Romans 9:13


Monday, 19 August 2013

As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” Romans 9:13

Paul continues to make his argument concerning election directly from the fountain which is God’s word. This is a direct quote from a portion of Malachi 1:2, 3 –

Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the Lord. “Yet Jacob I have loved; But Esau I have hated, And laid waste his mountains and his heritage For the jackals of the wilderness.”

The terminology used in this verse causes undue stress and even anguish among some Christians. “What kind of loving God ‘hates’ like this?” And so the words of Paul are often dismissed as being inaccurate and judgmental. He is disregarded and it’s back to the beatitudes for a lifetime of sermons which fail to take in the whole counsel of God, not understanding at all what God is saying or why these pictures from the Old Testament were ever used in the first place.

However, there are many such examples to be found in both testaments which speak of love and hate in a comparative sense. First let us turn to the words of Joab which were directed to his king, the great King David –

“Then Joab came into the house to the king, and said, ‘Today you have disgraced all your servants who today have saved your life, the lives of your sons and daughters, the lives of your wives and the lives of your concubines, in that you love your enemies and hate your friends.'” 2 Samuel 19:6, 7

Joab was commenting in a comparative and ironic manner to show David that his actions were only harming his relationship with his subjects. It cannot be assumed at all that he actually meant that David hated his friends. In the book of wisdom called Proverbs, we read this from Solomon’s hand –

He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly. Proverbs 13:24

Again, is Solomon implying that a person who fails to chastise his son truly hates him? The answer is, “No.” Instead, the results of what a person’s life will be like when they go unpunished can only be miserable. It truly is as if the parents hated them for allowing them to end in such a sad state; the analysis is again comparative. And even Jesus spoke in this manner –

“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.” Luke 14:26

Does Jesus expect us to hate in the sense of literal hatred, or is it that our love for Him should be such that any other loving emotion to be found in us should be closer to hatred than this highest love for Him? The answer is obvious. Vincent’s word studies explains the sentiment rightly when it states, “The expression is intentionally strong as an expression of moral antipathy. … No idea of malice is implied of course.”

Understanding this, we should now determine who God is speaking about in this quote by Paul from Malachi. The answer is not Esau the person, but Esau the group who descends from the person. As noted, in the commentary on 9:12, the prophecy given to Rebekah prior to the birth of the children was clear in this regard –

“Two nations are in your womb, Two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger.”

And not only this, but so is the remaining portion of the prophecy from Malachi. The continuation of verse 3 speaks of “laying waste his mountains and his heritage.” Then in verse 4, “Edom” is quoted. In other words, Edom is representative of the Edomite people. Therefore, both “Esau” and “Edom” are referring to the people descended from Esau, not the individual.

Before Jacob and Esau had done anything good or evil, God’s election was made. However, it wasn’t merely pointing to the election of the individual, but the election of the group who would descend from him. If this is so, then it can be substantiated that “they are not all Israel who are of Israel” as he proposed in verse 9:6. God’s election must be based on something other than what we would immediately think.

Life application: The Bible makes it clear that what God looks for in individuals is faith. Our heritage, culture, race, economic status, etc. have nothing to do with God’s favor. He took a harlot from the cursed line of Canaan and brought her into the ancestry of Jesus. He also cut off kings who descended directly from David. He is not looking at the externals, but the internals – and He is doing it with you as well.

Lord God, if You can take a harlot from the people of Jericho in the land of Canaan and bring her under Your covenant care, I know You can use me too. If You are willing to grant her a place in the ancestry of Jesus, then I know You can place me in Your family as well. No matter who I once was, in Christ I am clean, holy, and spotless. Thank you for Jesus. Amen.

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