There are certain texts in the Bible that make modern Christ-followers cringe. One of the most difficult is Jesus’s statement about hating one’s father and mother in order to be his true disciple (Luke 14:26). The key to resolving this difficulty is hidden in the ancient meaning of the Hebrew word שנא (pronounced: soneh) inaccurately translated as “hate”.

We read that God loved Jacob, but “hated” Esau (Malachi 1:3). However, we can see that God actually blessed Esau greatly (Gen.33:9), even warning the Israelites not to attack the sons of Esau or risk the withdrawal of His protection from them if they were to do so (Deut.2:4-6).

In fact, the Torah narrative is developed in such away that anyone hearing the story of the stolen blessing and Jacob’s deception of Isaac would sympathize with Esau instead of Jacob! There is no question that God loved Jacob with his covenantal love (a different kind of love and care than he had for Esau), but He did not “hate” him in modern sense of the word. The translation also tells us that Jacob “hated” his first wife Leah. Upon closer reading, however, it becomes clear that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah (Gen.29:31). So the best I can tell in Biblical Hebrew soneh meant “loving someone/something less”.

In the Torah God permits divorce based upon certain stringent circumstances that would make a marital relationship impossible to continue. In other words, God’s Word itself allows for divorce under some circumstances. When our translation says that God “hates” divorce (Malachi 2:16), here too we must challenge our English translation and demand a more nuanced (and accurate) meaning. We all know that divorce is one of the most painful experiences that any human being can go through in life. But there is one thing that is even worse than divorce – an abusive marriage. Torah protected people from needing to continue in this ungodly bond. Naturally, divorce and remarriage (even under biblical grounds) is not ideal, but to translate Mal.2:16 as, “God hates divorce” in general, is a horrible misrepresentation of the loving God of our broken world.

How many other passages in the Bible have we misunderstood because we’ve failed to understand their Jewish background?



  1. Beautiful….. The explanation is awesome…..So Then….what is the “crux” of the word HATE? Thanks & blessings

    • It means “to love less,” as Dr. Eyzenberg explains. “He loved Jacob, but He loved Esau less” would be an adequate English translation. Translating languages, especially languages as removed from each other as English and Hebrew, is difficult. And, English has changed since the first translations from Latin into English more than 600 years ago. Did you know, for example, that “sorrow” to a sixteenth century English person meant pain more than it meant tears? “In Similarly, “naughty” and “evil” were synonyms, whereas today, “naughty” is how a small ,mischievous child might be described, but “evil” is premeditated harm.

      • I am not Jewish, nor was I raised in a church going family but I find it hard to believe my God loves anyone less or more we are all his children. Could this be read in today’s words He Loved (knew Jacob was better qualified for this task) and Loved Easu the same but knew he was better qualified for another. Qualified, Passion, Knowledge, Wisdom, Undersranding…

        • hi Pat, I feel like you are thinking God can not love less because that’s what you think, but the bible shows that God Hates evil, and so God will love more those who seek Him because He is God and sees our hearts, he knew Jacobs heart was stronger for Him. Also God can and will raise up anyone, anywhere at any time he wants. he created us, he knows us deeply, and so He will qualify you based on His desire for you to do His works. you will either hear God and obey, or you will not.

          • I challenge anyone to define the word Love,and see if in it there’s less or more.And if God himself is love,when then he’s more or less?

          • Great question. I would offer, “Love is a decisive commitment to someone’s well-being.” And yes, for example, I would love my wife and family to a differing degree than I would love my enemies. But defining “love” is not the issue here; it is defining the Hebrew “soneh”.

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          • I understand that the opposite of love is hate.When he hates he hates,that doesn’t mean he loves less,God himself is love so all that doesn’t represent him he hates,like evil,devil himself,darkness etc.There’s isn’t such thing as love less and more.

          • It’s great to disagree; please support your position, though. If God hated Esau, why did He richly bless him and protect His descendants? Or what did Messiah mean when He said to hate your parents, spouse, children and self in order to be His disciple?

          • Hate is not the opposite of love, Almeida, because both are strong, active responses to another. Indeed, the opposite of love is apathy – indifference, neglect, lack of concern. In this context, such a dichotomy might make the understanding of God’s feelings toward Esau easier.

          • You’re saying God has conditional love? Which of your 3 kids do you love less? Yes, God hates things, but because they harm and destroy people. He is equally in love with all people. God only knows how to love wholeheartedly. Therefore, He cannot love one more than another.

        • Sesay had little to no faith.He sold his birthrite for a bowl of stew.Father God is sovereign and already knew Esau.Faith pleases God. That is why God said What she said.God hates sin,but sent Jesus as a sacrifice for people. That on itself andwerd the question of hate.

