Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated
Recently I was trying to better understand Romans 9:13 – “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” When I came across this quote:
“As to ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated,’ a woman once said to Mr. Spurgeon, ‘I cannot understand why God should say that He hated Esau.’ ‘That,’ Spurgeon replied, ‘is not my difficulty, madam. My trouble is to understand how God could love Jacob!”
We are so troubled about God hating Esau that we overlook the greater mystery, which is how could God love Jacob? In fact, how could God love any of us?
When we read the history of Jacob which leads into the history of Israel we see how loving God is to his people. Jacob was a deceiver yet God continued to seek him out and extend loving kindness towards him. Likewise with the nation of Israel we see God over and over again being gracious. He sent prophets to warn and exhort his people not to engage in evil practices and yet the people ignored them. Even when God sent them into exile, he promised a return to the land and much blessing if they followed his ways, but still they did not.
When we contrast this with God’s dealings with Esau and the nation of Edom, there is much less intervention by God. However we find that God did bless Esau (Deuteronomy 2:5; Hebrews 11:20) and he did send a prophet to Edom (Obadiah). Yet this was considerably less than what he did for Jacob and Israel, so much so that by comparison it appears as if God didn’t care about Esau. Or, in fact, hated him.
Constable in his commentary quotes Mounse as saying, “The strong contrast is a Semitic idiom that heightens the comparison by stating it in absolute terms.” The whole history of Israel is summarized in seven words (Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated) to create a concentrated but generalized picture of God’s dealings with his people which Paul then uses to teach God’s Sovereignty. In the Message it is described as “a stark epigram.”
God does not hate anyone. The rest of the Bible confirms this. A God who would sacrifice his own Son must love us a great deal. However for reasons we cannot fathom God does bless some more than others, some are called to prominence, others to obscurity, some to wealth, some to poverty, some to easy, some to tragedy. God uses all and every means to draw all men to himself because he loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).