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Is There Any Partiality With God? What Does God Mean By "Jacob I Loved and Esau I Hated?" (Part One)

Posted on May 2, 2014 at 8:56 AM Comments comments (0)

Texts:  Mal 1:1-3; Rom 9: 10-13


Researching and praying to understand difficult texts in the Bible has helped to increase my faith and walk with God. I got saved in 1962, and I began to read through the Bible yearly from 1980.  There were many texts I could not understand. Following are just a few:

  • Where did Cain get his wife?
  • What was the mark God placed on Cain for his safety?
  • Why must the God of love order the massacring of certain people along with innocent children?
  • Why must God allow the Israelites into slavery for 400-plus years into Egypt, and in exile, several times?
  • Is it realistic that God became a man?

This Journal is intended to clarify the misunderstanding of the above texts because, though we have faith in Christ, understanding difficult texts of God’s Word will help to increase our faith and walk with Jesus Christ daily.  I’ll begin with two of the difficult texts. My faith in Christ became stronger as I studied and got the answers to my questions through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Following the conviction of Saint Anselm of Canterbury who (also influenced Saint Augustine of Hippo) said, “I do not understand in order that I might believe, but I believe in order that I might understand.”[1] I also accepted Jesus Christ by faith with the heart to understand. This position is opposed by Peter Abelard, a scholastic philosopher and theologian, who believes that “… doubt leads to inquiry, which leads to truth. [Therefore,] nothing is believed unless it is first understood.”[2] (“I understand in order to believe”.―Peter Abelard.) However, Hebrews 11:1 nails it: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain for what we do not see.”

The texts (Malachi 1: 1-3; Romans 9:13) raise a question about God’s partiality.  I believe that these texts are one of the difficult texts in the Bible.  If God loves Jacob and hates Esau, this suggests partiality in our human understanding. I understand that this is one of the controversial issues in the Scripture―one of the battle grounds for theologians and commentators. Theological terms like election and sovereignty are found in part of the texts. 

Another major debate engulfed in these texts is whether God hates Esau as a person, or, was God reaffirming His election of Jacob initiated in Genesis 25: 22-23? I believe that the covenant language used by Malachi was embedded with a parallelism in reaffirming (1) Esau’s rejection in God’s redemptive plan and (2) the related word hate refers particularly to Esau’s sin.  Esau did not only sin in his constant fight against his brother Jacob, but he directly sinned against God for His election and sovereignty. For Esau, God was wrong in by-passing the birthright in selecting his younger brother! Hence, he continued to revenge in every way to destroy Jacob and his descendants.

To be continued

[1] D. S. Hogg & Peter Abelard. The dictionary of historical theology. T. A. Hart, Ed. (Carlisle, Cumbria, U.K.: Paternoster Press., 2000) 1079-1142.
[2] D. S. Hogg & Peter Abelard 1079-1142.