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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 36

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

Verses 1-43

- Section XII - Jacob

- The History of Esau

2. <אהלבמה 'ohŏlı̂ybâmâh, Oholibamah, “tent of the high place.” ענה ǎnâh, ‘Anah, “answering.” צבעון tsı̂b‛ôn, Tsib‘on, “dyer, colored.”

4. אליפז 'ělı̂yphaz, Eliphaz, “God of strength.” רעוּאל re‛û'êl Re‘uel, “friend of God.”

5. יעוּשׁ ye‛ûsh, Je‘ush, “haste.” יעלם ya‛lâm, Ja‘lam, “hiding.” קרח qôrach Qorach, “ice.”

11. תימן têymân, Teman, “right-hand man.” אומר 'ômār, Omar, “eloquent.” צפו tsephô, Tsepho, “watch.” געתם ga‛tâm Ga‘tam, “touch.” קנז qenaz Qenaz, “hunting.”

12. תמנע tı̂mnâ( Timna‘, “restraint.” עמלק ǎmâlêq, ‘Amaleq, “licking up, laboring.”

13. נחת nachath, Nachath, “going down, rest.” זרח zerach, Zerach, “rising” (of light). שׁמח shammâh, Shammah, “wasting.” מזה mı̂zzâh, Mizzah, “fear, sprinkling.”

20. ליטן lôṭân, Lotan, “covering, veiled.” שׁובל shôbâl, Shobal, “flowing, a shoot.”

21. דשׁון dı̂yshôn, Dishon, “a kind of gazelle, fat.” אצר 'etser, Etser, “store.” דישׁן dı̂yshân, Dishan, “threshing.”

22. חרי chôrı̂y, Chori, “troglodyte.” הימם hēmām, Hemam, “noise, commotion.”

23. עלון alvân, ‘Alvan, “lofty.” מנחת mânachath, Manachath, “rest.” עיבל êybâl, ‘Ebal, “stripped of leaves.” שׁפו shephô, Shepho, “bare.” אונם 'ônâm, Onam, “strong.”

24. איה 'ayâh, Ajjah, “cry, hawk.” ימם yêm “hot springs.” Not mules (פידים peyādı̂ym) nor giants (אימים 'êymı̂ym).

26. חמדן chemdân, Chemdan, “pleasant.” אשׁבן 'eshbân, Eshban, “thought?” יתרן yı̂thrân, Jithran, “gain.” כרן kerân, Keran, “harp?”

27. בלהן bı̂lhân, Bilhan, “timid.” זעון za‛ăvân, Za‘avan, “troubled?” עקן âqân, ‘Aqan, “twistinq.”

28. ארן 'ǎrân, Aran, “wild-goat?”

32. בלע bela‛, Bela‘ “devouring.” בעור be‛ôr, Be‘or, “torch.” דנהבה dı̂nhâbâh, Dinhabah.

33. יובב yôbâb, Jobab, “shout.” בצרה bātsrâh Botsrah, “fold, fort.”

34. חשׁם chûshâm, Chusham, “haste.”

35. הדד hădad, Hadad, “breaking, shout.” בדד bedad Bedad, “separation.” עוית ǎvı̂yth, ‘Avith, “twisting.”

36. שׂמלה śamlâh, Samlah, “garment.” משׂרקה maśrêqâh, Masreqah, “vineyard.”

37. שׁאוּל shâ'ûl, Shaul, “asked.”

38. חנן בעל ba‛al-chānān, Ba‘al-chanan, “lord of grace.” עכבור akbôr, ‘Akbor, “mouse.”

39. הדר hădar, Hadar, “honor.” פעו pâ‛û, Pa‘u, “bleeting.” מחיטאל mehêyṭab'êl, Mehetab’el, “God benefiting.” מטרד maṭrêd, Matred, “push.” זהב מי mēy-zâhāb, Me-zahab, “water of gold.”

40. יתת yethêth, Jetheth, “a nail?”

41. אלה 'êlâh, Elah, “terebinth.” פינון pı̂ynôn, Pinon, “dark?”

42. מבצר mı̂btsâr, Mibtsar, “fortress.”

43. מגדיאל magdı̂y'êl, Magdiel, “prince of God.” עירם ı̂yrâm ‘Iram, “civic or naked.”

