PASSAGE: "Nor is that all; something similar happened to Rebecca when she had conceived children by one husband, our ancestor Isaac. Even before they had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God's purpose of election might continue, not by works but by his call) she was told, 'The elder shall serve the younger.' As it is written, 'I have loved Jacob, but I have hated Esau.'" (Rom. 9:10-13 NRSV).
QUESTION: Why would God create some people to be blessed and others not?
COMMENT: It is quite impossible that God would create some people to be blessed and others not. God is the energy of all creation. Everything that is, is an expression of that divine energy. Humans, in particular, are "the image and likeness" (Gen. 1:26) of God, expressive of the same creative power. If God is All Perfection, how could that Perfection create anything that isn't perfect?
The underlying theme of Paul's letter to the church in Rome was to heal a growing rift between Christians who had previously been Jewish and Christians who had converted from other Roman religions. Jews were enduring a time of great persecution in the Roman Empire, and the anti-Semitic attitudes were beginning to be felt within the Christian community as well. Paul emphasizes, as he does in other letters, that the message and example of Jesus Christ make older divisions – between Jew and Gentile or even within the history of the Jews themselves – meaningless. He argues that being right with God has never been a question of ancestry – "It is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise" (Rom. 9:8).
I think his point with Jacob and Esau is that we don't get to choose who is worthy or who is not – that's for God alone to decide. And I think that in this rather dense passage Paul demonstrates a less-than-complete understanding of just what that means. God does not decide beforehand who will express love and who will not. The energy that is God simply responds according to the choices we make. Rebecca was told – not by God, but by a seer predicting the future – that the elder of her sons would end up serving the younger. Don't you think it's possible that her attitude toward the two young boys – based on a belief in the prophecy – is what shaped them into acting out precisely the roles she had been told to expect?
Except for Malachi's interpretation hundreds of years later – which Paul quotes in the passage you are questioning – there is no indication that Esau was “hated” by God. What an absurd concept! Malachi was writing about a conflict between Jews (believed to be descended through Jacob) and Edomites (believed to be descended through Esau), and was taking sides on behalf of his own nation. He was using Jacob and Esau as emblems of two warring nations. Then – as now – the belief that “God is on our side” and “God hates my enemies” is a very human construct that contradicts every teaching of Jesus Christ.
So no, God does not deliberately create some people to be cursed. To even consider that possibility is to embrace a divisiveness and duality that are contrary to everything we know and affirm about God. I think in this case we have to say that Paul's intentions were good, but his methods and use of scripture were, at best, confused.