Transcript - Why did God hate Esau?

Author: The Bible Why Guy
Title: Why did God hate Esau?
Plot: The Bible says Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated
Notes: Answers the question does God hate some people?

Listen to "Why did God hate Esau?" on Spreaker.

Full Transcript
Hey, welcome back!

If you're like me, then you were surprised when you read in the Bible that God said, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." That's in Romans chapter 9. I'll read you the full reference:

Romans 9:9-13 says

For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I [God] will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

From the perspective of a human who thinks in terms of time, I remember thinking, "Man, that is harsh! What could Esau have done to make God hate him before birth?"

And so if you have ever wondered, "What does Romans 9:13 mean?" "Why did God hate Esau?" Then this podcast is for you!

Of course I alluded to the answer a moment ago and you probably caught it. God knows the end from the beginning. He didn't just know an innocent baby who hadn't done anything yet. He knew the man Esau would become and the kind of kids he would produce and so forth. God knows the future. And so I submit that God didn't hate Esau without cause. He hated him because he knew who he was and what he was going to do. And being God, of course he was exactly right. 

This is not a podcast about election, it's a podcast that offers an explanation as to why God would say he hates Esau. And we can find that answer in the Bible, but I can tell you that that answer is amplified by other ancient accounts that go into more detail in the lives of these people. But, I'm gonna stick to the Bible account for the sake of this message.

Thankfully, life is much less complicated for us humans than it is for God. When we enter into a relationship, we don't see betrayal coming, unless we ask God for his guidance, which he actually encourages and even requires from us for our own good. For example: 

You may recall that Joshua was rebuked for signing a peace treaty with the Gibeonites without first consulting God. Joshua took them at their word and they were lying. They said they came from a far country, but they were from the next town over and they simply dressed and acted like exhausted travelers from a distant land who feared the Israelites and wanted to sign a treaty of peace with them. However, after signing the treaty, the deception was revealed but God held Israel to their word. Even though God warned Israel to wipe out every man, woman, child and animal. The Gibeonites secured a deal that saved their lives and because Israel failed to consult God on the matter, they ended up paying for it dearly. 

Sadly, this one mistake, this one mistake, had a profound impact on the direction and trajectory of Israel. One might even venture the guess that had Israel more diligently obeyed God in this situation, they might not have crucified their Lord. I say this because God warned his people that mixing with other cultures would result in worshipping false gods. And one could argue that it was their worship of false gods that prevented them from recognizing their actual God when he became flesh and dwelt among them.

Interestingly we don't see a similar Scripture in the New Testament that says, "John I loved, but Judas I hated." And we also don't see Jesus Christ who also knew (and knows) the future, we don't see him judging Judas for what he would do and then throwing him off the team before he did it. Meaning he let Judas betray him knowing that that day was coming before he made him an apostle. 

And so this begs the question: if you're God and you know the future, why not make better choices? And this question is particularly loud when we consider Israel's first king, King Saul. Why pick a king he knew would fail miserably? What's the message in that? Was God bitter about the fact that Israel wanted a king and so he chose a bad one? And yet the Bible describes Saul as the perfect human specimen standing a full head taller than everyone else in the nation. Suggesting God chose a king that fit Israel's description of goodness and so they reaped the consequences of their vanity.

We can kind of understand the Simon Peter situation. Yes he betrayed Christ, but after he messed up, he recovered. But Saul fell on his own sword and Judas hanged himself. Suggesting they both knew the gravity of the mistakes they made and they concluded they were irredeemable. 

And so before we tackle the question of why did God hate Esau, we should consider the implications of the statement. By making that statement, God reveals he doesn't love everyone. He has favorites. And there are some people he hates, and that's important to know. And so that implies God hates some people which begs the question: why? Why does he hate some people?

I'm not claiming to know what God thinks, I'm making educated guesses based on what he wrote down. And so let's look at that:

Proverbs 6:16-19 says

16 There are six things that the Lord hates,
    seven that are an abomination to him:
17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
    and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked plans,
    feet that make haste to run to evil,
19 a false witness who breathes out lies,

    and one who sows discord among brothers.

In the case of Saul, God explained why he rejected him. He rejected Saul because Saul feared the people. Meaning that when Samuel delayed and Saul's army began to scatter, he took it upon himself to offer the sacrifice. Which would be like me walking into the back room of McDonald's and fixing my own food. It's inappropriate; everyone in the culture knows it's inappropriate because I don't own the restaurant or work there. I'm not particularly a good cook. It isn't my role, I don't have the training or the authority, and it's the kind of thing that could get me arrested because it's against the law. And that was the first issue with Saul. He broke God's law by offering a sacrifice because he feared the people. 

