Does God “Hate” Esau? No, He Doesn’t

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“People, just read your Bibles, of course God hates some people!” screamed the snarling PhD level “pastor” from a well known Calvinistic denomination, with disdain for the supposed determinate blindness and lack of biblical fidelity of his audience. He then proceeded to quote the proof text under consideration here: Romans 9:13:  “Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated.” (An actual sermon I heard.)

I heard a weAttractive Woman with Her Booksll known New Reformation Movement preacher, of significant international esteem and stature, say that the only reason God gives bodies to the people He has predetermined to send to hell is so that He can have something material to burn forever!  As offensive as such a notion like this is, I had to admire the man for at least being logically consistent with his own belief system . . . as foul as it may be. Why, the ridiculousness of: “God has predetermined to hate some people but not others,” even affects some fundamentalistic views of modern geopolitics in the Mid East!

It is not an understatement to say that an entire system of interpretation, Calvinism, uses this as one of its pillar proof texts.

It is also not an understatement to say that proof-texting without consideration to original context and culture will always result in wrong interpretation and application of scripture. This passage is no exception. The damage and abuse done to people, and the damage done to the Lord’s reputation from mishandling this, and other passages, is beyond adjectives to describe.

If we want to understand a passage of scripture, we must always understand it first in the way the person who wrote it, and those who heard it, would have understood it. It can be shocking and hard for us to understand, but at the most basic level, some of the simplest words and concepts, are neither defined, understood, nor applied in our day as they were in the times of Paul and Jesus. Not the same. Not even close.

This is the case in the terms of “love and hate.”

For us, these terms are individual, inward, subjective, emotive, feelings of passion. We consider this to be self-evident. We can’t even process how they could mean anything else. Well, as challenging as it may be for us to get our minds around, they were not understood this way for anyone living in the Mediterranean basin area in the first century, including Jesus, Paul, and the other disciples/apostles.

Their culture (Jew and Gentile) was not individualistic as is ours. Theirs was group-oriented. Their whole world-view and cosmology (how the universe functions, what is “right” and “normal” in the universe) was different than ours. Our culture is self-conscious, theirs was others-conscious. Our culture centers on truth and falsehood, and individual advancement and achievement. Theirs centered on honor and shame, particularly related to the group, not the individual. Frankly, individualism as a means of understanding ourselves in the universe did not exist in human consciousness on the planet until around the 17th century! It is a gross and  anachronistic mishandling of scripture to read it with Western individualistic lenses on, as if they were written by a high school graduate from Iowa (No disrespect to Iowa!), or a European scholastic from the 16th century!

These terms–love and hate–were understood, and expressed with a group/others consciousness frame of reference, not our frame of reference.

Love was any action (not feeling!) that contributed to the welfare, advancement, honor, increase, or benefit of the group, the collective, the family, the family name, the family reputation, the family honor, the honor of the tribe, clan, village, city, nation, etc. Whether or not any individualistic feeling was involved was not in the picture.

Conversely, hate was any action that contributed to the diminishing of the group in these same categories. Hate meant to separate one’s self from the group, to distance yourself from the group, to not contribute to the “advancement” of the “honor” or “name” of the group and the individuals represented in it. By your separation you were withholding the benefit to the group that your presence would contribute to the honor of that group.

Any action that was purposeful in advancing the honor status of the group was their understanding of love. Any action that resulted in the diminishing of group honor or purpose was considered hate.

The closest English words to capture their understanding would be fidelity or loyalty for their love, and dishonor or separation for their hate.  This is particularly so as it relates to fidelity, loyalty, trustworthiness to purpose– specifically the purpose of honor, ‘to make one’s (one’s family) name great.”

It should be plain to see with this understanding, that Romans 9:13 has nothing to do with God predetermining to hate someone and to send them to hell, specifically Esau! That is simply nonsense: out of context, anachronistic nonsense.

In Romans 9 God is simply saying that He has chosen/loved (sealed with the covenantal loyalty and fidelity of His own character)  Jacob for the purpose of His family going forth and increasing in honor.  He has not chosen (hated) Esau for this purpose. The reputation of God’s family (honor, status, love, purpose) will be through Jacob’s line, not Esau’s.

This is all this passage means. It has nothing to do with God’s affective (inward, individual, emotive) state toward Esau or in a predetermination to send Esau to hell or anyone else for that matter!  In fact, heaven and hell are nowhere to be found in this entire passage! The passage is dealing with God’s determinations for His covenant . . . the arrangement He made for His family, and His purposes through His family, going forward! It is a passage about fidelity of purpose for the family!

This makes 100% sense with the rest of the context of Romans and puts to rest the absurd notion of a God who predetermines to “hate” some people but not others.

I encourage you to reread the New Testament with this understanding of these terms. I believe it will revolutionize the New Testament for you. You will see that it “fits.” Many difficult or troublesome passages (e.g. – hate your father and mother?) cease to be so when we define things the way Jesus and Paul understood them, which is the basic, first step, responsibility of anyone who presumes to “teach the scriptures” to others.

