Romans 9:10-13 (NKJV)

10 And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac 11 (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), 12 it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” d 13 As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”

But we are told in 1 john 4

1 John 4:7 (NKJV)

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

I find it hard to reconcile the above texts,could it be the verb (hated)(μισέω) was used by extension meaning to (love less) in the above text rather than to hate or detest,for God is love & were there is love there is no hate

  • 1
    Note that Romans 9 is quoting Malachi 1.
    – Susan
    Dec 1, 2016 at 20:32
  • Hate means what it always has meant, the antithesis of love. Paul set the benchmark in regard to love when he said, "Love never ends" (1 Corinthians 13:8). Accordingly, it is not possible to say, "I used to love...". If one's love for something/someone ends, then it wasn't love at all, only a diversion that brought profit for a time. Hated things are let go of in order to maintain a grip on the things one loves, since if they were loved then they wouldn't have been let go. God let go of Esau.
    – enegue
    Jun 8, 2018 at 3:38

3 Answers 3


Good question and good cross-reference.

The Definition

The Greek word (miseo) is used in three ways (using Vine's Expository Dictionary, without listing all the examples):

  1. Of malicious and unjustifiable feelings towards others, whether towards the innocent or by mutual animosity
  2. Of a right feeling of aversion from what is evil
  3. Of relative preference for one thing over another, by way of expressing either aversion from, or disregard for, the claims of one person or thing relatively to those of another

Cross references for hate (miseo)

A good case can be made that the word is used with the third meaning in Romans 9:13. Two good cross-references are:

"If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple." Luke 14:26

Jesus cannot mean that we are to have malicious feelings for our families, because that would contradict His commands to "love one another" (John 13:34,35, 15:12, 15:17) as well as other references in the New Testament ("abound in love one toward another, and toward all men" 1 Thessalonians 3:12, "you ... are taught of God to love one another" 1 Thessalonians 4:9, "see that you love one another with a pure heart fervently" 1 Peter 1:22). Therefore, Jesus meant that in comparison to one's devotion to Christ, one's family ties must be secondary. Only the third useage of miseo makes sense.

"No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money." Matthew 6:24 (cross-reference Luke 16:13)

A servant in Jesus' day could not serve two owners (Greek kurios = lord, master) simultaneously. The servant had to be loyal and devoted (adhering to) to one owner, but despised (disdained) the other (but didn't necessarily have malicious intent). In the same way, Jesus says we cannot be loyal to God and money. We have one master - either Jesus is Lord, or someone/something else is. You make like another person or thing, but ultimately they are secondary.

Meaning of the Quote in its own context

“I have loved you,” says the Lord. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the Lord. “Yet Jacob I have loved; (3) But Esau I have hated, and laid waste his mountains and his heritage for the jackals of the wilderness.” Malachi 1:2,3

God chose Jacob's descendants to be His chosen people, rather than Esau's descendants. There was no merit on Jacob's part.


  1. There is no word stated about the eternal state of Jacob or Esau.
  2. What is spoken about here (see verse 4 as well) is only their earthly possessions
  3. "Loving Jacob" and "Hating (loving less) Esau" does not concern the two brothers at all, but their descendants.

Meaning of the phrase in ancient Israel

This expression of loving and hating involves the use of a Hebrew idiom. If a father had two sons and made one heir, he was said to love the one he had made his heir and to hate the other whom he had not made an heir. The love and hate spoken of here are not related to the emotions; they are related to the will of God. The words challenged Israel in that time to recognise the responsibilities inherent in its privileged position as heir. (source: The King James Study Bible, 1988, Liberty University, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

Therefore, I think the best explanation of miseo used in Rom 9:13 is definition No. 3 above.

