Romans 9:11

Romans 9:9-13 (see also Malachi 1:2-4; Jeremiah 31:3)
For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.” And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I Hated.”

Much of the Book of Romans is a dialogue with the unbelieving Jew for why they need Jesus. Of course, Paul engages the Church (Romans 1:8) and specifically addresses the Gentiles (Romans 11:13), but you will notice that in much of Romans, Paul engages the unbelieving Jews in order to convince them of their need for Christ, by breaking down Jewish strongholds of resistance, which resistance, includes the mistaken notion that all sons of Abraham are saved (Romans 9:8), and that merely possessing the Law is evidence of salvation, when yet the Law was actually instead the evidence for the need of salvation.

​Question: The Jew asks, “Why do I need Jesus? I’m a son of Abraham!” But how do you explain Ishmael, and how do you explain Esau, if all sons of Abraham are saved by default? 

Answer: That’s their argument: “Abraham is our father.” (John 8:39) John the Baptist responds: “Do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.” (Matthew 3:9) Paul furthers this point at Romans 9:8, because if all of the sons of Abraham were saved by default, through an Unconditional Abrahamic Election (according to whatever level of salvation that might mean to a Jew), how could they explain Ishmael? And how could they account for Esau? For they were both sons of Abraham, and yet the Malachi Scripture (quoted at Romans 9:13), confirms that despite Esau’s otherwise Abrahamic sonship, his posterity (designated as Edom) was hated by God. Now regardless of what that hate implied (literal or comparative), their stronghold of clinging on to the hope of simple Abrahamic sonship, had to be put to the test. 

​Ask the Calvinist: “How do you feel that Paul’s statement regarding the Jews at Romans 9:1-5 relates to the rest of the text at Romans chapter 9?

​Question: How does the example of “Jacob and Esau” fit within the context of Romans 9?

Answer: The Jews thought that they were unconditionally predestined to God’s blessings, simply on account of being the physical descendants of Abraham. Yet, here are two examples of children of Abraham, Ishmael and Esau, and notice that the inheritance did not pass through either. Paul had first shown the Jews that they were hypocritical in thinking that the Law saved them, and then cited the testimony of Abraham regarding what really makes a man righteous before God, and then after exposing the mistaken notion of an unconditional national election through the examples of Ishmael and Esau, Paul cites the Potter’s forewarned hardening of the nation of Israel, illustrated at Jeremiah 18:1-13 and Isaiah 6:9-10. God had held out arms of grace Isaiah 65:2 and the people refused to be gathered. (Matthew 23:37) Just as God’s hardening of Pharaoh served as a testimony to the world, so too does the hardening of Israel, but only until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. (Romans 11:25) The grace shown to the Gentiles was to have the effect of driving the Jews to jealousy: “I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous.” (Romans 11:11) The Jews valued power and omnipotence, and although God has these things, they do not define Him. God values mercy and compassion, humility and faith. God was not going to have His values rejected by His people, only for the people to embrace a conquering Messiah who champions their own values. So the Messiah was born in a manger, rather than in a palace, and rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, rather than on a stallion. Israel wanted a Law that they could rule by, rather than a God that they must believe in: “Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and He who believes in Him will not be disappointed.’” (Romans 9:31-33)

Notice some of the Jewish dialogue in Romans: “But if you bear the name ‘Jew’ and [you] rely upon the Law and [you] boast in God, and [you] know His will and [you] approve the things that are essential, [you] being instructed out of the Law, and [you] are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself?” (Romans 2:17-21) Romans 9:1-5 sets the tone that Paul, as a fellow Jew, has their best interests at heart for what he is about to say regarding the forewarned Jewish hardening. (Romans 11:25) Mentioning God as a Potter invokes Jeremiah 18:1-13, and notice that at Romans 9:19-20, the word “you” reappears: “You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?’ On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it?” That’s the Jewish dialogue again.