The two documents that now remain run parallel to one another in point of time. They relate to the two sons of Isaac; and, as usual, the record of the one, who, though first born, falls into the ranks of paganism, is first given briefly, and thus dismissed, in order to make way for the more elaborate history of the chosen seed. The latter document does not terminate with the book of Genesis. We do not again meet with the phrase, “and these are the generations,” until we come to the third chapter of Numbers, and even then it is only applied in a subordinate sense to the family of Aaron and Moses, and the priesthood connected with them. Hence, the latter document may be regarded as extending through the remaining books of the Pentateuch. The former may therefore, be of like extent in regard to time. The last of the eight kings, of whom it is not said that he died, seems to have been the contemporary of Moses, who made application to him for leave to pass through his land. If this be so, it follows that the remainder of Genesis comes immediately from the hand of Moses; a result which is in accordance with other indications that have presented themselves in the previous part of this book. This interesting monument of antiquity, from its extreme brevity, leaves many questions which it suggests to our minds unanswered, and in the absence of all other information, we must rest contented with the meagre notices of the race of Edom which it has furnished. And where we cannot ascertain the actual connection of the events and individuals mentioned, we must be satisfied with any possible relation in which they may be placed. The notice, notwithstanding its brevity, we shall find to be arranged with admirable precision.

Genesis 36:1-8

This passage is introductory, and records the settlement of Esau with his family in Mount Seir. “Esau, who is Edom.” This is a fact of which we were informed in the previous history Genesis 25:25, Genesis 25:30. It is mentioned here because the latter name gave origin to the national designation; namely, the Edomites or Idumaeans. The occurrence of this explanatory or definitive clause here and in other parts of this chapter throws light on the manner in which this work was composed. Such parenthetical explanations are sometimes ascribed to the reviser or redactor of the original text. And to this there is no theoretic objection, provided the reviser be allowed to be of equal authority with the original author, and the explanatory addition be necessary for the reader of a later period, and could not have been furnished by the original author. Otherwise, such a mode of accounting for these simple clauses is unnecessary, and therefore, unwarrantable. The present case the writer has already explained, and the latest reader requires the clause no more than the earliest, as he is aware from the previous notices that Esau is Edom. We are thus led to regard these explanatory clauses as marks of an early or artless simplicity of style, and not as any clear or certain traces of revision.

Genesis 36:2-5

Esau took his wives. - From the word “his” we conclude that this sentence does not refer to his marrying these wives, but to his taking them with him when he removed from Kenaan. Hence, the sentence, after being interrupted by the intervening particulars, is resumed and completed in the sixth verse. The date of this event is therefore, some time after Jacob’s flight to Padan-aram, and before his return. The daughter of Ishmael he only married after Jacob’s departure, and by her he had one son who was born in Kenaan. We may therefore, suppose that, about eighteen years after Jacob’s flight, Isaac had assigned to Esau a sufficient stock of cattle and goods for a separate establishment, the extent of Esau’s portion and of that which Isaac had reserved for Jacob had become so great as to demand pasture grounds widely removed from one another, and Esau’s former habits and his last matrimonial alliances had drawn him toward Mount Seir. He married his first wives when he was forty years of age Genesis 26:34, and as Jacob was seventy-seven when he left his home, at eighteen years after that date, Esau had been fifty-five years married to his first two wives, and somewhat less than eighteen to Ishmael’s daughter.

Of the daughters of Kenaan. - This refers to the two following wives mentioned in this verse, and distinguishes them from the third, mentioned in the following verse, who is of the family of Ishmael. “Adah, daughter of Elon the Hittite.” On comparing the account of his two wives whom he married at forty with the present, the first, namely, Judith, daughter of Beeri the Hittite, no longer appears either by her own name, that of her father, or that of her tribe. Hence, we presume that in the course of the past forty-seven years she has died without male issue. This presumption is favored by the circumstance that the daughter of Elon the Hittite is now advanced into the first place. If it seems undesirable to anyone to make any presumption of this kind, we have only to say that in the absence of the connecting links in a historical statement like this, we must make some supposition to show the possibility of the events related. The presumption we have made seems easier and therefore, more likely than that the names of the individual, the father and the tribe, should be all different, and the order of the two wives reversed, and yet that the same person should be intended; and hence, we have adopted it as a possible arrangement, leaving to others the preference of any other possibility that may be suggested. For after all it should be remembered that testimony only could determine what were the actual circumstances. She who was formerly called Basemath appears here with the name of Adah. At a time when proper names were still significant, the application of more than one name to the same individual was not unusual.

