But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that I may multiply My signs and marvels in the land of Egypt (Exodus 7:3).
This is one of ten references in this portion to either God hardening Pharaoh’s heart or Pharaoh himself hardening his heart. The rabbis taught that God was destined to harden Pharaoh’s heart to punish him for the 400 years of cruel bondage he imposed on the Israelites. Rashi points out that in response to five plagues, the scripture says, “Pharaoh’s heart was hardened,” and not, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened by his own stubbornness.
S’forno (Ovadia ben Jacob Sforno was an Italian rabbi, Biblical commentator, philosopher and physician. He was born at Cesena about 1475 and died at Bologna in 1550) taught that God did not want Pharaoh to let the Israelites go simply because he could not stand the plagues. Pharaoh had to let the people go for the right reasons. His heart was hardened to withstand the onslaught of the plagues and to witness the marvels of God. God wanted this witnessing to lead him to repent on his own. S’forno tells us God also wanted the Israelites to witness the plagues to become convinced of God’s strength and special love for them.
No one would ever genuinely refer to themselves as stubborn. If they do at all, it’s because someone important to them has called them that, and they feel guilty that they can’t please this person whom they care for. Just because I won’t budge doesn’t make me stubborn. It just means I’m satisfied with my position.
If you’ve made a lucid, understandable, argument that genuinely shows how I’ll benefit by changing, and I still won’t yield, then it could be that I’m a passive-aggressive, narcissistic, control freak, who always has to have it my way; but I’m still not stubborn. 🙂