Calvinist, James White: “No matter how one understands ‘JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED’ (Romans 9:13), this verse alone should be enough to refute such an errant view of God’s love.” (Debating Calvinism, p.268, emphasis mine)

Indeed, James White has taken the verse “alone,” without respect for the dialogue.

​Question: According to Scripture, when did God say that He hated Esau?

Answer: Instinctively, the Calvinist turns to Genesis, expecting to find it there, as if God had said to Rebekah that He hated one of her unborn babies. But it’s not in Genesis, and that’s when the Calvinist is directed to Malachi 1:1-4. When God said that He hated Esau, He said it to Israel, hundreds of years after the deaths of Jacob and Esau. Recall the part about two nations?

Norman Geisler: “…God’s ‘love’ for Jacob and ‘hate’ for Esau is not speaking of those men before they were born, but long after they lived. The citation in Romans 9:13 is not from Genesis when they were alive (c. 2000 B.C.) but from Malachi 1:2-3 (c. 400 B.C.), long after they died! The evil deeds done by the Edomites to the Israelites are well documented in the Old Testament (e.g., Num. 20). And it is for these that God is said to have hated them as a country. Here again, this did not mean that no individuals from that country would be saved. In fact, there were believers from both Edom (Amos 9:12) and the neighboring country of Moab (Ruth 1), just as there will be people in heaven from every tribe, kindred, nation, and tongue (Rev. 7:9).” (Chosen But Free, p.85, emphasis mine)

Geisler adds: “John Piper, widely held by extreme Calvinists to have the best treatment on Romans 9, makes this mistake. Piper claims that ‘the divine decision to “hate” Esau was made “before they were born or had done anything good or evil” (9:11).’ But, as shown on the previous page, the reference here is not to something said in Genesis about the individuals Jacob and Esau before they were born. What Genesis 25 says is simply that the older would serve the younger. What is said in Malachi 1:2-3 about the nations of Jacob and Esau (Edom) is not only centuries after their progenitors had died, but it is also in regard to what the nation of Edom had done to the chosenation of Israel….” (Chosen But Free, p.85, emphasis mine)

Romans 9:12 states: “It was said to her, ‘The Older will serve the Younger.’” When the Calvinist admits that this is speaking of the Edomites serving the Israelites, the controversy is settled. The matter becomes such a slam dunk that it’s just as if the Calvinist was in a dunking booth...the bell rings and the Calvinist goes in the water. Simply have the Calvinist turn to the portion of Romans 9:13 just preceding, namely, “Just as it is written, Jacob I loved, but Esau I Hated.” Just as” means that there is a correlation between the two quoted passages, in that both refer to the same subject, Israel and the Edomites, and in fact, at Malachi 1:2, God applies the statement of Jacob I loved, but Esau I Hated directly to the Israelites when God states: I have loved you, and the Israelites respond, How hast Thou loved us?” Then at Malachi 1:4, God describes His indignation toward...the Edomites. Ding!

John Calvin agrees: “It is taken from Mal. 1, where the Lord declares His kindness to the Jews, before reproaching them for their ingratitude. … And now I had adopted you to be my people, so that I might show the same kindness towards the seed of Jacob. But I had rejected the Edomites, the descendants of Esau.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, p.202, emphasis mine)

Malachi 1:2-4: “I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have You loved us?” “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob; but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness.” Though Edom says, “We have been beaten down, but we will return and build up the ruins”; thus says the LORD of hosts, “They may build, but I will tear down; and men will call them the wicked territory, and the people toward whom the LORD is indignant forever.” 

Jacob is Israel and Esau is Edom. Genesis 36:8 states: So Esau lived in the hill country of Seir; Esau is Edom. Thus, the famous quote, “Jacob I Loved, but Esau I Hated,” might as well be paraphrased: “Israel I Loved, but Edom I Hated.” Furthermore, by His omniscient foreknowledge, God had loved the Jews with an “everlasting love.” Jeremiah 31:3 states: “The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.’