But the second issue occurred when God told Saul to wipe out the men, women, children and beasts of Amalek, but instead Saul saved the best of the animals. And when confronted by Samuel he said he did this to offer them as a sacrifice to God. But this strikes me as suspicious because the first time Samuel delayed in arriving Saul had already finished the sacrifice. But this time, Samuel showed up wondering what's the noise I hear from all those animals? Meaning that this time Mr. Hurry Up And Offer The Sacrifice was nonchalantly waiting around, and when questioned about the animal noises his answer was: "Oh, yeah we were totally waiting for you to show up so you could sacrifice the best of all the animals of the people we just conquered..." I can practically hear Samuel saying, "Uh, huh..." 

Rather than admit he disobeyed he was wrong, he doubled down on his bad behavior compounding it by lying to God. And that historically has not worked out well for those who've tried it. 

I confess it is possible that Saul truly saved the animals to make a sacrifice, only God knows for sure, but in the end God rejected Saul because he feared the people and he disobeyed God's very clear instructions.

Again, I'm not claiming to know what God thinks, I'm making educated guesses based on what he wrote down. I would like to think they're inspired educated guesses...

Being a student of all things ancient, I know things about Esau that aren't recorded in the Bible and so I confess I don't much like him either. And of course I base that on his actions, which are based on his decisions.

Meaning that God says he ignores the outward appearance and looks on the heart. If the heart is good, God approves, but when the heart is bad, God doesn't care how cute you are, he still disapproves.

Remember, God knows the future, but just because he knows we are going to make bad choices, that doesn't mean he will deprive us of being king of Israel, being on his team, or even just messing up. And so we can't complain that God didn't give us a shot. Scripture is clear: God will give chances to those he knows will fail. And so it's up to us in the execution of our jobs, to make sure we succeed. And those of us who lean on God will achieve success, while those of us who strike out on our own, don't always do so well.

Meaning you won't be deprived of the opportunity of being King or Queen even if you're going to be bad at it. You won't be chosen, if you have no hope of succeeding. And so if you are chosen it means you have a legitimate shot, but it's no guarantee of success because success is up to you. And it's up to me. And that's good news! But it means we can't complain God didn't give us blessings and opportunities. So we only have ourselves to blame if we fail. And failing is a function of thinking we can succeed without God's help.

And so after all that background we finally come to the matter of Esau. Why did God hate Esau?

We can imagine that Esau made bad choices and that he violated the list of things God hates. And of course violating that list means you're taken actions based on decisions that you made that produced a result. Scripture informs us that good trees produce good results and bad trees produce bad ones. And so we can assume that the fruit of doing the things that God hates produces bad results. That seems like an obvious formula.

You may recall from Scripture that Rebekah was overwhelmed by her pregnancy because she was amazed at the conflict inside her womb. So she asked for an explanation and what did God say?

Genesis 25:21-23 says

And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren. And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. The children struggled together within her, and she said, “If it is thus, why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her,

“Two nations are in your womb,
    and two peoples from within you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,

    the older shall serve the younger.”

That's pretty young for two kids to be battling. Suggesting that one was good and the other was evil (or at least selfish). And we see that battle continued during the birth itself. Esau came out first, but Jacob was holding onto his heel. Suggesting that the two were struggling even on the way out.

In Israel it was tradition and even normal for the firstborn son to receive special privileges and blessings. The behavior of these two in the womb and during birth suggests that potentially they were fighting over the rights of the firstborn. Being children this implies they were influenced by a spirit because they would be too young to understand such things. And being at odds with each other this implies one spirit was good and the other was bad. I admit these are guesses, but I think they're good ones because this pattern continued throughout their entire lives.

And there was a prophecy about this that I just read to you:

“Two nations are in your womb,
    and two peoples from within you shall be divided;

My interpretation of the word divided in this context would be to be in dispute.

The prophecy continued:

the one shall be stronger than the other,

    the older shall serve the younger.”

If we read between the lines when we consider the story about these two, then we are forced to conclude that Esau was stronger. He was the hunter outdoorsman who jockeyed for position in the womb and came out first. 

The younger one was Jacob and the prophecy said that the older would serve the younger.

Therefore, we can also assume that Jacob ultimately won the battle using intellect. In the story itself we see that the battle for the privileges of firstborn continued right up until the time of blessing and even the death of Isaac. You may recall that one day Esau overextended himself and he was convinced he was about to die of hunger. And barely making it to the house he begged Jacob for a bowl of soup. And Jacob made Esau first agree to give up the rights of firstborn and transfer them to Jacob in exchange. Esau agreed and Jacob delivered the soup.

