Jacob Loved/Esau Hated
A Collaborative Writing By
Jonathan & Rebecca Mitchell
and Don Luther
What are we to conclude from this shocking statement by the God who, according to St. John, is Love? There are conclusions so easily assumed in regard to this and many other biblical statements that stand in violent opposition to the Word which is in our hearts.
But being brain-washed by those who claim a right to define that Word for us, we shy back from learning the Spirit-taught art of an ongoing adjustment of our understanding of the Word within, by the objective Word in scripture, and conversely, the adjustment of our understanding of the Word understood objectively, by the Word understood intuitively.
The process by which the Spirit of wisdom and revelation encourages us toward having enlightened eyes of understanding involves a dialectic between the Word understood objectively and intuitively. There ought to be in every believer's experience, those times when the Word in our hearts cries "Halt" to a conclusion we're about to accept from the reading of scripture, but also times when, from many hours of being saturated by the text of scripture, a logical protest ought to arise from our minds against pseudo-intuitive nonsense.
What did the God who is love mean to convey to us by the statement, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated?" Well, first of all, SLOW DOWN; TAKE IT EASY, you don't need to get an immediate answer from the Lord to resolve this seeming contradiction.
In your quest for understanding, please stand still in silent respect before the magnificence of His sovereignty. You can, you know, rest in the obvious truth that whatever is meant by Him hating someone, cannot diminish in the least bit that His essential relationship with that individual is constituted by unwavering love, and that according to His very nature.
Consider, please, just what the despising of God is all about. Ought we not to consider that while the Lord did say that He hated/despised Esau, that He would never essentially violate the principle of the pre-eminence of the firstborn son? Nay, nay---too great a principle is that, tracing to the very internal relationship of Deity, so that even from biblical type and shadow, we must never infer any repentance by God on such a weighty matter.
Also, though I can't recall any teaching about Esau being a type of Christ, maybe we ought to consider that possibility. Esau was despised and rejected in regard to receiving the benefit of his place in that family which mostly pictures the family of God, and was not our Lord Jesus declared by the prophet to be "a Man despised and rejected, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief?"
And did that not finally serve the purpose of Him whose family is the whole family of humanity? Did not forgiveness of the offenses against him mark Esau's final disposition? Did not the Father require of His Son that He treat His inheritance as a thing not to be grasped after, and become a servant for a larger purpose?
Then after pondering the above, let's consider the possibility that the story of God's relationship and treatment of those two individuals, Jacob and Esau, is meant mostly to be interpreted as how He deals with the Jacob/Esau complex within our eonian existence. Think on that, and don't expect this writing to give you answers in a tidy conceptual box with a pretty ribbon topping it off.
Were you not chosen before the foundation of the world within Christ, His Firstborn, with His benefits accruing to you in Him, yet hasn't He often seemingly treated you as if you have no right of inheritance? Think Esau. Hasn't he allowed you to egregiously practice your Jacobian approach to gaining God's favor until it becomes bitter futility, and leads you finally to seek reconciliation with the Firstborn?
To broaden the conversation on this topic, John and I (Jonathan) have decided to co-author this post: First of all, I concur with what John has just presented. But here I will take another approach to this verse, starting with the context in Rom. 9:
10. Yet not only so, but further, Rebecca, also, continued having a marriage-bed (= was habitually having sexual intercourse and conceiving children) from the midst of one man, Isaac, our father (= ancestor).
11. For you see, not as yet being born ones, nor ones practicing (performing; accomplishing) anything good or vile (mean; sorry; careless; bad [p46 reads: worthless; of bad quality; corrupt; evil]) – to the end that God's purpose and aim, which He designed and set beforehand, may continually remain (abide; dwell) down from (corresponding to and in accord with) election (a selection and choosing-out; a choice), not forth from out of works (or: actions), but instead from out of the One continually calling (inviting; summoning) –
12. It was said (or: declared) to her that, "The greater (by implication: the older) will perform as and be a slave to and for the smaller (by implication: the younger; the inferior)." [Gen. 25:23]
13. Just as it has been written, "Jacob I love (participate in and accept as on the same ground), yet Esau I regard with ill-will (I hate; I am unfriendly to; I esteem with little affection)." [Mal. 1:2-3]
14. What, then, shall we say? Not [that there is] injustice (behavior contrary to the Way pointed out) with God? Of course not (May it not come to be)!
15. For He is saying to Moses, "I will be merciful to (will relieve the distress and misery of) whomever I should presently be merciful (or: I may continuously relieve of distress and misery), and I will be compassionate to whomever I should (or: may; would) be continuously compassionate." [Ex. 33:19]
16. Consequently, then, [it is] not of the one constantly exercising [his] will (or: [it does] not pertain or belong to habitually intending or designing), nor of the one constantly rushing forward (or: nor does it pertain or belong to the one continuously running or habitually racing), but rather of and from God (belonging to or pertaining to God), the One constantly being merciful (or: habitually and continuously relieving from distress and misery; or: but to the contrary, it is from the One repeatedly dispensing mercy, which is God).