​Question: Why did God hate the Edomites so much?  

Answer: Because of their treachery against Israel, in the time of their greatest need. Psalm 137:7 states: “O LORD, remember what the Edomites did on the day the armies of Babylon captured Jerusalem. ‘Destroy it!’ they yelled. ‘Level it to the ground!’” [NLT] Essentially, the Edomites were cheering for the destruction of the City of God, which did not bode well with Him. As Malachi 1:2-4 shows, this wasn’t about God simply favoring the one over the other. God literally, albeit conditionally, hated the Edomites, which is evident in His words, “the people toward whom the LORD is indignant forever.” So, how do you reconcile that with God’s love? God indeed loves the world and indeed desires its salvation through faith in His Son, but there does come a point where you can so anger God, that you bring God’s wrath and judgment upon yourself, just like with Edom. You can exhaust God’s patience, and hence, you must seek the Lord while He is near, and call upon Him while He may be found. (Isaiah 55:6)

One member of the Society of Evangelical Arminians: “I actually believe that God hates sinners. Scripture is pretty explicit about that too. It says it a number of times. But I have no problem at all believing that He both hates sinners, and loves them even more. He hates them in that He is set against them for harm and judgment and condemnation and wrath. But He loves them in that He does not desire to destroy them etc., but wants that they repent and be saved, and He has even sacrificed His own Son to make that possible (incredible love! oh, amazing grace and love!), and He works to bring them to repentance. But I don’t think this means He is not angry at them for their sin while they continue in unrepentance. The Bible tells us over and over again about God being angry and having wrath against people for their sin. It is the plain reading of the text over and over again in Scripture, and it seems to take exegetical gymnastics to try and explain how Scripture does not mean God is angry at people for sin when it says repeatedly that He is angry at people for their sin. I think it’s actually coherent to say God both hates and loves them. Technically, hate is not the opposite of love, non-love is. In fact we talk about love/hate relationships all the time. God hates them because of their sinful qualities and actions, but loves them in that He desires repentance and died for them when they were enemies!”

Hosea 9:15: “All their evil is at Gilgal; Indeed, I came to hate them there! Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of My house! I will love them no more; All their princes are rebels.

Jeremiah 12:8: “My inheritance has become to Me Like a lion in the forest; She has roared against Me; Therefore I have come to hate her.

Another member of the Society of Evangelical Arminians: “I agree, and I think it’s actually coherent to say God both hates and loves them. Technically, hate is not the opposite of love, non-love is. In fact we talk about love/hate relationships all the time. God hates them because of their sinful qualities and actions, but loves them in that He desires repentance and died for them when they were enemies!”  (SEA)

However, John Calvin explained that Gods hatred had nothing to do with anything Esau did “good or bad” (Romans 9:11), but rather was just unconditional. However, whereas the basis for Jacob’s election and Esau’s non-election was unconditional, that is, not for any deed or misdeed they did, the basis for God’s love of Jacob [Israel] and hatred of Esau [Edom] certainly did have a basis, and that was on account of loving and hating the respective lineages, whom He had foreknown. (Jeremiah 31:1-3)

