While a student in college, a professor for a class that I took on Romans had us write our own little commentary on a single chapter of that great book. At that time, I was on my own Calvin kick and I chose Romans 9 as the chapter I would make my focus. The section found in chapter 9:10-13 really gave me much to think about,
“10 Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
Looking back, I was not really interested in entertaining any other position other than the one that appeared to be obvious to me in the text; i.e., God hated Esau and he loved Jacob even before each of the twins were born. What confused me greatly about this though, was the great diversity of opinion among many Calvinistic theologians when it came to the concept of God hating Esau before he was born. In fact, I remember reading an article by Walt Kaiser, then Old Testament scholar in which he disagreed that the idea of “hate” was meant in Romans 9:13. His article gave me a lot to think about.
So why is there such a diversity of opinion on this matter? The reason for this is that the Greek word μισέω has two basic meanings. The first means to hate or detest something and the second is defined this way: ② to be disinclined to, disfavor, disregard in contrast to preferential treatment  Kaiser, along with many scholars seemed to argue that this is the way that Romans 9 should be translated as well. NT Scholar Robert Mounce writes this about the passage in Romans,
“Neither national heritage nor personal merit has anything to do with the sovereign freedom of God in assigning priority. This accords with the testimony of Scripture, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (Mal 1:2–3). This should not be interpreted to mean that God actually hated Esau.” 
So, it is clear that there is some disagreement about the meaning of the word μισέω and its application to the book of Romans.9:13 Some say that we ought to translate it as hate and others argue that we should translate it “did not prefer,” or “disinclined to,” Esau. So which should it be? Both words could be used, but as interpreters of the Word of God to look at the overall context of a word and in this case, the background from which it springs.
I believe that this story and the preceding one give us a good indication. In chapter 36 of the book of Genesis, the author goes out of his way to show us that Esau experienced the blessing of God. While he did not receive the blessing of Isaac or the birthright of Abraham, he did receive God’s blessing in his life. Like Lot and Ishmael, he did not receive the promise and did not settle in the promised land like God’s choice had. Yet it is clear that God blessed him beyond in an amazing way as we read in Genesis 36,
“Esau took his wives and sons and dautghters and all the members of his household, as well as his livestock and all he other animals and all his other animals and all the goods he had acquired in Canaan, and moved to a land some distance from his brother Jacob. Their possessions were too great for them to remain together; the land where thy were staying could not support them both because of their livestock. So Esau (that is, Edom) settled in the hill country of Seir.”
Throughout the rest of the account of Esau and his descendents we get the strong impression that God had been good to him. We also get the impression from this narrative (and the one in which Jacob returned from Laban’s house) that Esau was also a better man between him and his brother. There is simply no indication anywhere in the narrative of Esau’s life that gives any impression that God “hated” him. As you can see I have held both views at various points in my life and I would love to hear your thoughts on this particular issue.
Because of these factors, it seems to me much better to understand the meaning of the word “hate” in reference to Esau ought to be understood and translated as “did not prefer” instead of “hate.” God preferred to give Jacob the blessing of being one of the fathers of the Messiah to Jacob rather than Esau and this he decided before the boys were born. Yet make no mistake about this: God really did love Esau, he just prefered that Jacob carry the line of the messiah.
Arndt, William ; Danker, Frederick W. ; Bauer, Walter: A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2000, S. 653
Mounce, Robert H.: Romans. electronic ed. Nashville : Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001, c1995 (Logos Library System; The New American Commentary 27), S. 198