          • YHVH ,G-d is not a She ! He is Avinu Makeinu is our Father our King ! And when Y’Shua returns to Yerushalayim He will be The Lion of the Tribe of Y’hudah .

        • Pat – all people are not God’s children. This was expressed by the Lord Jesus Christ responding to those who questioned Him in John 8:44 –

          “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the Truth, because there is no Truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”

          • The child is like the father. Whomever a person emulates, that is their father. If our actions are like those of Abraham or our Father in Heaven, then we are considered His children. The men from John 8:44 were doing what the devil does (lying, murdering) and therefore Yeshua said their father is the Devil.

          • Between the hate and love less, I am not sure what you are trying to solve… Is loveless desirable than hate. To me it sounds like a ‘politically correct’ or polite or subtle hate… It’s great that you have brought up the topic for a discussion

        • I sort of think similar.
          God loves us all the same
          But He does chose specific people to do things. Abraham. Who was faithful

          • Dr.Lizorkin-Eyzenberg! In my opinion GOD chose Jacob over Esau like Abraham, David, Joseph were chosen over their siblings. So its not hate or love but HIS choice. Jacob was the “chosen” just like the Jews were a chosen nation. Although I understand “loved less” are just to explain. ?

        • I like you reply as we read God is not a respect of person. I would struggle think God love me less, because that would contradict His love for us all.

        • obviously, God does not love everybody equally or in the same way. Did he love pharaoh in the same way he loved Moses? hardly! no. God raised pharaoh for the purpose of displaying God’s glory–through destruction.

          • it sure sounds like narcissistic behavior. to divide your own people. put some on higher pedestal to rule over the others. and as long you chose them, then they can do no evil, despite how oppressive they are. like David and Uraiah. and then go ahead and demand ‘ be ye holy like i am holy’ the imagery of the god in the bible is not a good one for me. however i try to like it.

      • As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For to Moses He says, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom TLV

      • Johanna, thank you for your interpretation “He loved Jacob but loved Essau less”, God can not hate Essau for God is love. Love less- I understand, but hate???

      • Calvinists use this passage quoted by Paul in Rom.9 to teach that God doesn’t love all people, and only cares about the elect.Passages that say God wants all men to be saved are explained away,as if God doesn’t mean what He says.

      • Out of all the opinions and babble your input was the most unbias and thought provoking. Like the Doctor Himself. Well done.

      • Also see to it that there is no immoral or godless person—like Esau, who sold his birthright for one meal. For you know that later, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected. He found no chance for repentance, though he begged for it with tears. Hebrews 12:16‭-‬17

    • I think it would be safe as well to understand that God favored Jacob over ESAU as that while He loves His creation and creatures, He does favor. He also knew what the descendants of Esau would yield upon this world. Also remember though Paul said the Scripture is Theopneustos.

  2. This article is pandering to those who divorce and remarry. However, there is nothing more destructive to a young child or even the confidence of an adult than divorce. The problem is not divorce. It is the concept of marriage. Marriage is a legal agreement between two families. The parties to the marriage are part of that agreement, but they are not the only part. Erotic love is not part of the equation. Many psychologists say that erotic love in marriage disappears within the first 16 months. Then we need children to hold the marriage together.

    • Actually there are many things more destructive to a child than divorce. Living with a hateful, abusive parent is one of them. Another is the other extreme of a parent who is there but completely disengaged with the children. And the common view of marriage as just a legal agreement is one reason the divorce rate is so high. It is a covenant between two people, their families, and God. Legal agreements are easily broken. All you need is a good lawyer and a sympathetic judge. Covenants are more difficult, almost impossible to break off.

    • erotic love is only lost due to loss i heart. I`ve seen and know couples that experience erotic love into their eighty and ninties because they didnt allow their heart to change toward each other. I Also know that an abusive relationship is harder and more heart rendering than divorce. Being unequally yoked is a very harsh life whether it comes from either one of the spouse or from both. Nonetheless both may wonder if there is no peace or love for them.

      • Very well explained. I come out of a marriage where I was verbally abused of him having affairs and he did not know how to get rid of me. It was like death…..

    • Tolerance is the opposite of love. Pandering comment comes from a place of tolerance from one who does not understand God’s love.

    • a marriage in which one partner is being abused which was clearly addressed in the article is exponentially more destructive to a child than the abused victim escaping with the child and going someplace safe! Wake up the scriptures do not tell people who are being abused that they need

  3. Luke 16:18 (NIV2) “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Maybe you can speculate about the word “hate”, but you cannot speculate about the words “anyone”, “whosoever” and “adultery”. And then ask yourself question. Does God hate anyone/whosoever who commits adultery? Romans 1:18 (NIV2) The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness…

  4. Dr Eli it always amazes me how the miss translation of one word can almost create a culture of wrong thinking. Another case in point is the view the christian world has of Christmas and the LOWLY social status of Mary and Joseph. At sometime I would value your thought on that.

