17 Sections

Jacob and Esau


Chapter: 14.58
(Section 14: Selective Salvation)
Copyright Michael Bronson 1998 -2005

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The phrase "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated" (Romans 9:13) is often used to support selective salvation. Selective Salvationists point to this verse (which is actually a quote from Malachi 1:2, 3) as proof God has chosen certain people to love and certain people to hate. In fact, it is often used as the cornerstone of the doctrine of selective salvation.

Was God actually saying He personally hated Esau or is there more to this story than what first meets the eye? Esau and Jacob were, of course, Isaac’s twin sons. God told Isaac he would be the father of a great nation. Esau was the first-born and was entitled to two-thirds of the family inheritance and the birthright. Nevertheless, God had told Isaac that the great nation (Israel) was to come through Jacob, not Esau.

Although Esau was the firstborn and Isaac’s favorite (Genesis 25:28) God, in His sovereignty, chose to use Jacob. God, in His sovereignty, chose to break tradition and have the older brother serve the younger (Genesis 25:23). God’s choice of Jacob had nothing to do with salvation, but had everything to do with who would father the nation of Israel. God, in His sovereignty, chose to use Jacob’s seed (not Esau’s) to be the source of the Messiah.

Did God actually hate Esau? If you look at the life of Esau, there was no indication he had the disfavor of God. He was wealthy and in good health. God did not display any hatred toward Esau. I believe the message being presented in Romans 9:13 is, "I have chosen to use Jacob, not Esau."

I don’t know why God used the word "hate." Maybe it had more cultural significance a few thousand years ago. Maybe the choice of words was to produce an emphasis or contrast. In Luke 14:26, God uses the word "hate" to contrast what our love should be toward Him. Here He says, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brother and sisters –yes, even his own life –he cannot be my disciple." Obviously, God is not saying we should actually hate our parents. He was only making a contrast of how great our love for God should be in comparison to our love for our family.

There are a couple of other verses that use the word "hate" for comparison. Matthew 6:24 says, "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other." John 12:25 says, "The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life."

Using the verse about God "hating" Esau, Selective Salvationists have built a doctrine that God actually hates everyone who is not elect. In fact, they say that God hated the non-elect before their birth. Following are some of the comments made by Selective Salvationists:

  • "Pharaoh was sovereignly hated from eternity, even as was Esau." (Hoeksema, Good Pleasure, p. 46)

  • God "… hated the non-elect before their birth." (Owen, The Death of Christ, p. 227)

  • "It has been customary to say God loves the sinner, though He hates His sin. But that is a meaningless distinction. What is there in a sinner but sin?" (Pink, Sovereignty, p. 200)

  • "We conclude, therefore, that the predestination of Jacob and Esau is a personal election and reprobation unto salvation and eternal desolation respectively. (Haldane, Commentary of Romans, p. 462)

Think about what’s being said here. Hatred is a very strong emotion. Hatred is a response to someone else’s offense. If I were to open up a phone book from another state and blindly point to a name of a person I don’t know, I couldn’t honestly say I hate or love that person. Both of these emotions are something that needs to be developed.

I find it hard to believe that God (the author of our emotions) would have such strong emotions toward someone who has never been in existence. I find it inconceivable God would passionately hate someone who hasn’t even done anything to spurn this hatred. (Remember, according to Selective Salvationists, this hatred is not based on anything the person has done.) More importantly, that type of behavior contradicts everything we know about God from the Bible.

Mark 10:22 talks about the encounter Jesus had with the rich young ruler. After the rich young ruler rejected Jesus, the Bible says Jesus "loved" him. Jesus loved this person who was Hell bound. This is the type of emotion you would expect from someone who wants the whole world to come to salvation.

In the chapter (Children of the Elect) I talked about how the Canons of Dort specifically says the children of the elect are also elect. If this is true, Esau (the twin brother of Jacob) is one of the elect. If he was one of the elect, God obviously does not hate him. If, however, Esau was not one of the elect, there are other issues that need to be addressed. Refer to the chapter Children of the Elect for more information.

God is not a respecter of persons. God does not have his favorite "pet students." We tell our children the Bible teaches it is wrong to have elite cliques at school where some kids are shunned. We tell our kids is it wrong to have groups of friends where some are excluded simply because they are not part of the current "in" crowd. Personally, I find it hard to believe that God who says it's wrong to have cliques would have His own cliques. Listed below are some verses showing God does not show partiality.

Deut 10:17

"The great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality …'

2 Chron. 19:7

"For with the LORD our God there is no injustice or partiality …"

Job 34:19

[God] "who shows no partiality …"

Acts 10:34

"I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism"

Romans 2:11

"For God does not show favoritism."

Galatians 2:6

"As for those who seemed to be important--whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance."

Ephesians 6:9

"and there is no favoritism with him."

Colossians 3:25

"… and there is no favoritism."

1 Peter 1:17

"Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially …"



Other Chapters in this Section

PART 1: What is Selective Salvation?
PART 2: What Does the Bible say about Selective Salvation?
PART 3: Problems with Selective Salvation
PART 4: “Choice” –The Achilles’ Heel of Selective Salvation
PART 5: Difficult Questions Answered

Jacob and Esau
Hardening of Pharaoh's Heart
"I have Chosen You"
Nation of Israel
Clay in the Hands of God

Appendix: Foundational Documents used by Selective Salvationists

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