Romans 9:10-18 Love and Hate in the Bible

10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

Love and Hate in the Bible

In the West in the 21st century, we tend to take our definitions of love and impose them on the Bible.  Most commonly love, for us, is a positive rush of emotion.  We rarely find the motivation to say that we love someone when we don’t feel positive about them.  The word hate is used by us for negative, vindictive emotion.  We want to get even with people and so we have bitter feelings.  Sometimes our hate has the flavour of contempt.  We think that we are justified in our hate-fueled fury.

Although the Bible allows the connection of passion and emotion with the words ‘love’ and ‘hate’, it is not always how the words are used.  In Luke 14, Jesus says that people should hate their family.  It doesn’t sound too Christ-like, does it.  However, he is really talking about focus.  Strength of focus is often described as love or hate.  When one is focused on Jesus one moves toward him with only secondary focus on family and friends.  The difference between the focus is so intense it can be described as love and hate.  We love Jesus and ‘hate’ everyone else.  However, those living around us will be living in the wake of our pursuit of God.  The wake of love for Jesus washes love over them which is greater than the love they would have if they tried to generate it for themselves.

In the passage above God’s love is not a rush of emotion, it is a choice ‘for’ someone.  God’s hate is a sovereign choice against someone or something.  God has chosen Israel and now God chooses us.  Have you responded to God’s sovereign choice?


You love and you hate, but not like us.  May we live in the focus of your love and spread it to those around us.  May we ‘forget’ ourselves, our family, and our friends as we live for you and therefore serve them more fully.


  1. Which patriarchs does Paul mention?
  2. How are the patriarchs connected with Israel?
  3. What is Paul teaching about Israel?
  4. Does God love and hate people today in the same way that he did in the Old Testament?
  5. How do you love and hate people?


About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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