“Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.”
King James Version (KJV)
9:18 So then - That is, accordingly he does show mercy on his own terms, namely, on them that believe. And whom he willeth - Namely, them that believe not. He hardeneth - Leaves to the hardness of their hearts.
Ro 9:18 Therefore he hath mercy. Ro 9:15 has shown that he hath mercy according to his own sense of right, not according to any human code. The case of Pharaoh shows, in addition, that whom he will he hardeneth. Godet says: ``What must not be forgotten, and what appears distinctly, from the whole narrative in Exodus, is that Pharaoh's hardening was at first "his own act". Five times it is said of him that he himself hardened, or made heavy his heart (Ex 7:13 7:22 8:15 8:32 9:7), before the time when it is at last said that God hardened him (Ex 9:12), and even after that it is said that he hardened himself (Ex 9:34). Thus he at first closed his own heart to God's appeals; grew harder by stubborn resistance under God's judgments, until at last God, as a punishment for his obstinate rejection of right, gave him over to his mad folly and took away his judgment.'' At first Pharaoh hardened his own heart; God's judgments only made it harder, and then God "gave him over" (Ro 1:28). God only made harder, by his judgments and by leaving him to his folly, one who had already hardened his own heart. That he was given over to madness is shown in the record. Even his magician said, "This is the finger of God" (Ex 8:19). He himself once said, "I have sinned; the Lord is righteous" (Ex 9:27). Had he not hardened himself again, the result would have been different. Then God gave him up to his own folly, "to hardness of heart and reprobacy of mind". The Jews approved of all this in the case of Pharaoh, but held that God could never abandon them on account of their sinful course. Paul's argument is, that if they, the favored people, should pursue Pharaoh's course, they might experience Pharaoh's fate. They, also, hardening themselves, might be "delivered over to hardness", for God is not limited by race, or by any limitation, but hardens whom he wills. "He wills to harden those who harden themselves". I have dwelt upon this passage at greater length than usual because it is so little understood. Godet well says that in this whole passage Paul is not writing theology, but answering the arrogant pretensions of Jewish Pharisaism, and hence he asserts the Divine liberty. Had he been replying to those who have exaggerated this liberty into a purely arbitrary and tyrannical will, he would have brought out the opposite side of truth.