  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange Mecht - this is a great first answer, thanks for contributing! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other sites.
    – Steve can help
    Dec 2, 2016 at 14:41
  • 1
    If anything it would be nice to see a little more interaction with Romans 9, as it's difficult to make cases for words by only seeing them in other contexts.
    – Steve can help
    Dec 2, 2016 at 14:42
  • 1
    (+1) and two thumbs up, especially for a first post. Welcome! For me the KJV Study Bible is not a primary source, though and it would be better to identify their source and cite that. Obviously "not make heir" doesn't work very well with "hates not father and mother", so it sounds a bit like "preacher-history"... IE, it makes a good sermon but is unfounded.
    – user10231
    Dec 2, 2016 at 14:58
  • Thanks @SteveTaylor for the link to what this site is really about, that was helpful reading. Thanks SteveTaylor and WoundedEgo for both points of feedback and your encouragements! You both gave valid criticisms, and based on your feedback, I plan on editing the answer when I get the chance. Dec 2, 2016 at 21:23

It is great that commentators want to uphold the honesty and integrity of Jesus, but we must be honest in doing so. In the case of Malichi's reference (Malachi 1:3) to God's hate for Esau, and Paul's reference to that verse, it is the Hebrew that must be the standard of meaning. We look at Strong's 8130 (transliterated saw-nay') and the reference is to hate, loath, detest. As for Hebrew idioms mentioned above concerning choosing one son over another in birthright, God' law is that a father must give the birthright to the oldest son.This is not a choice for or of the father. If an Israelite overturned this, it would be lawless and based on hatred of the eldest. So by the law the birthright goes to Esau, Manasseh, Reuben. As a practical matter this did not happen. God overlooks innumerable crimes in life for his own ends. You might say that God overturned these birthrights because it is mentioned in the Bible that Jacob arranged and desired these things. But the text will not explicitly support this. You must read into the text your opinion. But the law is clear. To be sure, God who owns the world and made men could overturn it for his purpose. He merely tells Rebekah that Jacob will overturn Esau, but it was her doing and Isaac's acquiescence to this. Jacob never actually gave the birthright to Joseph, but doubled his inheritance by adopting his two sons as his own. And Joseph was rich by Pharaoh on top of this. Now with Ephraim and Manasseh, while Manasseh was Joseph's eldest, he was not the eldest son of his grandfather, Jacob. So the wily Jacob could get around that by this means. Finally remember, that both Esau and Jacob were sinners and merited the hatred of God. Also note that God said that he would have mercy on whomsoever he chose to. We must question God's judgment and wisdom to deem this unfair. We must also admit that if God is love, his hatred must be motivated by love. Is this rational? Well, if we love justice, must we not hate injustice, iniquity? Yes, we must. Love the sinner, love the sin. But why are we told to love our enemies? Maybe you merit their hatred. But all must be taken in context, and we always disagree on the context. If you love a murderer as murderer, you do not help the murderer, or yourself, nor serve the interest of truth and justice. No, we must love the capacity of the man to repent, the repentant sinner. And is the not the murderer and the reformed murderer the same man? Well, yes and no. Do you see why I say both yes and no? On the one hand they are two different types of man at different times. On the other hand they are one man. It is difficult. I hope this sheds some insight from my perspective, at least, on the matter. NOTE: As for God overlooking crimes, we all know about the last judgment. But what about the child raped and murdered, and the perpetrator never caught. God knows, can prevent and does not. That is what I mean. After death, that is another matter.


Habakkuk struggled with this problem of God seeing wickedness and violence and doing nothing. God answered him "I'm not 'doing nothing'. I will judge" (paraphrased). Habakkuk didn't like God's answer of sending a more wicked nation against Judah. but God stated He would also judge the nation whom He sent against Judah. The truth gleaned from Habakkuk is 1) God is sovereign over all men and nations, events and circumstances; 2) God has an eternal plan that He alone is working out. He does what pleases Him and glorifies Him based on His character; 3) Men need to wait on the Lord and His timing which are always perfect; 4) We are to always trust God no matter the circumstances (3:17-19); 5) God deserves our continual praise. This corresponds to Romans 9:15. Men tend to limit God or bring Him down to their level. Psalm 50:21 "You thought that I was one like yourself". We can know God truly, but we can never know God fully. Isaiah 55:7-11. Job said, "though He slay me yet will I trust Him." Job 13:15

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