The basic principles for understanding salvation and being a disciple are so simple, that a four-year-old can understand them. However,  if you presume to teach others what they “must believe from the Bible,” as a matter of “mandatory orthodox doctrine,” things are not quite so simple. In fact, it’s not simple at all. You will be subject to greater evaluation/scrutiny from heaven for your presumption to teach others (James 3:1). I suggest that before you tell others what they “must believe,” you do your homework due diligence, paying attention to original context and culture.


Copyright 2013,  Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact you like to partner with us in distributing our materials and perhaps generate some income for yourself?  Please go to for details of our Affiliate program. This ministry is sustained by the freewill offerings of those believe in the message of a radical grace in a new covenant understanding. If this article has been a blessing to you, would you prayerfully consider making a tax-deductible contribution through our Paypal button to help? Thank you and God bless you.

22 comments on “Does God “Hate” Esau? No, He Doesn’t

  1. This is fantastic. It is so refreshing to learn and understand something you have “Known” about for so long, but had no idea how it fit in the culture. I would read and eat teaching like this up every day. Many friends I know, and myself at times, struggle with certain things within scripture because of this lack of understanding about the different perspectives that go along with the times and the cultures. Thank you for using your knowledge to illuminate this passage. Also I think that we as the Lords people could learn a thing or two about that “Family Mentality” that you spoke of in this article….

    • We do a six hour series on Understanding the Semitic Culture background of the NT. It’s a mind blower. Maybe if I came your way, it is something we could do. Because it is like learning a new language, I really need a minimum of six hours to come close to doing it justice. I have done the series n many places with pretty amazing results. Recently did it here . . . it was a mind blower for those who attended. Answers so many questions . . .

  2. a very big, hearty Amen!!!!! I have seen the damage the hypercalvinist mindset does to people first-hand. The alienation from God, the bondage it puts people in with their ability to see themselves as really loved by God. I really appreciate this insight into such a difficult biblical concept. Love ya Steve

  3. Outstanding exhortation and explanation. You helped me very much as I struggled with that perceived “character trait” of God for many years. I only hope that this will settle deep within me. Thank you.

  4. Excellent example of how we actually entertain accusations against Father and His Character due to our doctrines/theology, Stephen. As always, BE who you are my brother, keep doing what you do!

  5. Very enlightening. I keep moving forward in my journey and my quest for truth and understanding. You and Oon both are instrumental. I’ve not arrived but I’m connecting the dots. Thank you!

    Sent from my iPhone

  6. Stephen
    With Judas then what is your take on this when he Hung himself and he was sort of chosen to do what he did or that is what we seem to believe in some fashion. Christ a man of love but then what. we have had people betray us in life so what is different for christ then us then if he wants us to be like him in nature.


    • Hello Ray. Thank you for posting. I am not quite sure I am accurately understanding your questions. But I will try to respond. 1) Betrayal: yes, anyone who wants to be conformed to the image of Christ will experience betrayal by someone they have loved and trusted. That is part of the process of being conformed to His image. It cannot be evaded or avoided. 2) I do not understand how your question about Judas relates to love and hate? If you are talking about issues of freewill and predestination, I obviously cannot get into all that in a blog post. Short version, I will say that many of our intellectual problems in that area come from our own worldview of time and space that have not been practically updated since the 17th-18th century. A Newtonian view of the cosmos (linear time-space, etc.) plus the scriptures is a bad combination. It is my conviction that our understanding of scripture, and our understanding of space and time (which includes issues of freewill and predestination) need a thorough update in the light of what we know, and are coming to know, of quantum physics. We need to update our understanding with a view toward the implications of simultaneous existence in multidimensionality that will go a long way to explaining the so called “mysteries” of freewill and predestination . . . for Judas . . . or anyone. Again, can’t get a semester’s worth of university-level teaching into a blog. Thank you for posting.

      • Hi Steve – this stuff sounds really interesting. Can you blog some at a later date on how our faulty understanding of time and space based on Newtonian physics is adversely affecting our understanding of scripture? And as always, thanks for a great post! Kerry

        • Hi Kerry, thanks for the post. It would be too much of a project to get into a blog post. Short version, we need to think in terms of multiple dimensionality and how “A” and “Not A” can both be true, and not mutually exclusive at the same point in time. The only way to do that is to think multi-dimensionally. IF we think time is a single line and every event in time must be in sequence on that line, and exclusionary to every other event at a precise moment in time, well, we will have a hard time understanding the nature of God, predestination, election, free-will, etc., as well as eschatology and many other issues of scriptures. It gets into some stuff that sounds freaky and even like “science-fiction,” but if the string theorists are correct, and so far, it seems like the best explanation of how things really are in terms of natural physics, and if they are correct that this universe started in ten dimensions, six of which collapsed into a black hole and the remaining four are our natural existence (l, w, h, and space-time), that means God has to be at least one dimension higher than the created order, that means at lest an 11-dimension being. How an 11-dimension being reveals himself to 4 dimension beings needs to be understood and has all kinds of implications on our understanding of scripture as it relates to “time” and “reality/non-reality” and our decisions in time, etc.

  7. Excellent article, Steve. It underlines the necessity to yield to the work of the Spirit within us in developing Christ-like character that reflects the heart and mind of God so that we can “rightly divide the word of truth” to do the same.

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