Continuing from the death of Jacob’s and Esau’s father, Isaac, here the narrative slowed down to focus on the lineage of Esau. The passage described in detail the development of Esau’s sons and chiefs, the progression of their dispossessing the Horites in the land of Seir and the establishment of their expanded territories. Through the lesson, we can learn how God faithfully kept His promised blessing to Abraham and fulfilled it through the rise of the Edomite kingdom.
Did You Know...?
- Adah (36:2) is also the name of Lamech’s first wife (Gen 4:19). In Hebrew, the word can literally be translated as “ornament” or “adorn oneself.”
- Aholibamah (36:2) can literally be translated in Hebrew as “tent of the high place.” The name is also used as one of Esau’s chiefs according to their families and places (Gen 36:41;
1 Chr 1:52).
- Basemath (36:3) in Hebrew can be translated literally as “perfume,” “spices” or “balsam (shrub oil).”
- Eliphaz (36:4): In Hebrew, the name can literally be translated as “God is fine gold.”
- Reuel (36:4): The name is also used as Moses’ father-in-law (Ex 2:18). Reuel literally can be translated as “friend of God” in Hebrew.
- Jeush (36:5) literally can be translated in Hebrew as “he comes to help.”
- Jaalam (36:5): The name is similar to a Hebrew verb “to conceal.”
- Korah (36:5): The name is also used as a Levite who rebelled against Moses (Num 16:1). The name is similar to a Hebrew verb “to make bald.”
- Seir (36:8) rises from eastern side of the Arabah, from the Gulf of Aqabah in the south to Zered in the north, southeast of the Dead Sea. The word “Seir” originated from the heavy forests that once covered the region. [ref]
- The Horites (36:20) in Hebrew can literally be translated as “cavedweller(s).” The Horites were the original population of Seir before its occupation by the Edomites (Gen 14:6, 36:20; Deut 2:12, 22). The 15th century Egyptian documents referenced the inhabitants of Seir and Edom as the Shōsu, whom were well known as foreign mercenaries and brigands. [ref]
How did the prominence and the proliferation of Esau and his descendants reflect God’s blessing upon Abraham and upon Isaac? See also Gen 25:23 and 28:14.Hide Answer
According to the book of Genesis 28:14, the Lord blessed Abraham that his descendants should be as the dust of the earth, spreading abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south. Moreover, through his wife, Rebekah, the Lord promised Isaac that the twins in Rebekah’s womb would turn to be two nations and two peoples (Gen 25:23). The separation of Esau from Jacob’s land of Canaan, later gave fruition to the fulfillment of Esau’s blessings, namely Esau’s territory expansion and proliferation in the land of Seir to be a great nation. The large territory of the Edomite kingdom was described through the circumvention of the Israelites from Egypt to Canaan (Num 20:14-21). Not only did the descendants of Esau proliferated as the dust of the earth to the point of dispossessing the natives of Seir, but they also spread abroad their governance into a large territory. The listing of the rulers, cities, and territories of Esau’s clans in the book of Genesis 36 provided a picture of the Edomites as a great people and a great nation.
Though Esau had despised and sold his birthright (Heb 12:16), the Lord still showed His mercy toward the descendants of Edom. The book of Deuteronomy narrated that the children of the third generation born to Edomite may enter the assembly of the LORD (Deut 23:7-8). Furthermore, according to prophet Amos and prophet Malachi, the Gentiles who were called by God’s name and who glorified His name—including the remnant of Edom—would receive God’s grace (Amos 9:11-12). Thus, God had given the chance to the Edomites to enter into His assembly.
In the New Testament, during the time of Jesus, there were visitors from Idumea (Greek word for Edomite) who heard Jesus’ preaching (Mrk 3:8). Ultimately, God’s salvation upon the Gentiles, including the Edomites, was realized spiritually through His church. The writer of the book of Acts confirmed how the Lord would rebuild the ruined tabernacle of David so that the Gentiles who were called by His name could seek the Lord (Acts 15:1-17). Therefore, today, the salvation of God through His church is extended to the Gentiles, including the Edomites, who are willing to seek Him and to call His name.
In Gen 36, the writer of the book of Genesis emphasized three times that Esau was Edom (Gen 36:8, 19, 43). The prophet Obadiah in his book even mentions the word “Esau” and “Edom” as a word pair (Obad 1:8). The purpose of the emphasis is to show to the readers Esau’s status as the founder of the Edomite kingdom. Under the governance of Esau, Edom could excel as a nation. Originally, the calling of Edom (literally: red) was associated with Esau trading his birthright with Jacob’s red stew (Gen 25:30).
What was the significance of the mention of Basemath, Esau’s third wife? See also Gen 25:13 and 28:8-9.Hide Answer
Basemath, Esau’s third wife, also known as Mahalath in Gen 28:9, was the daughter of Ishmael, the son of Abraham (Gen 36:3). Basemath was also described as the sister of Nebajoth, the firstborn son of Ishmael (Gen 25:13, 28:9). According to Gen 28:8-9, Esau took Basemath, the daughter of Ishmael, as his third wife because his first two Canaanite wives did not please his father, Isaac. Thus, in taking the wife from the same family clan, the lineage of Abraham, Esau hoped to gain favor from Isaac. Furthermore, taking Basemath as his wife, benefited Esau politically and militarily. Through the intermarriage, now Esau could expand his alliance and power with the Ishmaelites.
