During The Plagues, we hear Moses singing to Rameses of letting his people go. Obviously he's talking about the Hebrews, but I suddenly realized something. Throughout the song, Moses references on how Rameses was (and still, in a way, IS) his brother, and how by being so stubborn he's harming the people of Egypt, which was their home. We also see Moses' face during the sequence isn't just a grave look at seeing the en masse destruction— he looks downright anguished at seeing his old home in that state. In a sense, the people he is begging Rameses to free aren't just the slaves: it's also the Egyptians themselves. He's telling Rameses how he's pretty much enslaving his subjects to the punishment of God, which they didn't deserve. They too are Moses' people. This makes the song that more haunting. It also doubles as a Tear Jerker in a way.
The Villain Song by the two priests (Playing with the big boys now...) didn't seem that amazing to me, it was more calling on their gods and doing some sleight of hand than anything particularly impressive happening. It might have just been that it was hard to make coolness contrast, given the soundtrack. Then I realized: This is a Bible story. These are priests calling on their gods in the face of a prophet. Of course it feels fake.
The blinding light in the sequence was the magicians' way of switching their staffs with snakes.
For the longest time, during the song "Playing with the Big Boys Now" I assumed the priests themselves were the 'big boys' named in the song. It was only after rewatching the film again that I realised that the Big Boys are Egypt's gods - which adds another dimension to the sequence, since the Big Boys that the magicians proclaim as giving them great power prove powerless before the one true God, who swallows their snakes!
From a comment on YouTube, the song was a way of demonstrating the superiority of YHVH's miracles to Egyptian magic, like so:
What Moses needed to turn his staff into a snake: The staff and an invocation to YHVH.
What the priests needed to (maybe) turn their staffs into snakes: The staffs, invocations to dozens of Egyptian gods, an elaborately-choreographed song-and-dance number, an army of servants, lots of smoke and mirrors, and a flash of light to blind the audience (or at least cause them to look away), as the staffs turned into snakes. So, Moses accomplished with the power of one God what it took the priests dozens of their gods plus theatrics to do.
The writers most likely got this from 1st Kings 18, where Elijah challenges the priests of Baal to a contest: whichever god is able to consume a sacrifice with fire is the true god. Baal's priests spend most of the day praying, dancing around, yelling, and cutting themselves to no avail, while a simple prayer from Elijah brings down fire that consumes the sacrifice, the wood, the altar they were sitting on, and the dozens of gallons of water they had dumped on it.
In "When You Believe", the phrase, "We were moving mountains long before we knew we could" is sung. What were the Hebrews doing at the beginning of the movie? Building Egyptian architecture, which tended to involve cutting out massive blocks of stone from a quarry by the thousands.
Also, it could double as a reference to Matthew 17:20, which states that faith the size of a mustard seed can uproot a mountain.
Rameses is against anything that will make him look like "the weak link in the chain" because he wants to live up to his father's hopes, but his inability to bend and change was his downfall. In short, the kingdom fell, not because he was weak, but because he was strong. Or rather, he valued strength far too much. He had neither the wisdom nor the confidence in himself to realize the strength that lies in gentleness and mercy.
More Fridge Brilliance: Why is God voiced by Moses' voice actor? The same reason God was represented by a burning bush. It was a form Moses was comfortable with. What is more comfortable and secure than the sound of your own voice?
That's not the first time it happens. Moses' nightmare in which he learns the truth of his parentage and what happened to the Hebrews ends with Moses flying in the disk of Aten, that, in one (forcefully eradicated) variant of the Egyptian religion, was worshipped as the One True God, Creator and Bringer of Life. God was telling him who had sent him the dream in a way he could understand.
Water seems to represent some connection with a home:
Moses is found by Queen Tuya in the moat and immediately adopts him into the family. Thus, Baby!Moses enters another home.
Moses tricks Tzipporah into falling into the moat. The next scene? He helps her escape so she can return back home.
Moses accidentally falls into a well. He is then welcomed to join Tzipporah's home and (eventually) her family.
The famous parting the sea. God helped lead Moses and the Hebrews to a newer home.
Well, his name does mean "Drawn From the Water"
When I re-watched the movie again I was curious on why Moses looked older than Rameses, despite being the youngest. Then, I realized it was because of their effect on one another's character. Without Moses, Rameses didn't mature into a better person; so his growth was stunted. And without his older brother, Moses was able to grow up.