  5. So you mentioned everything that “soneh” *isn’t*, but never clarified what it actually means. With each of these contextual references in mind, might ‘soneh’ be better translated into modern English as a “lesser preference”?

  6. It is clear to me that the Bible, especially in Luke in 14:25-35, uses “love” and “hate” as a means of describing choice, often radical choice. Clearly the one who said “love your enemies,” would not be the one who said “feel extreme animus toward father and mother.” Rather, to follow Jesus is to make a radical choice of God’s Kingdom over all other relationships, including our dearest relationships. This also includes our own lives (14:26-27) and our possessions (14:33).

  7. enemy, foe, be hateful odious, utterly A primitive root; to hate (personally) — enemy, foe, (be) hate(-ful, -r), odious, X utterly. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, Brown-Driver-Briggs, et. al. completely agree that the word is properly translated “hate”. Your reasoning, “So the best I can tell in Biblical Hebrew soneh meant “loving someone/something less”, while charming, is on very weak ground.

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    • Strong’s Concordance doesn’t give the first century contextual meaning of the word. It gives the present English translation. There can be substantial difference. But in the case of Esau, he was sleeping with two Moabite women to the despair of his parents, so he was hardly in good standing with Hashem, who therefore had good reason to “hate” Esau and “love” Jacob– who got his wives from his cousin’s family, as he was obliged to do according to the custom of the time among the descendants of Abraham.

      • agree, but we have to be careful since the treachery of Jacob in the deception and theft is even greater (or at least same).

        • Correction: Esau was sleeping with two Edomite women. Well, as for the deception and theft, clearly Hashem was behind the scenes pulling the strings. So this is one of those difficult narratives where there’s a question about what is actually free will and what is predestination. Yaakov supposedly means “he supplants” (or so I have read in several sources) and it was apparently given to him at birth because he was holding his brother’s heel when the twins were born. Rebecca contrived the deception presumably because she had assessed her sons and found one of them wanting. Jacob went along.

        • The paradox can be resolved by understanding “hate” is a figure of speech, condescensio, attributing a human emotion to God, like God’s anger, to get across the idea of his displeasure. We can have godly anger and hate, especially of the sin attached to it

  8. The whole matter is that Disobedience, flagrant or otherwise, is hateful to YHVH………..thus one who refuses to turn from that situation is classed as being hateful because Holy G-d cannot look upon that which is Sin. There would be no need for divorce if both parties stayed under what we are instructed in Torah. Thus becomes a hateful situation to YHVH. Whether you use the word hateful or distasteful is neither here nor there in actual fact.

  9. “God hates divorce” in general, is a horrible misrepresentation of the loving God of our broken world. I believe that is exactly what God means when He says He hates divorce. Not the people but the act of disobedience in the breaking of His Covenant, “two shall become one”, through distrust in Him and His good Word. Did He not say that marriage is for life, unto dearh? Yes He is a God of love but also a HOLY God, Righteous, and Just.

  10. Genesis 33:9 is where Esau says “No need for your gifts, I have enough of my own.”. (modern day parlance) D’VARIM 2:4-6 At that time they were not ready for any war, but were to quietly abide as they walked through Esau’s land and to buy food and water where necessary. There is a time for all things under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3. However, Amalek, grandson of Esau, see1 Samuel 15:18 And the LORD sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they were consumed.

  11. To say that if you don’t “Hate” your father, mother and family you cannot be my disciple, seems like a contradiction as the 5th commandment tells us to honour your parents. But then when you look at Matt (10:37) Tell us that he who “Loves” more than me is not worthy. By this assumption, then the Hebrew word hate is also identified as “love less.” Then divorce as in Mal.(2:16), becomes God’s lesser intentions. Jesus gave us the two great commandments Matt(22:36-49), Mark(12:28-31). Through discipleship and marriage let’s keep them in order. Honour the Lord first.

  12. I agree that God blessed Esau. The hate of loved ones in order to be a disciple of Jesus is to put Jesus above everything else in life, including self. this ‘hate’ is not to disown or want to destroy. But to love the Lord Jesus Christ above all.

  13. When Hebrew is lost in translation it is people who get edited out of the Bible (made to feel less loved). Your approach helps me to understand ALL the scriptures. This seems very different than “our” apologetics . “We” defended ourselves against common doctrines which resulted in avoiding certain scripture, or vise versa “we” protected our doctrine by using certain scripture. I love how Hebrew helps us to see more of Jesus (loved) in ALL the scripture!

  14. Wow! Good insight! The word “Soneh” can possibly be interpreted as a word that is used to draw a comparison between (through contrast) a perfect (divine) purpose/plan and one that is permissive (least favorable).

