How Can YHVH Be Hateful and Loving at the Same Time?

Jacob and Esau

Romans 9:13, Esau have I hated. 

Romans 9:13 declares that YHVH hated Esau. How is it possible for YHVH to be hateful when the Scriptures reveal that he is love (1 John 4:8, 16)? How do we reconcile these two Bible verses? 

A misunderstanding of the word hate from a biblical perspective may lead one to the wrong conclusion. The concept of hate has added nuances in Eastern culture that do not exist from a Western viewpoint. Understanding this will help us to understand the nature of Elohim’s “hatred” for Esau in this verse as well in other verses in the Testimony of Yeshua where the word hatred seems too strong for our Western sensitivities. 

Defining the Greek behind the word hate in this versewill clear up any misconceptions about the character of Elohim. In fact, it is unfortunate that the translators have chosen to use the word hate in Romans 9:13, since it calls into question the Elohim’s character, which is, in fact, loving.The word hated is the Greek word miseo meaning “to hate, persecute in hatred, abhor or despise, to show hostility toward or, by extension, to love one thing less (than something else).” Miseo basically means “having a relative preference for one thing over another” (see Strong’s, Thayers, Vine’s and TDNT). To these definitions, in the context of the Testimony of Yeshua, the TDNT sees miseo as taking on the added meaning of “disowning, renunciation and rejection.”

According to Strong’s Expanded Concordance and Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of OT and NT Words, miseo can refer to “malicious and unjustifiable feelings towards others, whether towards the innocent or by mutual animosity (e.g. Matt 10:22; 24:10; Luke 6:22, 27; 19:14). It can also refer to one hating concepts such as spiritual light (John 3:20); or of those who hate Yeshua (John 7:7; 15:18). Additionally, the world hates the saints (Matt 10:22; 24:10; Luke 6:22, 27; 1 John 3:13). Hate is a general characteristic of the spiritually unregenerate (Tit 3:3). Demonic spirits are full of hate (Rev 18:2). Those who hate their brothers aren’t walking in the spiritual light, but in darkness and are spiritually blind (1 John 2:11). 

But miseo has another nuanced meaning as well, which we can obtain from the context in which the word is used. Thayer’s explains that the concept of hatred is different for those of a Western mindset as opposed to those of the Eastern or Oriental (i.e. Middle Eastern) mindset—the culture in which the Bible was written. Easterners are more passionate and excitable, thus they view as hatred differently than those of the West, who are have a cooler temperament view as nothing more than “to love less, to postpone love or esteem or to slight.” For the Orientals, hatred can simply be—to the Western viewpoint—“a cursory interest in or disregard or indifference toward a thing.” Therefore miseo can be “a feelings of aversion from what is evil” (Rom 7:15; Heb 1:9; Jude 23; Rev 2:6, 15; ibid.). 

Miseo can also express a relative preference of one thing over another, by way of expressing either aversion from, or disregard for, the claims of one person or thing relative to those of another. In this sense, miseo (according to Strong’s and Vine’s) means “to love less” or “prefer one thing over another” (e.g. Matt 6:24 and Luke 16:13 with regard to preferring one master over another; Luke 14:26 with regard to preferring Yeshua over one’s parents; John 12:25 with regard to loving one’s spiritual life over one’s physical life; Eph 5:29 with regard to a man not loving himself more than his wife; Rom 9:13 with regard to YHVH preferring Jacob over Esau). 

In this same vein, the TDNT says that “those who become disciples of Jesus must be committed exclusively to Him; they cannot be bound to anyone or anything else. The term hate demands the separation of the disciple and the warning not to love anyone or anything more is the test.”

So in the verse Romans 9:13, it would be accurate to say, “Jacob I have loved (or preferred), but Esau I have loved less (or had an aversion toward or not preferred).”


3 thoughts on “How Can YHVH Be Hateful and Loving at the Same Time?

  1. Excellent lesson and I always wondered why JHVH ‘hated’ Esau, but now I see with clarity what this meant.

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