Tough Questions Answered

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Does God Really Hate Esau?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

Many Christians are shocked when they read Romans 9:13: “Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'”  Since when does the God of love hate people?  This verse, coupled with the rest of Romans 9, has led many to believe that God does not love all people, at least with regard to their eternal salvation.  He seems to arbitrarily choose some people for salvation and some people for damnation.  But must we interpret this verse in that way?

I think the answer is “no.”  A more careful reading of this passage indicates that the subject is not individual salvation, but Israel’s national role in redemptive history.

Paul is actually quoting from Mal. 1:2-3, and a reading of those verses in the context of Malachi’s book clearly indicates that Malachi is using the word “Jacob” to refer to the nation of Israel and the word “Esau” to refer to the nation of Edom.

This makes perfect sense because Romans 9, 10, and 11 are all about national Israel and her role in redemptive history.  Romans 9 refers to Israel’s past, Romans 10 refers to her present, and Romans 11 refers to her future.

It is a serious exegetical mistake to interpret Romans 9 to be referring to individuals’ salvation.  According to Norman Geisler, “the election of the nation was temporal, not eternal; that is, Israel was chosen as a national channel through which the eternal blessing of salvation through Christ would come to all people (cf. Gen. 12:1–3; Rom. 9:4–5). Not every individual in Israel was elected to be saved (9:6).”

God works through nations to accomplish his will, just as he works through individuals.  Just because Israel was the chosen nation to bring forth the Messiah did not mean that every Israelite would be individually saved.  Individual salvation has never been and will never be based on a person’s nationality.  Paul is talking about the nation of Israel in Romans 9, not individual salvation.

Finally, it is also important to explain that the word used for “hate” in Malachi 1 is a Hebrew idiom which actually means to “love less.”  Norman Geisler explains: “This is evident from Genesis 29:30: The phrase ‘loved Rachel more than Leah’ is used as the equivalent of ‘Leah was hated’ (cf. also Matt. 10:37).”

God does not hate anyone, but he does bless some nations more than others.


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Comments

  • http://timothyfarley.wordpress.com Tim Farley

    Bill:

    I am curious, since you believe the context of Romans 9 calls for “Jacob” and “Esau” to be interpreted as nations rather than individuals, what is Paul’s point in bringing up Pharaoh? Is it not a reference to an individual? Is Paul’s pint of Romans 9 not summarized with verses 15-16: “‘I will have mercy on who I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion’, so then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy.”

    If Pharaoh is a reference to an individual why would Jacob and Esau be taken any differently?

  • Bill Pratt

    Hi Tim,

    You said,
    “If Pharaoh is a reference to an individual why would Jacob and Esau be taken any differently?”

    All of Romans 9 is based on national Israel (6 times the nation is directly mentioned in Rom 9). Paul is trying to explain to his readers in Rome why Israel seems to have been rejected by God. His readers (many who are Jewish Christians) are, no doubt, concerned about Israel’s place in the new covenant. The reference to Jacob and Esau is most reasonably about the nations of Israel and Edom, because of the very passage that Paul is quoting from Malachi.

    Paul also uses the example of Pharaoh to make the point that he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy. But again, this is in the context of national Israel. Paul is not talking about the salvation of Pharaoh at all. He is just using Pharaoh as another example.

    I believe it is a serious stretch to try and make Rom 9 be about individual salvation. It just does not fit the context.

    God bless,
    Bill

  • http://timothyfarley.wordpress.com Tim Farley

    Romans 9:12 is also a direct quote from Genesis 25:23. Did God choose/elect Jacob over Esau at birth in Genesis or was it speaking of the nations there as well? If it was speaking of individuals in Genesis, then you still have the same issue of God’s election of individuals that you cannot get around. The same goes for Pharaoh. Did God really raise him up for a specific purpose (as if God pre-determined it)?

  • Bill Pratt

    Hi Tim,
    Here is the passage from Gen. 25:23:

    “ The Lord said to her,
    ‘Two nations are in your womb,
    and two peoples from within you will be separated;
    one people will be stronger than the other,
    and the older will serve the younger.”

    Again, it is speaking of nations.

    Let me quickly say that I am not denying that God elects individuals to salvation. I am just saying that this is not what Paul is talking about in Rom. 9.

  • http://timothyfarley.wordpress.com Tim Farley

    I am not sure how you can read Romans 9 and not see that Paul is using examples of God’s past election of individuals to show that being a descendant of Abraham does not guarantee salvation. God chooses individuals based upon His own mercy and will, not based upon ethnicity or merit.

    Here is a quote from Douglas Moo concerning this passage:

    “9:6b–13 The Israel within Israel. The thesis of the paragraph is stated in v 6b: not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. There is, Paul suggests, in keeping with the OT ‘remnant’ theology, a spiritual Israel within a larger ethnic Israel. Paul may elsewhere use ‘Israel’ to denote the entire people of God, both Jew and Gentile (Gal. 6:16). Here, however, as the sequel makes clear, he is thinking only of Jews. Paul proves his point about the Israel within Israel in two roughly parallel arguments drawn from OT history (7–10, 11–13). In the first, Paul shows that physical descent from Abraham was not enough to guarantee a place within the people of God. Ishmael and Isaac were both Abraham’s children; yet it was through Isaac alone that God ‘reckoned’ Abraham’s spiritual descendants (Gn. 21:12). Spiritual descent from Abraham, then, is based not on birth but on God’s promise. Isaac, not Ishmael, was the recipient of that promise (10, quoting Gn. 18:10 and 14).