It could also be their difference in lifestyle. Rameses remained pampered at the palace, while Moses had to do physical work for a living out in the desert. In the hot sun, no less! Then again, hard work builds character, as they say, so Moses' time in the desert helped him age both physically and emotionally much farther from Rameses.
Also, facial hair really "adds years" to one's appearance (speaking from experience).
As a kid, I loved Miriam's spunk and detested Aaron's cowardice. Miriam is always willing to stand up for truth, justice, and freedom. Aaron is constantly apologizing, groveling, and allowing injustice without a fight. When I grew up, I wondered how is she still alive? Realistically, Miriam should have been beaten within an inch of her life and/or killed for her insolence years ago. Then I realized Aaron is always there making excuses and apologies for her (like when she first meets "Prince Moses") or holding her back (like when he keeps her from trying to stop the old man from getting flogged). While the other characters and narrative scorn Aaron for his groveling and cowardice, it's possible he HAD to become that way to keep his sister from getting herself killed. Suddenly I had a lot more respect for the guy.
It just occurred to this troper that when Aaron asked Moses, "How does it feel when you get struck to the ground?" he may have been specifically referring to when Moses threw Miriam to the ground years before, rather than only in a general sense. Big Brother Instinct indeed.
Aaron meant well, but he was still a coward. And his attempts to protect Miriam were... kind of degrading. ("Oh, she's just crazy.") He would have been fine with perpetual slavery as long as it meant he (and Miriam) got to live out their lives in it. Miriam wanted better for her and Aaron, but also the rest of the Hebrew slaves. She was the only one who saw the potential in Moses right off the bat - and she was the only one with enough guts to set it all in motion.
Miriam is idealistic and Aaron is realistic—both important for their situation. When Miriam first recognized Moses, Aaron calmed him down so he wouldn't punish Miriam, and Miriam was subsequently able to help Moses later realize she really was telling the truth. If it had just been Aaron, he may not have spoken to Moses, and if it had just been Miriam, she would have been hurt. Miriam and Aaron unconsciously work off of each other well, and both made it possible for everyone to have freedom.
In the scene where Moses and Rameses are touring the construction site, just after Rameses has been made chief architect and Moses has found out about his true heritage, it seems like Moses and Rameses are on totally different pages. Rameses is excited and optimistic, planning a grandiose new building project. Moses is depressed and ashamed, focused on the suffering of the slaves surrounding them. But really, they’re focused on the exact same thing—the damage done by the chariot race (one one hand), and the heritage they have to live up to (on the other hand). They’re just coming at it from opposite angles: Rameses is work-focused, thinking about what he can contribute to the Pharaonic legacy, while Moses is people-focused, thinking about what he has contributed (harmfully) to his people’s well-being. It also demonstrates how, throughout the movie, Rameses in consistently self-focused, while Moses is consistently focused on others. To this troper, this one scene epitomizes how Moses and Rameses are polar opposite people with very different destinies despite both being leaders and both growing up together in the same context.
It's evident even before Moses gets his revelation. For instance, when Moses and Ramses wreck the temple with their chariot race, Moses immediately takes responsibility. He even gets a few Pet the Dog moments in, specifically with his decision to let Tzipporah escape and his relatively lax treatment of Miriam when he first meets her. Even if he was a spoiled and arrogant prince who viewed slaves as beneath him, the potential for him to become a better person was still there despite his upbringing. One must wonder if Moses would have been a wiser Pharaoh than Rameses and let the Hebrews go after the first few plagues...
During the first half of "When You Believe," many of the newly freed Hebrews seem to be in a daze, as if they're not quite sure what to think of being free. Many seem hesitant, and while some actually seem happy, none are ecstatic or "jumping for joy," etc. Viktor Frankl, who was a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps, wrote in Man's Search for Meaning that when the Nazis overseeing his camp surrendered and fled before the Allied forces arrived, the newly freed prisoners experienced this same thing:
"'Freedom'—we repeated to ourselves, and yet we could not grasp it. We had said this word so often during all the years we dreamed about it, that it had lost its meaning. Its reality did not penetrate into our consciousness; we could not grasp the fact that freedom was ours... In the evening when we all met again in our hut, one said secretly to the other, 'Tell me, were you pleased today?' And the other replied, feeling ashamed as he did not know that we all felt similarly, 'Truthfully, no!' We had literally lost the ability to feel pleased and had to relearn it slowly." (Italics added)
Then there's the fact that the Hebrews, at this point, had never experienced freedom, and life outside of Egypt. It was what they were familiar with. So, even without the burden of taskmasters over them, the prospect of heading out into the unknown, never to return, would be difficult to be overjoyed about.
