I believe the best method of interpreting the Bible is to allow other inspired Biblical authors to interpret the text for us.
To put it another way, I believe we should read the Bible canonically looking for places where the first text is commented on by other authors within the Biblical canon. To that end, I want to remind you that Jewish sages/rabbis’ assigned readings from the Torah and Prophets where they saw grammatical or thematic similarities. For instance, the text of Genesis 25:19-28:9 is paired with Malachi 1:1-2:7 due to similar subject matter.
The text of Genesis deals with the brothers Esau and Yaacov, and these two are mentioned early on in Malachi 1 (more about that later). While still in the womb, G-d tells Rivkah that she will have twins and that the “older would serve the younger.” Before either boy was born, G-d had already determined which child he would use to further the Abrahamic Covenant. The attitudes and actions of the children were not a factor in their being chosen or rejected since they were chosen while in the womb. Later in the Genesis narrative, Yaacov, working with his mother, steals the birthright blessing out from under Esau by deceiving his father. Yaacov takes advantage of his father’s failing eyesight and pretends to be Esau so that the birthright/blessing goes to him.
Due to the anger of Esau at having his birthright stolen, Yaacov flees to live with his mother’s relatives but not before his father gives him another blessing. In Genesis 28:3-4, Yitzhak blesses Yaacov, invoking memories of the covenant G-d had established with Abraham (see Genesis 12, 15, 17 and 22). Yaacov will meet his match with uncle Laban in the deceit category but we the reader know that Yaacov has been chosen from birth to be the funnel for the Abrahamic covenant no matter what he does.
Never miss a local story.
This brings us to the book of Malachi, where verse 2-3 of chapter one speak of YHVH as “loving” Yaacov and “hating” Esau. For Western minds, the words “love” and “hate” are emotive words describing how you feel about someone that has done something or said something against you. In order to really understand what the words “love” and “hate” mean, we need to think Hebraically and canonically. When I hear that G-d “loved” someone I’m fine, but when I hear that G-d “hates” someone I have a negative response that’s almost intuitive.
Now let’s look at how the words “love” and “hate” were used in the Hebrew Scripture and then see if that understanding carries over to the Apostolic Scripture.
In Hebraic, understanding “love” and “hate” can be synonymous with accepting or rejecting or approving and disapproving. For instance, in Genesis 29:30-33 Rachel is loved more than Leah, and thus Leah is “hated.” Deuteronomy 21:15-17 speaks of the “loved” wife and the “hated” wife, where the idea is that the wife “hated” is loved less rather than not at all.
This same comparative aspect of “love” and “hate” is carried over to the Apostolic Scripture.
In Matthew 6:24, we find two masters, where one is “loved” and the “other” is hated. Here the idea is that you will accept one master and reject the other. For the comparative side, note how Luke 14:26 says “whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother,” while the parallel text of Matthew 10:37 says, “whoever loves father and mother more than me.” If we just allow English words to interpret meaning, we run the serious risk of mistranslating but more importantly misrepresenting the text.
Since we are thinking canonically, we must hear the voice of Paul in Romans 9:10-15. In this text Paul is stressing the sovereign will of G-d to accomplish His purposes without the input of humanity. Many do not like the sovereignty of G-d as it seems to clash with the freedom of man to make choices. Somehow the sovereignty of G-d and the choice of men are not mutually exclusive but work together to bring about G-d’s will. This section of Romans has Paul focused on G-d’s ability to choose even before man knows that G-d has chosen. Before Yaacov and Esau were born, G-d chose to work His sovereign plan through Yaacov even though we know that Yaacov is far from perfect.
Notice how we have looked at Genesis, Malachi, the Gospels and Paul to deal with a very important topic.
In the process we bumped into language that is being used in a Hebraic way (not Western). By letting texts across the Biblical canon speak to the same subject we have a fuller picture of what we need to know. Allowing later texts to inform and interpret earlier texts makes the Bible come alive, and this is how it was intended to be studied.
For more examples of this kind of inter-textual work check out alephbeta.org and delve into the interpretive world with Rabbi David Fohrman.