Obadiah 1:1-16: The vision of Obadiah. Thus says the Lord GOD concerning Edom-- We have heard a report from the LORD, and an envoy has been sent among the nations saying, “Arise and let us go against her for battle”--“Behold, I will make you small among the nations; You are greatly despised. “The arrogance of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in the loftiness of your dwelling place, who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to earth?’ “Though you build high like the eagle, Though you set your nest among the stars, From there I will bring you down,” declares the LORD. “If thieves came to you, if robbers by night-- O how you will be ruined!-- Would they not steal only until they had enough? If grape gatherers came to you, would they not leave some gleanings? “O how Esau will be ransacked, and his hidden treasures searched out! “All the men allied with you will send you forth to the border, and the men at peace with you will deceive you and overpower you. They who eat your bread will set an ambush for you. (There is no understanding in him.) “Will I not on that day,” declares the LORD, “Destroy wise men from Edom and understanding from the mountain of Esau? “Then your mighty men will be dismayed, O Teman, so that everyone may be cut off from the mountain of Esau by slaughter. “Because of violence to your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame, and you will be cut off forever. “On the day that you stood aloof, on the day that strangers carried off his wealth, and foreigners entered his gate and cast lots for Jerusalem-- You too were as one of them. “Do not gloat over your brother’s day, the day of his misfortune. And do not rejoice over the sons of Judah in the day of their destruction; Yes, do not boast in the day of their distress. “Do not enter the gate of My people in the day of their disaster. Yes, you, do not gloat over their calamity in the day of their disaster. And do not loot their wealth in the day of their disaster. “Do not stand at the fork of the road to cut down their fugitives; and do not imprison their survivors in the day of their distress. “For the day of the LORD draws near on all the nations. As you have done, it will be done to you. Your dealings will return on your own head. “Because just as you drank on My holy mountain, all the nations will drink continually. They will drink and swallow and become as if they had never existed.” 

Those are strong words of condemnation against the Edomites, the descendents of Esau, and serves as the context for the phrase: Esau I hated. However, to Calvin, predictably, this means that God had predestined them to “eternal condemnation.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, p.200) However, predestination had nothing to do with it. Rather, God’s verdict upon Edom’s betrayal against Israel was the election of Jacob over Esau. When Edom cursed Israel (Psalm 137:7), it cursed itself. For God had stated at Genesis 12:3: And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.

​Question: What did God tell Rebekah about her unborn twin babies? 

Answer: God answered Rebekah’s question. Genesis 25:21-24 states: “Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived. But the children struggled together within her; and she said, ‘If it is so, why then am I this way?’ So she went to inquire of the LORD. The LORD said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples will be separated from your body; and one people shall be stronger than the other; and the older shall serve the younger.’ When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb.” Here the Lord refers to her unborn twins as “two nations” and “two peoples,” describing how one people will be “stronger” and that the people of the older child will serve the people of the younger child. In electing the second born, Jacob, for the inheritance over the elder, Esau, God elected one nation over another. Why, and for what end?

​Question: Did Esau ever personally “serve” Jacob? 

Answer: No. However, Edom, Esau’s descendants, served Israel for a time until it broke free. (2nd Kings 8:22; 2nd Chronicles 21:10) Isaac prophesied of this in his blessing of Esau: “By your sword you shall live, and your brother you shall serve; but it shall come about when you become restless, that you will break his yoke from your neck.” (Genesis 27:40)

​Question: Did God tell Rebekah that He hated one of her unborn babies?  

Answer: No. 

​Question: When did God say, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated”?  

Answer: When the phrase, “Jacob I Loved, but Esau I Hated” was uttered by God, both Jacob and Esau had been dead for hundreds of years. 

​Question: Who did God say it to?  

Answer: He had said it to their descendants, Israel and Edom. (Malachi 1:2-4) 

One Calvinist cautions: “Let’s then assume that God is speaking of the nation of Edom, then you will have to admit that God hated an entire nation, as he says not for anything that they did good or evil, but because of His will to hate them.”

Have you mixed the basis of the election with the basis of the hatred? While God indeed hated the nation of Edom, it was not on account of an alleged, unconditional will to hate, but on account of what Edom committed, as recorded in the book of Obadiah. The election of Jacob over Esau, on the other hand, was in fact unconditional, insomuch at it was not based upon what they themselves did, that is, the twins, but on account of what their descendants did, the nations of Edom and Israel. Hence, Edom was given to “serve” Israel (older serves younger). To summarize, in a passage on the twins and their associated nations, God elected the twins on account of their descendants, just as Romans 9:13 references Malachi 1:1-4. You cannot lose sight of the fact that you are dealing with both the twins and also the “two nations” that God mentioned to Rebekah. 

