“JACOB HAVE I LOVED, BUT ESAU HAVE I HATED?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
“As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Romans 9:13). Calvinists consider this a useful “proof text” to argue that God loves some people and that He hates others. They say that God chooses for heaven those He loves, and chooses for hell those He hates. He chooses those He loves for blessings, and He chooses those He hates for curses and judgment. Is this really what Romans 9:13 teaches? Or, are Calvinists reading things into the verse that do not belong? Friends, let us say it again and again and again. Context, context, context!
It is not wise to read Romans 9:13 alone. Romans 9:10-13 should be read together: “ And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;  (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)  It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.  As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”
When the Scriptures talk about “election,” it has nothing to do with being chosen by God unto soul salvation and eternal life. One easy verse to prove this is Isaiah 42:1, where Israel’s Messiah (Jesus) is called the “elect” of JEHOVAH God the Father. In fact, the whole verse reads: “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.” What does “election” mean in the Bible? It means to be chosen to serve the God of the Bible! People in history who believe God’s Word to them, God then chooses them (as believers) to serve Him.
Look again at Romans 9:11-12 to see the Bible’s definition of “election”: “ (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)  It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.” Note how the Apostle Paul, like the Prophet Isaiah earlier, connected “election” with “service.” In the Bible, unlike in theology, both terms have nothing to do with people going to heaven or hell, but rather those who are justified before God, God has given them a role in which to function/serve as members of His family.
THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, ISAAC, AND JACOB
In the case of the Abrahamic Covenant, God promised to use Abraham and his seed to form a nation of people He would use to bless all the other families (nations) of the world. We read in Genesis 12:1-3: “ Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:  And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:  And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
That covenant God made with Abraham was then passed on to his second son Isaac (rather than his firstborn son, Ishmael). Note Genesis chapter 17: “ And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!  And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.  And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.  But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.”
By his wife Rebekah, Isaac had two sons, twins who were named Esau (firstborn) and Jacob. God’s words to Rebekah are Genesis 25:23: “And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.” Earlier, we read where Paul quoted this in Romans 9:12: “It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.”
We see now that the Abrahamic Covenant has moved from Abraham’s son Isaac to Isaac’s second son Jacob (rather than his firstborn, Esau). This was confirmed in Genesis chapter 28: “ And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;  And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.  And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.  And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.”
So, when the Bible uses the expression, “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” what it is really communicating is the extension of the Abrahamic Covenant to Abraham’s son (Isaac) and grandson (Jacob). Jacob later fathered 12 sons, and they became the 12 tribes of Israel, forming the nation God originally spoke of to Abraham in Genesis chapter 12. “And he [God] gave him [Abraham] the covenant of circumcision: and so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs” (Acts 7:8).
Going back to Romans chapter 9 to summarize these Old Testament concepts: “ Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:  Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.  That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.  For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.  And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;  (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)  It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.  As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”
“JACOB HAVE I LOVED, BUT ESAU HAVE I HATED”
Okay, now we have gotten to the tricky verse, the difficult verse. When Paul wrote this in Romans 9:13, he was quoting Malachi 1:2-3: “ The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.  I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob,  And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.”
The Prophet Malachi wrote about 400 B.C., over 1,000 years after Esau and Jacob had died. Malachi was not referring to the two men individually, but rather their descendants, the nations that originated in them. The context—in Malachi 1:2-3 or Romans 9:13—is not individuals but rather nations. Malachi is addressing Israel, a nation, God’s special nation. Go back to God’s words to Rebekah in Genesis 25:23: “And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.” This is talking about how Jacob’s nation (Israel) will rule over Esau’s nation (Edomites). God, as per the Abrahamic Covenant, has chosen Israel as His chief nation in the Earth. Israel is to be His channel of salvation and blessing to the nations of the world. If Esau’s descendants are to partake of the salvation and blessings of the God of creation, they must come to Him through His nation, Israel. The Edomites have to bless (serve, submit to) Israel if they are to be blessed of God.
The key to understanding Romans chapter 9 is to remember that it does not deal with the salvation of individuals, but rather nations (Israel versus Edomites/Gentiles). What Paul is arguing in the first half of this chapter is that not all of Abraham’s descendants are participants in God’s purpose and program in the Earth. The Old Testament covenants apply only to descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Contrary to Islam and the Qur’an, Ishmael and Esau are not part of God’s special nation and are not heirs of the Abrahamic Covenant. They are not God’s servants in the Earth. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their children will be God’s earthly servants. But, not only that. Only believing descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will become God’s special people. God does not consider every descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, a member of “Israel.” A true Jew is one who has both Abraham’s physical genes as well as Abraham’s (spiritual) faith. But, we must stop and save that for another study!
» Does Acts 2:47 support Calvinism?
» How do God’s foreknowledge and our free will work together?
» Does Acts 13:48 support Calvinism?