Romans 9:18
Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(18) Summary conclusion from the above.

He hardeneth.—The doctrine of the divine sovereignty is here expressed in its most trenchant and logical form. In Exodus 8:32; Exodus 9:34; Exodus 13:15, &c., the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is attributed to his own act. That act may, however, be regarded as a part of the design of Providence. God’s decrees include human free-will, without destroying it. But how they do this we cannot say.

9:14-24 Whatever God does, must be just. Wherein the holy, happy people of God differ from others, God's grace alone makes them differ. In this preventing, effectual, distinguishing grace, he acts as a benefactor, whose grace is his own. None have deserved it; so that those who are saved, must thank God only; and those who perish, must blame themselves only, Hos 13:9. God is bound no further than he has been pleased to bind himself by his own covenant and promise, which is his revealed will. And this is, that he will receive, and not cast out, those that come to Christ; but the drawing of souls in order to that coming, is an anticipating, distinguishing favour to whom he will. Why does he yet find fault? This is not an objection to be made by the creature against his Creator, by man against God. The truth, as it is in Jesus, abases man as nothing, as less than nothing, and advances God as sovereign Lord of all. Who art thou that art so foolish, so feeble, so unable to judge the Divine counsels? It becomes us to submit to him, not to reply against him. Would not men allow the infinite God the same sovereign right to manage the affairs of the creation, as the potter exercises in disposing of his clay, when of the same lump he makes one vessel to a more honourable, and one to a meaner use? God could do no wrong, however it might appear to men. God will make it appear that he hates sin. Also, he formed vessels filled with mercy. Sanctification is the preparation of the soul for glory. This is God's work. Sinners fit themselves for hell, but it is God who prepares saints for heaven; and all whom God designs for heaven hereafter, he fits for heaven now. Would we know who these vessels of mercy are? Those whom God has called; and these not of the Jews only, but of the Gentiles. Surely there can be no unrighteousness in any of these Divine dispensations. Nor in God's exercising long-suffering, patience, and forbearance towards sinners under increasing guilt, before he brings utter destruction upon them. The fault is in the hardened sinner himself. As to all who love and fear God, however such truths appear beyond their reason to fathom, yet they should keep silence before him. It is the Lord alone who made us to differ; we should adore his pardoning mercy and new-creating grace, and give diligence to make our calling and election sure.Therefore hath he mercy ... - This is a conclusion stated by the apostle as the result of all the argument.

Whom he will he hardeneth - This is not stated in what the Scripture said to Pharaoh, but is a conclusion to which the apostle had arrived, in view of the case of Pharaoh. The word "hardeneth" means only to harden in the manner specified in the case of Pharaoh. It does not mean to exert a positive influence, but to leave a sinner to his own course, and to place him in circumstances where the character will be more and more developed; see the note at John 12:40. It implies, however, an act of sovereignty on the part of God in thus leaving him to his chosen course, and in not putting forth that influence by which he could be saved from death. Why this is, the apostle does not state. We should, however, not dispute a fact everywhere prevalent; and should have sufficient confidence in God to believe that it is in accordance with infinite wisdom and rectitude.

18. Therefore hath he—"So then he hath." The result then is that He hath

mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth—by judicially abandoning them to the hardening influence of sin itself (Ps 81:11, 12; Ro 1:24, 26, 28; Heb 3:8, 13), and of the surrounding incentives to it (Mt 24:12; 1Co 15:38; 2Th 2:17).

Second objection to the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty:

This verse is a short repetition of the foregoing argument.

Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy: see Romans 9:15, and the notes there.

