J.P. Boyce: "Whenever the heart is hardened as the result of any action of God, it is always as the result of merciful action, which should have had an opposite tendency."

"Whenever the heart is hardened as the result of any action of God, it is always as the result of merciful action, which should have had an opposite tendency. Thus was it with Pharaoh, and thus was it with the Jews in the time of Christ.

(5.) An examination of the passages which refer to the hardening of the heart will show that (a) some expressly declare this hardening to have been by means, or by the individuals themselves; (b) that others are explained by parallel or allied passages to have this meaning; and (c) that there is nothing inconsistent with this view.

1. Passages which affirm this hardening to be the work of the individuals themselves.

2 Kings 17:14. The people of Israel carried away by the Assyrians are said to have hardened their necks like their fathers. See also Neb. 9:16-29 and Jer. 7:26.

2. Passages which furnish explanations. To these belong the famous passages concerning Pharaoh. There could be no stronger expressions than those there used.

(1.) God foretells that he will harden Pharaoh’s heart. Ex. 7:3.

(2.) It is expressly said that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. Ex. 7:13.

(3.) God declares that for this very purpose did he raise up Pharaoh that he might show his glory. Ex. 10:1, 2.

(4.) And yet Pharaoh is expressly declared to have hardened his own heart. Ex. 8:15, 32. Notice in this case the way of hardening; whenever the curse was sent, Pharaoh yielded; whenever it was removed, his heart was hardened. And, that this was not an accidental connection, is seen by the fact that in Ex. 9:34, it is said of Pharaoh that, 'when Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet wore, and hardened his heart.'

Another passage, which has often been commented on, is that in 1 Kings, 22nd chapter, where Ahab calls on his prophets and receives assurance of success (verse 6). He sends for a prophet of God (verses 7-9) who gives him the same answer (verse 15), probably ironically, as Ahab immediately turns and says to him, 'How many times shall I adjure thee that thou speak unto me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord' (verse 16). The prophet then proceeds to tell of the scattered house of Israel, as sheep that have no shepherd, thus foretelling evil. The king says to Jehoshaphat, 'did I not tell thee that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil' (verse 18). Then the prophet proceeds to tell a vision wherein God is represented as wishing to destroy Ahab and asking of all his hosts, who will persuade Ahab that he may go and fall at Ramoth Gilead. And after various replies one Spirit came and said, that he would persuade him by being a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And the prophet adds, 'Now therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets; and the Lord hath spoken evil concerning thee.' This 1 Kings 22:21-23, is the place that is frequently referred to as a case of God’s misleading Ahab. Independently of the fact that the prophet uses drapery for what he says, he tells the King distinctly God’s will, and, as his prophet who ought to be heard, declares the truth. This passage ought not to weigh for a moment in favor of the idea that God seeks effectively to harden, and thus to destroy.

Again, we have a class of passages, for they are many, such as the one before referred to as showing Reprobation, Matt. 13:11-15. This passage follows the Septuagint translation. The corresponding passages (Mark 4:11, 12, and Luke 8:10) follow the Hebrew of Isaiah 6:9, 10, and are still stronger than Matthew. But Matthew may be taken as explanatory of the parallel and other like passages. The doctrine meant was so plainly understood that the language is not always guarded. It may not have been by Christ in its utterance. But we have here the intended meaning manifested in a single phrase, 'and their eyes they have closed lest haply they should perceive,' 'and should turn again and I should heal them.'

The passage in Isaiah 63:17, is easily explained in like manner: 'O Lord, why dost thou make us to err from thy ways, and hardenest our heart from thy fear?'

3. Passages not inconsistent with this interpretation.

On the contrary, in view of what has been said, this interpretation seems most natural. These are fair examples.

Deut. 2:30. 'But Sihon, king of Heshbon, would not let us pass by him: for the Lord thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into thy hand, as at this day.'

Acts 19:9. 'But when some were hardened, and disobedient, etc., ...he (Paul) departed from them.'

Rom. 9:18. 'So then he hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardeneth.' The example referred to here is that of Pharaoh which, as we have seen, is a case of self-hardening under mercies" (J.P. Boyce, Abstract of Systematic Theology, Chapter 30 Reprobation).

Self-hardening under mercies? Really, Boyce? So you think God was showing Pharaoh mercy each time He relented from continuing a plague? Wow. Boyce is a testimony to the spiritual blindness of unregenerate men who can take a clear text of Scripture and turn it on its head.