    As if the point were not clear enough, Paul now makes it even more emphatically by choosing an illustration from the next generation of Israel (10–13). For one could object to Paul’s first illustration that a significant difference in natural descent distinguished Isaac and Ishamel: the former was born to Sarah, ‘the free woman’, and the latter to Hagar, ‘the slave woman’ (cf. Gal. 4:21–31). But no such difference existed between Jacob and Esau. As twins, they were not only born to the same mother, Rebekah, but they were even conceived at the same moment (the Greek koitēn probably refers to sexual intercourse). Yet even before their birth Rebekah was told that ‘The older shall serve the younger’ (Gn. 25:23). This priority of Jacob is confirmed by a second OT text quoted by Paul, Mal. 1:2–3, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated’. From these OT testimonies to Jacob’s priority Paul draws the conclusion, in a parenthetical note (11b–12a), that the blessing enjoyed by Jacob was based on nothing that he had done but on God’s free, sovereign call.

    What is this blessing? Since the OT contexts from which Paul draws his illustration are speaking mainly about the historical roles of Jacob and Esau, or the nations they represent (Israel and Edom), the plan of God, (cf. Mal. 1:2–3), Paul may mean nothing more than that Jacob enjoyed the privilege of being a positive instrument in that plan. But the language that Paul uses throughout this paragraph—reckoned (7; cf. 4:2–21); election (11; cf. 11:5, 7, 28; Acts 9:15; 1 Thes. 1:4; 2 Pet. 1:10); purpose (11; cf. 8:28; Eph. 1:11); works (12; cf. 4:4–8); calls (12; cf. 8:29)—generally refers to the issue of eternal salvation. And it is this issue, the fact that so many Jews have not become saved through the gospel, that has sparked this whole discussion. We conclude, therefore, that Paul is using these OT texts to illustrate the principle of God’s sovereignty in salvation: being a child of God (cf. vs 7–9) depends ultimately on God’s calling. God’s ‘love’ of Jacob and ‘hate’ of Esau are ways of describing in sharply contrasting terms God’s election to salvation and his exclusion from salvation, respectively.”

  • http://timothyfarley.wordpress.com Tim Farley

    Hi Bill. I came across another quote in Thomas Schreiner’s commentary on Romans in the Baker Exegetical Commentary series. It is found on page 497.

    “Another controversy exists over whether the salvation promised here relates to individuals or groups. Many opt for the latter and exclude the former, because Paul’s focus in these chapters is surely on the salvation promised to corporate Israel. I have argued at some length elsewhere that such a dichotomy is logically and exegetically flawed, for groups are always composed of individuals, and one cannot have the former without including the latter. At this juncture I should note that the selection of a remnant out of Israel implies the selection of some individuals out of a larger group. Moreover, the unty of Rom. 9-11 indicates that individual election cannot be eliminated. In chapter 10 believing in Jesus is an individual decision, even though large groups of Gentiles are doing so. The individual and corporate dimensions cannot be sundered from one another in chapter 10, and the same principle applies to chapter 9. Those who insist that corporate election alone is intended in chapters 9 and 11 are inconsistent when they revert ot individual decisions of faith in chapter 10. The three chapters must be interpreted together, yielding the conclusion that both corporate and individual election are involved.”

  • Bill Pratt

    Hi Tim,
    You said,
    “I am not sure how you can read Romans 9 and not see that Paul is using examples of God’s past election of individuals to show that being a descendant of Abraham does not guarantee salvation. God chooses individuals based upon His own mercy and will, not based upon ethnicity or merit.”

    Verse 6 and following, in Rom 9, is making the point that the true spiritual Israel consists of the children of promise, or those who were part of the believing remnant. There is an Israel within Israel.

    Again, the context indicates that Paul is defending God’s strategic dealing with national Israel.  “It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.” The reason Paul indicates the true spiritual Israel is because his readers were thinking that God’s purposes and privileges for Israel (vs. 4-5) were thwarted – that God failed with Israel. Paul is saying, “No, there is a spiritual Israel found within ethnic Israel who has always believed and believes today and will believe in the future. God has not failed with Israel.”

    There are two groups within Israel, the believing and the unbelieving. Paul distinguishes between the two in Rom. 9.

    Douglas Moo argues that the words used in Rom. 9 generally indicate a discussion of eternal salvation, but I would argue that those words have multiple meanings, and it depends on the context. Most of what I see in Rom. 9 says that the context is God’s dealings with national Israel. Paul is explaining how God is in sovereign control of national Israel’s destiny, and always has been.

  • Bill Pratt

    I would say that corporate election (God’s historical purposes for Israel) is the main theme of Rom 9-11, but there are sections dealing with individual salvation (in chapter 10, for example). I don’t think there are sections in chapter 9 talking about individual salvation.

  • http://www.ismail.com.my mae

    So, in christianity, ‘hate’ means ‘lesser love’ or ‘ lesser bless’. As always, christians are good in playing with words. They can make people see ‘red’ as ‘yellow’ etc. They can make people read ‘death’ as ‘alive’ etc.

  • Bill Pratt

    Not sure what you’re getting at, Mae. In this instance, it is not Christians but ancient Hebrews who used the Hebrew word for “hate” in some instances to mean “love less.” It was a figure of speech, an idiom. Are you disappointed that God doesn’t hate Esau?