And whom he will he hardeneth; i.e. in a judicial way. Besides natural hardness, which is in all men, and is hereditary to them; and habitual hardness, which is contracted by a custom in sin, as a path is hardened by the continual trampling of passengers; there is judicial or judiciary hardness, which is inflicted by God as a punishment. Men harden their own hearts sinfully, (so it is thrice said of Pharaoh in Exodus, that he hardened his own heart, Exodus 8:15,32 9:34), and then God hardens their hearts judicially: so it is often said of God in Exodus, that he hardened Pharaoh’s heart, Exodus 7:13 Exodus 9:12 10:1,20,27 14:8. God is not said properly to harden the hearts of men; i.e. he doth not make their soft hearts hard, nor doth he put hardness into the hearts of men, (as our adversaries slanderously report us to affirm), nor doth he barely permit or suffer them to be hardened (which is the opinion of the papists about this matter); but two ways may he be said to harden sinners:

1. By forsaking them, and not softening their hearts: as darkness follows upon the sun’s withdrawing of his light, so doth hardness upon God’s withholding his softening influence.

2. By punishing them; he inflicts further hardness, as a punishment of former hardness; and this he infuseth not, but it is effected either:

a) By Satan, to whom hardened sinners are delivered up; or,

b) By themselves, they being given over to their own hearts’ lusts; or,

c) By God’s word and works, which accidentally harden the hearts of men, as might be shown. {see Romans 9:19}

See Poole on "Romans 9:19".

Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will,.... These are the express words of the former testimony: it follows,

and whom he will he hardeneth; which is the just and natural consequence of what is contained in the latter; for if God could, or he did, without any injustice, raise up Pharaoh, and harden his heart against him and his people, that he might rise up against him and destroy him by his power for his own glory, then he may harden any other person, and even whom he will: now this hardening of men's hearts may be understood in perfect agreement with the justice and holiness of God: men first harden their own hearts by sinning, as Pharaoh did; what God does, is by leaving them to the hardness of their hearts, denying them that grace which only can soften them, and which he is not obliged to give, and therefore does them no injustice in withholding it from them; by sending them both mercies and judgments, which through the corruption of their hearts, are the means of the greater hardening of them; so judgments in the case of Pharaoh, and mercies in the case of others; see Isaiah 6:10; by delivering them up into the hands of Satan, and to their own lusts, which they themselves approve of; and by giving them up to a judicial blindness and hardness of heart, as a just punishment for their impieties.

{15} Therefore hath he mercy on whom he {t} will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

(15) A conclusion of the full answer to the first objection: therefore seeing that God does not save those whom he freely chose according to his good will and pleasure, but by justifying and sanctifying them by his grace, his counsels in saving them cannot seem unjust. And again, there is not injustice in the everlasting counsel of God, with regard to the destruction of those whom he lifts to destroy, because he hardens before he destroys: therefore the third answer for the maintenance of God's justice in the everlasting counsel of reprobation, consists in this word hardening: which nonetheless he concealed in the former verse, because the history of Pharaoh was well known. But the force of the word is great, for hardening, which is set against mercy, presupposes the same things that mercy did, that is, a voluntary corruption, in which the reprobate are hardened: and again, corruption presupposes a perfect state of creation. Moreover, this hardening also is voluntary, for God hardens in such a way, being offended with corruption, that he uses their own will whom he hardens, for the executing of that judgment. Then follow the fruits of hardening, that is, unbelief and sin, which are the true and proper causes of the condemnation of the reprobate. Why does he then appoint to destruction? Because he wishes: why does he harden? Because they are corrupt: why does he condemn? Because they are sinners. Where then is unrighteousness? Nay, if he would destroy all after this manner, to whom would he do injury?

(t) Whom it pleased him to appoint, to show his favour upon.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Romans 9:18. Result from Romans 9:15-17.

