Select Page
Read Introduction to Romans


12 it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”


This verse reiterates that God’s promise to Jacob was not based on any human or temporal system of salvation.

12 it was said to her,

God told Rebecca before her twins were born that He would chose Jacob over Esau—that is, the way Jacob believed as over against Esau’s. God’s plan of salvation has nothing to do with what an individual will or will not do. The plan remains the same whatever might happen. God is always consistent with Himself. The theodicy continues.

“The older [Esau] shall serve the younger [Jacob].”

The quote here is verbatim from Genesis 25:23 (Septuagint). The “older” here is Esau and the “younger” Jacob. The quotation from Genesis designates that Paul had two nations in mind—“two nations are in your womb.” From Jacob came Israel and from Esau came Edom. Esau did not actually serve Jacob, but his progeny did. The entire family of Esau, the Edomites, demonstrated that they did not believe in the plan of God. God’s plan does not depend on the natural order of birth. The argument is that Israel is in God’s plan of salvation but Edom is not.

13 As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”

Verse 13 finishes the argument that began with verse 6—“the word of God has taken no effect.” It rounds off this section of the defense of God’s justice. God’s predetermined system of salvation is always the same; it has nothing to do with blood ties.

13 As it is written,

This next quote is from Malachi 1:2-3. The reference in Malachi is clearly to nations, not individuals. The same is true with the reference to Genesis in the previous verse. Malachi confirms that Edomites were not the people of God. The nation of Edom was the object of God’s wrath. People of Paul’s day viewed Edomites, the progeny of Esau, as unsaved.

We must remember the purpose of Romans 9 to 11 is not to develop the doctrine of predestination but to establish a defense of God’s justice (a theodicy). God’s word of promise stands true (Ro 9:6).

The “love” and “hate” in this quotation has nothing to do with loving or hating individuals but nations represented by Jacob and Esau. The argument of Malachi 1 is that God had “laid waste his mountains and his heritage” (Ro 8:3). The reason for this was idol worship (Ro 9:6-14).

“Jacob I have loved,

God’s love for Jacob’s descendants came from His eternal plan of salvation. “Jacob” stands for his progeny (Israel). Previously, the argument was the distinction between the natural seed and regenerate children (Ro 9:7-9). Salvation is not an issue of natural descent but of the plan that provides salvation for the descendants.

but Esau I have hated.”

God’s hatred has to do with where Esau’s progeny was in the plan of salvation. Esau represents his entire progeny, who is Edom, a nation lost to God. What God hates is the system of salvation that the Edomites represent. Edomites became idol worshippers (Amos 1:11-12; Obad. 10).

God is pleased or finds approbation only in His plan of salvation through Christ. He saves only on the basis of what Christ has done. The solution depends not on what is good or bad but on Christ.


God’s election for salvation is toward only those who accept His plan of salvation.


It is true that God loves irrespective of who a person might be or what he has done. He loves sinners (Ro 5:8). It is also true that God is a God of justice. There is no need to hold that this is a contradiction, for both are true of God. God cannot do anything but reject what is against His nature.

Romans 9:13 is no proof for the doctrine of reprobation—that is, that God predetermined some to be lost. The issue is not that God predetermined to pass some by but that He determined that all people will be saved the same way—by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross. There is no merit in faith; it is simply the means of accepting what God provides.

God’s hate does not involve malice, vindictiveness, or bitterness. The nature of this hate relates to dishonor of His plan for man. It is not emotional hate; it is the hate that comes from principle, the principle of God’s justice in salvation. Either we gain God’s approbation or lose it, depending on whether we believe in His provision of Christ on the cross or not.