I would like to present an examination of the life of Pharaoh in order to help us understand God's pure and active sovereignty over evil and sin. But I hope to present a balanced analysis so that we can grasp the end result of God's sovereignty rather than having an unhealthy view that might result in fatalism. But first I would like to lay a foundation.

One passage that is rather a strong support of the supra/active sovereignty of God is found in Psalms:

Psalms 105:25 He turned their heart to hate his people, to deal subtly with his servants.
Now, we say for us to hate is sin. God even said:
Genesis 12:3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
So then we have Gentiles hating God's people, and that by God turning their hearts to do so. If I turn a steering wheel am I passively turning it? In other words am I allowing my steering wheel to be turned? It sounds absurd, doesn't it? So then why is it any less absurd to interpret this passage as God allowing their hearts to be turned? It just doesn't say that. Now at times I sort of thing in my heart that says, "God, how about turning their hearts to love Your people?" And sometimes I am real disappointed when He responds, "Because I am God and their is none besides Me...who will say unto Me, What doest thou?" Yes, even believers in supralapsarianism (let's just say the sovereignty of God) such as myself shake their vain fist at God and say "What are you doing? Why would you do that? What purpose does that serve? I mean, if you could cause Saul to stop his slaughter of Christians, why can't you turn Milosovich's heart to love your people and repent?" But isn't that the age old question: Why doesn't God just save everyone? Well, besides the fact that it is His good pleasure not to save them (again, which seems needlessly cruel), consider this:

If God saved everyone, then God would not be eternally wrathful-a core part of His character. His wrath compliments His holiness, for in His wrath His holiness is shown. If God saved everyone, then He would no longer be wrathful and thus not only would one of His attributes be gone (thus He would have changed), what message would that send to the non-elect concerning His holiness. We must remember that the message of the Gospel (which is not the Gospel if it does not include a declaration of God's holiness) is always accomplishing the purpose of God:

2 Corinthians 2:15-16 For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: {16} To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?
God wants His message known to the reprobate as well:
Exodus 7:5 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch forth mine hand upon Egypt, and bring out the children of Israel from among them.
And God states that He actually wants His wrath to be shown:
Romans 9:22 What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known...
So then, in all of this God must be in control, and certainly active control. For how could God be passively making known His wrath and holiness and power? Consider this sequence:
Exodus 3:9 Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them.
Yet we have seen that God turned their hearts to do this:
Psalms 105:25 He turned their heart to hate his people, to deal subtly with his servants.
Continuing the sequence:
Exodus 3:10 Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.
So then God will use Moses to bring them out of Egypt...
Exodus 3:20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all my wonders that I will perform in it; after that he will let you go.
Now why didn't God just cause those Gentile Egyptians to worship Him? Moses said they would not listen. God proceeds to cause the rod to turn into a serpent, make the hand of Moses turn leprous, then make the water into blood on dry land. Moses yet still complained of his own inability to speak. God says:
Exodus 4:11 And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?
So throughout this whole dialogue with Moses God is conveying His total and complete authority over the affairs of men. But it gets stronger:
Exodus 4:21 And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.
Now go figure this out. God is going to perform miracles before Pharaoh that to most people (so they profess) would be empirical testimony of the power and existence of almighty God, and yet God says He is going to harden Pharaoh's heart so that He won't let them go! Sound familiar:
John 12:37-40 But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: {38} That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? {39} Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, {40} He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.
Continuing the story:
Exodus 5:1 And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness.
There it is: a specific command of God to Pharaoh-"Let My people go!" But God already said: "I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go."

So our question is, but how can God fault Pharaoh when God said ahead of time that He would harden him? The opponent raises that same question against Paul’s line of thinking in Romans nine:

Romans 9:17-21 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. {18} Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. {19} Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? {20} Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? {21} Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
If it was a matter of Pharaoh hardening his own heart first before God did, then the whole line of reasoning behind Paul’s thought would be pointless. All the force in His argument is based specifically on the fact that God did His will based upon nothing that Pharaoh did. Those who try to say that God hardened Pharaoh because of Pharaoh first hardening his own heart are forgetting that Paul had already set up the stage with the story of Jacob and Esau. The opponent would argue that God hated Esau because of foreseeing what Esau would do. But Paul makes absolutely certain that we understand that that is exactly the thought he wants to refute:
Romans 9:11,13 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)...13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
If it were because of what Esau had done, again, there would be no point at all for verse eleven.

