Free Will1


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Philosophical Issues

  • Divine omniscience – If God has perfect and immutable knowledge and knows how man will act, how can man act freely?
  • Divine omnipotence – If God is all powerful, how can man have free will? Can God not control what man can do?
  • Divine justice – If man does not have free will, how can God hold him morally responsible for coerced actions?

Biblical Texts

These philosophical questions arise in a number of Biblical texts:

  • Hardened hearts – There are several Biblical verses which describe how Hashem hardened people's hearts. While the most famous instance is the hardening of Paroh's heart in Shemot 4:21, similar descriptions appear in the stories of Sichon in Devarim 2, the nations of Canaan in Yehoshua 11, and the Baal worshippers in the time of Eliyahu in Melakhim I 18, as well as in the prophecies of YeshayahuYeshayahu 6:10Yeshayahu 63:17.2 Did God deprive these people of their free will? If so, how can they be held responsible for their actions? See Hardened Hearts for more.
  • Sale of Yosef – Did God send Yosef to Egypt as Yosef revealed to his brothers in Bereshit 45:8? If so, how could the brothers be held responsible for the sale?