  • Rick Godfrey

    Hello, I still believe that God has a chosen remnant that He chose from the foundation of the world. In John chapter 10 Jesus talks about his sheep. He says that his Father gave them to him and he would not lose a one of them. The Father then draws them to Jesus and Jesus said that he would in no wise cast out any that came to him. Salvation is all about the Father and His Son and His will being performed. For Ephesians chapter 1 states that God works all things after the counsel of his own will. Any time you have an elect or chosen group of people, you will also have those that will be left out or rejected.

  • Devin Jacob

    didn’t hebrews 12:10 “See that no one is sexually immoral or is Godless like Esau…”

    If what your saying is true then the author of Hebrews is wrong, which simply cannot be if we agree that the bible is the infallible word of God.

  • Bill Pratt

    Devin,
    The verse is Heb. 12:16 and it has nothing to do with God hating Esau or predestining Esau to eternal damnation. The writer of Hebrews is telling his readers to not behave like Esau did, when he sold his birthright for a meal. Believers should treasure the grace God has shown them.

    Again, there is no contradiction.

    God bless,
    Bill

  • http://www.platinumrecipescollection.com Patrick

    Hi Bill,

    I think you’re picking at straws here.

    The bible depicts a dual character of God–two sided…one filled with hate and the other filled with love.

    This is supported in many verses, such as Isaiah: I make good and I create evil…

    It is a very long story, but I hope I will give you more details later.

  • Bill Pratt

    If you’re saying God hates evil actions and loves good actions, I agree. If you are saying that God hates people, then I could not disagree more. God is love. It is impossible for him to hate a person in the way that humans hate each other. He wishes the good for every single person.

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2009/05/25/does-god-really-hate-esau/ John Wilson

    Bill,

    Thanks for you insight.

    My teenage son is caught up in this debate and I believe it’s for his own convenience.

    He came home from church stating that he wasn’t going to try to be a good christian anymore because his youth pastor told them that God had predestined him and his friend to go to hell because there was no hope for them to be saved. He said the youth pastor used the same test in Roman’s that you have commented on. So my sons argument is that maybe he is one of those that God has predestined to hell and perhaps on of those hated by God like Esau.

    I’m on this website looking for some kind of correct spiritual response that will give him hope or correct his rebellion to God since he come home from church with this belief.

    He also stated that the youth pastor stated that God hardened The heart of Pharaoh and thus hardens the heart of individuals today so that they cannot be saved. I once again feel in my heart that this is in error but I cannot find in the Bible where it is stated as so.

    Thank you,

    Father of disturbed teenager and christian.

  • Bill Pratt

    John,
    My first advice to you would be to get your son out of this youth program. For a youth pastor to tell a teenager that he is predestined for hell is so wrong on so many levels that I don’t where to begin! He is a textbook example of extreme Calvinism gone theologically insane.

    The first thing we need to straighten out is that nobody knows whether another person is going to be saved or not. Paul says in 1 Cor. 4, “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts.” Even the most hardcore Calvinists I know don’t tell people whether they are one of the elect. Salvation is by God’s grace through our faith. God may save whomever he wants, and if your son professes faith in Christ, then he is saved!

    With regard to Pharaoh, he hardened his heart first (see Ex. 8:15 and 32), and God later further hardened his heart to confirm his wishes. But even if God did harden Pharaoh’s heart, this has nothing to do with salvation. The context in Exodus is about the slavery of Israel and the plagues brought on by God through Moses, not getting into heaven. It is poor exegesis to try and apply Pharaoh’s situation to a person’s salvation.

    I do believe that God will turn a person over to their own sinful desires (including rejection of Him) if a person persists in this rejection, but we also know God is “patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).

    I have to stress again that Rom 9 is not about individual salvation. It is about national Israel. Just read the passage in context without a specific theology in mind, and it jumps out at you. Paul already dealt with individual salvation in the earlier chapters of Romans.

    John, I’m not sure what else to say except that I’ll pray for your son. Let me know if there is anything else I can do.

    God bless,
    Bill

  • http://www.calvaryle.org Steve Wright

    To John Wilson..

    I just want to say that I am a Senior Pastor (website link at my name) and if I verified that one of my youth pastors said such a thing, he would be removed from all ministry immediately. Of course, I would allow him to stay and worship as part of the general congregation, but he would be out of any sort of influence and leadership.

    As was stated above, it is something that even a strong Calvinist would never declare – it is ignorant and destructive.

    If I were you, I would speak to the youth pastor first to verify this is what he really stated and it was properly understood by your son (and bring your son with you to witness), and if so, I would share it with the Senior Pastor (again, with all individuals present – you, son, youth pastor). Not sure what will happen next, but feel free to email me at the church link or blog it here. The church email is filtered first for junk so make sure you mention we personally conversed and it should get to me with no problem.

    Blessings to you.

  • Bill Pratt

    Steve,
    Thanks very much for your advice. Very well put.

    Bill

  • Brad

    Pastor Steve, excellent advice, that’s exactly what I was going to say. John, you do need to confirm what was actually said and what was meant, both with your son and with the youth pastor. With a teenager, it is possible that something wasn’t heard right, or understood correctly. Not saying that is definitely the case, just a possibility.

