The word “Pharaoh” means “ruler” or “king.” It is almost certain that there were two Pharaohs during Moses’ lifetime, the first when he was born and raised in Egypt and the second when he returned to Egypt at the age of 80 to deliver the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. If the reader desires to know more about the “personal life” of each Pharaoh, you will have to read about that in history books such as “Alfred Edersheim’s Bible History” or “Halley’s Bible Handbook.” It should be noted though that Egyptian history of the Pharaohs is often confusing and unreliable as historians often disagree on names, dates and events. Though the Bible doesn’t go into any great detail on their personal lives, we can rest assured that what is said about them is 100% accurate. In our limited space, we will briefly list what God says about them. We should also mention that God tells us all we really need to know about these two Pharaohs, for we learn what their attitudes were towards God and His people and this is what really counts.

In Exodus 1:8 we read, “Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph” (NASB). We know from the book of Genesis that the previous Pharaoh favored Joseph and his family, but this “new Pharaoh” had no love for the descendants of Joseph. He was a WICKED man who feared the rapid multiplication of the Jews. His fear led him to: 1) Afflict them with hard labor (verses 9-14); 2) Kill the Jewish boys at birth (verses 15-21); and 3) Drown every male baby (verse 22). Like Herod in Matthew chapter 2, he was inspired by Satan to exterminate the Hebrew race and thus prevent the Messiah from being born, growing up and coming into power. He was an UNGODLY MAN who hated God and His people.

Another Pharaoh is before us in Exodus chapters 5-14. God has led his servant Moses to confront Pharaoh and to demand that he let His people go. Exodus 5:1-2 says, “And afterward Moses and Aaron came and said to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness.’ But Pharaoh said, ‘Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice to let Israel go’?” We learn something vital here; Pharaoh had no respect for the Lord and thus he refused to obey Him. He was an UNGODLY MAN who was characterized by what we read in Romans 3:18: “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” The fact is, he worshipped MANY GODS and when God judged Egypt with ten plagues it was also a judgment against their gods. Exodus 12:12 confirms this: “For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and AGAINST ALL THE GODS OF EGYPT I WILL EXECUTE JUDGMENT.” In addition to Pharaoh being an ungodly man who worshipped many gods, he HARDENED HIS HEART against God’s Word time and time again. We read in Exodus 8:15, 19, & 32, “But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not listen to them, as the LORD had said….but Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said….but Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and he did not let the people go.” Because Pharaoh refused to believe God’s Word and continually hardened his heart, the Lord Himself hardened his heart as we see in Exodus 9:12, “And the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not listen to them, just as the LORD had spoken to Moses.” This simply means that God continued to give Pharaoh His Word resulting in his heart becoming harder and harder. Through it all God was making an example out of Pharaoh, as we see in Romans 9:17: “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth’.” There may have been one SOFT SPOT in Pharaoh’s heart. Let’s read Exodus 12:29-30, “Now it came about at midnight that the LORD struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from THE FIRSTBORN OF PHARAOH who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon…Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians, and THERE WAS A GREAT CRY IN EGYPT.” Pharaoh’s heart had remained hard after the first 9 plagues, but with the death of his son “he was made to cry!” And in verse 31 we read, “Then he called for Moses and Aaron at night and said, ‘Rise up, get out from among my people.” Though he was, as we have seen, an UNGODLY man with NO FEAR OF GOD, and a CRUEL ruler who worshipped many gods, there seems to have been some love in his heart for his son. His death was more than he could take and he was glad to be rid of Moses and his people.

If we were to read on in Exodus chapter 14 we would see that Pharaoh’s heart was once again hardened, resulting in him and his armies pursuing after Israel to destroy them (verses 2-9). But God did indeed make an example of Pharaoh and demonstrated His power by destroying the Egyptian armies in the Red Sea (verses 10-31). (231.9) (DO)