Hardened Hearts – A Brief Biblical Survey – Part 3

(continued from part 2) (see also part 1)

6. The Hardenings of the Old Testament Israelites

a) During the Wilderness Journey

i) Old Testament Discussion

2 Kings 17:13-14
Yet the LORD testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets. Notwithstanding they would not hear, but hardened their necks, like to the neck of their fathers, that did not believe in the LORD their God.

In this passage, the hardening is attributed to the people and it is connected with them not believing in the LORD.

Nehemiah 9:16-17
But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments, and refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not.

Again, the hardening is attributed to the people. In this case, the hardness is connected with the rebellion of Israel.

Psalm 95:7-11
For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, “It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.”

Again, the hardening is attributed to the people. In this case, the hardness is connected with the children of Israel angering God.

Jeremiah 7:25-27
Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day I have even sent unto you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them: yet they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck: they did worse than their fathers. Therefore thou shalt speak all these words unto them; but they will not hearken to thee: thou shalt also call unto them; but they will not answer thee.

Again, the hardening is attributed to the people. In this case, the hardness is connected with the children of Israel not hearkening to God.

ii) New Testament Discussion

Hebrews 3:5-19
And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; but Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, “To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, ‘They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.’ So I sware in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter into my rest.'”) take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; while it is said, “To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.” For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

Again, the hardening is attributed to the people. In this case, the hardness is connected with the unbelief of the children of Israel.

Hebrews 4:4-9
For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, “And God did rest the seventh day from all his works.” And in this place again, “If they shall enter into my rest.” Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, “To day,” after so long a time; as it is said, “To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.

Again, the hardening is attributed to the people. In this case, again, the hardness is connected with the unbelief of the children of Israel.

b) At other times (besides the Exodus itself)

2 Kings 17:13-14
Yet the LORD testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets. Notwithstanding they would not hear, but hardened their necks, like to the neck of their fathers, that did not believe in the LORD their God.

Again, the hardening is attributed to the people. In this case, again, the hardness is connected with the unbelief of the children of Israel.

Nehemiah 9:28-30
But after they had rest, they did evil again before thee: therefore leftest thou them in the hand of their enemies, so that they had the dominion over them: yet when they returned, and cried unto thee, thou heardest them from heaven; and many times didst thou deliver them according to thy mercies; and testifiedst against them, that thou mightest bring them again unto thy law: yet they dealt proudly, and hearkened not unto thy commandments, but sinned against thy judgments, (which if a man do, he shall live in them;) and withdrew the shoulder, and hardened their neck, and would not hear. Yet many years didst thou forbear them, and testifiedst against them by thy spirit in thy prophets: yet would they not give ear: therefore gavest thou them into the hand of the people of the lands.

Again, the hardening is attributed to the people. In this case, the hardness is connected with the rebellion of Israel. You will recognize that I had also included this passage in the immediately previous section, since it deals with the fact that Israel is repeating its rebellion.

Jeremiah 7:25-27
Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day I have even sent unto you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them: yet they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck: they did worse than their fathers. Therefore thou shalt speak all these words unto them; but they will not hearken to thee: thou shalt also call unto them; but they will not answer thee.

Again, the hardening is attributed to the people. In this case, the hardness is connected with the children of Israel not hearkening to God. This too is a repeated passage from the previous section to show that Israel’s lack of hearkening continued from the Exodus onward.

Jeremiah 19:14-15
Then came Jeremiah from Tophet, whither the LORD had sent him to prophesy; and he stood in the court of the LORD’S house; and said to all the people, “Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; ‘Behold, I will bring upon this city and upon all her towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words.'”

Again, the hardening is attributed to the people. In this case, the hardness is connected with the children of Israel not hearing (in the sense of obeying) God.

Isaiah 63:17 O LORD, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear? Return for thy servants’ sake, the tribes of thine inheritance.