Why did Esau decide to go away from the presence of Jacob, his brother?Hide Answer
The book of Genesis narrated that the possessions of both Esau and Jacob were too great for them to dwell together, and even the land could not support their livestock. Therefore, “Esau took his wives, his sons, his daughters, and all the persons of his household, his cattle and all his animals, and all his goods which he had gained in the land of Canaan,” and they went to a country away from the presence of Jacob (Gen 36:6-7).
How is the parting of Jacob and Esau similar to that of Abraham and Lot in Gen 13:6-9.Hide Answer
Similar to the parting of Jacob and Esau, the book of Genesis 13:6-9 mentions how Abraham and Lot parted. According to the book of Genesis 13:6, the land was not able to support both Abraham and Lot, that they might dwell together. Both of their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together. At the end, Abraham parted in peaceful terms with Lot.
How were Gen 36:6-8 related to God’s promise toward Jacob in regards to his inheritance?Hide Answer
Previously, God had promised Jacob that the land which He gave Abraham and Isaac, He would give to Jacob and to his descendants (Gen 28:13, 35:12). According to Gen 17:8, the land mentioned in the promise was “all the land of Canaan.”
The passage in the book of Genesis 36 was written from Esau’s point of view. Initially, after Jacob was sent away to Padan Aram by Isaac (Gen 28:1-2), Esau built his family by taking “his wives from the daughters of Canaan” who later gave birth to sons “in the land of Canaan” (Gen 36:2-5). While Jacob journeyed out from Beersheba to Haran (Gen 28:10), Esau continued to stay in Beersheba, the territory of Negeb (Gen 20:1)—which was part of the mentioned territory that God’s people were to possess (Deut 1:7)—the place where Abraham and Isaac had stayed (Gen 21:31, 26:32-33).
Sending Esau away would have been a difficult task for Jacob, if Esau were to permanently dwelled “in the land of Canaan.” Not only that Esau and his four hundred men (Gen 32:6) were militarily stronger than the men of Jacob, but Esau was also greatly feared by Jacob (Gen 32:7).
Therefore, Esau’s decision to voluntarily move away from the land of Canaan, from the presence of Jacob, to Seir (Gen 33:16) was indeed the guidance of God. Esau’s moving away paved the fulfillment of the promise of God for Jacob. Thus, the inheritance of the land of Canaan could be realized in Jacob and his descendants.
How would Timna play a significant part in the history of Esau’s lineage and Israel’s conflict?Hide Answer
The book of Genesis 36:12 mentioned Timna as the concubine of Eliphaz, Esau’s son. The lineage of Esau pointed out that Timna gave birth to Amalek (
1 Chr 1:36). Though Amalek was the son of Esau’s concubine, Amalek attained a significant position in the lineage of Esau among Esau’s other sons. Amalek became one of the chiefs in the land of Edom (Gen 36:16).
Moreover, Amalek, the son of Timna, played a significant part in Israel’s conflict throughout the Old Testament era. The Scriptures mentioned several occasions where the Amalekites were in constant conflict with the Israelites (Ex 17:8-14; Deut 25:17;
1 Sam 15:3-20). Because the Amalekites continually afflicted the Israelites throughout the generations, the Lord Himself even prophesied, waged war and punished the Amalekites to their total annihilation (Ex 17:14; Num 24:20; Deut 25:19).
Seir the Horite and his seven sons were mentioned as the first-known inhabitants of the land of Edom (Gen 36:20), before the coming of Esau and his family. The Scriptures mentioned the Horites during the time of Abraham (Gen 14:6), far back before Esau was born. Later, according to the book of Deuteronomy, Esau dispossessed the Horites, destroyed them and dwelt in their place (Deut 2:12). Thus, after the dispossession, Seir was associated with Edom of Esau.
The listing of seven sons of Seir (Gen 36:20-21) who were the chiefs of the Horites (Gen 36:29-30) and the listing of nineteen grandsons of Seir (Gen 36:22-28) showed the power and the strength of the Horites. In addition, the mention of Anah—the son of Zibeon the Horite—who found water in the wilderness (Gen 36:24), showed the success of their establishment in the land. Therefore, through the records of the Horites’ numerous chiefdoms and successful establishment, the writer of the book of Genesis emphasized the reputation and the supremacy of the Edomites who dispossessed them.
When entering into the land of their future settlement, what were the similarity and the difference of the actions between the Edomites and the Israelites? The similarity between Edomites and Israelites;
The difference between Edomites and Israelites;Hide Answer
However, the actions of the Edomites and the Israelites differed once they entered their respective lands. On one hand, while dispossessing the Horites, Esau intermarried with them. The book of Genesis recorded two Horites’ daughters who were taken by the Edomites into marriage. First, Timna as the concubine of Eliphaz, Esau’s firstborn, and the mother of Amalek (Gen 36:12) was the daughter of the daughter of Seir the Horite, Lotan’s sister (Gen 36:20, 22). Second, Aholibamah as the wife of Esau (Gen 36:5, 14) was the daughter of Anah, the son of Zibeon the Horite (Gen 36:24, 25).