  15. I think that Jesus position on divorce is that it is permitted only in the case of fornication. That is, the couple at the time of their wedding were expected to be virgins. So, if it happens that the husband found that his bride was not a virgin on that memorable night( meaning that she is a door, ref. to songs of Solomon 8:), the shock would be so great that divorce is allowed. Thus, adultery is not enough reason since Christians are expected to have deep compassion for others. I appreciate that abusive marriage is worse than divorce.

      • I see that this question was not directed to me, but if I could offer a suggestion, the sages read from Exo.21:10 that a husband was to provide food, clothing and intimacy, and if he didn’t then the wife was free to leave. I think that not providing these three things is a fairly adequate definition of an abusive relationship.

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          • Or perhaps you are overlooking the background and context of Christ’s response? See, the debate in Yeshua’s day was not “whether” a man could divorce (the Bible clearly permitted it), but rather, what was the “minimum cause” for divorce since the Hebrew word in Deu.24:1 is ambiguous (‘ervat davar). Yeshua agreed with the House of Shammai that the minimum cause should be infidelity; should a man divorce for less than this, then it would be illegitimate and therefore the wife’s remarriage would be nothing short of adultery for her and for her new husband. But if a man did not provide for his wife (i.e., abuse) then the woman (as permitted by the Bible) was free to go (but this wasn’t the question posed to Yeshua). See, If Jesus went contrary to the Torah on legitimate divorce and remarriage (or on any issue actually), then He would have disqualified Himself from being Messiah; but rather we know that He sinlessly upheld the Law and taught others likewise (Mat.5:19).

  16. One needs careful logic to understand and to interpret many words in the Bible, only by the Holy Spirit one gets the true meanings

  17. Have your school’s scholars considered a sequential reading of Genesis chapters 1-2:4a, vis a vis Genesis 2:4b and ff.? This view is advanced by Biblical scholar John Walton, who proposes that all of “days” one through six, at least, are completely finished before the narrative of Adam and Eve kicks in, during “day” seven. That suggests an “imago Dei” humanity which predates the two of them, possibly by a significant period of time, being described in Genesis 1:26-27 and ff. Would enjoy your reply, or weblinks to materials you already have published which address this interpretive scenario. Cheers!

    • Guy, hi. You are posting it under a wrong post :-). Please, find the post about Genesis (I think it is the latest one actually).

  18. We are also told that God loves everyone unconditionally so how does that compare to Jacob and Esau. How can God love unconditionally when HE loved Esau less?

    • Where are we told that God loves everyone unconditionally? (In general way, yes, as his creation, but in salvific – particular way?)

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  19. God loves every equally, the Bible clearly states he is no respecter of persons. The Bible is meant to be interpreted allegorically, spiritually. Esau stands for the human in the flesh nature. That is why he is the first born; we have physical birth then we must have spiritual birth as represented by the second child born– Jacob. The physical man has no use for the spiritual birth right, the relationship with God and trades it for pottage. The physical, flesh, animal nature that prevents us from growing the spirit of God within us is what is represented as “hating”.

    • Thank you for bringing up “favoritism/respecter of persons”,, Daniel. In NT writings, this concept is clearly mentioned 5 times: Romans 2, Ephesians 6, Colossians 3, James 2 (these show a context of judging a person or people purely on the merits of the case/accusation), Acts 10 (negating false Jewish “law”)

      • To clarify …When Peter says “you know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you”, he is referring to a “law” far exceeding the torah/instructions given by God. That’s what I meant by “false Jewish law”, nothing more.

  20. GOD does NOT hate divorce he is for it if there is reason to be for it.In my case I had a man that was NOT right with Christ,his family,friends or me.Christ came to me & said you are my daughter,I am for the divorce & I am appointing Criss Angel to be your future husband the one that had his eyes closed.I had been threw alot & Lord knows I tried to make it work but he was cheating on me many times I even got an STD crabs.Since the divorce I have been alot healthier & happier

  21. Very well explained. I come out of a marriage where I was verbally abused of him having affairs and he did not know how to get rid of me. It was like death…..

  22. That is why closer to correct interpretation must be from those who have studied thorougly. Catholics must be right since it is a religion of distinction unlike those others who just fall into stereotyping.

    • Have you studied thoroughly what constitutes a logical fallacy, Eduardo, or are you just falling into stereotyping non-Catholics?

  23. Dr Eli praise the Lord for showing us the hidden manna from the holy bible, i am a lay pastor serving the Lords work in villages, not able to enrol for Hebrew studies.
    I try to share your teachings to our village pastors we are not so rich,please pray for us.

