Malachi 1 – Love/Hate Relationship

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Today’s PassageMalachi 1

Finally, an answer to the age-old philosophical question: does God hate anyone? We’re just three verses into the book of Malachi when he divulges that God hates Esau. But this revelation only raises further questions. Is God mad at Esau for trading his birthright to Jacob? Is it because Esau married Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite (Genesis 26:34)? Is it simply that he was too hairy? And more importantly, how can a God who is love possibly hate anyone, much less a grandson of the patriarch Abraham?

I could try to take the heat off by referring back to the original Hebrew for “hate,” but as it turns out, it’s שָׂנֵא, sane (pronounced saw-nay): “to hate.” I could note that God is clearly talking about the nation of Edom in Malachi’s day (vv.4-5), not its long-dead predecessor, the individual Esau. I might say that to hate a political entity is different than hating an actual person, but is that to obfuscate the point that political entities are made up of people? Well, no, it’s not, because I just brought that point out into the open. There’s no point in playing games: here in this world that God has created, there are entities that are objects of his hatred. There exist things that God hates.

But the word games can cut both ways: I could argue that therefore God is not love, that God cannot be love if he hates anything. It was John that wrote, “God is love” (1 John 4:8), and he wrote it in Greek. The word for “love” there? Agape. Now, having read Malachi before, I’m inclined to believe Malachi would agree with that statement. “Yes!” he’d say. “God is love! But not the sort of love that precludes this thing I’m talking about, where God reduces Edom’s cities to ruins, leading people to call them ‘the wicked territory, and the people toward whom the Lord is indignant forever!'” (Malachi 1:4).

I don’t know why God would create things that he would then hate, and I may never know. But let’s take a look back at that definition of the Hebrew word sane. It means “to hate,” but when you use it like it’s a noun, it can be translated “enemy.” Edom has made themselves God’s enemies, turning their homeland into “the wicked territory” (4). By doing evil, they set themselves in opposition to God.

And what does God do to his enemies? He loves them. He sends his Son to endure the penalty for their evil by dying on the cross. He takes the hit himself, bears the judgment that his enemies merit. And if Jesus Christ’s death on the cross can even save Israelites who lived ages before, even saving non-Israelites like Rahab, there’s no reason it couldn’t save any Edomites who repented and trusted God for salvation from their sins.

Love and hate are not opposites. God is love, and God loves whom he hates.

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