As a kid, I didn't understand why Moses reacted more strongly to Miriam singing Yocheved's lullaby than to her saying that he was her brother. Then when I re-watched it, I noticed Moses humming the melody just after speaking to his Pharaoh father. He remembered, at the very least subconsciously. He must have spent whole his life inexplicably knowing that song, and now he hears it again from only one other source — a slave woman. Miriam's story by itself could easily be ignored, but the song confirmed that story by providing a link between her and Moses. That's why he panicked.
Rameses' reactions to the Plagues: he looks sure and safe through most of them (until the final one, that's it), but the Mosquitoes, the Darkness and the Hail of Fire scare him and the Boils enrage him. It seemed strange that he could shrug off the others (especially the Locusts) but react to those, but three of them hit his beliefs hard: the Darkness? In his own words, Rameses is "the morning and the evening star", and as the Pharaoh he's the living incarnation of a number of sun and sky gods, and yet he can do nothing about this; the Hail of Fire? Hail and storms are the dominion of Seth, that at the time was not only not demonized yet but one of the most important gods of the Egyptian pantheon, from which Rameses' own father had been named after; the Boils? They fall under the dominion of Thoth, that is both God of Medicine and administrator of justice, and he's furious because he can't see what he did wrong to call for the punishment of that one god. As for the Mosquitoes, why did he show fear of that one before steeling himself? I had to rewatch the scene many times, but finally I got it: he was scared for his son, and was preparing to defend him with everything he had.
Also, the reaction of him and his guards to the First Plague: Rameses was indifferent and the guards were initially puzzled before realizing it was blood, at which point the guards panicked and Rameses demanded an explanation from the priests. The thing is, the Nile would become red once per year, right before the flooding (the red is the silt). That's why Rameses was indifferent and the guards puzzled: Rameses hadn't seen where the red had started to spread from and initially associated it with the flooding, and the guards were asking themselves why the sign of the flooding was spreading from the guy they were supposed to arrest. Then they realized that not only it wasn't that time of the year and that the Nile had become red of blood and not of silt, upon which the guards panicked and Rameses started having doubts.
This also explains Hotep and Hoy's quick explanation; the red powder they used wasn't just any powder, but a sample of the silt from the river bed. In short they basically explained the above without any words when the Pharaoh demanded it.
The dying gasps in the scene with the Angel of Death. It's kind of a Freeze-Frame Bonus, but when the Angel of Death passes, it sucks their soul out. The dying gasp refers to the Hebrew concept of the soul leaving with the breath. And it also provides a (very small) Pet the Dog moment for the Angel of Death, as the way it's killing the children is both gentle and painless.
Moses being completely unhurt after a trip down the incredibly dangerous Nile River in a little basket looks highly improbable - that's the point. The fact that he even made it to the palace must have been what convinced the queen that he was sent to her from a higher power and she was right; she just assumed her gods sent him, rather than the Hebrew God.
Doubles as Fridge Sadness. Tzippoarah immediately goes to comfort her husband after he confronts Rameses for the very last time. This scene is actually quite brilliant, as well as heartbreaking, because Tzipporah is the only one to truly understand Moses's pain: The lost of a family forever. Tzipporah understands why Moses is feeling such pain; surely, during the years Moses has known her, he must have told her about the palace and his close brotherly relationship with Rameses. Here, Tzipporah doesn’t need to be told to know that the final confrontation with Pharaoh did not end on a peaceful note—the people are free, but Moses and Rameses’ relationship is broken, almost certainly for good. As for Moses, his adoptive family was all the family he had known for eighteen years, until he met Tzipporah and her sisters, and had a family again. Leaving Midian would have been really difficult for Tzipporah, as she knew she would likely not see her father or her sisters ever again, if not for a very long time. So she can empathise with Moses when he has lost all his adoptive family he had known and loved, possibly forever. On the other hand, Miriam and Aaron have lost their parents, but they had—and still have—each other, and now they have Tzipporah and Moses too. They have never known what it is to have to lose all the family you’ve known (whether adoptive or not). So Miriam is sympathetic, as she can tell how grieved Moses is, but does not understood the true agony of knowing you have lost someone you knew as your whole family likely for good. She can feel bad for Moses—and does feel bad for our favourite shepherd—but does not truly understand like Tzipporah does. Miriam loves her brother, and tries to comfort him, but only Tzipporah, who knows she has likely said goodbye to her Midian family forever, truly understands what Moses is feeling at that moment.
