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Bible Dictionaries

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary

Pharaoh

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Egyptian kings were known by the title Pharaoh. To the Egyptian people Pharaoh was a god-king, one who embodied a god during his life and went to the world of the gods at his death (see EGYPT). The Bible, however, treats the various Pharaohs as it treats the kings of other nations. They were mere human beings under the sovereign control of God (Romans 9:17; cf. Isaiah 44:28).

Some Pharaohs are mentioned favourably in the Bible. The Pharaoh whom Abraham visited was more honest in his behaviour than Abraham (Genesis 12:10-20), and the Pharaoh of Joseph’s time was sensible and generous (Genesis 41:37-45; Genesis 41:55; Genesis 45:16-20; Genesis 47:20-22; Genesis 50:4-6). Later, other Pharaohs oppressed the Israelites and made them slaves. One even tried to kill all their babies (Exodus 1:8-16; Exodus 1:22).

The most infamous of the Pharaohs was the man who opposed Moses and hardened his heart against God. From Moses’ first meeting with him, he showed that he despised God and had no intention of releasing the captive Israelites (Exodus 5:1-2). He was determined to resist God at all costs, in spite of the repeated opportunities God gave him to repent and in spite of the warnings God gave him through a series of plagues (Exodus 7:11-13; Exodus 8:8; Exodus 8:15; Exodus 8:28-32). By confirming Pharaoh in his hardness of heart, God showed the greatness of Pharaoh’s evil and the justice with which he punished it (Exodus 9:12; Romans 9:14-18; see PLAGUE).

In the final plague on Egypt, the firstborn in all Egyptian families, including Pharaoh’s, died. This prompted Pharaoh at last to release the Israelites (Exodus 11:1-9; Exodus 12:29-32). When Pharaoh changed his mind and tried to recapture the Israelites, he and his soldiers were killed in a mighty judgment at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:5-9; Exodus 14:28).

Most of the remaining Pharaohs of the Bible story are mentioned in relation to Egypt’s political and military involvement with Judah during the time of the Israelite monarchy (e.g. 1 Kings 3:1; 1 Kings 11:40; 2 Kings 18:21; 2 Kings 23:29; see JUDAH, TRIBE AND KINGDOM). Some of them feature in prophetic announcements of judgment upon Egypt (e.g. Ezekiel 29; Ezekiel 30; Ezekiel 31; Ezekiel 32; see EGYPT).

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Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Pharaoh'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/bbd/p/pharaoh.html. 2004.

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