Vol. 18 New Series October, 1956 No. 5
DID GOD HATE ESAU?

Some months ago an Emeritus Professor of Greek in Scotland informed me that the Greek word Cosmos in the New Testament meant always the "material universe." Had I replied to him, I would have enquired what John 3:16 means. Is it the material universe that God loves with such a great love? But God is not so selfish. His deepest love must be for those made in His own image, and it must reach to the very lowest of them, and exist everlastingly. The kind of love that comes and goes, or endures only for a season, is not love at all.

Paul tells us in 1. Cor. 13 that Love goes on being patient, goes on being kind, is not being jealous (v. 4), and is never lapsing (v. 8).

So we ask ourselves, can such a Divine kind of Love ever hate? Here we are right up against a real problem. Should that word really appear in our Bibles? Is such a thought in the original Scriptures?

Were you to state openly that you hated someone, you would perhaps be told bluntly that that was unchristian. Even if you did hate anyone, you would not care to say so openly. I read somewhere recently that "God blames," and this was taken as authority for human beings to blame others. We read twice that God hates Esau (Mal. 1:3; Rom. 9:13). Does that give us the right to hate anyone?

Instinctively we shrink from the idea of God hating, but I think we are right in so doing. God does not hate, in the sense of our English word. The word hate has been in our Bibles since the time of Wycliffe, nearly six hundred years. But that does not constitute it correct.

It is rather significant that in the Greek Lexicons the word (miseO) is not only said to mean hate and detest, but other words are used which tone this down considerably, such as abhor, dislike, be averse from, have no regard for. Even Dr. Bullinger's Lexicon gives the meaning as to love less, not to love, to slight, when the word is used in antithesis to the Greek word for "love" (agapaO).

There are some persons whom we find we can never love, in the present world. But that does not necessarily mean that we must hate them. We might even bear inimical feelings, or abhorrence, without positively hating them. There are people whom we might like, without positively loving them. And there are people whom we ought to love, even though we dislike them.

Why, a mother or a father might loathe an erring son or daughter for his or her bad conduct, but their love might only be strengthened at the same time. Indeed, it ought to be. Is it not just such pitiful lapses that bring out the depth of one's love?

I suggest that God loathed Esau, disliked him, did not approve of him, yet all the time loved him. The face of Jehovah must ever be against those who go on in evil, even though the heart of Jehovah is sore through love for the erring one. Joseph had to appear rather harsh towards his brethren. He seemed to be aloof from them, perhaps inimical. They may have thought he loathed them. Yet all the time his heart was near bursting, because he could not get away from his inherent love for them.

In the King James 1611 Version, there is no word dislike. I suggest that this word ought to be used for the Hebrew shane. There are other words in Hebrew expressive of bitter feeling, meaning to detest, loathe, abominate, abhor, nauseate, spurn.

Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, but the context disproves that he hated Leah (Gen. 29:30-35). Jehovah saw that Leah was disliked, or less liked than Rachel, so He gave Leah children. The Revised Standard Version, in fact, at Deut. 21:15-17, abandons the term "hated," and reads, five times, "disliked," which seems to be far more like the truth. Elsewhere the R.S.V. occasionally reads "spurn" instead of "hate."

If Matt. 6:24 were expressed in terms of modern. life, it would read, "No one can be working for two masters, for he will either dislike the one and like the other, or will uphold one and despise the other." Generally speaking, the workman would compare his masters, but would not go the length of either hating or loving them. Dislike is a much commoner feature in the world than positive hatred.

In Luke 6:22 it would be more in keeping with the latter part of the verse to read, "Happy are you whenever men may be disliking you," and then continue, "and whenever they may be severing from you, and reproaching you, and casting out your name as wicked." Like human beings, words keep their own company.

I was not therefore surprised, On comparing the forty occurrences of the Greek word (miseO) with the Latin Vulgate, to find that the latter used in every case the verb odi, from which comes our word odious. Although the dictionary is obliged to give this word the meaning "hate," it also detracts from the severity of this term by giving the meanings, to dislike, to be displeased or vexed. Everyone who loves the righteousness of God must as a consequence find lawless people odious, yet without necessarily hating them.

In the English language there is a term often used for those who are not saved. We call them, theologically, the lost. But in our dictionaries, strange to say, there does not appear a term lostness, although the word looseness (from the same root) is well known. Had there been a word lostness in English a few hundred years ago, no doubt it might have occupied the place which was given in our Bibles to the unscriptural and Latin term destruction.

In a similar way, when Wycliffe made a complete translation of the Bible into English there was no suitable and common English word which represented the Greek word miseO, so it had to be translated hate. But it has always been somewhat of a misfit. And probably the word hate has within the past few hundred years become intensified in meaning. The expression to "hate like poison" came into print only about four hundred years ago, while to "hate like the devil" appeared two or three hundred years ago.

Although both Wycliffe and the Rheims Version (A.D. 1582) translated from the Latin Vulgate of Jerome, it is the Rheims which puts forward a fine solution of our problem. In certain cases it uses the satisfactory term odious, as at Matt. 10:22; 24:9; Mark 13:13, and Luke 21:17, reading, "you shal be odious to al men" (or nations).

Luke 14:26 alone ought to be sufficient to prove that the word hate must be removed from our Bibles. "If anyone is coming to Me and is not hating his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own soul, he cannot be of Me a disciple." The Lord does not even say the parents and family are evil people. He who taught human beings to love each other could never have made such a stipulation regarding His own followers. The meaning must be that the follower was to like his relatives less than He loved the Lord, or that his following the Lord would make him odious to his relatives. Upon the word "hate" here A.T. Robertson says, "So far as they oppose Christ." But what then are we to make of 1. John 4:20, "If anyone should say that 'I am loving God,' and should be hating his brother, he is a liar"?

There is an obvious contrast in John 12:25 between the one who is fond of his soul (wrapped up in his own life and personality) and the person who dislikes, or is unfond of his own soul. The contrast is not between loving and hating, but between being fond and being unfond of the soul. The same applies to John 15:19. Were we of the world, the world would shew fondness for us. But because we are not of the world, it is not fond of us. Everyone of us knows people who avoid us because of our beliefs, but at the same time we know quite well that it is not positive hatred they bear towards us. It is much the same feeling that a Democrat bears towards a Republican, or a Socialist towards a Conservative, or vice versa.

To sum up, I have no hesitation in saying that the word hate ought to be removed altogether from our Bibles.

A.T. Last updated 31.12.2005