The basic meaning of the various original-language words that convey the idea of stubbornness is hardness, especially in a bad sense. In Biblical usage, often a deliberate refusal to comply with God’s will or commands is involved. (Ps. 78:8; 81:12; Isa. 1:23; 65:2; Jer. 3:17; 5:23; 7:23-26; 11:8; 18:12; Hos. 4:16; Acts 7:51) That disaster comes to those who persist in a stubborn course is repeatedly highlighted in the Scriptures. (Deut. 29:19, 20; Neh. 9:29, 30; Prov. 28:14; Isa. 30:1; Jer. 6:28-30; 9:13-16; 13:10; 16:12, 13; Dan. 5:20; Hos. 9:15; Zech. 7:12; Rom. 2:5) For instance, God’s law to Israel prescribed that a stubborn and rebellious son be stoned to death.—Deut. 21:18, 20.
In his dealings with humankind, Jehovah God has patiently allowed individuals and nations, although deserving of death, to continue in existence. (Gen. 15:16; 2 Pet. 3:9) Whereas some have responded favorably to this by putting themselves in line for receiving mercy (Josh. 2:8-14; 6:22, 23; 9:3-15), others have hardened themselves to an even greater degree against Jehovah and against his people. (Deut. 2:30-33; Josh. 11:19, 20) Since Jehovah does not prevent persons from becoming stubborn, he is spoken of as ‘letting them become obstinate’ or ‘making their hearts hard.’ When he finally does execute vengeance upon the stubborn ones, this results in a demonstration of his great power and causes his name to be declared.—Compare Exodus 4:21; John 12:40; Romans 9:14-18.
A case in point is what God did in connection with the Pharaoh who refused to let the Israelites leave Egypt. Jehovah brought ten devastating plagues upon the land of Egypt. Each time that Pharaoh hardened his heart after a certain plague ended, Jehovah used this as an opportunity to demonstrate his great power still further by other miracles. (Ex. 7:3-5, 14–Ex 11:10) Therefore, some of the Egyptians came to realize that Jehovah is a God who has to be obeyed. For example, when the seventh plague was announced, even some of Pharaoh’s servants saw to it that their own servants and livestock were safely sheltered before the destructive hailstorm began. (Ex. 9:20, 21) Finally, when Pharaoh, after having released the Israelites, again made his heart obstinate and mustered his forces to wreak vengeance upon them (Ex. 14:8, 9; 15:9), Jehovah destroyed him and his army in the Red Sea. (Ex. 14:27, 28; Ps. 136:15) For years afterward God’s name was declared among the nations as they talked about what Jehovah did to the Egyptians on account of their stubbornness.—Ex. 18:10, 11; Josh. 2:10, 11; 9:9; 1 Sam. 6:6.
As Jehovah gives advance warning of his judgment against stubborn ones, the execution of that judgment cannot be attributed to other causes or a different source. Said Jehovah, through the prophet Isaiah, to obstinate Israelites: “Due to my knowing that you are hard and that your neck is an iron sinew and your forehead is copper, I also kept telling you from that time. Before it could come in, I caused you to hear it, that you might not say, ‘My own idol has done them, and my own carved image and my own molten image have commanded them.’”—Isa. 48:4, 5; compare Jeremiah 44:16-23.