Paul is referencing Mal. 1:2-3 in presenting an argument for the sovereignty of God, Who does as He wills with, within, and among humanity. Gen. 25:23 is quoted to make the same point, as is Ex. 33:19. So we much see verse 13, above, within the context of Paul's argument that what happens with people is not based upon their will, or their efforts (e.g., running; rushing forward). It all comes down to God being merciful and ultimately relieving folks from their distress and misery – that is, doing what He want to do. This is the gospel!
Second, consider the semantic range of the word normally just translated "hate." For His own purposes (as expressed elsewhere, as with His making pots or vessels, as we see in vs. 21-23), God – according to His plans – treats some folks with ill-will (as He did with the testings of Job: everything that happened to him was all God's will for the adversary to treat Job in an ill manner) during this life. But this is always just so that these seeds will fall into the ground and die – and we know what comes from this: a bountiful harvest (much fruit – as Jesus put it).
Even within the life of Israel, as a nation, Yahweh was unfriendly and esteemed them with little affection as He brought the adversarial nations upon them in judgment. And recall that God was "unfriendly" toward the offering that Cain made, while He "respected" and "received" Abel's offering (Gen. 4:1-7). Also, in the Malachi text, the reference to Esau was being used to speak to Yahweh's stance against Edom (Esau's descendants) in their relations to Israel.
So let us not read our own definitions of "hate," along with our estranged emotions, into this text. And let us understand the verse within the context of how the writer is using the word – not using it as a "proof-text" to argue that God is something that He is not.
Jonathan: Rebecca Mitchell makes the following insightful comments:
God knew how we'd first as young ones take His saying He hated ANYONE, though maybe in Jewish thought it was understood, such as hating father and mother and following Him, while in other places He makes it clear we are to honor our parents and care for them. Maybe back then this was understood, a cultural use of comparisons: a rich man and a beggar, a priest and a Samaritan, His people and grass, etc. We come along and see things in black and white ..."Well, He said 'hated' didn't He!" Ha.
It's a good thing about which to think and consider, having been a stumbling block for some and a mystery for others. Over and over He makes us see that HE is the potter, planner, decision maker, fixer (sacrifice), etc., all in and from His great love.
Don Luther comments: "Ill will" certainly brings another aspect to this presentation. I have often considered that what is considered "good" or "evil" has more to do with our perception of how things turned out rather that the intrinsic quality of "good" or "evil" -ness. If something happens and we suffer because of it, it is evil to us. If we are rewarded for it in a positive manner, then it is "good." The child who is spanked for (fill in the blank) would consider it "ill." Even the teenager who has to move with his family away from his friends through no fault of his own, may consider THAT to be ill, or being treated with "ill-will." Yet, as the old television program would declare: "Father Knows Best."
The adult in the family, usually the father, has determined that the move is for the good of the family. And while the individual may suffer for a time, the end result (hopefully) is the strengthening of the family. So it is (without the caveat of human error) that He, our Father, as we know intuitively and objectively, does, indeed, know best. Whether His dealing with us appears to us in "love," or in "ill-will," the outcome is for His sovereign purpose. Either that, or we must clip Rom. 8:28 out of our Bibles.
Having been put on the path to the following conclusion by the remarkable intuition of my dear brother Bill Green, that being that the sin that entered the world through Adam's sin, CAME from within the earth of which he was formed. Keep in mind the difference between "the world (the orderly arrangement) and the earth. It was the factor that made the original creation without form, void, desolate---a wasteland (if I'm recalling correctly the full spectrum of the Hebrew for "void," that I got from Strong's.)
When you get to the Garden of Eden account, you see that that element---even after God had brought life and light into the original creation---was still present embodied in "the serpent." Yet God looked at it all---especially after He created Adam---and saw that it was very good.
I remember spending much time meditating on that, and then the thought came to me: what is called good, must be good for something, otherwise "good" has no real meaning. So God saw it all as very good in accordance with/for His purpose.
Don Luther responds:
I like the phrase "God saw it all…." Our crying need is to see as God sees. This has been my thought now for 12 years, since my brother was murdered (a real crime, by ANY standard). Yet in the middle of the situation, God allowed me to see just a bit of what He was doing in this "most evil" situation. It not only got me through the hard time, but actually allowed me to rejoice in His plan. (I know that may sound a little weird. Even as I write this it seems "unnatural," which I guess it is.) Countless examples have shown us that man can endure anything if they know the outcome is to be desired. Just take a reread of Fox's Book of Martyrs. Although we would prefer to "see," (and usually that is my prayer for folks who are "going through it") yet God many times takes us down the path of the unseen. (Blessed are you who do NOT see, yet still believe.) This continues to dispense faith and trust in the believer, who can then "in everything give thanks." Not because we see, but because we look to the one who works all things after the counsel of His own will. That being said, it certainly IS nice to see occasionally. In my experience it creates an environment where Faith and Trust can grow!