    However, if after investigating you find that this really is what the youth pastor said, and meant, then I agree his senior pastor needs to be informed, and he needs to be removed from his position. You simply can’t have someone with that much influence over youth (or anyone, for that matter) be so incorrect about something so important. What if your son HADN’T said anything about it to you, yet still believed what the youth pastor told him? Then he may be lost, and you’d have no idea. Too scary to NOT do something about it, in my opinion.

    I pray you have wisdom in your dealings regarding this matter.

  • David Cobb

    I most whole heartedly agree with confronting in love the youth pastor in these circumstances, but dont forget, the youth pastor may in fact be “parroting” the theological positions of the senior pastor. It is so necessary today to “pin down” leadership in a church so that the entire local body of believers know exactly where their fellowship exists on the axis of theology. Most “folks” in the pews do not know exactly where they stand, and in Baptist churches consider how we “appoint” senior pastors. In most cases they come and preach one or two (or their best) sermons, and on that basis we usually say “there is our man”. Deep questions and postions should be “hammered” out before a chuch extends a call to a pastor so that everyone clearly knows the theological direction of the fellowhip. QED.

    Mercy, peace and love in abundance.

  • Ed Tuggy

    Hello Bill:

    I am a missionary kid from Venezuela, have been a missionary Bible translator in Venezuela, and ten years ago, with my wife, founded a ministry called Faithfulness in the Family (www.faithfulnessinthefamily.org).

    In recent years I have been assured that God isn’t afraid of our questions, so I began a list of verses that don’t seem to match, that I would like to ask someone about. My desire has been to validate my faith and confidence in the Bible as God’s Word.

    Unfortunately, this quest has been getting more and more unsettling for me. There isn’t space here to list all the “mismatched” passages, but I am currently wrestling deeply with the Romans 9 difficulties.

    Like Mae said, in Christianity “hate” means “love less”, etc. I say it’s time for me to stop playing games with words and theology. The Bible says “God is love” (1 John 4:8). The Bible quotes Jehovah as saying, “…Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated.” Malachi 1:2-3 (ESV) These two theses simply don’t fit together. Which am I to believe, that God is love, or that God loves some people and hates others (individuals or nations, it doesn’t make God look any better).

    I John teaches us that we have to love ALL people (individuals or nations) not just some.

    For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 1 John 3:11-15 (ESV)

    The Bible says we should be impartial, and that showing partiality is ungodly.

    In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality. 1 Timothy 5:21 (ESV)

    My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. James 2:1 (ESV)

    And yet we are told, “…though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! Romans 9:11-14 (ESV)

    So, God can play favorites, and tell us not to show partiality, but there’s no injustice with God. God can elect one person to have mercy on, and another to mark out for destruction, before either of them is born or has done anything good or bad, but that’s not prejudging and there’s no injustice with God. I know God is vast and I’m a tiny creature, and I don’t know when the mountain goats give birth, but quite honestly this all sounds fishy to me.

    Romans 9 goes on to say:

    So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” Romans 9:18-19 (ESV)

    You said it, Paul. If it’s God’s will for someone to be devoted to destruction, and He hardens their heart, why indeed does God find fault with them? If God is sovereign like that, then human free will is an illusion, and indeed, who can resist his will? Okay, let’s grant both free will and the sovereignty of God; then God hardens a person’s heart to make sure they don’t accept his “offer”.

    But the Bible says, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 (ESV)

    So which should I believe, that God is not willing that any should perish, or that God has mercy on whom he has mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden? There is a mismatch here.

    Romans 9 goes on to say:

    But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— Romans 9:20-23 (ESV)

    Okay, who am I to answer back to God? But this is an honest question, and I would hope the Good Shepherd would treat my question respectfully, not abusively. I’m not asking, “Why have you made me like this”. I’m asking, “Which of these two theses am I to believe?” Yes, the potter has the right over the clay to use one lump for honorable use and another for dishonorable use. But again, this confirms that God is electing people (individuals or nations, it doesn’t matter) to salvation or damnation. So then, if it’s God’s electing we’re talking about, why do the lumps of clay have to bear the moral responsibility for what God does?

    Another oddity here is that if it’s God’s will for people to repent, believe and be saved, and be zealous for good works, so that people will see their good works and glorify God, how can it also be God’s will for some people to be hardened and not repent or believe, and go on sinning and not glorifying God, and be condemned for not repenting, or believing, and going on sinning and not glorifying God?

    Okay, God’s ways are past finding out, and I’m probably “trying to figure out too much using my own intellect”, etc. But that’s not a fair charge. I have two daughters who have stopped believing in God (and not because I was sharing these questions with them, because I wasn’t). I told God that I didn’t want them to go to hell, so I would rather go there myself if in any way it could help them to avoid going there. It’s not that I’m “trying to figure out God too much”; rather, it’s that I’m no longer content to say, “I don’t understand this stuff, but at least I’m glad that I’M among the elect!” . That egotistical attitude isn’t going to satisfy me anymore.

    I really don’t know where to go with all of this. I don’t know of any other God to turn to. I believe in God, I believe He is holy, but honestly His holiness is losing some of its shine in my eyes.

    If I am misinterpreting Scripture, or not letting the words speak plainly, or reading anything into Scripture, or if there’s anything I’m overlooking, please let me know. Otherwise, I’m hoping God will personally reveal the answers to me and satisfy my desire to genuinely and sincerely admire God and praise Him for His works. If I’m genuinely dismayed at God’s ways, and find Romans chapter 9 objectionable, and my opinion doesn’t count with God when I’m less than pleased with Him, then how come my opinion would count if I were to praise Him? If my objections are not welcome but my praise is welcome, that seems like it’s requiring me to be insincere and phoney.

