Apologetics Thursday – Knowing Pharaoh Beforehand

By Christopher Fisher

Blogsite Into the Harvest writes:

Does [Open Theism] make sense Biblically? I don’t see how it does. We see numerous passages showing that God knows what will happen in the future and I don’t see how that can be reconciled with the open theist view. In Exodus he says “But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go.” (Ex. 3:19-20). God here seems to clearly know that the Pharaoh wouldn’t let the people go if Moses told him and he wouldn’t let them go until God did wonders. You also notice later on that when things happen, like the Pharaoh hardening his heart, it happens “as the Lord had said” (Ex. 7:13, 8:15, 8:19, 9:12, 9:35). It seems highly unlikely that God simply made a conditional prediction.

Let us consider what was actually said:

Exo 3:19 But I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not even by a mighty hand.

This sounds quite like someone who speaks and generally does not know the future. The fact that this specific example is provided contrasts against other uncertainty. God does not say “I know everything in the future and so know what Pharaoh will do.” God speaks like an Open Theist. Humans can and do say the same thing all the time:

“But I am sure that Mom will not let me take the car, not even with a lot of convincing.”

Just like the English word “to know”, the Hebrew brings with it a range of possible meanings. These meanings are known primarily from context. So what is the context of Exodus 3?

In Exodus 3:19 the context is God anticipating and reacting to what Pharaoh will do:

Exo 3:19 But I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not even by a mighty hand.
Exo 3:20 So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in its midst; and after that he will let you go.

This is like saying:

“But I am sure that Mom will not let me take the car, not even with a lot of convincing.
So I will use every trick and skill I have to convince her, and she will let me take the car.”

This is well within the range of normal human communication about fellow humans (nevermind about God). There is no need to have any sort of divination necessary.

When the author claims “It seems highly unlikely that God simply made a conditional prediction”, most Open Theists would agree: God did not expect anything different to happen then what was stated. But there are always unwritten conditionals. God explains these conditionals in Jeremiah 18:

Jer 18:7 The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it,
Jer 18:8 if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it.
Jer 18:9 And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it,
Jer 18:10 if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.

God changes His plans based on the actions of people. The apostle Paul alludes to this chapter when speaking about reasons why God switched over to the Gentiles. The Jews never expected it, because they wanted to forget about God’s unwritten conditionals. Paul explains, in Romans 8-11 that God always has the right to change.

This concept is also echoed in God’s dealings with the original kingship of Israel.

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