Finally, in this instance the hardening is attributed to God. This should not be seen as inconsistent with the previous examples but rather as compatible with them. God takes credit for hardening the hearts of the wicked and it is also true that the wicked harden their hearts.

c) Lesser Hardenings

Matthew 19:8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

Mark 10:5 And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.

Both of these passages refer to the lesser hardening that Jesus mentions with respect to the Mosaic permission of divorce. He refers to divorce as being a provision for the hardness of the hearts of the Jews, but he does not specifically tie that hardness to anything.

Deuteronomy 15:7-8
If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: but thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.

This passage relates to a hardness of heart specifically with respect to selfishness. The Israelites are commanded not to be selfish with their goods but to give to their brethren enough to satisfy the needs of their brethren. The same rule applies to Christians today.

7. The Hardenings of the New Testament Jews

a) The Pharisees and others

John 12:37-43
But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: that the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, “Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, “He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.” These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him. Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

Here God takes the credit for the blinding and hardening of the Pharisees. Furthermore, God also ascribes purpose to the blinding and hardening, namely so that the people would not believe.

Acts 19:8-10
And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.

Here the actor of the hardening is not stated, though the hardening is connected with unbelief. It is also connected with antipathy for the gospel.

Mark 3:1-5
And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, “Stand forth.” And he saith unto them, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill?” But they held their peace. And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.

Here the actor of the hardening is not stated, though the hardening is connected with opposition to Christ and – it would seem – a general stubbornness.

b) The disciples

Mark 6:49-52
But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out: for they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid. And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered. For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.

Notice that the hardening hear is connected with a lack of recognition of Jesus’ divinity. The effect of the miracles was not to prove his divinity to them, because their heart was hardened. The actor of the hardening is not stated.

Mark 8:15-17
And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “It is because we have no bread.”
And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, “Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened?”

In this case the hardness of heart relates to not understanding Jesus’ teaching. The actor of the hardening is not stated.

Mark 16:9-14
Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.
After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.
Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.

The hardness of heart here again relates to their unbelief, though not directly of Jesus, their unbelief of the testimony regarding Jesus.

c) The Jews until the Fullness of the Gentiles

Romans 11:25-27
For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, “There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.”

The actor of the blinding (which is the same concept as blinding, as we saw above in John 12:40) is not stated, though it should be clear from the context in Romans 11 that the actor is God:

Romans 11:7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.

And similarly:

2 Corinthians 3:14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.

We see the same general concept:

2 Corinthians 4:4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

And likewise:

1 John 2:11 But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.

8) Men in General

Job 9:4 He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered?

The point here is that man hardening himself against God always results in the destruction of the man.

Proverbs 21:29 A wicked man hardeneth his face: but as for the upright, he directeth his way.

The point here is that hardening of the face of the wicked is the opposite of the righteous “directing his way,” namely obeying the commandments of God.

Proverbs 28:14 Happy is the man that feareth alway: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief.

The point here is that man hardening himself against God always results in the destruction of the man.

Proverbs 29:1 He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.

The point here is that man hardening himself against God always results in the destruction of the man.

Romans 2:2-11
But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; but glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: for there is no respect of persons with God.

The same point is here, namely that hardness of heart will lead to destruction.

9. Miscellaneous Hardenings in Job

Job mentions a few other hardenings. I include them simply for the interest of the reader.

Job 6:10 Then should I yet have comfort; yea, I would harden myself in sorrow: let him not spare; for I have not concealed the words of the Holy One.

Job 39:13-18
Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks? or wings and feathers unto the ostrich? Which leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in dust, and forgetteth that the foot may crush them, or that the wild beast may break them.
Job 39:16 She is hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers: her labour is in vain without fear; because God hath deprived her of wisdom, neither hath he imparted to her understanding. What time she lifteth up herself on high, she scorneth the horse and his rider.

(of Leviathan) Job 41:24 His heart is as firm as a stone; yea, as hard as a piece of the nether millstone.

(to be continued, perhaps)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: