The Only Man God Hates
Malachi 1:2-3 is a difficult verse to understand. “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated…” How can we reconcile a God who says He IS love when He also says He hated someone? The answer lies in the ancient Hebrew understanding of hate.
The ancient Hebrew language is unique in how its letters and words communicate. Centuries before the common Hebrew block script used today was formed, the language began as a type of pictographic script. To the ancient Hebrew mind, everything was tangible and related to something in agriculture or biology. Even abstract words like lovingkindness, bitterness, grace, or anger related to something that touched the 5 senses. This pictographic script communicated in shapes and known pictures that were its letters, giving each individual letter its own meaning. As these letters formed root words, the meaning of these letters was often found in the meaning of the root words that they spelled. Then the meaning of the root word is then connected to the meaning of any words that are formed from the root. While researchers admit there is a lot they don’t understand about this, no other language on earth communicates this way. And it’s the original language of two-thirds of the Bible.
Today, our modern view of hate as defined by Merriam-Webster is a very strong feeling of dislike; intense hostility. Yet the ancient Hebrew suggests something different.“Sane' “(saw-nay') the Hebrew word that is often translated as hate, use the pictographic letters for “a thorn” and “a seed”. The Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible explains this: The pictograph is a picture of a thorn, then is a picture of a seed. Combined these mean "thorn seed." The thorn, (the seed of a plant with small sharp points) cause one to turn directions to avoid them.” (“The Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible,” by Jeff A. Benner. ISBN 1-58939-776-2.)
In Biblical times, thorns were used as fences to protect flocks from predators or even used as weapons. The idea was that thorns caused pain and the pain made someone avoid whatever caused it. While intense emotions are sometimes involved, the ancient Hebrew view of hate was more about being hurt or wounded by something, then staying away as a result of that pain. We see this in Isaac’s response to Abimelech: “Then Abimelech came to him from Gerar with his adviser Ahuzzath and Phicol the commander of his army. Isaac said to them, "Why have you come to me since you hate me and have sent me away from you?" (Genesis 26:26-28). Hatred was less about an intense confrontational emotion and more about making choices to avoid physical or emotional pain. If this true, let’s consider God’s “hate” in a whole new way:
· · Jacob I loved; Esau I hated - Mal. 1:2; Romans 9:13 Esau is the only person that God said He hated. The ancient Hebrew suggests that Esau’s rejection of His prized birthright for some stew that hurt God’s heart so deeply that He wanted to stay away from him. God had not rejected Esau, rather Esau rejected God’s plan. In this context, this verse shows God’s broken heart rather than His anger at disobedience.
God’s character is not aloof to our experiences or angry at one thoughtless act of disobedience. On the contrary, He is "compassionate and gracious, slow to anger..." (Exodus 34:6). We feel pain and want to withdraw because God does; we are made in His Image. Yet Jesus challenges us to love those that hurt us. Instead of avoiding (hating), return in love.
“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you…” - Luke 6:27
Doug Hershey is the author of Israel Rising, conference speaker and founder of Ezra Adventures, an Israel focused travel and education company. From years of hands-on experience, cultivating unique relationships in Israel and a love for history, Doug provides a rare perspective on the connection between the Jewish Scriptures and present day Israel. When he is not in Israel, he is speaking in churches and synagogues about the prophesied restoration of Israel.
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