In "The Plague" the choir representing God ends with "Thus Saith the Lord". Apparently it's a biblical reference... Except it's not God singing, it's His Angels singing His praise and what they're doing in His name.
In the short interlude before the final plague, Ramses and Moses share a quiet moment where they reminisce about the trouble they got into as boys. Things change when Ramses' son calls out to them and Ramses becomes the cold Pharaoh. Why? Because his son was his heir and he felt that he needed to set things right, not just so his son wouldn't be afraid anymore...but to leave a legacy behind for his son to rule just as Seti had left for him. He didn't want to lose face.
The ancient Egyptians revered the Nile as the divine source of all life and a godly figure in its own right. That means that when Moses "stabbed" the Nile and it began to "bleed" he wasn't just doing something grand and bizarre—he was literally attacking a deity and physically wounding it.
One of the final lines in "Deliver Us", sung by the Hebrew slaves, is: "Deliver us, send a shepherd to shepherd us!" Guess what Moses was working as immediately before he found the Burning Bush and heard God's calling?
One things that's always bothered me about the Exodus story is why choose Moses in the first place. If God knew that Pharaoh would not listen and the plagues were need to convince Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go then why choose Moses specifically. Then it hit me watching this movie. When speaking to Moses God says that "Pharaoh will not listen" God never says Ramses will not listen. God makes the distinction between Ramses the Pharaoh and Ramses the person, Ramses the Brother. If anyone had gone to him and spoken for God he would not listen and would probably have put them to death but Moses was the only one who could appeal to Ramses humanity, to convince to put aside his responsibility to his Kingdom his father and his son and instead embrace the moral responsibility he has to his fellow human beings.
This is compounded when Ramses repeats Seti's line of, "Pharaoh speaks!" at the start of the movie.
During first nine plagues we see a few moments where children are watching in horror but are not harmed like their parents whereas during the the tenth plague however we only see children die. A Christian belief is that children when they die always go to heaven as they are innocent, so it could be considered that they weren't really punished at all.
This is a Jewish story, from the torah. Christian beliefs have no place in this movie.
You all know that Ramases' whole motivation is to surpass his father to prove himself as "not the weak link". Notice in the scene he talks with Moses in private and during The Plagues: his enormous bust is right behind his father's and it's bigger and towering over it. This guy has issues as big as that thing.
Moses refusing to dance. When Tzipporah's youngest sister ask him, he refused. He still was at lost, depressed and thinking himself an stranger in a strange land. Time passed and he got used to living among the Midians so when Tzipporah literally drag him to the dancing circle he still fought back a little but at the end gave in; despite living with them for around ten years (I suppose) he still considers himself an outsider despite being happier than before. Only when he got married to Tzipporah and officially entered her family, he started to clumsily dance with her in his wedding. He was finally happy.
Moses' first try on Rameses is saying that "the God of the Hebrews commands you to let His people go". He's still reluctant to face Rameses but puts it as it's the will of a higher being. It's only after Rameses increases the slaves' labour and talking with Miriam that Moses realizes it's more than just God's will; this is his people too, for he's a Hebrew too. Next time, he demands at the top of his lungs, "Let my people go!", and when Rameses ignores him, he says "You can't keep ignoring us". Now it's personal.
The reason why Moses' first attempt at convincing Rameses failed it was he said "The God of the Hebrews commands you". That's not what God said to Moses to tell, He said Moses should just say "Let my people go"; Moses was at that moment speaking man's words, not God's.
Aaron, despite being from the same family as Moses and Miriam, is noticeably more emaciated than either of them. While Moses is understandably well fed for most of his life, Aaron and Miriam live in the same homestead. The reason he's far thinner and more malnourished is because he likely gives most of the food to his sister, keeping only enough for himself so he doesn't completely starve.
Maybe. He's also a tall, strong male. This means he's likely doing much more strenuous work than his sister (he appears to be a mason of some sort). He's probably burning far more calories than she is.
