In the comment section of the last post, my friend Emet made some points about the hardening of Pharaoh's heart recorded in the book of Exodus. I will interact with his remarks below. His words are in italics and my responses are in bold.
Pharaoh’s Heart is one of the reasons I had to learn biblical Hebrew. I’m not sure if you can read Hebrew but please verify the following use of words.
Yes, one good thing Bob Jones University does is to stress the ancient languages.
Pharaoh of his own free will does not want to let the Children of Israel leave Egypt.
In Exodus 4:21 the Almighty tells Moses to return to Egypt, show Pharaoh great signs, but Pharaoh will not send the people out because the Almighty will strengthen (chet, zayin, kof) his heart. The Almighty is strengthening Pharaoh’s heart so that Pharaoh, who considers himself a deity, can use his free will to keep the Children of Israel in Egypt, and to do exactly what he wants to do - battle this Almighty. A soldier under torture will often reveal information, not because he wants to do so, but because he cannot withstand the pain.
So, if I understand what you are saying, YHWH gave Pharaoh strength to enable him to remain resolute against letting the people go, even in the face of horrible plagues?
First, I don't see how that resolves the moral problem. Because what you are saying is that Pharaoh would have given in but YHWH gave him the strength to remain obstinate. How that differs from the traditional understanding of YHWH hardening Pharoh's heart is difficult to see.
Second, the Hebrew word is the Piel Imperfect of חָזַק (chazaq). In the Piel, it can mean the following (according to the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon):
1) to make strong
2) to restore to strength, give strength
3) to strengthen, sustain, encourage
4) to make strong, make bold, encourage
5) to make firm
6) to make rigid, make hard
According to BDB, when this verb has לֵב (leb) for its object, it means to "harden" or "make obstinate." BDB cites Ex. 4:21; Joshua 11:20; Jer. 5:3; Psalms 64:6 as cases where this is the meaning.
Third, the Septuagint (LXX) uses the Greek word σκληρυνῶ which has the following meanings according to Thayer's Greek Lexicon:
1) to make hard, harden
2) metaph. a) to render obstinate, stubborn, b) to be hardened, c) to become obstinate or stubborn
So, I don't see any justification for translating the word "to strengthen" in 4:21. I think " to harden," "to make obstinate," or "to make stubborn" are all better translations.
Exodus 7:3 But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, NIV. The Hebrew word used in this verse is spelled (kof, shin, hey) and it means support or harden in a strong manner. The Almighty is telling Moses that He will support Pharaoh’s free will even though the plagues will become more difficult.
The Hebrew word in 7:3 is the Hiphil Imperfect of קָשָׁה (qashah ). Again according to BDB in the Hiphil it can mean:
1) to make difficult, make difficulty
2) to make severe, make burdensome
3) to make hard, make stiff, make stubborn
a) of obstinacy (fig)
4) to show stubbornness
The LXX once again uses σκληρυνῶ to translate the Hebrew verb. I think this clearly demonstrates that the two Hebrew words are synonyms.
Exodus 7:13 The heart of Pharaoh was strong and he did not heed them as [the Almighty] had spoken. The Stone Edition TANACH The Hebrew word used here is the same as in Exodus 4:21 (chet, zayin, kof) and it means strong or steadfast. It is the same word used in Deuteronomy 31:6 when the Almighty is speaking and encouraging the children of Israel - Be strong (chet, zayin, kof) and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. NIV
Exodus 7:22 also uses the word (chet, zayin, kof) ...so Pharaoh’s heart was strong and he did not heed them, as [the Almighty] had spoken. The Stone Edition TANACH Verse 22 uses exactly the same words as verse 13.
In both 7:13 and 7:22 the Hebrew verb is the Qal Imperfect of חָזַק (chazaq). in the Qal, according to B-D-B, it means:
1) to be strong, grow strong
a) to prevail, prevail upon
b) to be firm, be caught fast, be secure
c) to press, be urgent
d) to grow stout, grow rigid, grow hard (bad sense)
e) to be severe, be grievous
2) to strengthen
I see no reason NOT to understand it in the sense of "to grow stout, grow rigid, grow hard."
We have a numbering problem. Verse 8:15 in the Christian bibles is verse 8:11 in the Torah.
Exodus 8:15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not listen to them, as the LORD had said. NASB
Exodus 8:11 Pharaoh saw that there had been a relief and he kept making his heart stubborn. He did not heed them as [the Almighty] had spoken. The Stone Edition Tanach
The word in the Hebrew text is (kaf, bet, dalet) which translates as stubborn, or making important. The Torah uses a different word here to tell us that Pharaoh was making himself important. He could not bear the thought that there was a power/god more forceful than he was. A few verses later Pharaoh’s own sorcerers cannot duplicate the plague of lice. They acknowledge to Pharaoh that it is the finger of the Hebrew G-d.
Here the Hebrew word is the Hiphil infinitive of כָּבַד (kabad) which BDB says can mean:
1) to make heavy
2) to make heavy, make dull, make unresponsive
3) to cause to be honoured
I don't see that Pharaoh is "making himself important" as you say but but that he is "making his heart dull or unresponsive."
The next verse (Christian bible 8:19, Hebrew 8:15) says, But Pharaoh’s heart was strong and he did not heed them, as [the Almighty] had spoken. Again the exact same words as 7:13, 7:22 and now 8:15.
Exodus 9:34-35 illustrate this understanding beautifully when you see it in the Hebrew, but one would miss it entirely in English.
Pharaoh saw that the rain, the hail and the thunder ceased and he continued to sin; and he made his heart stubborn (kaf, bet, dalet), he and his servants. Pharaoh’s heart became strong (chet, zayin, kof) and he did not send out the Children of Israel as [the Almighty] had spoken through Moses. The Stone Edition TANACH
As I said above, I don't see any reason to translate the Qal imperfect of חָזַק (chazaq) any other way than "to grow stout, grow rigid, grow hard."
So, Emet you are right in pointing out that there are three different Hebrew verbs all translated "harden" in most English translations. I think there is a reason for that, however; the Hebrew verbs are close synonyms.
In addition, if your goal is to somehow lessen the moral problem of YHWH making Pharaoh's heart hard or stubborn, I don't see that you can accomplish it through appeal to the Hebrew vocabulary involved.