God Hated Esau? What's Up with That!

Updated on August 25, 2018
marcelocarcach profile image

Marcelo holds a B.A. in Bible, a B.S. in English Education, and an M.S. in Educational Leadership. Has experience in ministry and teaching.

Source

Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated"

— Romans 9:13, KJV

In Case You Missed It

In “Is Jacob’s Election a Sample of Unconditional Election”, I discussed that given the context of Romans 9 and the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant, Romans 9 does not teach that God elected Jacob to be “saved” (made righteous). Instead, Romans 9 teaches that God unconditionally elected Jacob to be the recipient of the Abrahamic Covenant: that Jacob would be blessed, that his seed would be blessed, and that the world would be blessed through his seed.

It is conceivable that during the times of the patriarchs there lived other people who were also “saved” like Abraham and Jacob, but who were not partakers of the Abrahamic Covenant. Think, for example, about Melchizedek and Job: both lived in the times of the Patriarchs, but neither of them partook of the Abrahamic covenant. Still, both were righteous before God (Genesis 14:18, Job 1:1).

After reading “Is Jacob’s Election a Sample of Unconditional Election”, the reader may still have questions about God’s stated hatred for Esau: Why did God hate Esau? Does God’s stated hatred for Esau indicate that Romans 9 speaks about personal salvation and condemnation? Did Esau go to Hell? Therefore, in this article, we will try to make sense of God’s hatred for Esau.

Making Sense of God's Issue with Esau

In Romans 9:13, Paul makes a reference to Malachi 1:2-3, where God states that he loved Jacob and hated Esau. One should take in consideration the context in which Paul makes this reference. Paul was not saying, “By the way guys, just so you know, God loves Jacob and He hates Esau… I just wanted you to know who God’s friends are.” No, Paul makes reference to Malachi 1:2-3 to explain that not all of Abraham’s descendants will receive the promises made in the Abrahamic Covenant (you can read “Is Jacob’s Election a Sample of Unconditional Election” for more information: Paul wants to prove that God has not broken his promises to Israel).

Paul has previously demonstrated that God did not intend to fulfill the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant on all of Abraham’s descendants, but only on Abraham’s descendants through his son Isaac (not through his son Ishmael). Beginning on verse 10 of Romans 9, Paul now demonstrates that the Abrahamic Covenant is not even for all of Abraham’s descendants through Isaac, but only for those through Isaac’s son Jacob, not Esau.

Before quoting Malachi 1:2-3, Paul quotes Genesis 25:23, in which God states that Esau (the elder son) would serve Jacob (the younger son). Paul sees a relationship between Genesis 25:23 and Malachi 1:2-3: this is evident in that Paul writes “it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Romans 9:12-13, KJV). That phrase, as it is written, shows that Paul sees Genesis 25:23 and Malachi 1:2-3 as being in agreement with each other. In other words, Paul is using Genesis 25:23 to interpret Malachi 1:2-3, and Malachi 1:2-3 to complement Genesis 25:23.

When one reads Genesis 25:23 in the Pentateuch (as opposed to reading it in Romans 9), one learns that God was not only talking about the two individuals Jacob and Esau, but He was also talking about two nations and peoples. This is relevant because in Romans 9 Paul is really talking about the people of Israel, not just two individuals. Moreover, it shows that Malachi 1:2-3 may also be referring to peoples, not individuals (and that’s actually what Malachi is talking about).

Several hundred years later, long after Jacob and Esau are dead, God said something that still baffles people today: He said, “yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau” (Malachi 1:2-3, KJV), which Paul quotes as “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Romans 9:12-13, KJV). Why would God make such a statement after so long? Why did He only say to Rebekah that one will serve the other if He meant I love one of them and I hate the other? The answer is that God did not actually hate baby Esau.

Just because God chose baby Jacob to be the recipient of the Abrahamic Covenant does not mean God was sentencing baby Esau to Hell. Otherwise, Ishmael would have also been sentenced to Hell when God chose Isaac and not Ishmael as the recipient of the Abrahamic Covenant, but God was merciful to Ishmael. God heard the prayer of the child Ishmael and saved his life (Genesis 21:17-19), and God even promised to bless Ishmael (Genesis 17:20-21). God didn’t have anything personal against Ishmael, so why He have something personal against Esau? The election was not about personal salvation and standing before God (thus, it wasn’t the unconditional election Calvinism proposes), it was only about who would be the recipient to the Abrahamic Covenant.

