Isaac and Rebekah were married for twenty years and had no children. Like Isaac’s mom, Rebekah was unable to have a baby until God made it possible. Jacob prayed and prayed for a child, and God answered that prayer. Rebekah would not only have one child; she would have twins. The Bible tells us that even while they were still in her belly, the two babies would wrestle and fight. As you can imagine, this upset their mother quite a bit, and so she too went and prayed, asking God what was going on.
God told her that she had two babies and that they would grow up and each begin a new nation. These nations, like these babies in her belly, would constantly be fighting. One of her children would be stronger than the other and the older would become the servant of the other. The stronger one and the older one were the same child: Esau. Esau meant hairy. He was born with hair all over his body, like a fur coat almost! The other one, the younger and weaker one was named Jacob. Jacob means heal-grabber, because when Esau was being born, Jacob was holding on to his heal. This meant that Jacob was always trying to “trip” people up; he was a deceiver.
Malachi revealed to us that God had a special plan for each child. “The LORD said, “Esau and Jacob were brothers. I loved Jacob, but hated Esau,” (Malachi 1:3, NCV). Those are some pretty harsh-sounding words. The apostle Paul also tells us that this was before either one of them was even born, before they did any good or bad. So why did God love one and hate the other?
What God meant, and Malachi wrote, is that God had a covenantal love for Jacob, but did not have one for Esau. That’s a big word, but it means that God’s love was focused on the people of Israel (Jacob’s other name). With that love came promises and protection. So when God said he hated Esau (and the people of Esau), he meant that He had never and would never love them in a way that would bring promises or protection. God’s love was specifically given to Jacob and his people. The apostle Paul tells us that we who believe in Jesus are also part of the covenantal love of God.