Jonathan Edwards on God's will to save

 "[Prop.] I. God oftentimes uses many means with wicked men to bring 'em to forsake their sins. This is what God declares in his Word, that he hath no pleasure in death of a sinner, but that he should forsake his sins, and live. Ezekiel 18:23, 'Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?' And again in the Ezekiel 18:32, 'For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.' And Ezekiel 33:11, there God swears the same thing: 'Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, Ye house of Israel?' Surely it would be horrid presumption in us to call this in question, after God has sworn by his life to the truth of it. The same we are told in the New Testament by the Apostle. 1 Timothy 2:3–4, 'For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth.' 2 Peter 3:9, 'The Lord is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.' And therefore God appears in his providence slow to wrath, and is wont to use many means with sinners to bring them to forsake their sins, before he gives them up. Thus God's Spirit strove long with the old world, before he destroyed them. Genesis 6:3, 'My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.' For God sent Lot, a preacher of righteousness,4 to turn the inhabitants of Sodom from their sins, before he destroyed them. So he did not destroy hardhearted Pharaoh, till he had used many means to make him willing to comply with God's commands (Jonathan Edwards [1734], Sermons and Discourses, 1734-1738 (WJE Online Vol. 19), Ed. M. X. Lesser.)

4. The phrase, found only in 2 Peter 2:5, applies to Noah, not Lot, though the latter is called "that righteous man" (2 Peter 2:8).

Many means to make Pharaoh comply BEFORE all ten plagues were accomplished? Many means to make Pharaoh willing to  comply with God's commands in order to thwart His own purpose to deliver His people in the Passover? On the contrary, God actively hardened Pharaoh's heart by the "many means" (which were the "many plagues") so that Pharaoh would NOT comply with God's commands. It appears Edwards has things backwards.


"Why did God harden Pharaoh's heart to change his mind about letting the Israelites go? So He would be glorified and feared and believed. This is one of the mighty works of God that is recounted in the rest of the Bible.

Let's now go back to two more things God said during the plagues that show us without a doubt why God chose to harden Pharaoh's heart. First, Exodus 10:1-2:

Exodus 10: (1) And Jehovah said to Moses, Go in to Pharaoh, for I have made his heart heavy and the heart of his servants, so that I may set these signs of Mine in their midst; (2) and so that you may recount in the ears of your son and the son of your son what I exerted Myself to do against Egypt, and My signs which I have done among them, and you may know that I [am] Jehovah.

Why did God make Pharaoh's heart heavy? First, to set these signs in the midst of Egypt, and second, so they can tell their sons and son's sons what He did, that they may know that He is Jehovah. It was to show His glory to the Egyptians and to the Israelites. The second passage is Exodus 9:16:

Exodus 9: (16) And for this reason I have made you stand, in order to cause you to see My power, and in order to declare My name in all the land.

Does that sound familiar? Let's turn to Romans 9:17:

Romans 9: (17) For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, For this very thing I raised you up, so that I might display My power in you, and so that My name might be publicized in all the earth.

So here is our text. Why did God raise Pharaoh up? Just think - from before the world began, God had specific plans for this Pharaoh. And in time, this Pharaoh was born for this purpose. And later in time, this Pharaoh was made king of Egypt for this purpose. He was made king of Egypt at this particular time in history for this purpose. He was the king of Egypt during the time of Israel's captivity and during the time that Moses was called to lead the Israelites out of captivity. And God had plans to show His power to the Egyptians and to the Israelites. God had not planned just to bring one plague to the Egyptians and then cause Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. He planned to bring a plague onto Egypt and then harden Pharaoh's heart so the next plague would come. And then after the next plague, He hardened Pharaoh's heart so the next plague would come. And on and on until the last plague. It was not possible for Pharaoh to have done anything differently. God made him - caused him - to disobey for a specific purpose. All the plagues displayed God's power and publicized His name in all the earth. God caused Pharaoh to sin for His glory. God wanted to and did display His power. Pharaoh was raised up and used by God for His glory. Paul uses the example of Pharaoh to make the point that God will have mercy on whomever He wants, God will pity whomever He wants, and God will harden whomever He wants, all for His own glory. It is not of the one willing, nor of the one running, but of the One showing mercy, of God. Amen" (Biblical Sermon on Romans 9:17).