σκληρύνει] Opposite of ἐλεεῖ, not merely negative like οὐκ ἐλεεῖ (Bengel), but positive: He hardens him, makes him thereby incapable of being a σκεῦος ἐλέους (Romans 9:23). Such an one becomes σκληρός τε καὶ ἀμετάστροφος (Plato, Crat. p. 407 D), σκλ. καὶ ἀπειθής (Plato, Locr. p. 104 C), in a moral respect. Comp. Acts 19:9; Hebrews 3:8; Hebrews 3:13; Hebrews 3:15; Hebrews 4:7; σκληροκαρδία, Matthew 19:8; Mark 16:14; Romans 2:5; see also Soph. Aj. 1340, Trach. 1250; Lobeck, ad Aj. p. 384; from the O. T., Umbreit, d. Sünde, p. 113 ff. Romans 9:19 ff. prove that all warping or alteration of this sense of the word is erroneous; that the suggestion, e.g., in Origen and several Fathers, in Grotius, Koppe, Flatt, Klee, Maier, and others, that only the divine permission is intended (comp. Melancthon: “Indurat, i. e. sinit esse durum, nec convertit eum”), is erroneous; and equally erroneous is the interpretation duriter tractat (Carpzov, Semler, Cramer, Ernesti, Schulthess, Exeg. Forsch. II. p. 136; comp. Beck, p. 75 f.), which is contrary to the signification of the word (also in the LXX. Job 39:16). Evidence to the same effect is supplied by the twofold representation given of the hardening of Pharaoh in Exodus, where it appears partly as self-produced (Exodus 8:15; Exodus 8:32, Exodus 9:34; comp. 1 Samuel 6:6), partly as effected by God (Romans 4:21, Romans 7:3, Romans 9:12, Romans 10:20-21, Romans 11:10). Of these two ways of regarding the matter, however, Paul, suitably to his object, has expressly adopted the latter; Pharaoh hardened by God is to him the type of all who obstinately withstand the divine counsel of salvation, as Israel does. In opposition to Beck’s evasive expedients, see Lamping. On the hardening itself Olshausen remarks:—(1) That it presupposes already the beginnings of evil. But this is at variance with ὃν θέλει and ἐκ τοῦ αὐτοῦ φυράματος, Romans 9:21. (2) That it is not an aggravation of sin, but a means of preventing its aggravation. But Pharaoh’s history is against this. (3) That the total hardening is an expression of simple penal justice, when sin has become sin against the Holy Ghost. But in that case there could be no mention of a ὃν θέλει. The clear and simple sense of the apostle is, that it depends on the free determination of God’s will whether to bless with His saving mercy, or, on the other hand, to put into that spiritual condition, in which a man can be no object of His saving mercy (but rather of His ὀργή only). Accordingly, the will of God is here the absolute will, which is only in the ἘΛΕΕῖ a will of grace, and not also in the ΣΚΛΗΡΎΝΕΙ (in opposition to Th. Schott). Of the style and manner in which the older dogmatic interpreters have here introduced qualifying clauses in the interests of opposition to absolute predestination, the development of the matter by Calovius may serve as an example. He maintains, that when it is said that God hardens, this is not to be taken ἘΝΕΡΓΗΤΙΚῶς or effective, but (1) συγχωρητικῶς, propter permissionem; (2) ἈΦΟΡΜΗΤΙΚῶς, propter occasionem, quam ex iis, quae Deus agit, sumunt reprobi; (3) ἐγκαταλειπτικῶς, ob desertionem, quod gratia sua deserat reprobos; (4) ΠΑΡΑΔΟΤΙΚῶς, ob traditionem in sensum reprobum et in ulteriorem Satanae potestatem. But Philippi’s suggestion of the immanent law which the divine freedom carries within itself,—according to which God will have mercy upon him who acknowledges His right to have mercy on whom He will, and to harden whom He will; and will harden him who denies to Him this right,—will only then come into consideration by the side of what Paul here says, when (see remarks after Romans 9:33) we are in a position to judge of the relation of our passage and the connection that follows it to the moral self-determination of man, which the apostle teaches elsewhere; seeing that no further guiding hint is here given by Paul, and, moreover, that immanent law of the divine freedom, as Philippi himself frankly recognises, is not at all here expressed. For now the apostle has been most sedulously and exclusively urging nothing but the complete independence of the divine willing in ἐλεεῖν and σκληρύνειν, which the Form. Conc. p. 821 does not duly attend to, when it maintains that Paul desired to represent the hardening of Pharaoh as an example of divine penal justice. Not “ut eo ipso Dei justitiam declararet,” has Paul adduced this example, although it falls historically under this point of view, but as a proof of the completely free self-determination of God to harden whom He will. Accordingly, the hardening here appears by no means, as has been lately read between the lines, “as a consequence of preceding conceited self-righteousness” (Tholuck), or “such as the man himself has willed it” (Th. Schott), or conditioned by the divine standard of holiness confronting human sin (Weiss), or with an obvious presupposition of human self-determination (Beyschlag). Elsewhere the hardening may be adjudged as a punishment by God (Isaiah 6:9 ff.; Psalm 69:28; see Umbreit, p. 310 f.), but not so here. The will of God, which in truth can be no arbitrary pleasure, is no doubt holy and just; but it is not here apprehended and set forth under this point of view and from this side, but in reference to its independence of all human assistance, consequently in accordance with its alsolute aseitas, which is to be retained in its clear precision and without any qualifying clause to the words ὃν θέλει ἐλεεῖ, and must not be obscured by ideas of mediate agency that are here foreign.

