John 12:40
He has 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.
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(40) He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart. . . .—These words are quoted three times in the New Testament. Our Lord, as we have seen, quotes them as explaining His own teaching (Matthew 13:14); St. John quotes them here to explain the rejection of that teaching; St. Paul quotes them in Acts 28:26, to explain the rejection of the Gospel by the Jews at Rome. Yet we are to remember that the prophet and those who quote him are all witnesses that within Israel there were eyes which were not blinded and hearts which were not hardened. Isaiah, and John, and Paul, were all Jews; and our Lord Himself was, in His human nature, of the seed of Abraham. Isaiah’s prophecy is accompanied by the promise of a holy seed (John 12:13); St. John quotes these words, and adds that “even of the rulers many believed” (John 12:42); St. Paul quotes them when “some believed the things which were spoken and some believed not” (John 12:24); our Lord quotes them, and immediately says, “But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.” There is, indeed, a judicial blinding and a judicial hardening—let no man therefore presume; but these come only to eyes that will not to see, and to hearts that will not to hear—let no man therefore despair. The quotation in this place does not follow exactly either the Hebrew or the Greek of the passage in Isaiah. In the Hebrew text, as in the Authorised version, the prophet is commanded to “make the heart of this people fat.” . . . The Greek text says simply, “The heart of this people was hardened.” . . . St. John represents the action which God commanded to be done as done by Himself, and speaks of it in the past tense.

And I should heal them.—The pronoun here refers to Christ. St. John in his interpretation of the prophecy has made God (“He”) the author of the judicial blindness and hardness, and represents Christ as the physician. This clause is, however, not to be taken separately, but is governed by “that not” which precedes, The effect of their not turning was that Christ could not heal them.

On the whole verse comp. Note on Matthew 13:14, and Acts 28:26.

12:37-43 Observe the method of conversion implied here. Sinners are brought to see the reality of Divine things, and to have some knowledge of them. To be converted, and truly turned from sin to Christ, as their Happiness and Portion. God will heal them, will justify and sanctify them; will pardon their sins, which are as bleeding wounds, and mortify their corruptions, which are as lurking diseases. See the power of the world in smothering convictions, from regard to the applause or censure of men. Love of the praise of men, as a by-end in that which is good, will make a man a hypocrite when religion is in fashion, and credit is to be got by it; and love of the praise of men, as a base principle in that which is evil, will make a man an apostate, when religion is in disgrace, and credit is to be lost for it.He hath blinded their eyes - The expression in Isaiah is, "Go, make the heart of this people fat, and shut their eyes." That is, go and proclaim truth to them truth that will result in blinding their eyes. Go and proclaim the law and the will of God, and the effect will be, owing to the hardness of their heart, that their eyes will be blinded and their hearts hardened. As God knew that this would be the result - as it was to be the effect of the message, his commanding Isaiah to go and proclaim it was the same in effect, or in the result, as if he had commanded him to blind their eyes and harden their hearts. It is this effect or result to which the evangelist refers in this place. He states that God did it, that is, he did it in the manner mentioned in Isaiah, for we are limited to that in our interpretation of the passage. In that case it is clear that the mode specified is not a direct agency on the part of God in blinding the mind - which we cannot reconcile with any just notions of the divine character - but "in suffering the truth to produce a regular effect on sinful minds, without putting forth any positive supernatural influence to prevent it." The effect of truth on such minds is to irritate, to enrage, and to harden, unless counteracted by the grace of God. See Romans 7:8-9, Romans 7:11; 2 Corinthians 2:15-16. And as God knew this, and, knowing it, still sent the message, and suffered it to produce the regular effect, the Evangelist says "he hath blinded their minds," thus retaining the substance of the passage in Isaiah without quoting the precise language; but in proclaiming the truth there was nothing wrong on the part of God or of Isaiah, nor is there any indication that God was unwilling that they should believe and be saved.

That they should not see ... - This does not mean that it was the design of God that they should not be converted, but that it was the effect of their rejecting the message. See the notes at Matthew 13:14-15.

