Like Esau, can God hate a person?

Jacob, have I loved, Esau have I hated? Does God hate human beings? Let’s open to Malachi 1:2-3 which Paul also quotes in Romans 9.


1 A prophecy: The word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi.

“I have loved you,” says the Lord.

“But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’

“Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his hill country into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.”

Again, look at the context, this is God speaking through prophet Malachi. Israel are in terrible sin, all the leaders and priests are corrupt. You know they’ve really sinned terribly but there were certain accusations they had against God, and they were like God, you’ve not shown us that you love us, and God is like excuse me, you are my chosen people and I have actually delayed judgement from you guys whereas go and check the other guys called Edom, that was another nation. Now who are Edom descended from? Esau. Who are Israel descended from? Jacob. Those are the two guys. Now what he was saying is not like I have this passionate hatred against this people, he’s saying it’s actually a relative hatred, that is, in choosing Jacob, I rejected Esau. There was a promise given to Abraham that went to Isaac, and now it was easy to go from Abraham, to Isaac because it was one child. But now they are two, they are twins and one of them must be the chosen nation. I think it was said to Rebecca, there are two nations in your womb. So, God chose one and by the virtue of choosing one, he’s put his special blessing on that one and therefore he rejected this other one. Even when he was judging, he judged both Israel and Edom for their sin but there was a way he always still preserved a remnant of Israel so that his promise of the messiah could come. It is in that light that God hates Esau. It is in the light of election and rejection and so when Paul uses it on Romans 9:13


13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”


He’s also talking about the doctrine of election. God had chosen to come through Christ just as in the same way that God had chosen Jacob instead of Esau. So it’s not an actual objective hatred that he had towards Esau. Now somebody then says, oh what about hell? What is happening there. Well hell is not so much God’s hatred; hell is God’s wrath and where does God’s wrath come from? God’s love and it is his love reacting against what is evil and therefore what will destroy what God loves and so, God’s love reacts against evil. If we look at hatred in the sense that some people look at it, it comes from an evil place and there is no evil source in God.


Femi Osunnuyi is lead pastor of City Church, a gospel-centred urban church in the city of Lagos. Because of his passion for church planting and leadership development he also serves on the Lead Team of Acts29 and the Advisory Team of City to City Africa. He is happily married to Tosin and is father to Tofunmi and Timilehin.