Calvinist, John MacArthur: “Just as it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’ But just as God’s prediction that the elder Esau would serve the younger Jacob did not directly apply to those two individuals but rather to their descendants, so the Lord’s declaration here seems to apply in the same way. The book of Genesis mentions no divine hatred of Esau himself. Obadiah’s declaration that God hated Esau was written over a thousand years after Esau lived, and the most reasonable interpretation of the prophet’s statement would seem to indicate thathe Lord’s hatred is against Esau’s idolatrous descendants, who, although often rebellious and sometimes idolatrous, were His sovereignly elected people through whom the world’s Redeemer would come. (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Romans 9-16, pp.26-27, emphasis mine)

Agreed. The most reasonable interpretation of “Esau I hated” was in reference to Edom.

John MacArthur: “But Paul has already declared unambiguously that Gods justification for choosing Jacob over Esau was not based on their personal characteristics or works but solely on the basis of His divine and infallible prerogative (v.13)--a mystery that our finite human minds cannot fathom.”  (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Romans 9-16, p.27, emphasis mine)

Speak for yourself, since non-Calvinists can easily fathom it. God told Rebekah that in her womb were not merely two babies, but also two competing nations. While Gods justification for choosing Jacob over Esau was not based upon Jacob and Esau personally, non-Calvinists contend that the basis of Gods sovereign prerogative of Jacob over Esau was His foreknowledge of their descendants, namely, the nations of Israel and Edom, which youve already agreed was the most reasonable interpretation” of “Esau I hated.”

Jeremiah 31:1-3: ‘At that time,’ declares the LORD, ‘I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people.” Thus says the LORD, ‘The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness--Israel, when it went to find its rest.’ The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.’

That is the perfect expression of, “Jacob I loved.” (Romans 9:13) 

Malachi 1:2: I have loved you,’ says the LORD. But you say, ‘How have You loved us?’ ‘Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?’ declares the LORD. ‘Yet I have loved Jacob.’ (Malachi 1:2)

Having foreknown the people of Israel, God foreloved them with an “everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

​Question: Why did God choose for the inheritance to pass through Jacob, the ancestor of the Israelites, rather than through Esau, the ancestor of the Edomites?  

Answer: Because God hated Edom and loved Israel. The manner in which the older served the younger was that Edom, for a time, was in servitude to Israel. 

​Question: But didn’t Paul say that God made his decision irrespective of their works?  

Answer: Yes. (Romans 9:11) God’s choice to have the inheritance pass through Jacob, the younger, rather than Esau, the elder, was not because of what Jacob or Esau themselves had done. When Paul added, “anything good or bad” (Romans 9:11), it effectively ruled out what either of the two had done as the basis for God’s choice. God’s choice was made based upon His love for Israel and contempt for Edom.

Calvinist, William MacDonald comments concerning Romans 9:11: “The purpose of God according to election means His determination to distribute His favors according to His sovereign will and good pleasure. This verse, incidentally, disproves the idea that God’s choice of Jacob was based upon His foreknowledge of what Jacob would do. It specifically says that it was not made on the basis of works!” (Believer’s Bible Commentary, p.1717, emphasis mine)

Agreed. God’s choice was not on the basis of what the individuals, Jacob or Esau, would do.

John Calvin: “If the purpose of God according to election is established because, before the brothers were born and had done either good or evil, one is rejected and the other chosen, therefore to desire to attribute the cause of the difference between them to their works is to subvert the purpose of God.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, p.201, emphasis mine)

Agreed. It is agreed that God’s decision for the inheritance to pass through Jacob, rather than Esau, had nothing to do Jacob’s or Esau’s own personal works. God’s choice of passing the inheritance to Jacob was based solely upon His love for the people of Israel vs. His contempt for the people of Edom. In other words, God didn’t arbitrarily pick one baby and say, “I will love this one,” and arbitrarily pick the other and say, “I will hate this one.” God loved both babies, and God loved both nations, but Edom fell upon His righteous indignation, for the evil that they had committed, and even at that, God’s wrath is cooled by repentance, just as the Ninevites experienced when the prophet Jonah warned of God’s impending judgment. 

