According to the Book of Exodus, God hardened Pharaoh's heart so he would be strong enough to persist in his unwillingness to release the people, so that God could manifest his great power and cause his power to be declared among the nations, so that other people would discuss it for generations afterward. In this view, the plagues were punishment for the Egyptians' long abuse of the Israelites, as well as proof that the gods of Egypt were false and powerless. If God triumphed over the gods of Egypt, a world power at that time, then the people of God would be strengthened in their faith, although they were a small people, and would not be tempted to follow the deities that God proved false. Exodus 9:15–16 (JPS Tanakh) portrays Yahweh explaining why he did not accomplish the freedom of the Israelites immediately: "I could have stretched forth My hand and stricken you [Pharaoh] and your people with pestilence, and you would have been effaced from the earth. Nevertheless I have spared you for this purpose: in order to show you My power and in order that My fame may resound throughout the world. "