As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated (Rom 9:13)
The question then becomes, did Esau behave the way he did because God hated him, or did God hate him because of the way Esau chose to behave?
Jacob and Esau are not only individuals but they are also PEOPLE and/or NATIONS. This is important to remember in order to not read things into Romans 9 which are not stated. Romans 9 is not about individuals being elected TO BELIEVE, but it’s about a people who has sprung up from individuals, and it’s the line of Jacob which is chosen (for good reasons) to bring forth the Messiah. Most importantly it’s about a person who rejected his birthright and still expected to get it when it was time to receive the blessing. Paul made the comparison with the jews – which Romans 9 is about – who expected to inherit the Kingdom because they are born jews. We can also read from the context that God did NOT arbitrarily hate one of the twin brothers for no reason at all.
The LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” (Gen. 25:23)
There is no indication of anything good or bad about either of the children at this point. The nations arising from each will be separated, and one of these nations will be stronger than the other. The nation arising from the older of the two children will at some point end up serving the nation arising from the younger. The individual Esau never served the younger. Also note that God did not hate Esau before he was born, or while he was a child. Children are neutral and they can’t choose between good and bad. Paul says that they are not all Israel which are Israel, and by that he means that children of Abraham are those who BELIEVE like he did and who don’t live as the children of the flesh, and it was also the seed of Abraham which would bring forth the Messiah through Isaac. A person is not saved just because he is born a jew and has the law, but due to his choice to trust God and show fruit.
Rom 9:6Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: 7Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. 8That 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.
According to Paul, babies are neutral and can’t do either good or bad, and Paul speaks about “election” (which is not an election “to believe”) and highlights that the jews should not believe that the law (works) can save them since they in that case must never break one single commandment. It’s accepting the call of God that saves a person.
Rom 9:11(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;) 12It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.
Gen. 25:27 And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents. 28 And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob.
Hebrews 12 15Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; 16Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. 17For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.
Above in Hebrews we can see that Paul is warning people for not making the right decision when it comes to their lives styles, LEST they might fail of the grace of God, LEST they might be defiled and LEST they might end up like Esau who made a VERY bad choice to, among other things sold his birthright for a meal. We can see why Esau was rejected, and that is because “he found no place of repentance”, indicating that something wasn’t right in his heart, and maybe he didn’t regret his choice to sell his birthright until he realized what was at stake and that it would slip out of his hands. Esau knew better than that but he had to accept the consequences of his actions. Esau was also known as Edom. There is a book called Obadiah and the focus of Obadiah is on Edom/Esau, and the reason God hated Esau is stated here:
Pride of heart, v. 3
Because of the violence against Jacob, v. 10
For not intervening on behalf of Jacob when that people was under attack, v. 11
For looking down on his brother in the day of his misfortune, v. 12
For entering the destroyed city and participating in the ransacking, v. 13
For ambushing their fugitives, v. 14
Obadiah 1: 8Shall I not in that day, saith the LORD, even destroy the wise men out of Edom, and understanding out of the mount of Esau? 9And thy mighty men, O Teman, shall be dismayed, to the end that every one of the mount of Esau may be cut off by slaughter. 10For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever.
Romans 9:13 refers back to Malachi and there we can read:
Mal 1:2I 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, 3And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness. 4Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the LORD hath indignation for ever.5And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The LORD will be magnified from the border of Israel.
“They”. The entire people that came from Esau are being spoken of as being hated. Thus, when Paul quotes Malachi in Romans 9, he is referring to what happened to the people, not to the individual sons. The quote “Jacob I have loved but Esau have I hated” has to do with the nations that came from the brothers. In Obadiah, the reasons for this hatred from God are clearly shown. Did God hate Esau personally? He very well may have, and the despising of the birthright is used in Hebrews as evidence of his godlessness. This godlessness, and his marriage to pagan wives, would have affected not only his children, but their children and the children after them as well, in agreement with what we read in
Ex. 20:5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them [idols], nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me
Amos 6:8 The Lord GOD has sworn by himself, says the LORD the God of hosts, I abhor the excellency of Jacob, and hate his palaces: therefore will I deliver up the city with all that is in it.