    Thank you for your consideration of this submission. Please give me any real help you can, but please avoid word games. Please don’t say, “There are no contradictions in the Bible,” as if that solves things. The evidence is actually quite damaging for the claim that the Bible has no contradictions or inconsistencies or discrepancies.

    Sincerely,
    Bruce (Ed) Tuggy

  • Ed Tuggy

    Oh, I should add that I am currently on Leave of Absence from Faithfulness in the Family, seeking a more personal encounter with God.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    Ed,
    You are dealing with the issue of man’s free will and God’s sovereignty, which is a topic that has been debated for thousands of years among Jews and Christians. So, the first thing I would say to you is that you aren’t being unreasonable at all when asking these questions. Many people have gone before you asking these same questions. If God can deal with the blunt questioning of Job, I think he is perfectly OK with your questions!!

    I have written several blog posts on this topic under “free will,” so I hope you’ll read some of those posts. I have also written about Romans 9, although briefly. Romans 9 has nothing to do with individual salvation, but everything to do with the role of national Israel in God’s redemptive plans for the world.

    The single best book I would recommend that deals with the issue you’re struggling with is Norman Geisler’s Chosen But Free. I highly recommend you buy a copy and read it, as I think it will help you work out these issues. Another book you may find helpful is Paul Marston and Roger Forster’s God’s Strategy in Human History.

    As you’re reading these books or blog posts and have specific questions, please feel free to ask. I’ll do my best to help out. I, too, have struggled with this issue, but after several years of study I am satisfied with the answers I have. I don’t think we can completely understand this issue, but we can stand on the shoulders of other Christian thinkers.

    God bless,
    Bill

  • Ed Tuggy

    Bill,
    Thank you for your kindly and gracious response. That means more to me than a smug explanation, which you didn’t offer, I’m glad to say.

    Sincerely,
    Ed

  • Ed Tuggy

    Hello again, Bill,

    I’ve been thinking further about my concerns with Romans 9, and I think my concern goes deeper than just the issue of man’s free will and God’s sovereignty. I think my struggle is with becoming cynical and skeptical. Why should I trust the heart of a God who says he is love in one passage, and says he hates someone in another passage about election? And how I can I be sure of the reliability and authority of a Bible that has such conflicting things to say? I have such a large collection of passages that conflict with each other and seemingly cancel each other out, that sometimes it’s difficult for me to take the Bible seriously or keep on relying on it.

    Fortunately, there are some things that seem to stand in the Bible without any passage to the contrary; for example, we are all sinners needing to be saved; Jesus was born of a virgin, died on the cross for our sins, was buried and rose again and ascended into heaven, where He intercedes for us; if we go to Christ for salvation, He will not cast us out, but will give us eternal life.

    I wish someone could explain the seeming contradictions and reversals in the Bible, but meanwhile I’m doing my best to keep on in the faith.

    Sincerely,
    Ed Tuggy

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    Hi Ed,
    I myself have studied numerous alleged Bible contradictions and have found satisfactory answers for most of them, and the few that I have not found satisfactory answers for, I have set aside for the time being, content that I may never understand them.

    Why am I content to not resolve every seeming contradiction? Because the Bible has overwhelmingly proven itself as a collection of wisdom and history that can be trusted. For every one difficult passage I encounter, there are 100 that are not. Since the Bible was written over 1500 years by some 40 different authors, it is amazing that it coheres so well.

    One book that I consult when I encounter alleged Bible contradictions is Norman Geisler’s The Big Book of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation. Some of the answers he gives are stronger than others, but he has done a lot of research that is worth reading.

    In that same book, Geisler also offers some general guidelines for reading the Bible which I wrote on in a multi-part series of posts. Start with this one and see if these posts help.

    With regard to God “hating” Esau, we have to remember that “hate” in this context is a Hebrew idiom for loving less (that is what our Hebrew experts and scholars tell us), and that Esau in Romans 9 is referring to a nation, not a person. There is no doubt that God has singled out specific nations and people in history to advance his kingdom, but I don’t see any problem with this. While he selects people to advance his kingdom, he never overrides their free will. He works through their free will. We all play different roles in the cosmic drama that is unfolding. Again, I highly recommend you read the book God’s Strategy in Human Historyto help you sort this out.

    God bless,
    Bill

  • Ed Tuggy

    Hello, Bill,

    Thank you for your kindly answers.

    Just a thought in response to the claim that “hating” Esau means loving him less. I wish that could help.

    In Jesus’ sermon on the mount, he taught us to love all men, even our enemies, equally, and told us to be perfect as God is perfect, which in the context implies that God loves all men equally.

    43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48 (ESV)

    This would seem to imply that God loves all men equally, and that to love some men less, or to hate some men, is a characteristic that makes a person less than perfect. So, whether the Bible says that God loves Jacob more and Esau less, or just that God loves Jacob and hates Esau, it would seem that the Bible makes God less than perfect. That is an unacceptable conclusion about God, and so my problem remains.

    Romans 9 needs a lot more explanation, or it needs to be thrown out or disregarded. By the way, perhaps you have noticed that most Christians disregard and avoid this chapter. Are they unwittingly doing the right thing?

