If God’s love to Jacob was real literal love, God’s hatred to Esau must be
real literal hatred. It might as well be said that the phrase, ‘Jacob have
I loved,’ does not signify that God really loved Jacob, but that to love
here signifies only to hate less, and that all that is meant by the
expression, is that God hated Jacob less than he hated Esau. If every man’s own mind is a sufficient security against concluding the meaning to be, ‘Jacob have I hated less,’ his judgment ought to be a security against the equally unwarrantable meaning, ‘Esau have I loved less.’
But why, it may be asked of those who object to the plain meaning of the
words, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated, and insist that their
import is that God loved Esau less than Jacob — why should God love Esau less than Jacob, and that, too, before the children were born, or had done good or evil? Can they explain this? Would it not involve a difficulty
which, even on their own principles, they are unable to remove? Why then refuse to admit the natural and obvious signification of the passage? If God says that He hated Esau, are we to avoid receiving God’s testimony? If, again, Esau, as some insist, were the better character, why was Jacob preferred to him?
Compassion is a sign of love, and hardening a proof of hatred. And, besides this, the expression, ‘Esau have I hatred,’ is not stronger than what the Apostle applies to all men when he says that by nature they are the children of wrath, dead in trespasses and sins, and consequently objects of the hatred of the holy and just God. All of them are so in their natural state, as considered in themselves, and all of them continue to be so, unless delivered from that state by the distinguishing grace of God. To be hated on account of Adam’s sin and of their own corrupt nature, is common to all men with Esau who are not of the elect of God; and in Esau’s case this is exhibited in one instance. Nothing, then, is said of Esau here that might not be said of every man who shall finally perish.
There are few commentators, however, who have not wavered more or less in their explanation of this passage. Mr. Hodge, Professor of Biblical
Literature in the Theological Seminary at Princeton, America, gives here
the following most erroneous interpretation: ‘It is evident that in this
case the word hate means to love less, to regard and treat with less
favor.’ This false gloss completely destroys the import of the passage, on
which no one who understands the doctrine of the fall, and consequent
condemnation of all men in Adam, ought to feel the smallest difficulty. In
its obvious and literal meaning, what is said of Jacob and Esau must be
true of all the individuals of the human race before they are born. Each
one of them must either be loved or hated of God.
The opinion held by some, that it may be questioned whether God be ever said to hate any man, is contrary to the revealed character of God. This sentiment appears to be near akin to that of the heathen philosophers, who held it as a maxim that God could not be angry with any one. Like many other unfounded dogmas, it stands in direct opposition to the whole tenor of the Scriptures, which represent God as angry with the wicked every day, and hating all workers of iniquity, Psalm 5:5. Does not the passage above quoted, which declares that men are by nature children of wrath, express this hatred of sin in the strongest manner; and especially of Adam’s sin,
on account of which all men are children of wrath by nature?
And does not this wrath abide on all them that believe not on the Son? John 3:36. ‘The Lord will take vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserveth wrath for His enemies,’ Nahum 1:2.
In innumerable passages of Scripture, God ascribes to Himself hatred.
Men, however, are averse to this. What, then, can be done? The Scriptures must be explained in a forced manner; and while they say that God hates sinners, they are made to say that He does not hate them. Nothing can be more unjustifiable than this method of tampering with and perverting the word of God, and nothing can be more uncalled for. Hatred in itself is not sinful. That which is sinful ought to be hated; and though there is a mixture of evil in man’s hatred of evil, yet there is the same mixture of evil in his love of good. In God’s hatred of sinners, as in all His attributes, there is nothing of sinful feeling. We are not able to
comprehend this attribute of the Divine mind; but every other attribute has also its difficulties. We must in this, and in all things, submit to God’s
word, and believe it as it speaks, and not as we would have it to speak.
Respecting God’s hatred of sin, and the punishment of transgressors, the
late Dr. Thomson refers in his sermons to the following passages: — ’Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them. The wrath of God has been revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men. Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, will be rendered to every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile. God is love; but it is also said, that God hates all workers of iniquity; — that the Lord
revengeth, and is furious; — that His wrath cometh on the children of
disobedience. The assertion that God is angry with the wicked every day, is just as level to our apprehension, as the assertion that God loves them
that fear Him. We know that His anger is expressed in rebuking, chastening, punishing those who have provoked it, as we know that pity helps, relieves, comforts those who stand in need of its interposition. God is as certainly holy to hate sin, and just to inflict merited punishment on the sinner, as He is good and merciful, and compassionate to the guilty and the miserable for whom He interposed.’ ‘I cannot help reverting to what I formerly observed respecting the necessity of attributing love to God no further than His own word has warranted, and no further than is consistent with that revelation of His character which He Himself has given us.
A greater snare cannot be laid for your piety and your judgment, than that which consists in making love His paramount or His only perfection. For whenever there is a consciousness of guilt, and a dread of responsibility, it must be comfortable to have a God who is divested of all that is frowning and indignant towards transgressors, and clothed with all that is compassionate and kind. And whenever there is a soft or a sentimental temperament at work, that representation of the Divine nature must be peculiarly pleasing and acceptable. And whenever men wish to have a religion which will be without any tendency to excite apprehension and alarm, the same predictions must exist for a supreme Ruler in whose benevolence all other qualities are absorbed and lost. And, accordingly, not only is this partial and unscriptural view of the character of God adopted as the leading principle of certain systems of theology, but it is held and cherished and acted upon by multitudes, whose sole concern in matters of faith is to have
not what is true, but what is agreeable, and who find in the tenet we are
speaking of, the most soothing and satisfying of all persuasions, — that
God loves every one of His creatures with such an affection as is depicted
in the Gospel. I warn you against the delusion — so dishonorable to the
Holy One, the Everlasting Father — so ruinous to all who have surrendered themselves to its influence — so inconsistent with what you read in the book of inspiration — so destructive of that mystery of godliness and of grace which has been made known to us in Jesus Christ.’