  24. I find Elie Wiesels comment very explaining in this matter. He says that “Hate is not the opposite of love. Indifference is.”
    This gives us the explanation of Revelation 3, where it says “If only you were WARM or COLD, but you are neither WARM nor COLD, you are TEPID, and as such I will spit you out”.
    If you love that which is of God and which is good, it is natural to hate that which is not of God – and evil. But being INDIFFERENT, i.e. TEPID, having the “Whatever?”-attitude that is the REAL problem.

  25. So by hating Esau the Lord is simply loving Esau less than Jacob, and in the next few verses the Lord promises to destroy the land of Esau, how do you reconcile this?

    • Are we talking about Esau, or are we talking about Esau’s descendants? Differentiating between the two is what answers your question.

  26. Inasmuch as the use of the word hate is wrong to be attributed to God it seems contradictory that God that is love, does not discriminate and made every man in his own image will turn out to love some people more and some less. I think our problem is that we see God from the perspective of man.

  27. I see it this way: God loves everyone, but hates evil. Jesus wants us to love everyone but hate evil. We can love someone evil enough to pray for them to seek truth. We are not to hate our parents. What Jesus meant was to continue doing what was right, and keep the faith, even if it means it will set you apart from your disbelieving parents. Not, I love you Jesus, but I can’t follow you because mom will disown me. You must love Him more than your parents.

  28. Here is a mystery: (1) God divorced Israel due to her spiritual adultery (Jer.3). (2) He is now, as Messiah, betrothed to another: the bride of Christ (Mt.25; Mk.2; Lk.5; Rev.19:7; 21:9 & 17) (3) It is a spiritual mystery (Eph.4:3-6; 5:31-32; Col.2:2) that God’s Old Covenant was replaced with His New Covenant in/through Christ. Part of the mystery is expressed by (linked to) the language of Messiah being a bridegroom to a new bride (the old – Israel – having been divorced). As such, we look forward to the soon coming marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev.19:7-10).

    • According to Jer.31:31 the New Covenant is with Israel and Judah. But Deu.24:1-4 says it’s hateful for a man to divorce and remarry the same bride after she was with another (idols). But Rom.7:2 says that if the husband dies, the law binding the wife to the husband is annulled. So Yeshua can remarry Israel and Judah because He first died. They Mystery that Paul speaks of (Eph.3:4-6) is that the Gentiles are included in the Bride.

  29. I fully concur. As we are to love even our enemies, Love is what makes us Christian, hate is sin. Hate is sin, we hate sin. Sounds like an oxymoron. But no. Hate is a poor translation. To hate is sin, but we rebuke sin, we find no pleasure in sin, we grieve that there is sin. Even God would grieve, rebuke, and find no pleasure in Esau’s attitude, but still show love to Esau.

  30. Thank you always for your insight. I believe that most Gentile Christians try to divorce the Torah from the New Covenant by dismissing the Law as irrelevant. It is HOLY. Yeshua Himself is clearly upholding the Law by pointing to the Torah to explain the conditions under which divorce is permitted. If we argue against what He (being the Word from the beginning) permitted under certain circumstances, we are in effect divorcing Him from the Law. In Corinthians, remarriage is permitted when an unbeileving spouse leaves. Divorce is not ideal, but He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

  31. I struggle with Rom 9:13 because I learned that faith works alone, not together (Rom 8:28). I am trying to see God’s purpose in Rom 9:11 and I can’t help but wonder if the story of Jacob and Esau might be a reoccurring theme (i.e brick and mortar article). I’ve read that the two great lights in Gen 1:16 can mean elder light and younger light. The purpose of God would be 1. Give light on earth?, 2. Rule elder & younger?, divide the elder from the younger?. I see the words compassion and mercy, but cant connect to Hebrew

  32. So then, if “soneh” translates as “love something/someone less”, whar word word translate as “hate”, with all that work can imply, and is there an example of it in scripture?

    • Lev.19:17 says not to hate your brother in your heart (this is one verse before the famous love your neighbor as yourself passage). In this verse the Masoretic uses “tisna” (soneh) and the Septuagint uses “miseseis” (same as “misei”) in Luk.14:26. The point is, the word is the same, but to literally hate parents is fairly opposed to the biblical commandment, and Yeshua could not be going against Torah. So to clarify, we should compare the parallel passage in Mat.10:37. It explains the same idea as loving less.

  33. The word in Romans 9:13 and translated as ‘hated’, using the aorist tense, is the Greek word ἐμίσησα (emisesa) from μίσεω (miseo or I hate). It occurs 39 times in the NT and is always translated as the verb to hate. To show that it portrays a dark and negative meaning, some verses will be reproduced to show this and thus hopefully stop Christians trying to make it mean something benign by back pedalling all over the English language. Matthew 6:24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other;

    • Deu.27:16 forbids making “light of” (dishonoring) parents, how much more to hate them? And who truly hates his own life (Eph.5:29)? It would seem obvious that Yehsua was making a hyperbole in Luk.14:26, especially when comparing the parallel passage in Mat.10:37.

