Why did God Hate Esau and Love Jacob?

What does Romans 9:13 mean?

God loves the whole world. He loves everyone – you, me, your neighbor. He loves presidents and prime ministers. He loves scandal-plagued clerics and drug-ridden athletes. He loves runaway dads and negligent mothers.

God loves everyone… except Esau.

As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (Romans 9:13)

Why did God hate Esau?

He didn’t. God loved Esau. You may recall that Esau and Jacob were the grandsons of Abraham. Esau was a man’s man; Jacob was a mummy’s boy. Esau was the first born, but through deception, Jacob inherited his brother’s birthright.

In the passage above Paul is quoting an old prophecy (Mal. 1:2–3) to show how God chose one of the twins (Jacob) but not the other (Esau).

The descendants of Jacob (the Israelites) received the favor of God but the descendants of Esau (the Edomites) did not.

God might just as easily have chosen Esau in which case Malachi would have said that God hated Jacob. But God chose the deceiver. He chose the second-born, the supplanter, the sinner to be the beneficiary of his grace.

Why?

We look at Jacob and ask, “Why him? What made him special?” And we miss the point. Jacob was not chosen because he was special; he was special because he was chosen.

God was looking to display the riches of his glory so he chose Israel. He blessed one nation so that they might reveal his goodness to the others.

Sadly, they failed.

The Israelites were not good ambassadors of God’s favor, but God’s plan was not thwarted. From among their number came Jesus who died for the whole world – including the descendants of Esau.

Why does God choose some?

The wrong way to read this verse is to say that God chooses some and rejects others.

“God chose Isaac over Ishmael. God chose Jacob over Esau. God might not choose me.”

Nope. It can’t happen.

Through the cross God declares his love for everyone of us. He calls you and me and Esau to come home.

If it seems that God chooses some, it’s because he is looking for prophetic people who will serve as signposts to the One who died for all.

In the end, it’s not about Isaac and Jacob who were elevated. And it’s not about whichever celebrity minister or prophet or artist who seems to be flavor of the month. It’s about Jesus who was lifted up so that he might draw all to himself.

Through the cross, God declares, “I love you and I have chosen you.”

Grace welcomes all to the table of his abundance.

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14 Comments on Why did God Hate Esau and Love Jacob?

  1. Thank you for this post! So many people seem to assume that love can be appreciated only by contrast with hatred, and that it is meaningless to say that God loves you unless God hates your brother to the point of annihilating all his descendants. Or they say, ‘Well, it’s only our arrogance that makes us think God should love us – none of us is worthy of God’s love, so we’re very lucky if we do happen to be among the few people whom God arbitrarily does choose to love, and it’s not for us to complain that He ought to love everyone.’

    All of this seems to miss the point that God IS love – it’s not a matter of our deserving God’s love, but that it would be a contradiction of God’s nature for there to be anyone whom God did not love! Which suggests that if the Devil exists (i.e. if the Devil is a sentient being who is one of God’s creatures, like us, rather than a personified way of talking about evil), then God loves even the Devil.

  2. This is a great explanation of what really took place at that time. When its translated from a grace perspective it makes our father look more inviting and stopping at nothing to get our savior in place for us all. Thanks Paul for keeping with God’s plan by using your gifts to explain His amazing grace in a way even I can understand.

  3. 👏👏👏👏 excellently put!

  4. Does God love Satan and Judas Iscariot also?. Just wondering.

  5. Esau did not highly prize eternal things.

  6. I don’t know, where does this end? It says that he hated him. It also says that he forgives my sins. Faith is based on the truth of his word, but it so hard when we revise things. Don’t get me wrong, I like your reinterpretation, but it makes having faith in anything God ‘says’ in The Bible really hard.

    • When we read the Bible with the wrong lens, we end up with all sorts of contradictions. “This verse is good news, but that verse contradicts it.” The result is confusion and dead religion. But when we rightly divide the word, reading it through the lens of Jesus, all the contradictions are resolved. Where there was confusion, there is clarity. Where there was condemnation, there is grace.

      Where does it end? It ends when we have matured into sons who are no longer tossed here and there by every dodgy doctrine invented by graceless and deceitful teachers.

  7. Vince Mikhail Luigi Acosta // March 19, 2022 at 9:13 pm // Reply

    Thank you! 🙂

  8. Theressa McKenzie // March 20, 2022 at 12:34 pm // Reply

    What do you mean by “rightly dividing the Word?” If possible, please give me an example of “rightly dividing the Word.”

  9. Was Jacob a deceiver and a surplanter? It then means Rebecca & God robbed Esau of his birthright— “The older one shall serve the young one” said the Lord. Rebecca was merely helping husband Isaac to do the will of God.

    • That sounds like saying, ‘Let us do evil that good may result.’ God can bring something good out of any of our actions, even sinful ones like cheating someone, just as God brought good out of Jacob’s older sons selling his favourite son into slavery. But that doesn’t mean that God needs our sins in order to accomplish His will. We just don’t know in what way God’s will would have worked out if someone hadn’t tried to ‘help someone do the will of God’ by dishonest means. Otherwise, it’s like a politician deciding that they are God’s chosen candidate for a certain political office, and therefore believing that they are justified in manipulating election results so that they get in.

  10. Good one!
    I read in a rabbinic commentary it says “Esau He loved, Jacob He favoured”

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