So then, with Pharaoh, Paul tells us God is doing exactly the same thing: God tells us that He will harden Pharaoh for the explicit purpose of disobeying God so that God would show His wrath and power:

Romans 9:17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
So we see the result of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart:
Exodus 5:2 And Pharaoh said, Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go.
Does this not declare the radical awesomeness of God’s sovereignty? Examine the situation. God specifically said: "I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go." So what does Pharaoh do? Exactly what God said He would do:
Exodus 7:4-5 But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you, that I may lay my hand upon Egypt, and bring forth mine armies, and my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments. {5} And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch forth mine hand upon Egypt, and bring out the children of Israel from among them.
There it is again. God states His purpose for hardening Pharaoh’s heart: So that the Egyptians would know that He is the LORD. It is a very simple theme in the Bible: God wants people to know that He is God and there is no other God besides Him. He wants people to know that He is all-powerful and He will do whatever He wants to do to make sure this frail and vain world knows that. And in the process He graciously chooses some to be saved for absolutely nothing they have done or earned, but simply for His own good pleasure and purpose, or as one pastor put it: just because.
Exodus 7:8-14 And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, {9} When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Show a miracle for you: then thou shalt say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent. {10} And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the LORD had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent. {11} Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. {12} For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods. {13} And he hardened Pharaoh's heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said. {14} And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh's heart is hardened, he refuseth to let the people go.
It is almost too obvious. It is practically redundant. But I find that for certain aspects of God’s character, God delights in being extraordinarily redundant and repetitive, which should strongly communicate that wherever He is redundant, He wants us to have the thought or truth utterly embedded in our minds.

Then God speaks to Moses again:

Exodus 7:16 And thou shalt say unto him, The LORD God of the Hebrews hath sent me unto thee, saying, Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness: and, behold, hitherto thou wouldest not hear.
"Behold, up to this point you would not hear"? And why not? What I see here is God dealing with people as responsible agents (Please understand that there is an enormous philosophical difference between responsible and ‘free’). God exercises His absolute sovereignty over mankind and communicates that sovereignty in the most plain language, and yet then deals anthropomorphically (in language man can understand) with His human subjects. Now certainly man can understand the clear language of God "hardening Pharaoh’s heart." There is nothing obscure or hidden there. So likewise there is nothing obscure or hidden about the fact that God says to Pharaoh, "Up to this point you have not let My people go." I almost want to say, No duh. But that would certainly be disrespectful if directed toward God. But the reality is, "Obviously!" Now Pharaoh wasn’t sitting there saying "I am presently being hardened by God and that is why I cannot let these people go." But God gives us the inside scoop. God essentially tells us, "Look, I am doing all this for My glory, not yours. This story is about Me, not you. Granted, I love you and delight in you and have given my only begotten Son to die for your sins. I have even hardened others so that you would be thankful that I chose you and did not harden you, but I did it all so that you would praise me for my glory and mercy." And so what does the vast majority of humanity say to God who "hardens whom He wills..."
Romans 9:19-20 You will say to me then, "Why then does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" {20} But who indeed are you, a human being, to argue with God? Will what is molded say to the one who molds it, "Why have you made me like this?"
You see, Paul is actually bringing up not a literal question that Pharaoh or the reprobate asks, but rather He is setting forth the implications of His sovereignty and how mankind generally responds to that sovereignty, and that is, with rebellion against God. Sure, you all are asking, "But isn’t even that rebellion a part of His sovereignty?" Do you need me to answer that for you? Of course not. You have already answered it in your own mind after studying the life of Pharaoh. His hardened heart and rebellion was a direct result of God’s sovereignty. You saw it. I saw it. So which one of us will argue against the Scripture or question the Potter? We both probably will to some degree. But will we deny His word? Or will we humbly bow before His sovereignty and declare His glory?

God then ironically tells Pharaoh:

Exodus 9:16-17  But this is why I have let you live: to show you my power, and to make my name resound through all the earth. {17} You are still exalting yourself against my people, and will not let them go.
Again, is this a new idea? Is God giving us some new piece of information? It is as if God is surprised that Pharaoh is still lifted up in pride and not letting the people go.

So ultimately, what was the conclusion of the story of Pharaoh and the end result of God hardening him?

