A quick concordant search of the ESV shows that the word “harden” in various forms is used 42 times, with 41 referring to the heart in some way. (Some references have God hardening the heart of man, which I understand to be as the ultimate cause, for we are responsible for our hardening as shown in the other instances). Taking only those twelve case-specific instances, this is what we can learn:
Exodus 4:21 – Pharaoh’s hard is heartened so he generally does not let the people go. In context, it is stubborness to give in to the request of Moses (and Yahweh whom he represents).
Exodus 7:3 – Despite signs and wonders, Pharaoh will not listen to Moses. Pharaoh will not believe the explanation and interpretation that Moses provides, nor accept as truth his words.
Exodus 14:4 – Pharaoh’s heart will be hardened and he will pursue Moses and the Israelites. Beyond disbelief, Pharaoh will be anger and incited to do harm to them.
Exodus 14:7 – The Egyptians’ hearts will be hardened and they will pursue the Israelites into the Red Sea, spurning the miracle and foolishly pursuing a course of action that is unreasonable.
Thus, in Exodus we can vividly see the effects of a hardened heart and its awful progression.
Deut. 15:7 – Hardening our hearts is contrasted with opening our hands to lend what is needed to a brother. So, hardening is typified by stinginess, selfishness, self-centeredness.
Joshua 11:20 – Israel’s enemies had hard hearts and devoted themselves to the destruction of Israel and were defeated. The idea of reckless anger and unreasonableness is implied.
1 Sam. 6:6 – Refers to the Egyptians in general.
Psalm 95:8 – Hardening hearts is equated to putting God to the test. This is disbelief for they had seen God’s work.
Isaiah 63:17 – Hardening hearts causes God’s people not to fear him. This is foolhardy indeed, and will result in punishment.
Heb. 3:8,15; 4:7 – An example of hardening is the rebellion in the wilderness, again, when they tested God.
What does this all mean? We need to use biblical language to describe our conditions and to know unequivocally what the Word says about our idea response. Biblical language is not superficial, but an important first step in understanding our reality. In this day we all suffer from idolatry, though we do not call it that. We glorify objects that don’t deserve glory, though we don’t think in that way. And when we argue, often it is we who have hard hearts, though we play with words and never consider such an admission (until maybe the argument is over).
Let us be reminded of the consequences of hardened hearts, that our hearts might be characterized by the opposite. Let us be fearers of God, approving of the work of God, quick to obey the Word, cool, reasonable, and demonstrating humility.
Perhaps one day I’ll follow this up with some Greek and Hebrew word, but that’s enough for tonight’s devotions, and paints a more colorful picture of the hardening of hearts. It’s clearly more common today that we identify.