Malachi 1:2-3 2 I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob, 3 And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.
In 1 John 4:8, 16 we read that God is love, but how does that compare with God’s words spoken in Malachi 1:3 – And I hated Esau? It would appear on the face of it that God does indeed hate Esau and is therefore capable of hating people. However, when we dig deeper into this set of verses we will see that such is not the case.
To begin we need to establish the biblical context for Malachi and these verses in particular. Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament and was addressed to the Israelites. The nation of Israel often wandered away from the Lord and worshiped idols instead of the true God – such as when the Israelites were delivered from Egypt and then almost immediately began to turn away from God yet again. God at some point would invariably send a prophet to warn them and give guidance. Malachi was written to the nation of Israel as they had once again wandered away from God into corruption.
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In Malachi 1:2-3 Jacob is a reference to the nation of Israel and Esau refers to the nation of Edom. This is made clear by how Paul referenced these very verses in Romans 9:13 as he is speaking of and to the nation of Israel, not an individual. Romans 9, 10, and 11 refer to Israel past, present, and future and her role in redemption.
The Hebrew word for “hated” in Malachi means to “love less”. The Greek word Paul used in Romans 9:13 is “miseo” which means to “love less, or to disregard”. In Luke 14:26 Jesus used this same word: 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
Obviously Jesus is not advocating “hate” for parents and siblings etc. but rather that our love should not only be given to Christ first – but that this love we hold for God should be so strong that our love for all others in comparison should seem as hate. We would not be told on the one hand to love everyone as ourselves and then be told that we must hate someone to be Disciples of Christ – that is not even logical!
In Genesis 29:30 Jacob is said to have loved Rachel more than Leah. In verse 31 it says that when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, He opened her womb and she became pregnant. Leah was not truly hated she was less loved of Jacob.
Rebekah loved Esau, and Isaac loved Jacob. Through Jacob the linage of Israel continued, however God did promise Rebekah that Esau would be blessed and a nation would come through him (Genesis 25:23)
So to answer the question: does God hate people? – No I do not believe He does. God will choose to bless one over another, He may be angry with a person or a people (as He was with His own people) and He will definitely punish people His own and others as well. That does not equate to hatred, it means that God is just.
One last thought: if God truly hated anyone, why would Peter (2 Peter 3:9) have said that God does not desire that anyone perish?