Why Did God Hate Esau? Divine Judgment

By Charalampos •  Updated: 04/06/23 •  6 min read

If you’ve ever read the bible, chances are you know about the brothers Esau and Jacob. As children of Isaac, these two men were figures of immense importance to Christianity and their stories signify a number of significant ideas that still fascinate us today.

But why did God seem to favor Jacob over his brother? Why is it written that “God loved Jacob but hated Esau”?

We’ve all posed this question at some point in our spiritual journey – so let’s explore this mystery together by taking a closer look into the lives and legacies of these two men!

Theological Meaning Behind God Hating Esau

Malachi verse about Esau

In Malachi 1:2-3 are written these words: “I have loved you,” says the Lord. “But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’ “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his hill country into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.”

Reading this passage some people can believe that God actually hated Esau and that this hatred was based on some inherent quality or characteristic that Esau had.

However, a closer examination of the text and other passages in the Bible and writings of Church Fathers reveals a more nuanced understanding of this issue.

To understand why God loved Jacob but hated Esau, we need to look at the context of the book of Malachi and the context of the entire Old Testament. We need to remember that this passage is also quoted in Romans.

Related Read: Who Wrote Romans in The Bible?

The Nations Not The People

One possible interpretation of the passage Malachi 1:2-3 is that it refers to the nations that descended from Jacob and Esau, rather than the individuals themselves.

Thus, God’s love for Jacob represents his love for the Israelites, while his hatred of Esau represents his judgment against the Edomites, who were the descendants of Esau.

This interpretation is supported by other passages in the Bible, such as Obadiah 1:6-10, which describes the judgment that God will bring upon Edom for their pride and violence.

A Metaphorical Expression

Another possible interpretation is that God’s “hatred” of Esau is actually a metaphorical expression of his rejection of Esau’s lineage and the blessings that were promised to Jacob’s descendants.

God’s choice to bless Jacob and his descendants wasn’t based on any inherent goodness but was simply a matter of divine sovereignty and the grace of God.

In Romans 9:10-13 we can find these words: “Not only that but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. 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.'”

Before both sons were born, before they did anything good or bad, God said it to Rebekah. It was the choice of God that influenced the future and did not depend on any individual qualities.

Did God Hate Esau?

work of Christ through Esau and Jacob

God certainly didn’t hate Esau. God greatly blessed Esau, making him the father and ruler of Edom, God gave him many children, lands, cattle, camels, sheep, and much more. God loved Esau very much and therefore gave him so many earthly goods.

However, in fulfillment of the prophecy and as a prefiguration of what God then did by Jesus Christ, God chose Jacob, the second son, to send blessings through him, and not through Esau. Jacob became the father of the Israelite nation.

Like Isaac, the second son of Abraham, who was chosen as the child of promise and through whom the Messiah then came. God chose the Jews, and then God chose the Christians, the true children of Abraham.

The phrase “I loved Jacob, but hated Esau” means that salvation will be granted first to the Jews, and then to the pagans.

The apostle Paul tells us that there is nothing wrong with pagans starting to rely on Jesus for their faith. Anyone who makes everything by faith like Abraham is a true son of Abraham.

«The real children of Abraham, then, are those who put their faith in God.» (Galatians 3:7)

Read Also: Why Did God Choose Abraham?

Opinion of The Church Fathers

The Church Fathers also spoke about this topic. Augustine, for example, believed that God’s “hatred” of Esau wasn’t a personal hatred, but a symbolic one that represented the rejection of the flesh in favor of the spirit.

The saint wrote: «What does Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated mean, if not that Jacob was chosen before he was born, while Esau was rejected before he had done anything good or bad? For Esau, himself wasn’t hated, but his seed, which was repudiated along with the carnal works that characterized it.»

Other Church Fathers, such as Jerome of Stridon and John Chrysostom had a similar view, speaking about the idea that God’s hatred of Esau wasn’t a personal one, but a symbol of the rejection of the sinful nature that was associated with Esau and his descendants.

Final Thoughts

It can be concluded that God didn’t hate Esau, on the contrary, he helped him in every possible way. However, since God knows what is best for the future, he made the choice that led to the creation of the right ground for the coming of the Messiah in the future.

The idea that God hated Esau has been debated by theologians and Bible scholars for centuries. While there are various interpretations of this passage, it’s clear that God’s love and grace are central to the biblical narrative, and that his judgment and rejection of sin are always just and righteous.

The meaning of this passage, like all passages in the Bible, must be understood in the broader context of God’s redemptive plan for humanity and the world.

Throughout the Old and New Testaments, we see examples of God’s love and compassion for his people, as well as his willingness to forgive and restore those who repent of their sins.

The story of Jacob and Esau, like all stories in the Bible, shows us the redemptive work of Christ, who came to reconcile all people to God through his death and resurrection.


Charalampos is an Orthodox Christian who wants to help others learn about Christianity. His main goal is to help people understand the Bible and how to apply its teachings in their everyday lives. He also enjoys spending time with his family, playing sports, and hiking.

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