As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
When it is affirmed that the sovereignty of God is absolute, it is simply meant that He is a Being who can do whatever He pleases. "None can stay His hand, or say to Him, what doest Thou?" He is not accountable for His deeds to any superior. "He giveth not account of any of His matters." But as He can do whatever He pleases, so He will fulfil His pleasure. He "does according to His will in the army of heaven," etc. "My counsel shall stand," etc. But while God is thus absolute sovereign, this absolute sovereignty does not determine for Him what it is right that He should please to do. Something else is indispensable, viz., His peculiar intelligence. In it, and in it alone, does God find the idea of right, an idea without which there could be no ethical imperative uttering itself in the affirmative "I ought." It is the highest glory of God, that He should, and that He always does please, to do only what is right. In Him is no darkness at all. He exercises His sovereignty in doing only what is "holy and just and good." His sovereignty is itself "holy and just and good." The apostle's adduction of the oracle addressed to Moses is a decided argumentative success. Men, without exception, are the subjects of God's sovereign sway. It cannot be disputed. So therefore are the Jews in particular; universally so. And yet "all have come short of the glory of God"; so that there is unless there supervene some great change or new creation, overhanging all, both Gentiles and Jews, a lurid thundercloud of doom. Is there room for hope? The asseverations, "I shall have mercy," etc., seem to assume that there is forgiveness with God, that He may be had in reverence (Psalm 130:4). But there are limits to His pardoning grace. He "keeps mercy indeed for thousands" (Exodus 34:7), but He will by no means clear those whose guilt has deepened into impenitence. There is a sin that never hath forgiveness (Mark 3:29). Who then shall be pardoned? Just those whom it pleases God to pardon — "He will have pardoning mercy on whomsoever," etc. And who are these? Under the Old Testament the category of the pardonable was not clearly revealed. Under the new none need walk in uncertainty. Those who put their trust in Christ shall be pardoned. And as regards those who are destitute of this revelation, see Romans 2:13-15. Their responsibility is measured by their opportunity. And it lies entirely with God's sovereignty to determine who shall be the recipients of His bounty. In the statements "On whomsoever I have," or am having, "mercy," etc., there seems to be the conveyance of the idea that God was already in absolute spontaneity at work forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin. The favourite work of Divine grace, however, is so great, august, and far-reaching in its ethical influence that none but the Highest could reasonably undertake it, or carry it through. "There is none who can forgive sins but God only." There is hence, on the part of God, the well-grounded assumption of a very lofty prerogative, which is tantamount to an assertion that He will not suffer any one, not even Moses, to interfere with the administration of His bounty. He is resolved to dispense His bounty to whomsoever He pleases.
(J. Morison, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.