Calvinist, Charles Spurgeon: “The fact is, God loved Jacob, and he did not love Esau; he did choose Jacob, but he did not choose Esau; he did bless Jacob, but he never blessed Esau; his mercy followed Jacob all the way of his life, even to the last, but his mercy never followed Esau; he permitted him still to go on in his sins, and to prove that dreadful truth, ‘Esau have I hated.’ Others, in order to get rid of this ugly text, say, it does not mean Esau and Jacob; it means the nation; it means Jacob’s children and Esau’s children; it means the children of Israel and EdomI should like to know where the difference lies. Is the difficulty removed by extending it? Some of the Wesleyan brethren say, that there is a national election; God has chosen one nation and not another. They turn round and tell us it is unjust in God to choose one man and not another. Now, we ask them by everything reasonable, is it not equally unjust of God to choose one nation and leave another?  (Jacob and Esau, emphasis mine) 

First of all, it’s not being extended. It’s being transferred. Second, I ask, “by everything reasonable,” how did God “leave” Edom? He didn’t leave them. Rather, God judged them. When God told Rebekah that in her womb were “two nations” (Genesis 25:21-24), God simultaneously saw in her womb, every single person in both nations, and God made His choice accordingly. On that day, Edom was judged, not “passed by” like the priest and Levite at Luke 10:31-32. However, Calvinists seek to focus this election entirely on the individuals, and not their descendants to whom God had spoken this at Malachi 1:1-4. To do so, does something rather interesting. It would mean that God hated Esau, apart from his works, and entirely on God’s choice to hate, and what should we understand from that, that God hated Esau without cause? Absurd! Calvinists will want to say, “no, He hated him because of his sin.” But to do so, misses the other aspect of what Paul said, and Calvin highlights, which is that God’s choice had nothing to do with what the children did, good or bad. Ultimately, then, you have hatred without cause, which is especially interesting in light of John 15:25, in which Jesus quotes the Scriptures: But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’ (John 15:25) 

​Question: How can you reconcile the love of God, with the fact that He states that He hated Esau [Edom]?  

Answer: God is angry at man’s rebellion, but as Jonah knew, and which was confirmed to him, God will relent from His anger, when people sincerely tell Him that they are sorry, and ultimately, it was Jonah who was found to be the angry one, whereas God was really compassionate at heart. In the case of Israel & Edom (Jacob & Esau), Israel had rebelled, and God sent the Babylonians, even after many warnings (especially through the prophet Jeremiah), and in the process of the invasion, as recorded in the book of Obadiah, the Edomites betrayed Israel: “On the day that you [Edom] stood aloof, on the day that strangers [the Babylonians] carried off his wealth, and foreigners entered his gate and cast lots for Jerusalem--you too were as one of them. Do not gloat over your brother's day, the day of his misfortune. And do not rejoice over the sons of Judah in the day of their destruction; Yes, do not boast in the day of their distress.” (Obadiah 1:11-12) God was very angry for what Edom had done, and pronounced judgments upon it, but as we know from the story of Jonah, God would have quickly changed His mind, should they have repented. Compare with Jeremiah 18:8: “If that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it.” So, I think that for God’s part, He stands ready and willing to forgive, and that’s how you can reconcile the love of God. 

Spurgeon continues: “Besides, here is the proof that that is not correct; read the verse preceding it. It does not say anything at all about nations, it says, ‘For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger,’—referring to the children, not to the nations. Of course the threatening was afterwards fulfilled in the position of the two nations; Edom was made to serve IsraelBut this text means just what it says; it does not mean nations, but it means the persons mentioned.” (Jacob and Esau, emphasis mine)

But,” Spurgeon says, sounds like Special Pleading, rather than sound hermeneutics. Spurgeon blew his own point by admitting that the prophecy in which the older will serve the younger was fulfilled “in the position of the two nations.” For him to then turn around and demand special pleadings that it does not mean nations, stems not from ethical hermeneutics, but from plain stubbornness.

