A Small Exegesis of Romans 9:13

I don’t often do exegesis, especially in debates. But I got into a discussion about the infamous ‘Esau’ passage in Romans – the conversation began as someone pointed to that passage as an example of someone for whom God had hatred. This was my reply -not the best editing, since it was written fairly quickly.

The Esau passage has roughly nothing to do with God’s like or dislike of a certain person, and everything to do God’s pattern of action in history to bring about redemption as opposed to who has a final share in said redemption. Plus, obviously, Jacob and Esau in Romans is a reference to a passage in Malachi which refers to Edom’s and Israel’s history, which included Edom cooperating with the Assyrians – the J/E reference is an allusion to the Israelite/Edom relationship within the larger context of redemptive history and judgement. Edom exhibited a pattern of evil behavior and so brought themselves under God’s judgement. Remember the context. God’s ‘hate’ of Esau has nothing to do with God’s personal dislike of Esau. The word ‘hate’ used in Scripture carries notes of favouring one of the other, or a lack of special privilege, and not an emotional stance of intense dislike.

This is hardly an amazing work of scholarship, but I think it’s pretty much broadly correct.

9 comments on “A Small Exegesis of Romans 9:13

  1. john zande says:

    If you just remove the word “god” from this passage then you’re almost spot on. The Masoretic Text and Deuteronomic history is nothing but a 7th Century geopolitical myth fashioned by Judah to serve their territorial longings. Not even Jewish Rabbis today believe any of it. You are aware of this, aren’t you?


    • whitefrozen says:

      I am indeed aware that that is one interpretation of the historical data, though one that requires a good deal more justification than the mere act of assertion given the weakness with which the minimalist picture is put forth. I am indeed also aware that not every rabbi takes the OT to be a literal historical record, which has little bearing on anything I said but is an interesting side note nonetheless.


      • john zande says:

        Agreed, but the point was about Esau, who was never a person, rather the Edomites, which you rightly identified. Judah hated the Edomites so they wrote it into the geopolitical myth they were fashioning; demonising them.


        • whitefrozen says:

          Well, one can hardly derive the non-existence of a historical figure from the fact that said figure was used to refer to political (among other) relations (and i do personally take Esau to be historical). But, again, I’m simply not impressed with the minimalist picture of Israelite history as a whole, though no doubt geopolitical relations did in fact figure into the writing of Israel’s history.


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