Hardening Pharaoh's Heart
After the sixth plague – boils – the Bible says that, "God hardened Pharaoh's heart" (Exodus 9:12). This seems grossly unfair! How can God warn Pharaoh to obey and then harden his heart so he can't listen?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
God doesn't want to coerce Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. He wants Pharaoh to admit he is wrong. But the plagues are so overwhelming and frightening, Pharaoh almost gives in against his will. So God hardens Pharaoh's heart to help him do what he wants to do, which is to go on saying "no."
There is another, more unsettling, explanation of God's hardening of Pharaoh's heart. Having been pig-headed for so long, Pharaoh loses the ability to change. If you recognize the truth and refuse to act on what you know, you dig yourself into a rut that gets deeper and deeper.