One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians: “Paul is arguing that the promise to Abraham and the covenant has not failed.  Paul has given an example from the beginning the promise, an example found in the Law, with the preference of Jacob over Esau to carry the promise, and an example from the post-exilic period, from the prophets, to show God’s sustained promise to Israel (Jacob). Both the law and the prophets testify to God’s fulfillment of the covenant. His word to Israel and the promise to Abraham has not failed. Calvinists try to focus your attention on Esau (Edom) to demonstrate that Romans 9 is about double-election. But that is not what Paul is doing here. The prophecy is focused on God’s sustained love for Israel. Again, the promise will not fail. Edom’s (or the successors to Edom in that region) had fallen out of God’s favor, but Malachi’s prophecy is not about a pretemporal or eternal condition.  It is answering the question of whether God’s promise to Israel has failed. The clause ‘it is written’ is critical to understanding this. The Calvinist interpretation of this text assumes that ‘the word of God’ is a pretemporal decree. But it is not. What Paul is arguing is that the promise, WRITTEN in the law and the prophets has been sustained by God. They also like to point to the word ‘election’ in this text as a proof that the text about Jacob and Esau is about election to salvation or damnation. But the text does not talk about this kind of choosing. It is stating that ‘the purpose of election might stand.’ This clause in referencing only the Genesis quote. The point is that the choosing (election) of Abraham to carry the promise (‘the purpose of the choosing’) is continued through Jacob, not through Esau. That is really all that his being said here. Finally, Paul’s definition of the promise is given in Romans 4, with a focus that Abraham would bless the world. Romans 9 depends on this, with understanding that the covenant has been sustained for this purpose.”

​Question: How does the example of Jacob and Esau fit within the context of Romans chapter 9?  

Answer: The context of Romans 9 is a question of why aren’t all saved?, specifically Israel.

​Question: Why are only some Jews the true descendents of Abraham? Why are the Gentiles even being considered in the ‘promise’ as heirs? Why was the older to serve the younger? What is the meaning behind why God does what He does? 

Answer: The children of promise are those who, like Abraham, believe in God. Paul states: “Those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.” (Galatians 3:9) Nevertheless, before the elder son Esau was born, God decided that the inheritance would pass through the younger son, Jacob, and the reason is so that the promise of the inheritance would pass to the sons of faith, which was not to be found among Edom but was among Israel, to a degree. The inclusion of the Gentiles was because God had planned from the start that Israel would be a light and blessing to all men: “Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 28:14)

Romans 9:8: “That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.” 

Romans 9:30-32: “What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone.” 

To reiterate, God’s decreed purpose in salvation is this: ...that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16) It will no doubt be asked, “So what, then, is the causation of faith in Christ?” In other words, why does one believe in Christ, and not another? Jesus is “willing” to save all (Matthew 23:37), but those who perish were those who were “unwilling” to repent and come to Him. (John 5:40) So why isn’t everyone willing? Better yet: Why are any willing? A hardened heart is the reason why some do not believe, but any who are “willing” are those who have submitted themselves to the conviction of the Holy Spirit in their divine appointment to be presented with the supernatural power of the Gospel in which Christ “knocks.” (Revelation 3:20) Jesus doesn’t kick in doors; He gives you a choice, and without faith, it is impossible to please Him. (Hebrews 1:6) By no means, does this give a man grounds to boast before God. Rather, it is specifically “excluded.” (Romans 3:27)


Fact #1: The term “Esau” is ambiguous. Sometimes it means the person of Esau and sometimes it means the Edomites, since “Esau is Edom.” (Genesis 36:8)

Fact #2: At Malachi 1:4, God specifically says that the Edomites are “the people toward whom the LORD is indignant forever.” 

