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Did God Hate Esau?

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Malachi 1:1-3 says: “An oracle. The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi. ‘I have loved you,’ says the LORD; but you say, ‘How have you loved us?’ ‘Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?’ says the LORD: ‘yet I loved Jacob, but hated Esau; I made his mountains a waste, his heritage a desert for jackals.’” Romans 9:13 quotes part of this passage, “As it is written: ‘I loved Jacob but hated Esau.’” Is it true that God hated Esau?

No, God did not hate Esau, but God did prefer Jacob (later known as Israel) over Esau. The Hebrew word used in these passages is translated as hate in The New American BibleThe New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) and The New Jerusalem Bible. If God prefers one person over another, biblical writers may say that God loves the one and hates the other, although God cannot hate any person.

According to The NRSV Concordance Unabridged, the word hate occurs 83 times in the Old Testament and 17 times in the New Testament, not counting hatedhates and similar words. In the Old Testament, 78 of those usages apply hate in the context of one person to God, an individual, a group of people or some type of sin. Only five times do we read that God hates in the sense described above.

The New Testament’s first usage of hate is a challenge to the idea that one person is allowed to hate another. In Matthew 5:43-45, Jesus says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.”

In Luke 14:26-27, however, Jesus employs the Hebrew usage described above when he addresses the great crowds following him and says: “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” The New American Bible‘s footnote for this passage notes the similar saying in Matthew 10:37 and explains, “The disciple’s family must take second place to the absolute dedication involved in following Jesus (see also Luke 9:59-62).”

Other New Testament passages apply hate as happening between one person and someone else or in the Semitic sense of prefer.

God cannot do anything that contradicts what being God means. For example, God cannot be dishonest or unjust because that would contradict God’s truthfulness or justice. The three persons of the Trinity cannot be in competition with one another because that would contradict God’s unity.

Sometimes our language about God is deliberately very selective. Saying that God hates some people the way that humans sometimes hate one another could be interpreted as giving someone permission to do the same.

If we cite a passage such as Malachi 1:1-3 or Romans 9:13 to justify our hatred, we are taking that passage out of context and giving it a meaning contrary to how the faith community has understood it. God might say: “Don’t use me to justify your hatred. Accept responsibility for your actions. Come to your senses and reject hatred!”

Ask a Franciscan in St. Anthony Messenger

22 thoughts on “Did God Hate Esau?”

  1. Incorrect explanation. He did hate easau. You’d be saying the Bible has a fallacy.
    Just as Jacob deserved to be hated more, he had grace. When esau gave his away.
    God will judge the sinners, not the sin. The sin doesn’t go to hell, the SINNER does. Jacob hated esau. See?

    1. Wow, Lauren that was tremendous. Straight and simple, but I wish you supply additional scriptural support. Iam interested.

      God Bless

      Peace and Love


    2. Sin are persons = fallen angels. When we agree to act on the promptings of sin (fallen angels) via “thoughts words and deeds” we bring darkness into the world and therefore are sinners …. fallen angels end up in hell, thus so does sin

      Like JMike I too would love you to back it up with the teachings in scripture …. and I’ll take that a step further and include teachings from the early church fathers because scripture is also clear God is all love and has NO hate in Him… even for the fallen.

    3. God judges the sinner BY the sin, and us sinners are saved since we’re cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ and our sins have been removed from us and instead put on God whilst He was righteous who payed for it by His death and resurrected after completing His payment for our sins. Hallejuah!

    4. True. And good points. The word ” Hate ” as used in Luke 14 actually means ” Love less ” and not hate. But hate as used in Romans 9:13 means exactly that. Hate! Look up the word hate in the greek and hebrew manuscripts where it is used and you can see what it means as used.

    5. The actual meaning is lost in translation. Measure up the scripture to God’s nature. If inconsistent its wrong

    6. Hebrew word means to separate, reject and in Semitic languages this word is connected with works not feelings, so God rejected Essau not hate… Even Jewish Targum said that God protect not hate Essau.

