God did not arbitrarily or capriciously decide to harden Pharaoh’s heart. From the outset, He explained that He intended to make His contest with the Egyptian pantheon into a public affair. He said, “Against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the LORD” (Exodus 12:12). He intended to use Egypt as a theater in which He could establish His name (i.e., His reputation) and His identity in the eyes of His people Israel, in the eyes of all Egypt, and in the eyes of the whole world.
The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst. (Exodus 7:5)
In the Semitic sense, to declare one’s name means to broadcast a person’s fame and reputation. To declare God’s name means to reveal who God is, i.e., to glorify Him. It has nothing to do with pronouncing or not pronouncing the sacred name of God; it has everything to do with revealing God’s person and character to the world.
Consider the following passages from the exodus narrative in which the Almighty explains His motives for striking Egypt and delivering Israel:
- The Egyptians shall know I am the LORD. (Exodus 7:5)
- That you many know there is no one like the LORD our God. (Exodus 8:10)
- So that you will know that I, the LORD, am in this land. (Exodus 8:22)
- In order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth. (Exodus 9:16)
- And that you may tell in the hearing of your son, and of your grandson, how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I performed My signs among them, that you may know that I am the LORD. (Exodus 10:2)
- Against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments--I am the LORD. (Exodus 12:12)
- I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD. (Exodus 14:4)
The LORD used the plagues, the signs, the wonders, and even the redemption of Israel to show His power and to proclaim His name through all the earth. He made His grand entrance onto the stage of world history and sent a message to the whole world: “I exist, I am God, there is none like Me!” He sent a message to the false gods and the idols, proving that He alone is God and there is none other. Israel is the trophy of His victory.
The demonstration succeeded. The decimation of Egypt made an impact on the world, and the name of the LORD has never since been forgotten. In Jericho, the Canaanites were still talking about what God did in Egypt forty years later. The Philistines were still talking about it two hundred years later. We are still talking about it today.