Jethro honoring Moses seem to be just him being nice to a stranger, but when you think about it Jethro owes a lot to Moses; Moses saved Tzipporah from Egypt, a fate she likely wouldn't have escaped otherwise. He also drove off two bandits who were accosting his remaining three children. Said bandits were manhandling them and likely wouldn't have spared a thought about killing them or selling them into slavery, even if Tzipporah had shown up in time. If it wasn't for Moses, Jethro would have lost all of his children in the span of a few months.
He says as much at the feast. When Moses claims that he's done nothing worth honoring, Jethro reminds him of how he saved the girls.
Jethro describes the Midians as having little to nothing, but from what we see, they're actually doing pretty well for themselves. They've got water, enough food for the occasional celebratory feast, some pretty nice clothes, and plenty of sheep. And this makes sense, really. They're rich in all the things that matter and only "poor" in comparison to the life Moses has left behind.
As in Exodus, there is an uncomfortable moment in which God states that he will harden Pharoh's heart, which seems like it would do nothing but seriously overcomplicate things and needlessly draw out the destruction of Egypt. However, in the plagues, Rameses specifically says, "Let my heart be hardened, and never mind how high the cost may grow." Between God's omniscience and the Bible's recurring themes about free will, God did not force Rameses to become cold and senseless, he just allowed it.
That sequence of young Miriam watching her brother endure all that crap in the Nile, looking terrified as hell? At first glance, we may be used to it, because we've seen terrified characters before...but think about it. This is a terrified young girl who is watching helplessly as her infant brother narrowly miss getting nommed by crocs and hippos, being knocked around by oars, then raised up onto a net before dropping back into the Nile.
Aaron and Miriam must have seen a lot of very awful things throughout the time they spent in slavery. Even as kids. It's possible that toddler Aaron was dimly aware of the massacre of the Hebrew newborns, or he at least got a sense of the danger. And he had to know he'd once had a baby brother who was no longer in his family. (As per the WMG section, it's possible Aaron always believed his baby brother had been killed.) Miriam was almost certainly old enough to know what was going on. (She even sort of alludes to it at the end of "Deliver Us" — there's this danger that Moses has been saved from, and she hopes he will grow up to save the rest of the Hebrews from it too.) They both saw Pharaoh's guards raiding their neighborhood and violently snatching up newborns; even if they couldn't see exactly what was being done to them, they had to be aware that those babies — some of them no doubt part of their friends' families, or maybe even newborn relatives of theirs — never came back. And we haven't even gotten to what they probably saw as adults while toiling for Pharaoh. When the old slave is being whipped close to death, Aaron turns away, completely resigned to what is about to happen, like he sees this all the time and that's just how things are.
In the beginning of "All I Ever Wanted" Moses accidentally knocks over an old Hebrew man on the streets as he's running away from his sister. The man cringes in fear, as though he's expecting to be beaten. Moses might not seem imposing to the audience, but he's a prince of Egypt, after all. Hes one of the most powerful men in the world and has no reason not to horribly punish a random slave just for making him trip.
Moses seems to be Rameses's emotional support or Morality Pet during their youth. Rameses says so later that Moses was always the one who got him out of trouble and made him feel better. Well, it's very likely that Moses running away robbed Rameses of his only friend - thus turning him into the cynical tyrant he is years later.
Aaron's behavior early in the movie. As a kid? Kinda funny to see him acting like a complete doormat towards Prince Moses by first calling Miriam crazy from overwork and immediately adding "not that we mind the work, we quite enjoy it," and generally acting like a spineless coward. As an adult? You realize that this is the best way he knows to survive. Just look at the way he turns frantically to his work when the overseer starts beating the old man—he's seen things like this before and he can't do anything about it without getting himself and maybe his sister killed, so his only defense is to not watch.
Tzipporah was a Sex Slave. It's unknown whether or not she was captured specifically for this reason, but it is apparent (given Hotep's description of her, and probably her outfit too) that this was why she was brought into the court. She's aware of this, which explains both her rage/indignation and her fear (see the Oh, Crap! look she gives when she hears she's being sent to Moses' chambers).
At the same time (and this definitely counts as Fridge Brilliance), Hotep and Hoy seemed aware of Tzipporah's fiery, indomitable nature. Thus, they knew that she would cause Rameses grief—hence, they chose her as their "offering" to him in order to get back at him for his shenanigans. (This is why they're so excited to get her.) But that being the case, it's doubtful they expected things to end well for her, so this goes right back to being Fridge Horror.
