According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear (Rom. 11:8)
God does not arbitrarily cause certain unfortunate people to be spiritually blind and deaf and neither does he turn around and punish them for not seeking him – which he prevented them to do in the first place. However, if PEOPLE reject him and rebel against him, he can give them over to a reprobate mind. IF God would be the one to make people spiritually blind and deaf (for no reason at all), it must mean that they were NOT blind and deaf from the start – despite that they were adults and had been around for a while. (Something for reformed thinkers to think about, because they believe we were all blind and deaf before we are regenerated and able to believe and do good.)
When we check the passages in the Bible where we can read about God giving people over to blindness and deafness, we can see that this is their own fault due to hardening of their own hearts. We can also see that God EXPECTED Israel to see and hear due to the many miracles that he did before them, and he always has great anger towards people who refuse to give up their idols and other sins. In Romans 11:7-11 Paul is referring to Isaiah, so it’s essential that we study the context in Isaiah to understand why people’s eyes and ears have been shut.
Rom 11:7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded. 8(According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.9And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumbling block, and a recompence unto them: 10Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway. 11I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.
Isaiah 29:9 Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink.10 For the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered.11 And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed:12 And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.13 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:14 Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.15 Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?
Isaiah 44:9They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their delectable things shall not profit; and they are their own witnesses; they see not, nor know; that they may be ashamed.—17And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god.18They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand. 19 And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?20 He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?
Ps. 69:22 Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap.23 Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake.24 Pour out thine indignation upon them, and let thy wrathful anger take hold of them.
Jesus encourages us to walk in the light, LEST darkness will come upon us. and IF we choose to believe in the light, we can become children of light. Despite that Jesus did many miracles, the pharisees still did not believe in him and that is because they had purposed in their hearts to not come to the light. A person who hates the light remains in darkness, and he is spiritually blind.
John 12:35 Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.36 While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them.37 But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him:38 That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?39 Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again,40 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.
John. 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
John. 12:38 is a quote from this passage in the old testament:
Jesaja 6:9 And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.11 Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate,12 And the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.
Compare with this passage where we can see that Paul is blaming people for not being able to see or hear. Paul did his utmost to persuade people to believe in Jesus, but if God is the one to make people spiritually blind and death, Paul would be wasting his time:
Acts 28:23 And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.24 And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.25And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, 26Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: 27For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have THEY closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. 28Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.
Other verses in the same chapter (John 12) show man’s free will and responsibility to seek and come to God. Clearly God would not predestine people to NOT believe in him, follow him, confess him, receive him, abide in him, etc. God would not close the door for people, only to ask the same people why they have not seeked him. We can see that there is an option to reject Jesus, and that is of course against God’s will.
John 12:25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.26 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.—42 Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue:43 For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.-—46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.—-48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.
Below we can read about people who forsake God and who have eyes that don’t see and ears that don’t hear, and they are considered foolish by God. Naturally he wouldn’t create people to revolt against him and to have rebellious hearts. We can read that it’s their INIQUITIES which have caused themselves to be withheld from the good things of God:
Jer 5:19And it shall come to pass, when ye shall say, Wherefore doeth the LORD our God all these things unto us? then shalt thou answer them, Like as ye have forsaken me, and served strange gods in your land, so shall ye serve strangers in a land that is not your’s. 20Declare this in the house of Jacob, and publish it in Judah, saying, 21Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not: —23But this people hath a revolting and a rebellious heart; they are revolted and gone. 24Neither say they in their heart, Let us now fear the LORD our God, that giveth rain, both the former and the latter, in his season: he reserveth unto us the appointed weeks of the harvest. 25Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withholden good things from you. 26For among my people are found wicked men: they lay wait, as he that setteth snares; they set a trap, they catch men. 27As a cage is full of birds, so are their houses full of deceit: therefore they are become great, and waxen rich. 28They are waxen fat, they shine: yea, they overpass the deeds of the wicked: they judge not the cause, the cause of the fatherless, yet they prosper; and the right of the needy do they not judge. 29Shall I not visit for these things? saith the LORD: shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this? 30A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; 31The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?
Other verses which show that people have eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear – due to their own doings
Hes. 12:2 Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not: for they are a rebellious house. 3Therefore, thou son of man, prepare thee stuff for removing, and remove by day in their sight; and thou shalt remove from thy place to another place in their sight: it may be they will consider, though they be a rebellious house.
Zechariah 7:10 And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.11 But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.12 Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of hosts.13 Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the Lord of hosts:
Ps 135:15 The idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. 16They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not; 17They have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths. 18They that make them are like unto them: so is every one that trusteth in them.
Deut.29:2And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Ye have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land; 3The great temptations which thine eyes have seen,the signs, and those great miracles: 4Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.-–20 The LORD will not spare him, but then the anger of the LORD and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the LORD shall blot out his name from under heaven.— 24Even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of thisgreat anger? 25Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt: 26For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them:
Mark 8:17And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened? 18Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember? 19When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve.
Verses that show that people can and should seek God in order to find him and get life
Jeremiah 29:13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
Isaiah 55:6 Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
1 Chronicles 28:9 And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.
2 Chronicles 15:2 And he went out to meet Asa, and said unto him, Hear ye me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin; The Lord is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you.
Romans 10:16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.18 But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.19 But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.20 But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.21 But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.
Isaiah 65:1 I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name.2 I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts;3 A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face; that sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick
Isaiah 45:19 I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I the Lord speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.
It doesn’t say anywhere that God randomly selects people who he will cause to not see or hear. The reason why the farisees did not see or hear is that they chose not to follow Jesus to listen to his teaching and to get edified. Instead they came to him in order to mock him and/or find faults – if they even came to him at all. If people were chosen to be elect/non-elect before the world began, then of course Jesus wouldn’t have to speak in parables in order to hide his message, because the non-elect would be blind and deaf regardless.
Luke 8:10 — Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand
Jesus warns his disciples in the same chapter that they must HEAR in the right way and also DO it, which shows there is a risk they won’t.
Luke 8:18Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have. —21And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.
The Bible doesn’t anywhere that we first must be ”regenerated” before we can seek God. God calls us and we must respond, and if we do come to him we must believe that he is, and if we are willing to get to know him we will be revealed the DEEP things of God.
Hebr. 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God MUST BELIEVE THAT HE IS, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently SEEK him.
1 Corinthians 2:10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the DEEP things of God
There is no better passage than Romans 1:18-32 to show the reality of when people reject God even though they know better and have the opportunity to seek him and find him. For this reason God gives them over to reprobation.
Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.