In Mark 8:17 (NAS), Jesus asked, "Do you not yet see
or understand? Do you have a hardened heart?"
Jesus' question to his disciples still calls to us all,
challenging us to examine and deal with our inner state.
Scripture helps us to recognize the many facets of
hardness of heart.
In the story of Pharaoh and Moses (Exodus chapters
4-14), several Hebrew words for "harden" are used
(seemingly interchangeably), showing different aspects
of the hardness of Pharaoh's heart. One of the
words (Strong's #2388; see Ex 4:21) means "to make
strong, bold, firm, hard, and rigid." In this
sense, Pharaoh was boldly and unquestioningly confident
in pursuing his own (wrong) course of action.
A second word (Strong's #7185; see Ex 7:3) means "to
be dense, i.e. tough, severe, hard, stiff, stubborn, and
obstinate." This suggests, not going for what's
wrong, but resisting what's right, obstinately
disregarding God's show of power and His word and
reproof. A third word (Strong's #3513/3515; see Ex
7:14 KJV, 8:15) signifies "to be heavy, rich, or
numerous," and, in its bad sense, means "to make dull,
unresponsive, insensible, difficult, stupid." This
suggests neither going for what's wrong nor resisting
what's right, but being so self-preoccupied, content,
and dully unresponsive that one misses God altogether.
In the New Testament, there are two basic ideas used
to signify hardness. One idea (Strong's #4456,
poroo; #4457, porosis) derives from a word referring
to a kind of stone. It means "to petrify, make
hard, render stupid or callous;" "to cover with a thick
skin;" "to make the heart dull, hard, calloused;" "to
loose the power of understanding." This is the
hardness that angered and grieved Jesus (Mark 3:5).
It is the hardness (blindness KJV) that Paul said
(Ephesians 4:18) characterizes the Gentiles. He
warned believers to put it off and not continue to walk
in it (Ephesians 4:22).
The other idea is rooted in a word (Strong's #4642,
skleros) meaning "dry, hard, tough, (parched),"
and, relative to men, it means "harsh, stern, hard."
Regarding the heart, this hardness denotes "obstinacy
and stubbornness, and a destitution of spiritual
perception." This is the idea in Romans 2:5:
"But after thy hardness and impenitent heart
treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of
wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God."
This is also the hardness that drew Jesus' reproach:
"...and He reproached them for their unbelief and
hardness of heart, because they had not believed
those who had seen Him after He had risen" (Mark 16:14).
A hardened heart stands in the way of belief, trust,
and obedience (Hebrews 3:12-19), and it leads the way
into mischief and calamity (Proverbs 28:14). Just
as in all our own lives, it is keenly relevant in
Word-Based Counseling to be alert to and ready to deal
with hardened hearts.
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