39-40. Therefore they could not believe, because Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, that they should not see, &c.—That this expresses a positive divine act, by which those who wilfully close their eyes and harden their hearts against the truth are judicially shut up in their unbelief and impenitence, is admitted by all candid critics [as Olshausen], though many of them think it necessary to contend that this is in no way inconsistent with the liberty of the human will, which of course it is not. We have this text (than which there is not one more terrible in the whole book of God) no less than six times quoted in the New Testament, and in all places quoted and given as a reason for the Jews unbelief in the Lord Jesus Christ, Matthew 13:14,15 Mr 4:12 Luke 8:10 Acts 28:26,27 Ro 11:8. It is not quoted alike in all places, but for substance the same. The original from whence these quotations are, is Isaiah 6:9,10. By comparing the texts we shall find several authors, instruments, or causes of these dreadful effects. In the original, the prophet Isaiah is made the instrumental cause: Go, (saith God), and make the heart of this people fat, & c. Matthew, and Luke in Acts 28:27, mention themselves as the cause. Matthew saith, For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed. And the Acts it is, For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed. All the other texts speak of it as God’s act. The thing is easily thus reconciled: God sent to the Jews his prophets, and gave them the means of salvation; it is true, without the inward efficacy of his Spirit they could not savingly believe, but they did not do what was in their power to have done, nay, they did do what was in their power to have avoided, they slighted and contemned the Lord’s prophets, and killed them, and stoned such as were sent unto them. Thus they first shut their own eyes, and hardened their own hearts; and as their forefathers had done in their generation, so the Jews in our Saviour Christ’s time did also in their generation, shutting their eyes against the revelation of the gospel by Christ himself. They thus behaving themselves, God judicially gave them up to their own lusts, permitting their hearts to harden, and suffering them to close their own eyes, so as they could not repent, believe, or return, and be saved; not that God infused any malice into their hearts, but withdrew his grace from them after such provocations on their parts: so that as the prophets in their age laboured with them in vain, and all the event of their ministry was but the generality of that people’s growing worse and more obdurate; so all the event of Christ’s ministry and miracles, which he personally wrought amongst them in his age, did accidentally but increase their sin and their judgment, and ripen them for their ruin, through their wilful abuse of those sacred means of life and salvation. The judgment itself was but one, viz. a judicial hardening of them; but it is set out by a great variety of expressions, both by the prophets, and the writers of the New Testament: in Isaiah, by making their hearts fat, their ears heavy, shutting their eyes: in Matthew, making their hearts gross, their ears dull of hearing, shutting their eyes: in this text, by blinding their eyes, and hardening their hearts: in the Acts, by the same phrases as in Matthew: in Romans 11:8 is added, God hath given them the spirit of slumber. All the phrases are expressive of the same dreadful judgment of God; yet it may be expressed in this variety of phrase, to signify the distinct, particular plagues (comprehended in this one plague) which fall upon the several powers and faculties of those souls upon whom this dreadful judgment falls; blindness in the mind, stubbornness in the will, &c., vileness in the affections, reprobacy in the mind, &c. He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart,.... It is of no great moment, whether the he, who is said to blind and harden, be God or Christ, or whether the words be rendered, "it hath blinded", &c. that is, malice or wickedness; or whether they be read impersonally, "their eyes are blinded", &c. since God or Christ blind and harden not by any positive act, but by leaving and giving men up to the blindness and hardness of their hearts, and denying them the grace which could only cure them, and which they are not obliged to give; and which was the case of these Jews, so as never to be converted, or be turned even by external repentance and reformation, that they might be healed in a national way, and be preserved from national ruin, as it follows,

that they should not see with their eyes,.... See Gill on Matthew 13:14, See Gill on Matthew 13:15. The Syriac and Persic versions read, "they have blinded their eyes", &c.

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.
40. He hath blinded] Not Christ, nor the devil, but God. The quotation is free, following neither the Hebrew nor the LXX. very closely.

I should heal] ‘I’ = Christ. God has hardened their hearts so that they could not be converted, and therefore Christ could not heal them. Comp. Matthew 13:14-15, where Christ quotes this text to explain why He teaches in parables; and Acts 28:26, where S. Paul quotes it to explain the rejection of his preaching by the Jews in Rome.John 12:40. Τετύφλωκεν, hath blinded) God, by a just judgment on them. There follows, with a change of person, I the Messiah should heal them.—πεπώρωκεν) The words in antithesis are, πώρωσις, and νόησις hardness of heart, and understanding. Comp. 2 Corinthians 3:14, “Their minds were blinded; for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away.”—ἵνα μή) even to that degree that not. Comp. ἵνα, ch. John 5:20, “He will show Him (the Son) greater works than these, ἵνα (with the effect that, to that degree that) ὑμεῖς θαυμάζητε, ye may marvel.”—καὶ νοήσωσι τῇ καρδίᾳ καὶ ἐπιστραφῶσι, and understand with their heart, and be converted) These two clauses have a nearer connection with one another than with the rest, as is shown by the Hebrew accents in Isaiah.Verse 40. - There are several illustrations in this verse that the diction of the evangelist differs from that which he uses when recording the words of Christ. Thus ὅμως μέντοι is peculiar to John himself, and thus is an ἅπαξ λεγόμενον; but μέντοι occurs five times in the style of John himself (see John 4:27; John 7:13; John 12:42; John 20:5; John 21:4), not once by our Lord. Ὁμολογεῖν again is used four times by the evangelist, and seven times in the Epistles and Apocalypse, but never put by him into the lips of Jesus. Nevertheless many of the rulers believed on him. These words are used, not to mitigate the charge, but to show that, though individuals did believe, even among the rulers, they had not courage to avow their faith. The instances of Nicodemus and Joseph and others lie upon the surface. Godet thinks rather of Gamaliel and the like, "the Eras-muses of those days." Theirs was, indeed, an hypocrisy of unbelief, and it is not 'altogether banished from the modern world, and notwithstanding Christ's rejection by the nation as a nation, individuals saw his glory and believed. It is still true of municipalities, nations, even Churches, that they reject Christ, while individuals among them are molded by and obedient to the faith. But by reason of the Pharisees - our Lord's most deadly enemies, from John 1. to John 12. - they were making no confession - or, acknowledgment - of his claims, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; become the excommunicate, fall under the terrible ban (see John 9:22). The fear of class exclusion, the dread of running counter to the current opinion of the Church or the world, has led to much of the misery of both. He hath blinded, etc.

These words of Isaiah are repeated five times in the New Testament as the description of the Jewish people in its latest stage of decay. Matthew 13:13; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; John 12:40; Acts 28:26.

Hardened (πεπώρωκεν)

See on the kindred noun πώρωσις, hardness, Mark 3:5.

Understand (νόησωσιν)

Rev., better, perceive. Mark has συνιῶσιν, understand. See on understanding, Luke 2:47.

Be converted (ἐπιστραφῶσιν)

See on Matthew 13:15; see on Luke 22:32. Rev., more accurately, turn, with the idea of turning to or toward something (ἐπί).

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