Exodus 10:1  And the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might show these my signs before him:
Why all the signs?
Exodus 10:2  And that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son's son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am the LORD.
We have got to start understanding that God has an end for which He does things like hardening and so forth. It is always for His glory and that His people would know that He is the Lord:

It doesn't take a mind of brilliance to see that Pharaoh was totally and completely under the control of God. What king in his right mind would not have let the people go after the first two or three signs. But Pharaoh just couldn't let them go. He was hardened. Think of it: God turns a rod into a snake. Pharaoh is hardened. God turned the waters into blood. Pharaoh is hardened. God sends frogs. Pharaoh is hardened. God sends lice. And at this point even the magicians admit that this is the finger of God. Pharaoh is hardened. God sends flies. Pharaoh is hardened. God kills the cattle with pestilence and keeps Israel's cattle alive. Pharaoh is hardened. Really, what rational human being would not start catching a clue by now? God sends boils. Pharaoh is hardened. God sends hail to the people. And even some of Pharaoh's servants heeded the word so that the cows wouldn't be killed by the hail. Pharaoh is hardened. God smote the flax and the barley. Pharaoh is hardened.

At this point God tells Moses:

Exodus 10:2  And that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son's son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am the LORD.
When we are made continually aware of the end of the results of the hardening, we should be thankful, not rebellious, at the sovereignty of God. We should praise Him, not question Him.

God sends a plague of locusts. Pharaoh is hardened. Again, Pharaoh's servants declared:

Exodus 10:7  And Pharaoh's servants said unto him, How long shall this man be a snare unto us? let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God: knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed?
But Pharaoh was hardened. He even went so far as to confess:
Exodus 10:16-17  Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste; and he said, I have sinned against the LORD your God, and against you. {17} Now therefore forgive, I pray thee, my sin only this once, and entreat the LORD your God, that he may take away from me this death only.
But alas:
Exodus 10:20  But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go.
God then caused darkness to come over Egypt. And God keeps His providential consistency:
Exodus 10:27  But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let them go.
Then in God's last declaration to Pharaoh:
Exodus 11:1  And the LORD said unto Moses, Yet will I bring one plague more upon Pharaoh, and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go hence: when he shall let you go, he shall surely thrust you out hence altogether.
Moses relays this message to the people:
Exodus 11:4-9  And Moses said, Thus saith the LORD, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: {5} And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts. {6} And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more. {7} But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast: that ye may know how that the LORD doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel. {8} And all these thy servants shall come down unto me, and bow down themselves unto me, saying, Get thee out, and all the people that follow thee: and after that I will go out. And he went out from Pharaoh in a great anger. {9} And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you; that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.
But again, and for the end result, king Pharaoh's heart is in the hand of the Lord, and like the rivers of water, He turns that heart wherever He wills:
Exodus 11:10  And Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh: and the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of his land.
So then God fulfills His promise and slays all the firstborn of Egypt. But God declared that Pharaoh would finally let the people go:
Exodus 12:30-31  And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead. {31} And he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as ye have said.
The results are clear:
Exodus 12:36  And the LORD gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians.
Exodus 12:41  And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.
But even after Pharaoh had let them go:
Exodus 14:4  And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD. And they did so.
God hardened them for their judgment day:
Exodus 14:8  And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand.
And that, in keeping with the universal law of the wicked:
Proverbs 16:4  The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.
In hardening Pharaoh and the Egyptians, God's people were forced to cry unto Him:
Exodus 14:10  And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto the LORD.
Exodus 14:17  And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.
Notice the end result: God said "I will get Me honor upon Pharaoh..." Here God finally makes clear His goals: to exalt Himself and cause the enemy to know that He indeed is God of gods and Lord of Lords:
Exodus 14:17-18  And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen. {18} And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten me honour upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.
Exodus 14:27-28  And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. {28} And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them.
And God wins.

The greatest eternal reason for this active hardening of Pharaoh's heart that he would sin against God is this:

Deuteronomy 5:15  And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.
It was all for the purpose of God's people praising His glorious name for redeeming them. And so the type is fulfilled in Jesus Christ as God hardens the Gentiles, Jews, Herod, Pilate into binding Christ to the cross, when all along Christ was declaring the Gospel to the Pharisees. The message of judgment would come upon their heads as God hardened them into crucifying the Lord of glory:
Acts 4:27-28  For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, {28} For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.
And what was the end result:
Ephesians 1:5-7  Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, {6} To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. {7} In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
When we consider the vessels of dishonor, first consider your redemption:
Romans 9:22-23  What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: {23} And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,
Yes, God hardens, but God also saves, and both are for the end that we should praise Him for His glorious grace and power over the sons of men.