As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
Some light is thrown on the strong verb "hated" by other passages in which it is employed (Matthew 6:24; Luke 14:26; John 12:25). In these statements there is certainly no intention of conveying an idea of malice. There is in them, just as in the Saviour's remark regarding the camel and the needle's eye, something of bold hyperbolism. Such hyperbolisms are common and rife enough, in the language both of literature and every-day life. They give piquancy to speech, and are relished by "all the world." So "Esau I hated" is comparative, not absolute; and there is really more in the representation than in the reality, just because a phraseological foil was wanted. The idea is, that in the treatment accorded to the Edomites there was a conspicuous absence of that favour which distinguished the Divine treatment of the Hebrews and vindicated the expression, "Jacob I loved." In truth, there was now no room for national forgiveness to Edom. The cup of their iniquity they had filled to the brim, and it was now time that they should be compelled to drain to its dregs the cup of merited retribution. It was otherwise with Jacob in the days of Malachi (chap. Malachi 1.). God, although greatly provoked, had not dealt with that people according to their desert. In wrath, He had remembered mercy. Through the influence of Ezra and Nehemiah over the kings of Babylon, many families were encouraged to return to the desolated city. The streets were restored. The walls were rebuilt. The temple was reconstructed, and an appreciable amount of prosperity once more rolled over the land. "God loved Jacob"; for with all the waywardness and faithlessness of the peculiar people, they were still, in virtue of their Messianic destination, like a peculiar treasure to God. They were the casket which contained the heavenly jewel; and, for the jewel's sake, the casket was carefully kept and guarded. It was otherwise with Edom. Like many surrounding peoples, they had a time of merciful visitation. Their local habitation had many advantages; they were blessed in "the fatness of the earth and the dew of heaven," and were sheltered within the munition of rocks; and, had they been willing to be good, they might have had a constant flow of prosperity. But they became highminded, aggressive, selfish, morally rank to heaven with rottenness, and were involved at last in the overflow of Babylonian devastation (Malachi 1:4, cf. in contrast the case of Israel, ver. 5). We have additional evidence in these statements of the prophet's reference to peoples as distinguished from individuals in the plural "we," "ye," etc. The apostle's argument is irrefragable. Pure patriarchal descent on the part of Israel was insufficient to ensure everlasting Messianic blessings; for it was utterly insufficient on the part of Edom to secure those temporal advantages which were conferred on the Hebrews till the fulness of time.
(J. Morison, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.