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The Tur, Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher writes in his commentary on Shemos 9:12 that G-d had to harden the heart of pharaoh, in order to prevent that pharaoh would capitulate prematurely. This because G-d wanted wanted to complete the whole series of plagues in Mitzrayim.

ויחזק ה', “the Lord strengthened the heart of Pharaoh.” It is possible that during the preceding plagues the presence of and encouragement by the sorcerers had helped Pharaoh to maintain a defiant posture. Now G’d had to strengthen his heart so that he would not capitulate prematurely, and G’d could not complete the whole series of plagues He had planned. Ibn Ezra writes that Pharaoh did not ask Moses to pray to G’d on this occasion because the plague did not last long, and we should not assume that because the first plague had lasted for seven days, that all the subsequent plagues also lasted for a whole week.

The idea of the Tur is echoed by Rabbeinu Bahya:

Had G’d not interfered at this point, Pharaoh might have capitulated and perhaps would have decided to let the Israelites go.

I might be missing something, but to me it seems that if the Jewish people were taken out of Mitzrayim earlier, that would be better, since they wouldn't need to wait any more longer. However, "Now G’d had to strengthen his heart so that he would not capitulate prematurely, and G’d could not complete the whole series of plagues He had planned.".

This article suggests, based on Kabbalah, that the Jews were being prepared in Mitzrayim to receive the Torah on Har Sinai. The conditions in Mitzrayim served as a "purifying tool" so to speak. Had pharaoh let the Jewish people go before the plagues ended, the process would've not been enough.

Any thoughts on this? Please provide sources.

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The intention of seeing the 10 plagues to completion and hardening Paro's heart was in order to convince the Egyptians that Hashem is the true and only God (sources below). It's hard to fathom how steeped in Avoda Zara the Egyptians were, and the sources discuss at length how each and every detail (including Midrashic details) were part of the plan to leave the Egyptians without any shadow of a doubt that Hashem is the one and only true God. I strongly recommend Let My Nation Go by Yosef Deutsch who gathers them and provides many many sources, covering almost every conceivable detail and question on the matter.

A quick example or two, during the maka of the death of the first born, even first born animals died in order to dispel any possibility that they might claim their own gods (animals) brought the maka upon them (Rashi from Mechilta, Bo, 11:5). Also, Egyptians in other countries also lost first borns, as well as non-Egyptians visiting Egypt at the time, so they couldn't blame it on the gods of other nations (see Rashi on Shemot 12:29). As we can see, even by the 10th plague, there were still so many "loose ends" for Hashem to tie up in order to de-facto demonstrate He is the only power.

There's also the point that the plagues are midda k'negged midda punishments for the Egyptians for what they did to the Jews. See Sforno. Therefore, they had to be seen to completion in order for the justice to be completed.

See also Lekach Tov Va'era 9:13, Haggada Maaseh Nisim and many other Haggadas, including Rav Tzadok HaKohen M'Lublin's about the idea that the 10 plagues were k'negged the 10 statements by which the world was created bishvil Yisrael, against the nation who oppressed Yisrael, so the din behind this also needed to be completed.

Zohar parashat Bo, Sifrei Haazinu, Malbim Va'era 7:14 bring that the plagues, as stated above, were to methodically demonstrate to the Egyptians that Hashem was the Almighty Ruler of the universe, to glorify and sanctify Hashem's Name. In my experience, this is the main reason given in sources. I remember a great shiur as well on this, I'll edit it in if I find it.

The reason the Jews had to stay around for this is in part for their own delight in seeing the great miracles happening on their behalf. See Shemot Rabbah 15:27, and Avot D'Rebbe Natan 33. The main reason though, of course, is that if they had been let go, there would be no further reason to bring the signs, which needed to be brought to completion for the above stated reasons.


I think I found the shiur I mentioned above, and it is a quick plain language (no sources) explanation, along the same lines as above, of how the makkot were k'negged the sefirot, and the reason for that is because only Hashem is the true King (Malchut), and so on with all the sefirot, and this needed to be demonstrated to show how Hashem is the true and only God. Watch from here: https://youtu.be/3ozm3xOEAnA?t=316

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    @Shmuel Not necessarily. Pharaoh likely became aware that Hashem had enough power to make serious trouble for him, but that doesn't necessarily mean that his own gods were powerless or not real. He could have rationalized it as "My gods are powerful, but not powerful enough to stand up against Hashem. Or they were just busy with other things - surely they'll pay attention next time if I ask harder." Only after the tenth plague did he really understand that Hashem was the only true God and that his gods were a bunch of chumps at best - real, but at most mere angels - and nonexistent at worst.
    – Benyamin
    Jan 17, 2023 at 20:15
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    @Shmuel yes, Benyamin's logic is correct, it's certainly lav davka, and lo raya. Ramban and Sforno both bring that Hashem's hardening of Paro's heart was in order to allow him the free will to let the bnei yisrael of his own accord, rather than being "forced" to by the suffering. This backs up what Benyamin stated. I have also updated my answer to further clarify this by giving examples of how there were so many different idols for Hashem to smash, even by the 10th plague, that further backs up this point.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jan 17, 2023 at 20:41
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    @RabbiKaii :). My reading of that Kedushas Levi is that the gentiles needed to acknowledge that the miracles were performed by G-d (this connects the idea of you and Benyamin). That only happened after the tenth plague.
    – Shmuel
    Jan 17, 2023 at 21:07
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    The Derekh Chayim 5:4:6 on Shemos Rabbah 15:27 also points out that the ten plagues refer to the ten test of Avraham Avinu. "And since Avraham withstood the ten tests and did not follow his nature, G-d, may He be blessed, also did miracles, not according to the nature and norm of the world, for Avraham's children - just as Avraham had been with G-d, may He be blessed, not according to the nature and norm of the world."
    – Shmuel
    Jan 17, 2023 at 22:16
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    @Shmuel right. All that's left now is to figure out how they relate to the 10 Commandments!
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jan 17, 2023 at 22:22

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