  34. The Biblical love/hate juxtaposition is an idiomatic expression denoting the preference for putting God first over not putting God first. A literal translation completely misses the meaning.

  35. The explanation brings clarity to these selections that God kept making. I’ve always thought that Jacob is vilified unfairly. My thinking is that he was named supplanter even before he’d had his first taste of breast milk. And we don’t know how God would’ve brought about His plan of having the “older serve the younger” if Rebecca hadn’t panicked and caused Jacob to deceive his dad. What I see is that satan kept corrupting the first born sons, probably trying to get rid of the “Seed of a woman”. He wasn’t catching on that God’s choice was the younger.

  36. I find it a bit strange that people have a difficulty with God “hating”. God is love we read in 1 John. The remnant of Israel was loved “with an everlasting love” Jeremiah 31:3. But Esau wasn’t, yet God blessed him. God causes the rain to fall upon the just and the unjust. He can’t help loving all, but his covenant love is towards those in covenant with him. As the great Apostle Paul said “not all Israel is Israel”. He explains it well in Romans 9:6:13. So God’s covenant is only with the “children of promise”.

  37. Just a note: Malachi 2:16 does not say “God hates divorce,” but (Hebrew) saneh shalach, “He who hates divorces.” That is why spouses fight so much in a divorce. Not to win, but to forget their love.

  38. Thank you for providing us with new inspiration every morning. Question: How should we read: “God hates sin”?

  39. I love all my children. I choose between them, however, showing one “favor” over another based on who they are and by not the weight of my love, which is equal. Example: I chose the most financially wise one, who also has a soft gentle heart to be the executor of my material possessions. I chose her over the rest in this manner.
    I believe God, who truly sees the heart of every individual, chooses to show favor based on His sovereign knowledge.
    As for divorce, God hates it for sure. Divorce means somewhere in some way, love failed. Whether it’s because of a violent man, who could not see the most precious gift God permitted him; or the adulterous woman, who could not accept her husband as he is. God does not love that a heart is broken. Divorce breaks many hearts, even when it is the only choice a person can make.
    I’ve always thought it came down to God’ s favor: He chose to show favor to Jacob because of what He knew of Jacob; God favors marriage over divorce because He is love.
    I only know English. When trying to understand what I read, I try to do so on what I have learned about God through reading all of the Scriptures. He is as He is. His nature does not change from one story to another.

  40. I remember reading in the Bible that God had a covenant with Esau. But what about Ishmael God named him and he was circumcised.

    • The angel that appeared to Hagar promised to make Ishmael a great nation, but it doesn’t meet all of the criteria of being a covenant. To Esau, God didn’t give a blessing or a covenant.

  41. Why knock the King James version?

    It is never to understand the Bible. It is to lift up their alternate translation.

    1. They lift up their scholars
    2. They lift up their translation or “understanding”
    3. They put down the King James
    4. They despise the King James Bible – even if it is what God used to bring them, their families, their ancestors, or their original denominational leaders, to faith in Christ.

    Proverbs 13:13

  42. It is clear from these comments, people have the concepts of words as NOW All the patriarchs had numerous wives. Paul came with HIS OWN GOSPEL of the one man one wife Marriage to bear jealousy and divorce. If our ladies tread us like Kings, They are Queens. BeEMeT?

    • Actually Karel, not all of the patriarchs (eg. Isaac). (It was by Sarah that Abraham was encouraged to take Hagar to have a child, and Jacob’s two wives were a result of a trick). And yes, Paul definitely wrote about some of his own interpretations, but the Gospel that he preached was the same as and approved by the apostles.

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  43. …the Bible is a summary you can’t de-sum (does 6 = 1+5 or = 2+4) without reliably corroborative information (books of Jubilees, scholars’ Jasher, Abraham,…); And, after Abraham died, Esau killed Amraphael (for attempting murder of baby-Abram), ran, stopped at Jacobs’, gave him his heritage-rights, and, ran away…

  44. Have HaShem give you all of Father Abraham’s covenants. And then have your grandson trade them all for a serving of soup to his brother. Now choose the word to describe your grandson. ? Jacob wanted his family name. His heritage. Like a Jew loves his Savior brother, by birth.

  45. The reference lexicon of Hebrew by most scholars is called HALOT. This word is in the accusative case and means hate. Same usage in Psalm 11:5 and Jeremiah 12:8. Let’s let God be God and reveal Himself. Let’s not make a God of our own liking by twisting scripture.

  46. We clearly see the difference between Esau and Jacob in their descendants, Jesus (Jacob) and Herod (Esau). Herod lusted for an earthly throne, and must have courted the pagan Caesar’s favor to get it. Jesus, faithful to Torah said, “My kingdom is not of this world.”