Fact #3: At Obadiah, God explains the reason why He hated the Edomites: “Because just as you drank on My holy mountain, all the nations will drink continually. They will drink and swallow and become as if they had never existed.” (Obadiah 1:16)

Fact #4: God’s judgment against Edom was that it’s heritage would be utter desolation, in that it will “become as if they had never existed” (Obadiah 1:16), and there “there will be no survivor of the house of Esau.” (Obadiah 1:18)

Fact #5: The person of Esau had never committed the condemned acts of Obadiah chapter 1, since he had been dead for hundreds of years.

Fact #6: When God said that He had loved “Jacob,” that statement was directed toward the Israelites who asked, “How have you loved us?” (Malachi 1:2)

Some Calvinists infer that God hated the person of Esau [in whichever way they infer the meaning of “hate”], and therefore cursed his descendants with non-election.

Evaluation: The Calvinistic view does not address Malachi 1:2, which indicates that the parallel matter of God’s love was directed towards, not the individual Jacob, but the Israelite people: “‘I have loved you,’ says the LORD. But you say, ‘How have You loved us?’” (Malachi 1:2) The recipient of God’s love was the Israelites, just as the recipient of God’s indignation was the Edomites. After all, why would God hate the person of Esau for a crime that his descendants, rather than himself, had committed? Therefore, given the ambiguity of the term “Esau” and given the facts of who God’s indignation was towards, namely the Edomites, it is therefore evident at Malachi 1:4, that Edom, rather than the person of Esau, was the subject of Malachi 1:3, with the result that God appointed the remaining lineage of the Edomites to cease. Therefore, I offer the following paraphrase of Malachi 1:3: “But I have hated Esau [in the collective person of the Edomites], and I have made his mountains [Edomite’s territory] a desolation and appointed his inheritance [the subsequent descendants of the Edomites who defiantly boasted that they would later rebuild and that no one could touch them] for the jackals of the wilderness.”

...Turning to Romans chapter 9…

Some Calvinists infer that Romans 9:9-13 refers only to individuals, and not the Edomites, and hence the statement that “Jacob I loved but Esau I hated,” cannot have application to their respective descendants.

Evaluation: But what Calvinists take for granted is the fact that Romans 9:9-13 speaks not merely of individuals, but also of lineage. After all, Romans 9:12 states: “It was said to her, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ Just as it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’” I merely need to ask this one simple question: When did the person of Esau ever serve the person of Jacob? It is a fact that this prophecy speaks of the Edomites serving the Israelites, and Paul connects this quote with the words “just as”, to the following quote of “Jacob I have loved but Esau I hated,” which is exactly my point, in that the phrase “Jacob I loved but Esau I hated” has application to the Israelites and Edomites, “just as” the application of servitude had application to the Israelites and Edomites. Therefore, the meaning of Malachi 1:1-4 harmonizes with Romans 9:9-13.

Fact #7: According to Romans 9:7-13, God’s choice of Isaac’s descendants being named through Jacob was not on account of anything they did, good or bad, but on account of God’s sovereign choice.

Supposition: There is a definite basis for God’s sovereign choice, and that being God’s foreknowledge of their respective lineage’s, of which Esau’s lineage, being the Edomites, was prophesied to have none, that is, to result in utter extinction. (Obadiah 1:16) After all, why would God would name Isaac’s descendants through an extinct race? Therefore, by God’s foreknowledge, He chose for the inheritance to pass through the person of Jacob. Does the Bible ever say that God elects on the basis of His foreknowledge? Of course. See 1st Peter 1:1-2. Furthermore, Acts 2:23 reveals that God’s foreknowledge was the reason why He predestined Calvary. Usually when a Calvinist observes an Arminian using the word “foreknowledge,” they often smirk and make funny faces, but the fact is that the Bible speaks of foreknowledge. By God’s foreknowledge, He made a sovereign choice for the descendants of Isaac to pass through Jacob, and not Esau.