The Evangelical Universalist Forum

"Esau I hated", a suggestion

Malachi 1:3
but Esau I hated, and made his mountains a desolation, and gave his heritage to the jackals of the wilderness."

The idea of God hating someone is disturbing. John said God is love. I have an idea to mitigate Malachi 1:3.

In Luke 14:26 Jesus says his disciples must hate their mothers and fathers, siblings, and wives. Yet elsewhere Jesus said to honor one’s father and mother (Matt 19:19) and taught on multiple occasions to love one’s neighbor as oneself (presumably this would include family members). Obviously then Jesus’s statement that disciples must hate their family members is not literal. Likewise, I suggest the hate spoken of in Mal 1:3 is not literal.


Yes it’s not literal, it means to “love less” or don’t put your mother and father before Jesus.

That’s a good point. The Malachi passage is quoted in Romans 9 and gives further insight into this. It’s interesting that you posted your question the same day I published my commentary on Romans which addresses this subject in a comprehensive manner. Briefly, there are some points I’d like to make. 1. Both the Malachi passage and the Romans cross reference are referring to the Edomites, not the man Esau. Thus it’s not “God hating someone.” 2. The word “hate” can have the meaning of “preference” or “to prefer less,” as you gave an example of. 3. It is God preferring to use the Israelites for specific purposes over the Edomites, not because He hates them but to fulfill His purposes. See my comments on Romans 9 for this. The Romans passage quotes Genesis 25:23 referring to Esau where it clearly refers to “nations” and not the individuals. Thus, it’s not God hating a person, but Him preferring to use one nation over another.

The quotation “Jacob I loved but Esau I hated” in Romans 9:13 uses the Greek word “μισεω” for “hate”.
Every lexicon I have consulted gives “hate” as the translation of this word.

Many people try to “get God off the hook” by the claim that the word means “love less”. I don’t think there is any grammatical justification for this claim. I think this claim arises from the belief that God does not hate.

And in spite of what I have said about the word, I also believe that God does not hate. But I don’t base this on the desire to believe (without basis) that “μισεω” means “love less.” Indeed, it is written in Hebrews 11:20 “By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau.”

Even if it means “love less”, that would be extremely problematic. Imagine if one of your parents told you, “I love you less than your brother (or sister)”. It would be heartbreaking. Which is why I think it’s best to understand it as rhetoric – not to be taken literally.

It’s not really a great analogy but I think the way Bill put it describes it better then I put it.

The fact is qaz, μισέω miseō can mean unloved or love less as is indicative of its use here…

Gen 29:31 When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.

14 out of 51 translations HERE render μισέω miseō as hated — the rest being a mixture of… unloved, loved less, not loved, neglected, slighted, despised. So this is a heartless or uncaring hate and NOT a rancid hatred. For the stronger more rancid hatred the word used was στυγητοί stugētoi — it appears right alongside μισέω miseō in Tit 3:3. As always context helps carry the meaning, so yes, expressive and hyperbolic rhetoric comes heavily into play, for example here…

Lk 14:26 “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.

Jesus simply reiterates the high cost of discipleship that meant family, i.e., loved ones, come second to the high calling of their mission to Israel… no more and no less.

As for the specific passage in Rom 9:13… THAT hatred OR loving less was in relation to the outworking of God’s redemptive calling through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Esau was NOT appointed to that high calling (vs.11).

Similarly this then can be demonstrated accordingly in the story of David’s calling…

1Sam 16:6-7 So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, “Surely the LORD’s anointed is before Him!" But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused (rejected) him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

Eliab’s refusal or rejection in this context simply meant… NOT chosen or called for God’s higher redemptive purposes; or simply put… rejection by God was NEVER about damnation, it was simply NON-election to His greater redemptive purposes — again, nothing more and nothing less.


Thanks Davo. I learned something today. This is the first time I encountered “στυγνητος” (lexical form), and Titus 3:3 is its only occurrence in the New Testament.
I am curious as to how you know it refers to a “stronger more rancid” hatred.

According to the 1861 5th edition of my Liddell & Scott lexicon μισέω miseō carries passive overtones… something more akin to hate held in the heart, e.g., a grudge; whereas στυγητοί stugētoi is stronger… being an active and vocative hatred openly demonstrable. Clement of Alexandria uses the word four times in his works… once quoting Tit 3:3 in chapter 1 of his ‘Protrepticus’ and three times in 1Clem 35:5-6; 45:7.

Deuteronomy 21:15-17 lays out rules for a man with two wives and sons from each. In the ESV one of sons is described as from the “unloved”, but there’s a footnote that says “or hated”. I wonder if this has any implications for the Esau verse.

It’s basically the same word with its applied meaning ranging through… dislike, detest, hate.