    I did look at your posts based on Norman Geisler’s Big Book of Bible Difficulties, and they were helpful, though they need to be applied to each difficulty in a specific way, and may not resolve every difficulty.

    Mistake #5: Neglecting to Interpret Difficult Passages in the Light of Clear Ones, concedes that some passages seem to be teaching things that go against the clear teachings of other passages. How to interpret the difficult passages in the light of the others, or reconcile the inconsistency, is what is bothering me.

    Mistake 7: Forgetting that the Bible Is a Human Book with Human Characteristics, very nearly concedes that much of the book is human and thus not inerrant, but quickly backs away from going to that extreme.

    Mistake #15: Forgetting that Only the Original Text, Not Every Copy of Scripture, Is without Error, concedes that there are errors in the Bibles we hold in our hands. Claiming inerrancy for the original texts, which none of us has seen, is claiming certainty about knowledge that is beyond us mortals. In the case of our Romans 9 difficulty, what did the original document say? Would having the original document resolve my difficulty?

    Bill, I appreciate your work and hope you succeed in clearing up Bible difficulties and defending the faith. I apologize for sounding like I’m coming down on you personally, but my intent is to challenge what seem to be unsatisfactory answers that are going around and are not strictly Bill Pratt’s.

    Thank you,
    Ed Tuggy

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    Hi Ed,
    You said that the Bible teaches that God loves everyone equally. I think this is correct in one sense, but not in another. If we define love as “willing the good of another” then God definitely wills the good of every human being. In that sense, he loves everyone equally.

    If, however, you mean by love that God makes sure that every person has the same material blessings in this life, or that every person will be a prophet, or that every person is saved, then God clearly does not love every person equally.

    So when you say that God loves everyone equally, what do you mean by that?

  • Ed Tuggy

    This is actually in reply to Bill, but I don’t find a Reply button on his last post, so I’m replying to my own.

    Hello Bill,

    I hadn’t thought of defining love in other terms; I would just assume that God’s basic motivation toward everyone should be love, however defined, and shown to everyone in equal measure. Otherwise He would seem to be showing partiality.

    8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. James 2:8-9 (ESV)

    By this standard, is God showing partiality when he loves Jacob and hates Esau?

    Thanks,
    Ed

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    Hi Ed,
    Defining what “love” means in a particular context is incredibly important. In James 2, the context is clear from James 2:1-4. James is admonishing Christians to not show favoritism to rich people at their meetings. These verses are not applied to God, obviously, so we should not quote these verses if we are talking about how God loves people.

    Does that make sense?

    God bless,
    Bill

  • http://www.facebook.com/tommarroww Joshua Dale

    Your definition of love and hate aren’t quite correct. The Hebrew definition for hate (שנא – sane) is: to ‘turn away from another’. It is the opposite of grace (חן – chane) which is: ‘beauty’ implying to look upon or to show favor. The problem comes in when use the English definition of these words to understand the Word of God. That, though, is the caveat of translation and why we must study.

    Likewise love (אהבה – ahavah) is: ‘behold what is provided to make the family strong’. The bet (ב) is a house meaning that love has to do with family. God only has one family, Israel which, as you pointed out, are descendants of spiritual seed. God does not love those who are not in His family. But now we have to deal with perspective. God knows who are his, we don’t. How God sees people does not change the responsibility he has given to us when interacting with others.

    Most theological arguments have to do with three things.
    1) The Word of God is four dimensional. Most arguments are not at odds, simply an understanding of a different aspect of scripture. Our Western mindset doesn’t readily afford us to look ate more than one perspective as correct.
    2) Perspective. We have God’s perspective and man’s perspective. If we don’t differentiate the two, we trip all over ourselves confusing how God sees things with how we should see things. Unlike God, we have limited perception. Just because God hates someone doesn’t mean we should go around hating someone. Just because God knows who are His doesn’t mean we become a slothful servant because we don’t know who belong to God.

    3) Religion. We are still coming out of the Dark Ages. We have inherited a lot of things that are incorrect and flat out lies. Sometimes it takes a lifetime for the Spirit to reveal this to us and being as we are, we don’t like to admit when we are wrong so we cling to and continue to endorse the tradition we’ve inherited. This has to do with dying to self, however. When something we’ve believed our whole life turns out to be a lie and we realize this and embrace the truth, a part of us dies. We don’t like to die, it hurts.

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  • Steve

    you have rightly say Joshua Dale

  • Steve

    Tim, you are right, the word Love and hate that stated is applied to personal individuals,from there goes away to apply to the people and nation’s of God.

    Thank you,
    Steve.

  • Tim A. Setliff

    Interesting, but what about the following?

    Psalms 5:5 – The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. ESV

    Psalms 11:5 – The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. ESV

    Proverbs 6:16-19 – There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, 19 a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. ESV

    Hosea 9:15 – Every evil of theirs is in Gilgal; there I began to hate them. Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of my house. I will love them no more; all their princes are rebels. ESV

    Summary: God hates evil doers. God hates the wicked and the one who loves violence, he hates a false witness, and one who sows discord. He hates those who are evil in Gilgal and loves them no more.

    This statement “God does not hate anyone, but he does bless some nations more than others” does not match what Scripture clearly states.

    The real problem is a false view of God. Modern Christianity has a God who is primarily love. The Bible, however, give us a different picture. God is Holy, Holy, Holy. Love is something God does. Holy is who He is. The very essence of God is His Spirit. The Word calls the Spirit HOLY.

