Romans 9:13 “Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'”


      With the exception of some observations the following material was largely taken from Dr. Harry Boer's explanation of this passage that can be found on pages 493 to 496 in the 1980 Acts of Synod of the Christian Reformed Church.


      We must consider Romans 9:11, 12, 13 together. They read: “Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad —in order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told ‘The older will serve the younger.' Just as it is written; 'Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'”


      We know how the prophecy “the older will serve the younger"; came to fulfillment in the life of Jacob and Esau. Esau despised his birthright (Gen. 25:34) and Jacob received Isaac's blessing (Gen. 27).


      When we read this Roman 9 passage we are left with the impression that: “Before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God's purpose in election might stand . . . she [Rebecca] was told ‘The older will serve the younger'” AND “Just as it is written; ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'”


      From this impression the conclusion is drawn concerning the two individual persons, Jacob and Esau, that before they were born God loved Jacob and God hated Esau.


      However, Rebecca was only told this: “Two nations are in your womb, and two people from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger” (Gen. 25:23). Rebecca was NOT TOLD “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”


      The words “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” came through the prophet Malachi, some 1,300 years AFTER Rebecca was told “The elder will serve the younger.”


      Malachi 1: 1– 5 makes it abundantly clear that Malachi in using the names Jacob and Esau is speaking of two nations, the nations of Israel and Edom . Paul is quoting Malachi when he says “Jacob I loved and Esau I hated.” To imply that Paul is speaking about God's attitude toward two individual persons before they were born when he says, “Jacob I loved and Esau I hated,” is not correct.  Malachi is speaking of two nations and is speaking about God's evaluation of them after they existed.


      That Esau was a common name for the nation of Edom is very clear from such passages as: Genesis. 36:1, 8, 16; Jeremiah 49:8, 10; Obadiah 6 and Malachi 1:1-5.


      That Jacob was a common name for the nation of Israel is very clear from such passages as: Deuteronomy 34:8;Isaiah 41:8; 42:24; Jeremiah 30:10, 18; Malachi 2:12.


      That the nation of Edom is even referred to as Jacob's brother is seen in Amos 1:11; Obadiah 10, 12.


       Why is it said of the two nations “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated”? It is because Jacob [ Israel } was God's covenant nation and Esau ( Edom ) had severely oppressed God's covenant people. Therefore God's judgment was against Edom (the nation) and this is spoken of by Malachi of evidence that “Jacob (the nation of Israel) have I loved and Esau (the nation of Edom) have I hated.” Malachi is prophesying about two nations, not two individual people.

         Malachi is declaring that God judged Esau (the nation of Edom) for the evil it had done.  He is not referring to Esau (the individual) and saying God hated him before he was born.


      Therefore Romans 9:13 may not be used as if it tells us that God, before their birth loves some persons and hates others, thus determining before they are born the eternal weal or woe of all persons. Such a decree of reprobation would contradict the premise of Evangelical Inclusivism, namely, that “All persons are elect in Christ except those who the Bible expressly declares will be finally lost, namely, those who ultimately reject or remain indifferent to whatever revelation God has given of himself to them, whether in nature/conscience (Rom. 1 & 2) or in gospel presentation.”


      Paul in Romans 9:13 is quoting Malachi's reference to the nation of Israel and to the nation of Edom when he says of the one “Jacob (Israel) I loved” and of the other when he says “Esau (Edom) I hated.”

      It has been said that although it is "nations" that are spoken of in Malachi 1: 1-5 this does not preclude the fact that Paul can quote Malachi 1:2 "Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated" and apply it to “individuals." In response to this I say:


     Paul in Romans 9 is speaking both about election (vss. 11, 12) and justice (vs. 14).  About election he uses the example of God saying before the twins were born, “The older will serve the younger.” God elected Jacob to this position and disregarded the regular order of having “the younger serve the older.”


     About justice he uses the example of how God showed his mercy to Jacob (Israel) and he judged those who oppress his chosen ones, Esau (Edom).  “Jacob I loved and Esau I hated.”


     The expression “Jacob I loved and Esau I hated” is found only in Malachi.  It can not be denied, therefore, that Paul is quoting Malachi.  What is the point of Paul quoting Malachi and saying “just as it is written” if he quotes Malachi and applies what Malachi says (about nations after they existed) in a way that Malachi never dreamed it would apply (about individuals before they were born)?

      It is ever so clear that in Malachi 1:1-5 Malachi is speaking in reference to two nations not two individual persons.  When Paul says in Romans 9 "just as it is written" Paul was referring to two nations "just as it is written." 

      It has often been alleged that Calvinism teaches: “that God predestined and created, by the bare and unqualified choice of his will, without the least regard or consideration of any sin . . .” some people and even “many infant children of believers. . .” casting them “into hell.” This “and very many other slanderous accusation of this kind which the Reformed churches not only disavow but even denounce with their whole heart” (Conclusions of the Canons of Dort).