14. But doesn't the Bible say, ''Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated''?

This chapter deals with a scripture that is sometimes used to show that God chooses some people to be with Him for eternity, but rejects others for eternity:

  • Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated (Romans 9:13b).

However, this passage is not about an election for salvation, but about the election of Israel. God chose Jacob as patriarch of the people of Israel. We find a very similar text in Malachi 1:2b,3. But what does it mean that God hated Esau?

In the original manuscripts “hate” can mean two different things:

  1. To put someone or something in second place.
  2. To hate someone or something because there is a reason for it.

1.  God put Esau in second place
Before Jacob and Esau were born, God had told their mother Rebekah, “The elder (Esau) shall serve the younger (Jacob).” Even though Esau was the oldest son, entitled to the birthright, it was instead given to Jacob, the younger of the two. God put Esau in second place, after Jacob.

2.  God hated Esau and his descendants because of their evil deeds
Esau was indifferent. Earthly things were more important to him than serving God. He sold his birthright and took heathen wives, who were displeasing to his parents. And the descendants of Esau (the Edomites) were such great enemies of the people Israel, that they even wanted to destroy them. In the book of Malachi, God looks back on all the evils committed by Esau and his descendants and He detests it. That is why He says, “I have hated Esau”. But notice that God says this more than 1400 years after Esau's life, at the end of the Old Testament, and not prior to Esau's birth!

What does this Biblical verse not mean?
So this verse doesn't speak about the eternal destinations of Jacob and Esau. It doesn't say that God rejected Esau from before the foundation of the world, predestining him to perish for eternity. Neither does it mean that you yourself have to think, “Maybe I have been rejected for eternity, just like Esau.” That's not what this verse implies.

A thought to ponder on your own
Read Luke 14:26. What does the word “hate” mean in this verse?
Who or what is taking first place in your life?



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