The Character and History of Pharaoh
Romans 9:17-18
For the scripture said to Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised you up, that I might show my power in you…

However clearly we may perceive the correctness and force of any abstract truth, it will usually make a more deep and definite impression when illustrated by some example. We are assured, for instance, of the omnipotence of God; but who does not find his own conceptions of it more definite and impressive when he turns to its illustrations in his own frame or in the wonders of creation? It is as adapted to this tendency that the Scriptures supply us with so many illustrative examples of their sentiments and requirements. This observation will be found applicable to the present subject — the sovereignty of God in dispensing the blessings of His saving grace. He tells us that He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and He illustrates this by the cases of Saul of Tarsus and the dying thief. He tells us that "whom He will He hardeneth," and illustrates it in the case of the proud Egyptian monarch. Note —


1. His bold and impious defiance of Divine authority. "Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice, to let Israel go?" This spirit is too often evinced still in those who meet the appeals of God with, "What is the Almighty that we should serve Him?" "Our lips are our own: who is Lord over us?"

2. The severe and repeated discipline to which he was subjected in order to humble and subdue this feeling. It is needless to repeat the ten plagues. These were not only most afflictive in themselves, but marked in the mode of their occurrence, a line of separation being so strikingly drawn between the Israelites and the Egyptians. How frequent are the instances in which God, to humble the sinner's pride, subjects him to providential visitation!

3. The powerful but still defective impressions of which he was the subject. Of this the narrative supplies repeated evidence in the various compromises into which he seeks to enter, which were revoked as soon as the visitation was withdrawn. And so sinners, while Divine judgments press upon them, what sorrow will they express, and what salutary purposes they will form; and though, like Herod, they would do many things, yet, like him, they refuse compliance on some, and fail to give up the heart to God.

4. The persevering hostility he continued to discover. If his heart somewhat relented under suffering, it seemed in every quiet interval to become increasingly determined (Exodus 10:10-28). All this does but illustrate what is still going on in many a sinner, who having been for a time alarmed, discovers, as the sense of danger gradually subsides, a mind rendered only the more callous.

5. The striking but awful visitation by which Pharaoh was at last overthrown. None hath hardened himself against God and prospered.


1. God placed him in a situation adapted to develop the peculiar tendency of his sinful disposition, which appears to have been proud superiority. God afforded scope for the special display of this feeling by placing him on a despotic throne. God may still act toward some on the same principle, but it should be remembered that the very circumstances which expose to greater danger will only render superiority to them the more striking and honourable: and that where, as in the case of Pharaoh, an individual fails, he does so by his own act.

2. God afforded to him the most ample evidence of the folly and danger of his continued resistance.

(1) He had the plainest proof that Moses and Aaron were the accredited messengers of God.

(2) The displays of the Divine power were such as must have forced on his mind the consciousness of his own impotence.

(3) He was made to perceive how plainly all these exercises of Divine wrath were entirely and only in consequence of his own determined obduracy.

3. God designed in this case to exhibit an impressible example of the fearful danger of a proud and impious defiance of Divine authority.Conclusion:

1. How proper and important the prayer which Christ has taught us — "Lead us not into temptation."

2. How fatally defective and delusive those religious impressions and purposes which are founded on present alarming apprehensions of danger, while the heart remains unhumbled and in love with sin.

3. How vain and hopeless ultimate resistance to Divine authority.

4. How earnestly should we deprecate the thought of being abandoned to a hardened state of mind.

5. Let no humble and penitent sinner be discouraged by this illustration of God's righteous justice.

(H. Bromley.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

WEB: For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I caused you to be raised up, that I might show in you my power, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth."

The Case of Pharaoh
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