Romans 9:11-13, “(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”
Many years ago, before I joined the Primitive Baptist, I spent nearly an entire week reading our study verse. I labored to convince myself that the word “hate” in this verse was to be interpreted the same as Luke 14:26, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” After much time, I became, and still am, convinced that Romans 9:13 “hate” and Luke 14:26 “hate” CANNOT be interpreted as teaching the same thing. Please consider:
(1) The context! Luke 14:26 is a temporal context. The Lord is not (never will) calling on His children to do contrary to His Commands/Word. The Lord commands us in Exodus 20:12 to “Honour thy father and thy mother:…” Luke 14:26 is calling on us (His children) to love Him more than our father, mother, wife, children, brothers/sisters and our own life. In Romans 9:13, the context is eternal. The subject is Eternal Election (“that the purpose of God according to election might stand” Romans 9:11). God, before the world began, chose Jacob and didn’t choose Esau. Ephesians 1:4, “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:…”
(2) The word “hate” in Luke 14:26 and the phrase “have I hated” in Romans 9:13! These two cannot be interpreted as teaching the same. The Greeks prided themselves in saying much with few words. With that being taken into consideration, it is very important to remember to not strain and confine a Greek term as to have the same meaning each time that it is used. In Luke, the proper interpretation is within the action of the verse. The child of grace is commanded to love God more than his/her parents and family. In Romans the “have I hated” is to be interpreted as something that is present and has been in place. This is a quotation from Malachi 1:2-3. Paul writes, “As it is written,…” The Lord never loved Esau. If we were to interpret Romans 9:13 as love less, we would first need to prove God loved Esau in the first place, which cannot be done.
(3) Comparing the conjunction “and” in Luke 14:26 to “but” in Romans 9:13! The conjunction “and” is interpreted in the English language as comparing thing/things or persons of equal or unequal values. The word “and” in Luke 14:26 allows/forces us to interpret the verse as God calling on His people to love Him more. The conjunction “but” in Romans is interpreted as comparing thing/things or persons of opposite values. Example: If we said, “Paul walked out the door BUT Timothy followed him”, we would have used the word “but” incorrectly. The sentence should have been, “Paul walked out the door AND Timothy followed him.”
(4) Paul’s questions and suggestive responses to his declarative statement in verse 13! If I were to tell you that I love my wife more than the other sisters of the Church, would you say I’m unrighteous to do so? If I were to tell you that I love my children more than the other children at the Church would you say, You are unrighteous to do so? I’m going to guess the answer is no. A simple bias will not draw the response. But if we said that God loved Jacob and has/had a detest/hate for Esau, people will give the response. “God cannot hate anyone otherwise He cannot be God.” “God is love and cannot hate. If this is true, God is wrong to do so.” These are just a few responses that I’ve heard during my life when I quoted Romans 9:13. Truth? God would be perfectly righteous to hate us all. We are all sinners and have “come short” of His glory (Romans 3:23). The amazing part of Romans 9:13 is that “God loved.” The sovereign ruler of this universe (Job 23:13; Job 42:2; Psalm 115:3; Isaiah 14:27; Isaiah 43:13; Isaiah 46:9; Daniel 4:35), Who does as He pleases, showed forth His mercy and loved a people “out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Revelation 5:9). A number which cannot be numbered, that is compared to the sand of the sea and stars of the sky. My hope? He loved me, and that hope puts a smile on my face and gives me strength while living in this low ground of sin and sorrow. Amen!