On the other hand, while entering the land of Canaan, the Israelites were instructed by God not to intermarry with the Canaanites (Deut 7:1-3). While dwelling in the land of Canaan, the forefathers of the Israelites, namely Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were strictly against the intermarriage with the women from Canaan (Gen 24:3-4, 28:1-2). In the book of Leviticus, the Lord even gave specific instructions to the Israelites not to follow the practices according to the doings of the Canaanites (Lev 18:3ff), namely their sexual immoral practices.
Today, Orthodox Jews still do not marry someone with different faith. This may sound exclusive and outdated in our globalized world. But the apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians admonished the church at Corinth not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers because light has no fellowship and no part with darkness (
2 Cor 6:14-15). In other words, separating ourselves and withholding the decision to intermarry for the purpose of maintaining our relationship with God and obtaining godly descendants for Him are necessary steps. The author of the book of 1st Kings gave the warning about how King Solomon’s heart turned away from God and followed after the gods of his wives because of intermarrying with other nations ( 1 Kgs 11:1-10).
List the progression of Esau’s gradual governance from the beginning to the end of Gen 36.Hide Answer
The chapter started with Esau’s three wives and five sons in the land of Canaan (Gen 36:1-5). Then Esau took his family and possessions and went away from Jacob to Seir (Gen 36:6-8). Here, the list of Esau’s descendants grew longer, including the addition of Timna, the daughter of Horites as a concubine of Esau’s firstborn (Gen 36:9-14, 22). Later, the descendants of Esau, the Edomites, showed their strength and emerged as chiefs of Edom (Gen 36:15-19). As Esau’s clans and dominance grew stronger, the Edomites dispossessed the chiefs of the Horites and they dwelt in Seir (Gen 36:20-30). At the end, the kingdom of Edom reigned for generations (Gen 36:31-39) and the governing Edomites’ chiefs were systemized based on their families, names and controlling regions throughout the land of Edom (Gen 36:40-43).
Compared with Esau’s established lineage in Gen 36:31-43, what was the irony for Israel behind the phrase “before any king reigned over the children of Israel”?Hide Answer
After the Edomites dispossessed the land of the Horites, they reigned in the land of Edom. The book of Genesis listed the reign of the Edomite kingdom until the eighth king of Edom, Hadar (Gen 36:31-39). The kings also established cities of their own (Gen 36:32, 35, 39). The expansion of the Edomite kingdom was structured that they established a system of regional governance based on families, names and places (Gen 36:40). Ironically, within the same timeline, the Israelites did not have any chiefs, kings or cities. Jacob and his families only dwelt in the land of Canaan as sojourners, just like his father (Gen 37:1).
How would Jacob feel about God’s promise in Gen 35:11 in contrast with his current “kingless and citiless” condition?Hide Answer
Upon seeing Esau’s success in establishing the cities, kingdoms and governances of the Edomites, Jacob may have lose heart and faith in God’s promises to see his current progress was without kings nor established cities. But there are several ways that Jacob could view upon his brother’s success and his own kingless and citiless condition.
First, Jacob needed not to be envious towards Esau’s successes. As a direct descendant of Abraham, the successes of Esau were the fulfillment of the blessings of God to Abraham. The writer of the book of Genesis confirmed that God would make Abraham the father of many nations and through him, nations and kings would come (Gen 17:4-6). The lineage of Esau had indeed brought forth kings and chiefs in its governance (Gen 36:31-43). Moreover, Isaac, the father of Esau, had given his blessings to Esau that his dwelling would be the fatness of the earth and his sword and his restlessness would break the yoke of his service to his brother (Gen 27:39-40). Thus, through his sword and restlessness, Esau was able to surpass Jacob, his brother, in terms of military strength and political establishment. These were the promises of God through Abraham and Isaac to one of their descendants, Esau.
Second, Jacob needed to wait patiently and trusted that the Lord was faithful to His promises. From the book of Genesis 35, the reader learned that God already promised Jacob of kings who would come from his body (Gen 35:11). The promise was referred to Jacob’s future timeline, not to his current condition. Just as Abraham, his forefather, waited patiently for the Promised Land which he never received it in his current time (Heb 11:9-10, 39); Jacob was to wait for his future kingdom which he would never receive in his present time.
Third, Jacob needed to know that apart from the promised physical blessing, the Lord also promised him a spiritual blessing. Although Esau enjoyed the current success militarily, politically and physically; the Lord gave His spiritual blessing to Jacob. Toward the end of his life, Jacob prophesied how a scepter should not depart from Judah (Gen 49:10). In other words, the prophecy not only referred to a physical kingdom of Israel but also referred to a spiritual scepter. The writer of the book of Hebrew confirmed that our Lord, the Savior of mankind, arose from Judah (Heb 7:14). Thus, the blessings which Jacob’s descendants would receive in the future, were far greater than the blessing to Esau.