Q: Romans 9:13 states: "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated." Malachi 1:3 states: "But Esau I have hated, And laid waste his mountains and his heritage For the jackals of the wilderness." The New KJV commentary points out: "The expression Esau have I hated cannot simply mean to love less but must mean, in the context of Malachi 1:1-5, that God has actually directed his wrath toward Esau and his descendants. The judgments upon Edom are positive judgments and not merely the absence of blessing. God displays His wrath upon the sins of Edom not in unholy rancor but in righteous judgment. He does the same with individuals." However, Galatians 2:6 states: "But from those who seemed to be something — whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man — for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me." Luke 20:21 confirms: "Then they asked Him, saying, 'Teacher, we know that You say and teach rightly, and You do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in truth…'" The question is that, by loving Jacob and hating Esau, wasn't God showing favoritism when the references to Galatians 2 and Luke 20 show that God has no favorites? Can you please explain.


A: We are glad to. To understand all these passages in their proper context, we must realize that God has decided to call a few people during this day and age, to offer them salvation, while the overwhelming majority of mankind will be called at a later time — during the Millennium, and during the Second Resurrection and the Great White Throne Judgment period (Revelation 20:6, 11-12). Everyone will get his or her chance to respond to God, but everyone in his or her own order (compare 1 Corinthians 15:23). God has not preordained anyone to eternal death — those who are not called yet are not judged yet — they will be judged later, when their time of calling has come.

The quote from the New KJV commentary conveys a blatantly false concept. The authors simply do not seem to understand God’s character, nor God’s purpose for mankind. God most certainly does not hate anyone, “before having done any good or evil” (Romans 9:11). Rightly understood, God does not hate anyone at all, but He does hate the evil that a person commits.

In Romans 9:13, God explains that He CALLED Jacob, and that He did NOT CALL Esau at that time. We need to understand that God had decided to call or choose for salvation certain ones “before the foundation of the earth” (Ephesians 1:4). We don’t know exactly, and God does not reveal, on what basis He chooses and elects those, but we know that He does make such an election, as the Bible tells us so.

In calling Jacob, God loved him in a special way, by opening to his understanding His truth, and by ultimately granting him His Holy Spirit. God did not call Esau AT THAT TIME. He WILL call Esau and all of his descendants later — during the Second Resurrection and the Great White Throne Judgment period.

By comparison, God “loved” Jacob more than Esau. God’s “love” needs to be understood in light of God’s calling at that time — as God loves everybody with the same kind of love. “For God so LOVED the world that He GAVE His only begotten Son, that WHOEVER believes in Him [now or later, including during the Second Resurrection] should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). God also made clear that once someone is called, he or she must REPENT, or else perish (Luke 13:3, 5).

In not calling someone to repentance and to the understanding of His truth, God “loves” such a person “less” by comparison — at that moment in time — but not forever. God knows that such a person, still cut off from Him, will engage in sinful ways, bringing about automatic penalties. When we read about Esau’s future devastation right prior to Christ’s return, we need to realize that this will happen during the Day of the Lord — when God begins to intervene in the affairs of this world. Then, God will directly pour out plagues on sinful and unrepentant mankind to show them that sin only brings about misery and pain, unless repented of. Again, all of these people WILL be resurrected to be given their first chance to accept God’s truth and to follow it — they are NOT condemned forever (except those few who HAD been called and chosen, and who HAD received the Holy Spirit, and who THEN fell away from God — compare Hebrew 6:4-6).

God’s statement that He loved Jacob and HATED Esau must be understood as saying that God loved Esau LESS BY COMPARISON. The New KJV commentary is wrong, when it rejects this Biblical understanding. We might also note that the Bible itself sometimes defines “hate” as “love less by comparison.”

In Luke 14:26 we read that Christ tells us, “‘If anyone comes to Me and does not HATE his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.'” In the parallel passage, in Matthew 10:37, the word “hate” is defined as “love less by comparison.” We read, “‘He who loves his father or mother MORE than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter MORE than Me is not worthy of Me.'” In other words, we must love them LESS, by comparison, than Jesus Christ. We are to love the Father and the Son with all our heart and our strength and our mind (compare Matthew 22:37). God must always come first in our lives. At the same time, we are to LOVE — not hate — our neighbor AS ourselves (compare Matthew 22:39). We are not to hate our neighbor, including our own family. We are to love them LESS than God, though, by comparison.

When God said that He “hated” Esau, by loving him less than Jacob, He was talking about His decision to call Jacob, but not Esau, to salvation at that time. The time for Esau’s and his descendants’ salvation is still coming.

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