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Romans 9:13

What is the meaning of 9:13 where Paul says, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated"?


1)         Some contend that the word hate is comparative in force. That is to say, God loved Esau "less than" he loved Jacob (see Gen. 29:32-33; Deut. 21:15; Matt. 6:24; 10:37-38; Luke 14:26; John 12:25).


2)         Others argue that the word hate is privative in force, the point being that God did not love Esau at all, as he did Jacob. But He didn't hate him either. This view differs little from the previous one.


3)         Another option is to understand God's "love" of Jacob to be equivalent to his choice of him, thus making God's "hate" for Esau a reference to his decision not to bestow this privilege on him. "It might best be translated 'reject'. 'Love' and 'hate' are not here, then, emotions that God feels but actions that he carries out" (Moo, 587).


4)         Perhaps hate does indeed have a positive force. God not only did not savingly and redemptively love Esau, as he did Jacob, but he actively rejected him and manifested his displeasure and disfavor by means of retributive justice. It is not merely the absence of blessing that Esau suffers, but the presence of judgment (see Ps. 5:5; 11:5; Prov. 6:16; 8:13; Isa. 1:14; 61:8; Jer. 44:4; Hos. 9:15; Amos 5:21; Zech. 8:17; Mal. 2:16).


Murray reminds us, though, that we do not


"predicate of this divine hate those unworthy features which belong to hate as it is exercised by us sinful men. In God's hate there is no malice, malignancy, vindictiveness, unholy rancour or bitterness. The kind of hate thus characterized is condemned in Scripture and it would blasphemy to predicate the same of God" (2:22).


There is, therefore, in God a holy hatred that is the antithesis of his saving love. Consequently,


"Esau was not merely excluded from what Jacob enjoyed but was the object of a displeasure which love would have excluded and of which Jacob was not the object because he was loved" (2:23).