Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated

Published 5:58 pm Wednesday, August 3, 2011

By Jake McCall

When we have new members’ classes at our church, someone always asks me what the meaning is behind Romans 9:13: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” I always agree that that is a very good question because it seems contrary to our understanding of the character of God. I recognize that many people have attempted to explain this verse by stating that the original word for “hate” in this passage means to love less or to find inferior. I see no basis for that but perhaps it could be; yet regardless there is a greater question tied to that difficult verse.

Esau hated God. He despised the plan of God and had no desire to see God’s plan for his future people, Israel, to be carried out. His grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac knew that God had chosen for salvation to come through their seed. They had a glimpse of an understanding that the Messiah would be in their family line and they praised God for it. Esau didn’t care. You see, Esau’s birthright meant that God would not just be the God of Abraham and Isaac but God would be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Esau. But Esau did not want the one true God to be his God. Therefore he was willing to trade his birthright for a bowl of soup. We may think that is not that big of a deal because birthrights don’t mean anything to us but as Isaac’s firstborn son, Esau was going to inherit the continued line of the people of God.

The great question is not so much, “Why did God hate Esau?” for Esau cared nothing for the love of God. The great question is, “Why did God love Jacob?” Jacob was a deceiver (Genesis 27:19) and a thief (Genesis 27: 36). He was an adulterer (Genesis 30:4-23) and an unethical businessman (Genesis 31:26). He even wrestled with God and made undeserved demands from God (Genesis 32:26). Jacob, by no means, came out of the womb singing hymns and reciting Bible verses. So how could a holy God manifest love to this man? The only answer to that question is also found in Romans 9 where we are told that God’s love for Jacob and his blessing to him was decided upon before Jacob was born (Romans 9:11) and that the love of God depended not upon Jacob’s will or exertion but upon God.

In Rebekah’s womb were two nations. One would be the father of a godless nation and the other, though a sinner and undeserving of God’s love, would be loved by God and then in turn love God and His redemptive plan. The wonder that God loved Jacob is only surpassed by the wonder that God loves a sinner like me. This can only be understood in the light of the death of Christ, which satisfies the wrath of God and extends mercy to those that turn in repentance and believe.

Jake McCall is a religion columnist for The Clanton Advertiser. He is pastor of Grace Fellowship in Clanton.