  47. Love/hate vocabulary about Jacob/Esau is in the nature of “covenant” language in the Ancient Near East. Love is one of the key OT covenant terms. To love the Lord your God is more about obedience to covenant stipulations than it is about how one feels about. Hate is covenantal too.

  48. According to an OT course I took from Dr Stewart Douglass, the love/hate language was used in the ancient world between sovereign and vassel Kings. Love meaning faithful to a covenant relationship and hate indicating the lack of submission it that no covenant existed between them.

  49. (continuing) this usage has persisted into more modern times with the kissing of the Royal ring or hand showing submission and respect.

  50. If the Hebrew word “soneh” means to “love less”, as in Esau, or Leah, why have translators steadfastly chosen to render it as “hate” in English translations for the last 500 years? Their scholarship and translation skills could certainly not have been that poor.

    • Well, is the opposite of love to hate, or is it to love less (or both)? Likewise is the opposite of hate to hate less or to love? How often do English speakers say they love food, or hate math?

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  51. Could “loved…but hated…” and “unless you hate your parents…” mean “first choice over?” God chose Jacob (loved) over Esau (hated). Our first choice of Christ (loved) should be more than our love for parents (hated) or anything else.

  52. Mal1 is a diatribe. It presents multiple voices. Perhaps Malachi is captruring Judah’s voice claiming god’s love for themselves, and projecting god’s hate on Esau. And that is not accepted by Malachi.

  53. I would like to get your thoughts on other passages that use soneh, like Psalm 41:7(8) and Psalm 5:5(6). Might we better understand God’s “hate” and love in the context of law (just hatred) and gospel (undeserved love)? I agree that a nuanced understanding is also important. Thank you.

    • The key to this study, Peter, is two points: firstly, “soneh” necessarily has a much wider range of meaning in the Bible than our word “hate” has today. And secondly, the definition of “love less” does not intrinsically represent how much less. Now, Ps.41:7, 5:5 might represent people who simply feed their need for attention from toxic people at God’s expense (think “belittle” God), but yes, “soneh” also can represent something very crazed, for example murderous intent (cf. Deu.19:11).

  54. One of our fatal flaws, as human beings, is to look at G-d like the Greek gods. They were really powerful, but had flawed emotional structures. They were capricious and fickle toward humans. G-d is perfect. Therefore, His emotions are perfect without human flaws.

  55. There are many things God hates. Every Hebrew dictionary (HALOT, TWOT, BDB, NIDOTTE…) has ‘hate’ as its primary meaning. All major ancient and modern translations have ‘reject’ or ‘hate’. Furthermore, “love less” is antithetical to the context of God destroying Edom because of its wickedness. What authorities support your position?

    • You are faulting the explanation of a Hebrew word based on the inadequacy of an English one. Yes, the Hebrew “soneh” can and does usually translate fine to “hate”, but in many places, “hate” is inadequate. Better than “hate”, soneh is defined by “to love less” but it does not intrinsically specify how much less. It can be loving a second wife less, it can be loving parents less than God, right up to murderous intent Deu.19:11.

      • No, I am faulting your choice of English translation from a Hebrew word in a particular context. ‘Hate’ and ‘love less’ are both adequate for Soneh, but context determines which is appropriate. You need more evidence to use tertiary ‘love less’ in Malachi rather than the primary meaning of ‘hate’.

        • I would agree – as I understand this is called concordant literal translation – and there are sophisticated voices against that – still i see that the reader is treated with more respect to be allowed to make a decision from the context – and obviously also good to know the cultural context.

  56. Side notes: (1) Many scholars believe ‘love’ and ‘hate’ can also be technical covenantal terminology, which is why they use ‘choose’, ‘reject’. This fits the context of Malachi better than emotions. (2) God does not love divorce and love unfaithful marriages less. He hates divorce and hates unfaithful marriages more.

  57. The fact a father love a son n permits him to do whatever he desires does not mean He won’t withdraw his love, strength and commitment to him…. The holy spirit does not stay where he is grieved that does not mean he won’t allow the person to be alive

    • Yet, Hebrews says I’ll never ever leave you or forsake you. What about the parable of the prodigal son? Did the father’s love ever change? He was waiting for His son to return. He ran to him, hugging and kissing him. How much better is our Father.

  58. In Malachi God says this to His people. Paul tells us even more in Roman’s 9. How have I loved you? God asks, I chose you, before you were born, before you’ve done anything good or bad. Means way more than love less.

  59. God IS love. He only knows how to love wholeheartedly. Not 100% towards some and 95% towards others. As a Father, I don’t love any of my children less. God loved and hated what Esau and Jacob represented. Esau represented the carnal nature we were bound to.