  2. Pingback: Why did God hate Esau? - Christian Faith Guide

    1. This is a favorite for predestination Freaks When God said that he hardened pharaohs Heart a keep in mind that pharaoh also Hardened his own heart When God said Jacob have I loved Esau have I Hated I believe it means that Esau in his Heart Rejected God so all who reject God will be cast into the lake of Fire God goes to great Lengths to save a sinner, All the people in hell will be there because they rejected Jesus and in their hearts have Hated the Lord so God gives them over to Hate so Hate is used here to mean that Esau Chose to Hate the Lord but by no means should this be Used as a excuse to Hate people God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believe the him should not perish but have everlasting Life Sam

  3. Great explanation by author. The Franciscan & it IS the correct interpretation of this at first glance a difficult passage. I thank God for the light given to you from God’s Holy Spirit illuminating the scriptures as we ARE commanded to use the Bible in comparing all related scriptures that we might arrive at the Truth, Jesus! And He is love, just as the great Apostle John, who was always found close to Hesus, even at His crucifixion was the ONLY disciple there and thus He knew Jesus more intimately that all the others, penned the greatest verse in our Bible, John3:16, “For God so loved THE WORLD! Yet someone woukd say, “Yes, He loved all the world except just one man, Esau?” Oh no, for John wrote is 1st John that, “GOD IS LOVE!.” And God dies not change ever, He’s the same yesterday, today, & forever. He was Holy yesterday, He is HOLY today, He is HOLY FOREVER! And the same is true of His attribute of Love. JOHN SAYS IT BEST! SIMPLY PUT, “God IS Love!!!!” THANK YOU FOR LOVING US ALL DEAR LORD! ????????

  4. Thanks for the explanation about usingbthe word hate i agree that hate is not literally hate meaning becaise GOD is Love so GOD cannot hate. GOD does not want us to go in hell only religious group of people wants people to be punished they love seeing people punished because they thought they deserve to be punished and forgot the meaning of Grace. Grace is for undeserving people so if you think tjose people deserve hell and dont deserve to be saved then they are the one whom JESUS gives grace notbthe religious self righteous people.

  5. Magdalene A Klyne

    God is love. God cannot hate anyone. Thank you for the explanation from Franciscan media. God loved both Esau and Jacob, but he knew their hearts and he realized Jacob could be entrusted with more responsibility. We got no right to take scripture out of context. Jesus came to show us the love of a Father. And no good father hates his children.

  6. Here’s a site that explains more of what I’ve copied from below.

    Some argue that the reference to hate in Malachi 1:2-3 is a Hebrew idiom for “love less.”

    Hebrew Word for Hate
    “Sane’ ” (saw-nay’) is the Hebrew word that is often translated as hate. The ancient pictographic letters for “sane” are a thorn and a seed. The Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible explains this:

    While intense emotions are sometimes involved, the ancient Hebrew view of hate was more about being hurt or wounded by something, because of love being involved. Opening oneself to love meant opening to hurt. Hate then meant staying away from that source of pain. We see this in Isaac’s response to Abimelech:

  7. A lot of non-sequiturs here.

    If God hates someone, that is not a valid justification for our hating them. Jesus said, “Love your enemies” (Mt 5:44). The solution to human hatred is not to reject belief that God harbors hatred.

    If God is love, that does not mean he is unable to hate. Psalm 11:5-6 (NIV) says, “The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion [lit. his soul hates]. 6 On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot.”

    God’s hatred of the wicked does not mean that he prefers to punish them. Ezekiel 33:11 says, “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?'”

    Also, Magdalene, Romans 9:11 “Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad” does not mean God “knew their hearts and he realized Jacob could be entrusted with more responsibility.” Paul is making the case that God’s grace toward Jacob was independent of individual qualifications and based instead on God’s purpose. Romans 9:16 “It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”

    The context of Malachi does not support the interpretation of “loved less.” Two verses later God says about Esau’s descendants in Malachi 1:4, “They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the LORD.”

  8. Don’t understand if God says he hates them. Who are we to interpret it anything different. This needs no explanation because God means what he said. God is not an author of confusion, nor does he need anything one telling a different version than what he said. This is not right at all.

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