The text of Malachi chapter one is the location where scoffers often quote in seeking to malign God.
The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi. “I have loved you,” says the Lord. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the Lord. “Yet Jacob I have loved; But Esau I have hated, And laid waste his mountains and his heritage for the jackals of the wilderness.” ~Malachi 1:1-3 (NKJV)
This text highlights the fact that God loves and He also hates. In this case, the prophet writes that God loves Jacob but Esau, his brother, He hated.
At this time during the history of the Jews they were beginning to question the love of God. To this question Malachi goes back to the start of the nation in Genesis 25:22–23. Jacob and Esau were twins. God made a difference between them at the very beginning, fifteen hundred years before He stated that He loved Jacob and hated Esau. This gives us a hint that God always sees things in the eternal perspective, not in the immediate and temporary.
Dr. Griffith Thomas was once asked by a Bible student why God hate Esau. His reply was stunning. “Well, I have a problem with that verse, too,” Dr. Thomas replied. “But my problem is why God said that He loved Jacob. That’s the real problem.”
If a person is a real student of the Bible and studies all of the texts that it contains, they will very quickly learn that there is nothing good in any human being that God should love. The Bible describes all humans as completely lost, and every thought and even the intent of our hearts is towards evil continually (Genesis 6:5). Paul wrote that the Old Testament makes it clear, “There is no one who is good, no not one” (Matthew 19:17, Romans 3:12, Psalms 5:9, Psalms 140:3).
In spite of man’s reprobate condition God still loves the world and He sent His Son to die for our sins and pay the penalty that we owed for our sins (John 3:16). God can also see the end of all things from the beginning. He knows every event and every person that will exist. He knows what they will do, who they are, and what their end will be. He knows who will humble themselves and agree with God that they are a sinner and seek the salvation He offers every person in Jesus Christ.
When God said that He loved Jacob and hated Esau, it was based upon what he knows about both of these brothers and their entire history. Both men had long histories in the Bible, they both became two great nations. Jacob has a love and heart for God, Esau did not. When God states that he hated Esau, he was looking at the entire fifteen hundred year history in all that Esau caused. Thousands of precious lives were lost for eternity because of the hatred that Esau had for God.
Edom came from Esau, and Israel came from Jacob. Read in the Old Testament about all the terrible things that the descendants of Esau did to the descendants of Jacob. God does love, but He also hates. God hates what evil people do in the world to destroy the lives of other people. He hates what certain individuals do to kill, rape, steal, and ruin the lives of people who cannot defend themselves.
God Can Hate People, We Cannot
The evil and suffering that we see all over this world is caused by men like Esau who set themselves against God and destroy the lives of people. God sees what the results of Esau’s actions caused and He hates Esau for the lives he ruined and the loss of eternal life that took place because of him. God can uniquely hate a person because He alone has the ability to see their entire history, we cannot.
It is not possible for anyone to love without hating. Today we live in a society that condemns hatred, and in most cases this is justified when it relates to people. There is also a hatred that all of us should have for the evil and suffering that people cause in the world. We cannot separate what evil people do from who they are. If we hate the evil actions of people who destroy the lives of others, we also hate who they are. What we want is for these persons to change and give up their evil actions. We must be patient with them for all of their lives, and for this reason as human beings, we cannot hate the person, only their sins.
We cannot hate a person and not want them to come to repentance so they can be saved. The true followers of Jesus do not want anyone to be lost, but we also do not want evil people to continue their destruction in the world.
We have heard the phrase, “hate the sin, but love the sinner.” This is true, but what of those who sin and never come to repentance and continue to destroy the lives of people? God knows that these persons will never turn from their sins and, for this reason, He can say that He hates them for what they have done to people and the world He created. The Lord is able to see the end result of people’s lives and based upon His knowledge of all things He can make a final determination.
We can hate what people do, but we cannot hate them because we want these persons to be saved. We don’t know that by the end of their life they will turn from their sins and receive Christ. A repentant heart will erase their sins and cause them to begin again as a new creation. This is our desire for every evil person and for this reason, we cannot ever hate people. We are not able to see what the end of their life will be. For this reason, all that we can do during our life is hate the sin, but love the sinner and pray for their salvation.
God is perfect and He knows all things. For this reason He is able to say things with finality about people and events on earth. We cannot condemn God for hating people whom He knows will never turn from their sins and will continue to destroy the lives of people. This is right and reasonable and it should be understood by every person.
God loves the good, but He also hates the evil—it could not be any other way. The history of Israel and Edom are completely different. God said that because of Esau’s life, because of the evil which was inherent in him and how his actions affected the nation of Edom, He is justified in saying, “Esau I hated.”
[a] Horst, Gerrit Willemsz. (c.1612 – 1652), Public Domain.
Categories: Agnostics and Skeptics, Contradictions in the Bible, Doing good for enemies, Forgiving People, God Hates, How Salvation Occurs, Jesus Cross is Offensive, New Testament Criticism, Pleasing the Lord, Robert Clifton Robinson, Salvation through Jesus, The heart of the law: Mercy, The Importance of the Bible, True Repentance, Understanding Suffering, We must see our need