy in a bad sense.  Each of these words are used to describe the Lord who is hardening the hearts of Pharaoh and his servants.  Why use two different words to describe the Lord hardening the heart?  Do these words reveal the different aspects or reasons for hardening the heart?  It is interesting that the word כבוד is also used to describe “glory” or “honor” in the Hebrew Bible.  Note the use of כבד in Shemot / Exodus 20:12 יב  כַּבֵּד אֶת-אָבִיךָ וְאֶת-אִמֶּךָ לְמַעַן יַאֲרִכוּן יָמֶיךָ עַל הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר-יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לָךְ: 20:12 ‘Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you. (NASB)  Note the location of this verse כבד את אביך ואת אמיך, “honor your father and mother,” sits right in the middle of the עשרת הדברות (The Ten Commandments).  This fact is generally understood as a significant marker that separates the first 4 commandments which address our relationship with God from the remainder which address the interactions between human beings.  This commandment could be read as a connection between heaven and earth, honoring our parents and loving one another are related to having peace with God and with men.  Note that by honoring our parents we honor God by obeying His commandment.  How is this related to the Torah portion (Parashat Bo)?  Could the use of these words in the Torah be a reference to the Lord hardening both soul and spirit of Pharaoh and the people?  The Scriptures say in Shemot / Exodus 10:1 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may perform these signs of Mine among them, 10:2 and that you may tell in the hearing of your son, and of your grandson, how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I performed My signs among them, that you may know that I am the Lord. (NASB)  The purpose of the hardening was so the Lord could multiply His signs among the Egyptians, so they would know God’s will, and so we could speak to our children how the Lord has worked in our lives.  David said in Tehillim / Psalms 32:4 ד  כִּי | יוֹמָם וָלַיְלָה | תִּכְבַּד עָלַי יָדֶךָ נֶהְפַּךְ לְשַׁדִּי בְּחַרְבֹנֵי קַיִץ סֶלָה:  ה  חַטָּאתִי אוֹדִיעֲךָ וַעֲוֹנִי לֹא-כִסִּיתִי אָמַרְתִּי אוֹדֶה עֲלֵי פְשָׁעַי לַיהֹוָה וְאַתָּה נָשָֹאתָ עֲוֹן חַטָּאתִי סֶלָה: 32:4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah. 32:5 I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah. (NASB)  Here he uses the same root word to describe the heaviness of the Lord on his life because of his sins and this heaviness continued until he confessed his sins before God.  Based on these Scriptures and our analysis of words חזק and כבד, we can conclude that man hardens his own heart by not yielding to the will of God.  God hardens man’s heart by not yielding to the whims of man but holding man to His will.  The Lord God could have yielded to Pharaoh’s alternate plan, or offered one of His own, however, the Lord, insisted on something that Pharaoh would not permit.  Pharaoh hardened his own heart by resisting the Lord’s will and the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart by not permitting anything other than God’s will be done (something Pharaoh would not accept).  This seems to be the way the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart in both soul and spirit, Pharaoh did not recognize the Lord physically (חזק) nor did he honor the Lord spiritually (כבד).  Is this is how the hearts of men are hardened today?  The deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13), and the religious (spiritual) preferences of men today are powerful forces.  Have you yielded to the will of God or is the Lord hardening your heart so He can work His will in your life like Pharaoh? BTT_Parashat Bo2-2013

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Duane D. Miller received his Ph.D., M.S., and B.S. Degree in Chemical Engineering from The University of Akron Ohio. He is currently a Chemical Engineering Researcher. Duane’s research expertise has focused upon functional materials development for the control, conversion, and release of process gases in Energy production technologies. His R&D interests include computational chemistry, developing novel technologies for converting biomass to fuels and studying their fundamental interactions during the chemical conversion process. His past experience includes sorbent development for pre- and post-combustion CO2 and SO2 capture, selective absorption of H2S from methane streams, O2 capture for oxy-fuel combustion, photocatalytic reduction of alcohols, NOx reduction catalysis, the development of oxygen carriers to combust fossil fuels (CH4 and coal) for the chemical looping combustion processes, and the extraction of rare earth elements using patent pending sorbents. His research expertise has focused on operando-characterization using Infrared, Raman, and UV-Vis spectroscopy to observe the nature of the catalytic active sites and reaction intermediates under realistic reaction conditions, allowing direct correlation of molecular/electronic structures with catalyst performance during Gas-Solid / Liquid-Solid Adsorption and Photocatalytic Processes with real time online analysis of reaction products using ICP-MS and mass spectrometry. His current work involves a multi-disciplinary approach to developing, understanding, and improving the catalytic gasification of coal and methane, high temperature chemical looping combustion, and the catalytic decomposition and gasification of biomass and coal using novel microwave reactor.​ He has been studying the Hebrew Scriptures and the Torah for 20+ years and sharing what he has learned. The studies developed for MATSATI.COM are freely to be used by everyone, to God be the Glory!

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