  60. When it comes to the meaning of “hate” in the context of Malach 2:16, no further commentary is necessary. It means to despise, loathe or disdain. There’s no warrant for softening or diminishing the typical sense of the word in order to accommodate people who have divorced on legitimate grounds.

  61. “But there is one thing that is even worse than divorce – an abusive marriage”. It is a modern excuse to justify divorce and not follow the teachings of the Lord in the Gospel.

  62. Dear Dr Eli, I have noticed that you refer to Believers as “Christ followers” well if you translate the word Christ you get “Messiah” you must be a Messiah follower,be Born of the Spirit, and have eternal life thru his sacrifice, the bearing away your sins,receiving, forgivness from Elohim.

  63. Dear Eli, I would if you could explain to me the verses in Romans ch 10,
    1 to 4 It feel that you are vindicating the jewish writings above what had been written by the followers in the new Covenant, the work of Christ his redeemtpion, peace with God lifeeternal

    • Hi Charles. Rom.10:1-4 is about well-intentioned, yet misinformed people who try to attain righteousness in God’s eyes based on their own deeds instead of on the finished work of Messiah. Messiah has always been the goal (in KJV, “end”) of the law/Torah. The whole Hebrew Bible, from Genesis to Chronicles (or Malachi in English Bibles), points to Him.

  64. I think, the understanding God’s love varies person to person based on his/her own version of experience. One who is forgiven much shows much love to God, and would hold similar perspective and one who seems have love God less, he/she would share similar experience! Anyway,I can’t ? Him.

  65. If you examine the patriarchs the younger son is preferred over the elder. Isaac over Ismael, Jacob over Esau, Joseph the younger son next to Benjamin, King David the youngest son. This is also very interesting Esau met Jacob with 400 fighting men. Esau was a leader,

  66. Dr. Eli, Thank you for this article and explanation, it is very enlightening and helpful. Is this word for hate, soneh, the same word used in Proverbs 6:16? If so, would the definition/comparison of “loving less” still stand? Thanks in advance for your response and work.

  67. Actually, I would disagree with the concept of “Love less.” In the Greek text, the difference is a bit clearer. Where Jacob is “loved,” (AGAPE – COMMITMENT rather than the emotional load we tend to give it), Esau is “hated,” (MISEO – not chosen for, not committed to).

  68. Love’s opposite more apathy,but hate is another opposite.Saying I love cats between 3 people,one respond apathy,another could be hate.Tending to exhalt in own knowledge & should we not understand,pull apart & contort to something fitting our narrative.Pride our enemy,gone the day young children said; Yes father,sorry Father,respectfully submitting to fallabillity.

  69. Specifically, it says of Esau and his lineage, in Eze 35:5 Because thou hast had a perpetual hatred… ie. against Israel.
    So virtually your view is saying that God simply “loves Esau a little less”, even though Esau hated God and God’s kids! … and, that maybe we should be a little more condescending toward “the hairy one”?
    Sorry, but so far your argument just doesn’t stack up!

  70. Dear Dr.Eli ,Does this word also used under God hates Homosexual , sexual immorality or not ? But a different hebrew word?

  71. interestingly, to me reflecting biblical language in our local culture, it does not make sense, but it is more in rational faith.

  72. I’m enjoying these articles and how many comments and discussions they provoke! NB: There can be a technical, legal use of this verb, attested in marriage and covenant contexts. See Sam Adams’ book on social and economic life. The Elephantine papyri have a provision for a woman to pay divorce money, “silver of hatred”

  73. Dr Eli
    i enjoy the discussion and emails. However I enrolled in 1 class only after being told I could cancel if I didnt like it. When i emailed back to cancel class after 10 days, i was told no refund. you should know how your representatives are conducting business in your name. please refund my deposit. thank you. Shalom

  74. It is clear with understanding God as the God of all time, he chose Jacob over Esau for carrying out his will. Therefore, let us focus on to his will rather than anything and argue (discuss) untamed. God bless.

  75. Thank you. the word “prefer” can also fit correctly.
    God preferably chose Jacob and it was not because of anything he did. Moreover, it was through Jacob’s lineage the Messiah will come. Jesus words meant same. True discipleship demands that we prefer him to all. Was the new testament written in Hebrew by Jewish authors or the new testament was written in Greek by Jewish authors using a Hebrew concept.

  76. Everything God created was good in His sight. This includes man. But he preferred that man should be the head of woman. The word ‘hate’ has been understood and used incorrectly as said. The error in interpretation emanates from a routine understanding that the opposite of LOVE is HATE.

  77. Excellent explanation about “hate”.
    Thanks a lot.
    Many doubt in mind are cleared.
    It will be great help if Israel Bible Center bring out Bible’s new translation in the light of original Greek/Hebrew/Aramic text,
    World will be indebted to you for more soul closer to our God


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