During the mocking of Tzipporah, Queen Tuya is the only one who isn't laughing, she just looks on in silent grief. This single look probably speaks volumes of her personal life.
She doesn't look on, she looks away in shame at what's been done. Only when Moses looks back at her and realizes how disappointed she is right then does he act regretful about his actions.
Also counts as Fridge Sadness. Tzipporah is now in a new home with her husband and the Hebrews. But, there's zero chance of her seeing her family again.
In the Bible, Jethro and his family join up with the Israelites following the Exodus, so you can think of that having happened at the end of the film as well.
How did Moses's adoptive parents react after they found out that their youngest son ran away in the desert right after killing an Egyptian worker?
After the Pharaoh's "They're only slaves" line, it makes one wonder would he have said that if he knew Moses was Hebrew. What would he have done to a son he has raised and loved during his entire childhood?
Actually, during that scene where Moses confronts Seti about his role in the massacre, if you look (and hear) very closely at Seti, you can tell that it haunts him. "Sometimes, for the greater good, sacrifices must be made." Maybe he figured out Moses was Hebrew and took him in as his son to alleviate the guilt he was feeling about the massacre? Don't forget he was also a father too.
This. I think it's impossible that Seti wouldn't be aware of Moses' real heritage; he'd at least want some sort of explanation as to where the Queen has suddenly produced a child from, would be aware of the child's race (based on the different features Moses and Ramses have even as children), but like Tuya, would probably believe that Moses was some manner of gift from the Gods, thus separating him from the people he's been using for slaves for years.
The Angel of Death is seen chasing one of the palace guards at one point. That means that adults who were firstborn weren't spared either. How many awoke to find that not only were their firstborn children/older siblings dead, but that they had also lost a parent or a spouse?
That means that the only remaining firstborn child in all of Egypt was... Rameses himself.
In the actual Biblical story, yeah, every firstborn was killed, not just firstborn children. And when I say every I mean EVERY. Even the firstborn livestock were killed.
Imagine the reaction of all of the fathers whose babies were killed in the opening.
In the original story of Exodus, it was mentioned that God made the Pharaoh stubborn so that he would have to face a series of increasingly horrific moments before being allowed to surrender. If that part of the story is being kept here, then it makes any scene where Rameses and Moses argue look even more sinister. Moses isn't reasoning with the man he knew as his brother, he's talking to a puppet.
In Jewish interpretations of the "hardened Pharaoh's heart" passages, Pharaoh isn't a puppet, but still has free will. The "hardening his heart" essentially made it such that any decision that Pharaoh made would be committed to, without vacillation and second-guessing himself, or going back on his decisions. Essentially, the choice was his, G-d just made sure that he'd stick through it. Note that the one point where Pharaoh's heart isn't hardened in regards to a decision, he fairly quickly goes back on it, and chases after the Hebrews with an army. That's part of the reason for the tradition of Matzo—the unleavened bread eaten on Pesach (Passover)—Pharaoh's mercurial moods and arbitrary decisions were so (in)famous that, once the Hebrews were given permission to leave, they left as soon as possible, before the dough could even rise, out of the (justified) fear that he'd change his mind the next day. G-d hardened Pharaoh's heart to make a point to Pharaoh about good rulership, and this is something that still makes many modern Jews uncomfortable in its implications.
Furthermore (in English translations, at any rate), it appears that God gave Pharaoh a point of no return, so to speak. Up until the Plague of Boils, Pharaoh changing his mind is stated as "he hardened his heart," or some variation of this. Only after the Plague of Boils does the phrase "the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart" come into use (and not for every plague after, either). Free will is present, but so is God's foreknowledge of what will come to pass. Where the line is drawn is to this day a point of tension among Christians.
Another interpretation, which may even be acknowledged specifically by the movie, is that the hardening of the Pharaoh's heart was not a singular, miraculous action undertaken by God but rather the result of a process. God did not actually wave his hand to magically make Pharaoh refuse Moses' request - He's subjected him to the horrors of the plagues. His heart was "hardened" not by God directly but by the rage and hatred that have grown within him after watching his kingdom crumble.
The "then let my heart be hardened" line seems to back this theory up. It's certainly the least morally iffy option.
In a span of roughly a few days, Jethro almost loss all of his daughters.