Romans 9:18. From the two instances just quoted Paul draws the comprehensive conclusion: So then on whom He will He has mercy, and whom He will He hardens. The whole emphasis is on θέλει. The two modes in which God acts upon man are showing mercy and hardening, and it depends upon God’s will in which of these two modes He actually does act. The word σκληρύνει is borrowed from the history of Pharaoh, Exodus 7:3; Exodus 7:22; Exodus 8:19; Exodus 9:12; Exodus 14:17. What precisely the hardening means, and in what relation God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart stood to Pharaoh’s own hardening of it against God, are not unimportant questions, but they are questions which Paul does not here raise. He has one aim always in view here—to show that man has no claim as of right against God; and he finds a decisive proof of this (at least for a Jew) in the opposite examples of Moses and Pharaoh, interpreted as these are by unmistakable words of God Himself. It was through God, in the last resort, that Moses and Pharaoh were what they were, signal instances of the Divine mercy and the Divine wrath.

18. whom he will] The emphasis is of course on these words, in each clause: to us, the only account of the differences of His action is His Will. The following verses prove beyond fair question that St Paul means fully to enforce this truth, intensely trying as it is to the human heart. He lays it down without mitigation or counterpoise: not that there is no mitigation; but mitigation is far from his purpose here.—The deepest relief to thought in the matter is just this, that this sovereign and unaccountable will is His Will; the Will of the living God, the Father of our Lord. But it is none the less sovereign; and that is the point here.—Observe that the Gr. pronoun rendered “whom” throughout this verse is singular. The application is to individuals.

hardeneth] Judicially; by “giving up to the heart’s lusts.”

Romans 9:18. Ὃν θέλει) whom He will. Moreover, as regards the question, to whom God wills to show mercy, and whom He wills to harden; Paul shows that in other passages.—ἐλεεῖ, has mercy) as for example on Moses.—σκληρύνει, hardens) as He did Pharaoh. He uses, hardens, for, has not mercy, by metonymy of [substituting, for the antecedent,] the consequent, although not to have mercy has a somewhat harsher meaning: so, is sanctified, for, is not unclean, 1 Corinthians 7:14; and, you rescued from, [ἐῤῥύσασθε], instead of you did not deliver up. Joshua 22:31.

Romans 9:18He will (θέλει)

In a decretory sense. See on Matthew 1:19.

Hardeneth (σκληρύνει)

Only here by Paul. See on hard, Matthew 25:24; see on Jde 1:14; see on James 3:4. Three words are used in the Hebrew to describe the hardening of Pharaoh's heart. The one which occurs most frequently, properly means to be strong, and therefore represents the hardness as foolhardiness, infatuated insensibility to danger. See Exodus 14. The word is used in its positive sense, hardens, not merely permits to become hard. In Exodus the hardening is represented as self-produced (Exodus 8:15, Exodus 8:32; Exodus 9:34), and as produced by God (Exodus 4:21; Exodus 7:3; Exodus 9:12; Exodus 10:20, Exodus 10:27; Exodus 11:10). Paul here chooses the latter representation.

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