  • David

    Gen 37:1; 35:12 — “Now Jacob lived in the land where his father sojourned, in the land of Canaan.” Apparently, to stay “in the land” of his father (of Isaac and Abraham) is to stay with God; is to stay in God’s love and promises (Gen 16:3;15:18-21).

    Gen 36:8-19,6,43; 33:9 — “Esau is Edom,” and “he went to another land (with plenty), away from his brother Jacob.” In some instances, “Esau” is the nation, in other instance, the man.

    Gen 4:16 — “Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord…” (but by Seth, men sought the presence of God / “men began to call upon the name of the Lord” v26).

    Jesus said “Come unto Me” (and you shall find rest); and in that new land (“city”), the Lamb is its lamp (Rev 21:23).

    Re: “Christians are good in playing with words” — actually, what ever God has called it, some men will likely attempt to call it something else. When the Groom decides it is time to lock the door at the appropriate time and no longer let/allow in to the feast those who were invited/received the invitation, then the door is locked. May we ever be accepting and promoting the invitation (and watchful of that Day).

  • Doug

    Bill, thanks so much for this post about Jacob and Esau. I know you left it a long time ago, but it was very timely for me. My church small group is about to have a discussion on this topic and I wanted to arm myself with some background information. My research led me to this blog post and I loved how you presented this information. Thank you.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    Doug,
    You are most welcome. I hope you enjoy your discussion in your small group.

  • Nina Simone

    Dear John,

    This is an old post I’m replying to but if you no longer need this maybe someone else will…

    Your son’s Youth Pastor has completely misinterpreted these portions of the Bible and the other “pastors” responses to your dilemma are clearly unlearned in this regard. Which is why GOD says “My people perish from lack of knowledge…” Hosea 4:6

    The fact that you do not know what I am about to explain to you means the church you are in has a major lack of knowledge problem. This should be common knowledge among all of the pastors.

    First, in regards to GOD hating Esau, The Bible is a Multifaceted, Multifunctional Mosaic. The picture is the Revelation of JESUS CHRIST to creation and it is made up of many scriptures that each function in conjunction with one another as well as independently and do not Contradict one another if one studies each Jot and tittle correctly within context as well as place and time. As it is written; “it is the Glory of GOD to conceal a thing and the honor of kings is to search out a matter.” Proverbs 25:2

    One of the functions is to reveal a love story between a HOLY, JUST, Patient, Merciful, Loving GOD and rebellious, stubborn, ignorant, inexperienced, reckless, selfish, tantrum throwing children. You have a teenager, you can relate. You were a teenager, you can relate.

    Jacob and Esau are in one respect speaking of the nations of Israel and Edom yes, and yet there is more to it that relates to us also as individuals if you look closer.

    Jacob was chosen because of his rebellious nature even though they had done no good or bad “yet”. GOD was going to humble Jacob even if GOD had to break him (his hip) in order to save his soul. What good will a hip do you in hell? ( “And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out…” Matthew 18:9) The same way GOD through our LORD and SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST will drag us through the Pearly Gates kicking and screaming like a camel through the eye of a needle if HE has to.
    ( Note: The eye of a needle JESUS spoke of in Matthew 19:24, Mark 10:25 & Luke 18:25 was an actual small stone opening that was in the walls that completely surrounded Jerusalem for the stragglers to enter once the gates to the city were closed. The only way for the camels to get through the opening was the camels would have to be stripped of everything they were carrying, be forced to their knees and pushed through the opening as they crawled. The extremely stubborn camels would have to be whipped to get them to crawl through the opening. (Yes, if we are stubborn we will have to be whipped to. Please see Hebrews 12, for further understanding about how GOD will discipline HIS children if HE must to save our souls.)

    Jacob meant usurper, and Jacob definitely was one. He was a crafty, sneaky fellow who used pagan practices to gain the flocks and he would not accept GOD as his LORD unless he got something out of the deal first. And he sure got it. He was reduced to begging for GOD to bless him and be his GOD. Jacob once he was humbled was renamed Israel which means “Governed by GOD”. We all could learn a lesson from that. i.e. you can take the easy way or the hard way.
    We may forget GOD but GOD does not forget us. JESUS will come after HIS lost sheep and drag them back to the safety of the flock kicking and screaming if HE has to, because HE is faithful though we are not.

    Esau hated his birthright so much that he sold it for a bowl of soup. He wouldn’t have died if he didn’t get that bowl of soup. He wanted the Blessings from GOD but not the responsibility that came with it. Sound familiar?

    Second, GOD did not “directly” harden Pharaoh’s heart, and HE didn’t have to. Pharaoh’s vanity and pride did that all on it’s own. What hardened Pharaoh’s heart was his own belief that he was a god. GOD’s very existence is what hardened Pharaoh’s heart.
    In the Egyptian mystery religion (as well as all pagan mystery religions throughout history as well as today & which all originated in Babel) they believed they could summon deities by using their name to call upon them and demand from them. This is why GOD did not give Moses HIS name. GOD said “I AM that I AM” i.e. HIS very existence is all that should concern you & you have no power over the Great I AM.

    Pharaoh refused to accept the fact that It is us who will answer to our CREATOR not the other way around.

    ” Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.” Job 38:3-4

    Each of the Ten Plagues directly attacked and debunked the alleged powers of the pagan gods and goddesses which Pharaoh believed he controlled and was “lord” over. Each plague was a direct attack on this false doctrine and Pharaoh’s heart hardened more and more as each one passed./ Which is why the tasks and abuse of the Hebrews became worst and worst. The last plague was a direct debunking of Pharaoh’s claim as lord over all.

    The Living GOD was mocking Pharaoh’s dead idols and their false religious system. GOD exposed that Pharaoh had no power and was not a god himself and that these false gods and goddesses that Pharaoh believed he was above didn’t even exist and had no power over anything in GOD’s creation and that is what hardened his heart. The fact that he was just a man and not GOD was what Pharaoh refused to accept.

    Like I said earlier, The Holy Bible is a mosaic. A mosaic of Truth and Wisdom coupled with History and Prophecy. It’s a dictionary and a thesaurus, a science book etc… Part of it’s purpose among so many others is to reveal the true GOD and free humanity from the false pagan belief systems passed down from Babel that we are indoctrinated with from birth.
    Even Bible believing Christians today still ignorantly pass down many pagan superstitions like a black cat is bad luck, knocking on wood, not stepping on cracks so you don’t break your mothers back, don’t walk under ladders etc.. These are all fear inducing pagan superstitions in direct opposition to GOD;

    ” For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

    2 Timothy 1:7

    And for those of you who have children or are going to have children etc.. if you want to avoid banging your head against a wall with rebellious teenagers then stop reading them harry potter and all those garbage books, shut off the damned television and the radio with all those nasty violent rebellious little cartoon characters and filthy mouthed rappers and start reading them the Bible. Focus also on the book of Proverbs and Start them young. It was written exactly for this purpose.

    And please stop relying on pastors just because they have the title “pastor” there are wolves in sheep’s clothing my friend and most are in the church. Be ye therefore wise as serpents yet harmless as doves. i.e. Know your enemy and their tactics but be not like unto them. Search the Scriptures and study the history. Become a Berean yourselves!

  • Nina Simone

    GOD is not two sided. HE is the same today tomorrow and forever. The reason you are having difficulty understanding these passages is you are projecting mans thoughts and behaviors onto GOD.

    First evil is NOT a tangible. Good and Evil are not equal in opposition. This is a Pagan Ying/Yang understanding not TRUTH.

    Evil is the lack of GOOD. Hate is the lack of LOVE. A lie is devoid of the Truth. Satan is not equal in opposition to GOD. They are not the flip side of the same coin. Again this is the pagan ying/yang doctrine.
    When GOD states “I make good and create evil” God is NOT saying HE also makes evil. What GOD is saying when HE creates good that the rebellious hearts of men who oppose GOD react in kind with evil.
    JESUS said “I come to bring a sword” People automatically think HE comes to intentionally cause people to fight and this is not so. JESUS very existence as KING of kings and LORD of lords causes evil, power hungry, vain men to respond as their evil hearts would have them do. i.e. they crucified HIM. GOD is not creating the evil, evil men are in response to GOD creating good.

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  • Manasseh

    It’s all about pre-existence election.

  • Jeremiah

    God hates. God is balanced and perfect in all ways. You cannot have good without evil or love without hate. God hates all workers of iniquity. He hates evil doers.

    A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:8 KJV)

    The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate. (Proverbs 8:13 KJV)

    These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren. (Proverbs 6:16-19 KJV)

    And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. (Revelation 17:16 KJV)

    For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. (Romans 7:15 KJV)

    Jesus said. 
    If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26 KJV)

    As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. (Romans 9:13 KJV)

    And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. (Revelation 17:16 KJV)

    Jesus said
    So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. (Revelation 2:15 KJV)

    Jesus said
    But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. (Revelation 2:6 KJV)

    Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. (Hebrews 1:9 KJV)

    For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. (Titus 3:3 KJV)

    For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: (Ephesians 5:29 KJV)

    Jesus said
    I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (John 17:14 KJV)

    Jesus said
    But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause. (John 15:25 KJV)

    Jesus said
    But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, (Luke 6:27 KJV

    Jesus is saying here do not have vengeance. Loving your enemy does not mean to love satan.

    And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the Lord. (Zechariah 8:17 KJV)

    The Lord God hath sworn by himself, saith the Lord the God of hosts, I abhor the excellency of Jacob, and hate his palaces: therefore will I deliver up the city with all that is therein. (Amos 6:8 KJV)

    I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. (Amos 5:21 KJV)

    Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be that the Lord God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph. (Amos 5:15 KJV)

    All their wickedness is in Gilgal: for there I hated them: for the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of mine house, I will love them no more: all their princes are revolters. (Hosea 9:15 KJV)

    Because of their wickedness which they have committed to provoke me to anger, in that they went to burn incense, and to serve other gods, whom they knew not, neither they, ye, nor your fathers. Howbeit I sent unto you all my servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate. But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear to turn from their wickedness, to burn no incense unto other gods. (Jeremiah 44:3-5 KJV)

    For I the Lord love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. (Isaiah 61:8 KJV)

    For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord : (Proverbs 1:29 KJV)

    Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies. (Psalms 139:21, 22 KJV)

    I hate and abhor lying: but thy law do I love. (Psalms 119:163 KJV)

    Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way. (Psalms 119:128 KJV)

  • Jeremiah

    Thank You Jesus for being so wonderful.

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