The obstinate position that Hamas has taken throughout this war in the Gaza Strip reminds me of an ancient biblical phenomenon that may well be at work in modern times. The circumstances are different, but the principle might be in play. You know how it goes, right? First comes the request: “Let my people go from your constant barrage of rockets.” Then comes the refusal: “We will not let your people go.” Then comes the response: “If you do not let my people go we will attack.” After this comes an apparent reversal: “We will agree to let your people go from this rocket attack if there is a ceasefire.” Then comes the rejection of the ceasefire, more rockets are launched, and the cycle begins again. This phenomenon is called the hardening of the heart.
At the time of this writing, Hamas has worked its way through this cycle of the absurd at least six or seven times in the last month. Hamas leaders are well on their way to matching or exceeding the record set by Pharaoh during the Exodus who repeated the request, refusal, response, reversal, and rejection cycle 10 times! It doesn’t seem to matter if a ceasefire proposal comes from the United States, the United Nations, divided Arabs, or united Israelis; Hamas is unable to break the cycle because it seems that their heart has been hardened.
Is it a coincidence that the ancestors of the ancient Egyptians who witnessed the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart tried to intervene with Hamas in Gaza that is on the Egyptian border? I think not.
“Pharaoh’s servants said to him, ‘How long will this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the Lord their God. Do you not realize that Egypt is destroyed?’” (Exodus 10:7, NASB).
Change a few words and it would sound eerily similar to what is being said to the leaders of Hamas even while they continue to place innocent Palestinians in harm’s way during this no-win war.
Egyptian negotiators said to Hamas, “How long will Israel be a snare to us? Let the Israelis go from this war, that they may serve the Lord their God. Do you not realize that Gaza is destroyed?”
Now for the hard part. Can you imagine the cry of the Egyptians who were losing their animals, servants, and family members while Pharaoh went through the five-stage cycle 10 times? Maybe there were organizations from surrounding areas calling for an end to the hostilities or maybe even some ancient Israelites joined with others to plead with Moses to make the plagues stop. No one knows what may have occurred back then that is not written in the pages of Scripture.
What we do know now is that Israel never would have crossed the borders into Gaza for a ground campaign if the heart of Hamas was not hardened to the ceasefire proposed by Egypt. We also now know that without Israel putting boots on the ground they never would have exposed the dozens of terror tunnels, some of which were built with concrete from Israel mixed with the blood of forced child laborers from Gaza. Until those terror tunnels are destroyed they will continue to be used at any moment to attack soldiers and civilians in Israel. It is as if this war in Gaza is a repeat of the days when Israel crossed into the borders of Sihon, king of the Amorites in Heshbon:
“…for the Lord your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, in order to deliver him into your hand, as he is today” (Deuteronomy 2:30).
So as the world sends cheers and jeers toward Israel while watching this war play itself out on their televisions, computers, and smart phones, I would like to offer one possible explanation for why Hamas is continuing to fight a no-win battle by firing rockets into the sky and crawling through tunnels in the ground: Maybe their heart is being hardened from above for a greater purpose on earth.