The following is an excerpt (modified slightly to a “blog post” format) from my paper, “God, the Non-Elect, and Romans 9: An Exegetical and Theological Analysis of Reprobation and Hardening in Romans 9.1-23” (see post; see paper). It comes from an excursus in the paper titled, “Esau I Hated” based on the language in Romans 9:13.
“Esau I Hated”
For many Christians, the three simple words “Esau I hated” (Rom 9:13) form one of the most puzzling statements in their Bible. Is this actually saying that God literally hated Esau? Many respond negatively by pointing out that Paul’s argument in Rom 9:6-13 concerns election. Consequently, “Jacob I loved” means “Jacob I elected” while “Esau I hated” means “Esau I rejected.” Given that Paul’s argument in Rom 9:6-13 concerns election, this interpretation is without a doubt what Paul is teaching as he quotes Malachi 1:2-3. This fact also helps distinguish between God’s action in election and His attitude towards the non-elect. In other words, if “hate” simply refers to God’s attitude towards individuals due to their sin, Rom 9:13 would say, “I hated both Jacob and Esau,” for both are equally depraved. But the text shocks the reader with “Jacob I loved” indicating that behind “love” is the act of election and therefore behind “hate” is the reality of rejection.