When after the Exodus Israel roamed the wilderness with Moses, God instructed the nation of Israel not to meddle with Edom, who are Esau’s descendant (see Genesis 25:30, 36:1, and 36:8-19). God was protecting Esau’s possession (Deuteronomy 2:4-8)! If God hated Esau, why would God protect His possession? Even more, God also commanded the Jews not to abhor the Edomites (Deuteronomy 23:7). Why would God protect Esau’s descendants if He hated Esau and all of Esau’s descendants? Most likely, God loved the person we know as Esau, brother of Jacob and son of Isaac.

God did not declare hatred for Esau from the time Esau was conceived until the times of Moses. Nevertheless, hundreds of years after Moses, God declared through Malachi that He hated Esau. Why? Did God change His mind several hundred years after Esau was dead? Of course, the answer is that God did not change His mind about Esau several hundred years after Esau was dead; the issue is that in Malachi 1:2-3 God is using figurative language to get Israel’s attention.

In Malachi 1:2-3, God is not really talking about the persons Jacob and Esau: He is talking about the nations Israel and Edom. God is using a figure of speech called synecdoche (in synecdoche, a part of the whole is used to represent the whole).

God tells Israel that He loves them, and Israel (which, by the way, is personified) asks God what He has done to show He loves them. God responds, “Was not Esau Jacob's brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob, And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness“ (Malachi 1:2-3, KJV). God’s point is that when God declared Jacob and his descendants to be the recipients of the Abrahamic Covenant, God chose to love the nation Israel. On the other hand, God did not choose Esau and his descendants as the recipients of the Abrahamic Covenant, so therefore God did not choose to love Edom in the same way He loves Israel.

God’s hatred for Esau could be taken as a hyperbole, an exaggeration. After all, in the first three verses of Malachi there is an instance of personification (Israel speaks as one person) and there are two instances of synecdoche (Jacob represents the nation of Israel, and Esau represents the nation of Edom). Why not throw another figure of speech? Most prophesies are expressed in poetry.

What makes this word hated very rich is that it is ambiguous. In regards to Esau, hated is really a hyperbole since, as we have seen, God didn’t’ have any personal hatred against Esau; He actually protected Esau’s inheritance and people from Israel. Nevertheless, if Esau is a synecdoche, a part representing the whole, then hated is not a hyperbole: by the time of Malachi, God really did hate the Edomites!

In verses 3 to 5 of Malachi 1, God describes His hatred not for Esau, but for the nation of Edom. God declares that He has turned the land of Esau (of Edom) into a wasteland for dragons, that He will destroy whatever the people of Edom try to rebuild, and that God has an indignation forever against the people of Edom for their wickedness. Finally, God also declares that He will be magnified in Israel’s borders, which means that God will give victory to Israel against Edom (in Obadiah 1:9-10, God condemns Edom for using violence against Jacob, or Israel).

Romans 9 Does Not Teach Unconditional Election

In Malachi 1:2-3, God states that He hated Esau. There are several factors that indicate this statement should not be taken literally: (a) God’s rejection of Ishmael as recipient of the Abrahamic Covenant did not mean God hated Ishmael, so His rejection of Esau as the recipient of the Abrahamic Covenant should not mean that He hated Esau; (b) God did not reveal hatred for Esau to Rebekah in Genesis 25:23; (c) God protected Esau and His descendants from Israel’s attacks and hatred during the times of Moses; (d) the statement in Malachi 1:2-3 was made several hundred years after Esau was dead; (e) Malachi uses with complexity several figures of speech in its first few verses; (f) and the same passage in Malachi explains that God’s actions are actually against the nation of Edom, not Esau himself.

In light of these factors, one can safely conclude that Romans 9:11-13 does not teach unconditional election (the doctrine of Calvinism that teaches God chooses some people to believe in Jesus Christ for salvation and others to reject Jesus Christ for condemnation); instead, Romans 9:11-13 teaches that God unconditionally elected Jacob and his descendants as the recipients of the Abrahamic Covenant. This latter point is actually more pertinent to Paul’s argument in Romans 9, since in that passage Paul is actually arguing that God has not broken His promises to Israel by requiring Jews (and gentiles) to believe in Jesus Christ for salvation.

What is your theological perspective?

See results

R. C. Sproul comments on Unconditional Election

© 2018 Marcelo Carcach

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • marcelocarcach profile imageAUTHOR

      Marcelo Carcach 

      3 weeks ago from Westminster, MD

      Thank-you very much. I hope you will take a look at my next article, ROMANS 9:14-16 AND UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION.

    • profile image

      David 

      4 weeks ago

      Powerful teaching I have been trying to see what God was actually talking about with Jacob and Esau

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, letterpile.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://letterpile.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)