The Bible warns us to be careful with our words because we will be held to them. Therefore, the agreement that Esau made was binding. The only way to reverse it would be to strike a new deal and coerce Jacob to agree to give his rights back.

Later, when the time of blessing arrived, Isaac planned to give the blessing to his son Esau. Esau should have corrected his dad and confessed that he had transferred his rights to Jacob, but instead he ran out the door to fulfill his father's wishes saying nothing to Jacob or Rebekah concerning what was about to happen. Meaning that since Esau made an agreement with his brother, he was attempting to steal his blessing back. 

Now we can argue about whether or not exchanging a bowl of soup for the rights of firstborn is fair, but we can't argue that Esau agreed to it. Because he did. And I suspect people have gambled and even given away their blessings for less.

But Rebekah overheard the conversation and was expecting this and so she and Jacob deceived Isaac who was unable to see well enough to distinguish one son from the other. Isaac was then tricked into giving the rights of firstborn to Jacob while Esau was gone, along with the blessing. And when Esau returned he discovered the rights he exchanged for a bowl of soup had in fact gone to the rightful owner. And what was his reaction? He planned to kill his brother Jacob. Sound like any other Bible characters we know? Cain and Abel perhaps?

And then we learn other details about Esau based on Rebekah's reaction to this situation. She told Isaac she didn't want Jacob to marry one of the Hittite women like Esau had. And so she begs him to send Jacob away to Padan-Aram where she was raised to find a wife among her relatives. And that was the way things were done back then and so we learn that Esau was not only making poor marriage choices, he was marrying several women from bad families. What could possibly go wrong?

Genesis 26:34-35 says

When Esau was forty years old, he took Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite to be his wife, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.

After Esau realized his wives displeased his parents, he later married an Ishmaelite. And you'll remember that Ishmael was the son of Abraham. The first son. So that strikes me as an act of repentance or guilt or both.

And much in the same way that Esau and Jacob battled in Rebekah's womb from conception, their descendants remained bitter enemies down through the ages. In accordance with that prophecy I read you.

As you know, many centuries later the Ishmaelites became known as the Muslims. And the Middle East is a story of constant battle between the descendants of Israel (who was Jacob) and the descendants of Ishmael (the first son of Abraham). And all of the anger and hatred is based on jealousy. Ishmael's descendants were offended by Abraham's decision to treat his first son Ishmael like an outcast and turn him and his mother out in the cold. In a similar way, the Edomites, though they are less well known are the descendants of Esau, they're upset that Jacob swindled the birthright away from Esau over a bowl of soup.

Moab also descended from Esau and you may recall that their leader tried to pay Balaam to curse Israel. And when God rebuked Balaam for attempting to curse his people. Balaam then encouraged Balak to have his people fornicate with the men of Israel so God would judge them for their sins. And Balak agreed. So here we have a bunch of citizens being told, "I know you hate them, I hate them, too. But you need to sleep with them so God will judge them and we can destroy them in battle." One big happy family, right? Kind of makes the rest of us feel better about our own dysfunctional families. 

In much the same way the Hattfields and the McCoy's feud goes all the way back to an incident involving a stolen pig. Entire nations have been waging bloody wars and terrorism rooted in a bowl of soup and the rejection of a son and his mother, that one could argue actually set her free from slavery. And resulted in the birth of a nation. It's all in how we look at things after all.

God commands us to forgive and our reluctance to do so can lead to wars that transcend time. And as the Bible foretells, this will all accumulate in a battle that will leave a sea of blood in a desert valley to the height of the back of a horse.

Why did God hate Esau? Because Esau made a mistake that he blamed on his brother. And then refused to forgive. And in fact taught his children to hate. And that hate led to wars and those wars were bloody and unnecessary. And it was all over a bowl of soup. And I think that's what made Esau so mad. It wasn't so much what Jacob did to him. I think as much as it was that he realized that what he did was stupid. And he just couldn't live with that.

Proverbs 6:16-19 says

16 There are six things that the Lord hates,
    seven that are an abomination to him:
17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
    and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked plans,
    feet that make haste to run to evil,
19 a false witness who breathes out lies,

    and one who sows discord among brothers.

Meaning that in the end, Esau was guilty of virtually every item on God's list.

Benjamin Franklin once said:

“For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,

And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.”

If one man named Esau had gotten over the pride of making a mistake and had forgiven his brother for extorting him. Then two nations could have dwelled together in peace for thousands of years helping each other instead of cutting each other down.

All for the want of a bowl of soup.

Ya know what I would have said if I was dying of hunger and my brother tried to extort me for a bowl of soup?

Mom! Jacob won't give me a bowl of soup!

Problem solved!

And that's all folks! Y'all come back now! Ya hear?

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