What does John 12:40 mean?
ESV: “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.”
NIV: He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn--and I would heal them.'
CSB: He has blinded their eyesand hardened their hearts,so that they would not see with their eyesor understand with their hearts,and turn,and I would heal them.
NLT: 'The Lord has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts — so that their eyes cannot see, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and have me heal them.'
KJV: 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.
NKJV: “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.”
Verse Commentary:
This is a reference to Isaiah 6:10, which John phrases in the present tense, indicating it's being fulfilled. God is "blinding" and "hardening" the people so that they will not accept the truth. Taken entirely out of context, that would seem to be spiteful and unfair. How can God blame people for disbelief (John 3:36) when He is purposefully blocking them from it?

The answer is in the full context of this passage. Just recently, John described a crowd speaking to Jesus (John 12:20–22), who heard literal words from heaven (John 12:28). Many in the crowd dismissed that as thunder (John 12:29). Religious experts attacked Jesus, even though their own studies ought to have led them to the truth (John 5:39–40). In the same way, many people ignore clear evidence of God (Romans 1:18–20), even in nature (Psalm 19:1), because they do not want to believe. No miracle will ever convince those who are committed to defying God (Luke 16:31).

This means that God can, and does, use "hardening" and "blinding" as a form of judgment—after a person has already committed themselves to rejecting Him. In Exodus, God speaks of how He will "harden the heart" of the Egyptian king to prolong the plagues demonstrating God's glory (Exodus 4:21). Eventually, God does just that (Exodus 9:12). But God doesn't influence Pharaoh until Pharaoh has repeatedly and frequently hardened his own heart (Exodus 7:13 22; 8:15, 19, 32).

John cites this Scripture as proof that those who stubbornly disbelieve in God have only themselves to blame. At some point, even their inability to accept God is a consequence of their own rebellion.
Verse Context:
John 12:27–43 represents the end of Jesus' public ministry in the gospel of John. After being approached by non-Jewish people who believed in God, Jesus seems agitated as He anticipates His impending death. A voice from heaven affirms His mission, but to most people it simply sounds like noise or thunder. What Jesus means as a reference to crucifixion is misinterpreted by many as a prediction that He'll be exalted: to be ''lifted up.'' The people struggle to understand His message, and Jesus will leave them after warning that their time is short. This confirms Old Testament prophecies and reiterates how far some people will go in order to defy evidence of God.
Chapter Summary:
Jesus is treated to an honorary dinner at the home of Lazarus, whom He has recently raised from death. At this dinner, Lazarus' sister, Mary, anoints Jesus with expensive oil. Jesus then enters Jerusalem to great fanfare, stoking fears that His popularity will attract the anger of the Roman Empire. That anger even inspires a murder plot against Lazarus. After being approached by non-Jewish seekers, Jesus offers a final plea for people to understand His ministry. In effect, these are the last public words spoken by Jesus in the gospel of John.
Chapter Context:
In the prior chapter, Jesus spectacularly raised Lazarus from death in front of a crowd of witnesses. This inspired local religious leaders to commit to having Him killed. Here, after a celebratory dinner where Jesus is anointed with oil, He will fulfill prophecy by riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, celebrated with shouts of ''Hosanna'' and a massive crowd. This leads to a group of curious non-Jews approaching Him. Christ then offers a final plea for belief in Him and His message. After this, His ministry will turn to preparing the disciples for His impending death and resurrection. The next several chapters of the gospel of John are almost entirely made up of his teachings to these men.
Book Summary:
The disciple John wrote the gospel of John decades after the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke were written. The author assumes that a reader is already familiar with the content of these other works. So, John presents a different perspective, with a greater emphasis on meaning. John uses seven miracles—which he calls "signs"— to prove that Jesus is, in fact, God incarnate. Some of the most well-known verses in the Bible are found here. None is more famous than the one-sentence summary of the gospel found in John 3:16.
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