Not all biblical passages have a simply solution, but sometimes there are reasonable explanations when passages seem to suggest God forces us to commit evil against our will. The Bible says God hardens human hearts leading to immoral acts (Jos. 11:20; Ex. 7:3; 10:1; Rom. 9:18). Yet, other passages claim God doesn’t tempt or have anything to do with evil (Jm. 1:13; I Jn. 1:5). Which is it? Does evil flow from God or our own hearts (Mt. 15:19, Gen. 6:5)?
Exodus 7:3 says: “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart…” Pharaoh is also said to harden his own heart: “But this time also Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go” (Ex 8:32). Numerous times the writer says in the same context that God hardens and other times Pharaoh hardens his own heart. There must be a plausible explanation for only a mindless writer or editor would seemingly contradict themselves in practically the same breath. Writers are often disillusioned but they seldom make it so obvious on paper with pen.
When we say “the Devil made them do it,” we aren’t saying that one didn’t have the freedom to make their own decisions. It is hard to believe the writer is suggesting God made Pharaoh commit evil. The writer is implying God is simply withdrawing their influence because of resistance. Paul says in using the example of Pharaoh: “For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all” (Rm. 11:32). The freedom to carry out evil desires may lead Pharaoh and others influenced to hit rock bottom and accept God’s forgiveness.
Idioms in other languages are difficult to recognize much less understand. It is claimed about Babylon: “…there is none besides me (Is. 47:8). The writer is not claiming Babylon is the only city in the world. This is a way the Hebrew language is used to claim superiority over others. God hardening is not forcing one against their will but a way of expressing God excepting one’s resolve to do evil. The story reveals that once Pharaoh chose evil, God fought to bring some good from such evil intentions.
It is not rationally possible a good God encourages or causes us to be immoral. God surely would have gladly accepted Pharaoh’s change in heart at any time. Ultimately, it is best we depend on God guiding us than relying on our different interpretations. Scripture as a whole doesn’t suggest God violates one freedom by influencing or forcing them to make evil choices. God’s desire from the beginning is always that we act for the good of our and others’ interests.