Oholibamah, daughter of Anah, daughter of Zibon the Hivite. - This may have been the fourth wife of Esau in the order of time, though she is here classed with the daughter of Elon, because she was of the daughters of Kenaan. “Daughter of Zibon” means his granddaughter, by the mother’s side. “The Hivite” Genesis 10:17. Zibon is thus distinguished from the Horite of the same name Genesis 36:20. The Hivite race we have already met with at Shekem Genesis 34:2. They also held four cities a short way north of Jerusalem, of which Gihon was the chief Joshua 9:3, Joshua 9:7,Joshua 9:17. It was easy, therefore, for Anah the Horite to marry the daughter of Zibon the Hivite. “Basemath,” previously called Mahalath.

Genesis 36:4-5

Five sons were born to Esau in Kenaan, of whom Adah and Basemath bare each one. As Oholibamah bare him three sons before leaving Kenaan, she must have been married to him four or five years before that event, perhaps on the death of his first wife, and in consequence of his connection with the south.

Genesis 36:6-8

The sentence that was left incomplete in Genesis 36:2 is now resumed and completed. His departure from Kenaan is ascribed to the abounding wealth of himself and his brother. What remained in the hands of Isaac was virtually Jacob’s, though he had not yet entered into formal possession of it. Mount Seir is the range of hills extending from the Elanitic Gulf to the Salt Sea; the northern part of which is called Jebal Γεβαλήνη Gebalénē and the southern part esh-Sherah, and parallel to which on the west lies Wady Arabah. In this range is situated the celebrated rock city, Sela or Petra, adjacent to Mount Hor.

Genesis 36:9-14

After the removal to Mount Seir the race of Esau is traced further. It is remarkable that the phrase, “And these are the generations of Esau,” is now repeated. This is sufficient to show us that it does not necessarily indicate diversity of authorship, or is a very distinct piece of composition. Here it merely distinguishes the history of Esau’s descent in Mount Seir from that in Kenaan. “Father of Edom.” Edom here denotes the nation sprung from him. Eliphaz has five sons by his wife, and by a concubine a sixth, named Amalek, most probably the father of the Amalekites Genesis 14:7. “Timna” was probably a very young sister of Lotan Genesis 36:22, perhaps not older than her niece Oholibamah Genesis 36:25. Eliphaz was at least forty-one years younger than Esau. Yet it is curious that the father takes the niece to wife, and the son the aunt. “Teman” is the father of the Temanites, among whom we find Eliphaz the Temanite mentioned in Job Job 2:11. The name Kenaz may indicate some affinity of Edom with the Kenizzites Genesis 25:19, though these were an older tribe. The other tribes are not of any note in history. Zepho is Zephi in Chronicles, by the change of a feeble letter. Such variations are not unusual in Hebrew speech, and so make their appearance in writing. Thus, in Genesis itself we have met with Mehujael and Mehijael, Peniel and Penuel Genesis 4:18; Genesis 32:30-31. The sons of Esau by Oholibamah are younger than the other two, and hence, these sons are not enumerated along with those of the latter.

Genesis 36:15-19

The first dukes of Edom. The Alluph or duke is the head of the tribe among the Edomites, like the Nasi or prince among the Israelites. The ten grandsons of Esau by Adah and Basemath take rank with his three sons by Oholibamah. This favors the presumption that she was his fourth and latest wife. “Duke Corah.” This appears to be inserted by a slip of the pen, though it occurs in the Septuagint and Onkelos. It is missing, however, in the Samaritan Pentateuch. It would make twelve dukes, whereas it appears from the closing verses of the chapter that there were only eleven. It is possible, however, that there may have been a Corah descended from Eliphaz who attained to a dukedom; and that Amalek separated himself from the rest of the Edomites and asserted his independence. In the absence of explanatory testimony we must leave this point undecided as we find it.

Genesis 36:20-30

This notice of the Horites is in matter more distinct from what precedes, than the second is from the first paragraph in the chapter. “Seir the Horite.” The Horite Genesis 14:6, was the cave-dweller, and probably got his name from the cave hewn out of the solid rock in which he was accustomed to dwell. Sela was a city of such excavated dwellings. If Seir here mentioned be the original Seir, then he is the remote father of the seven Horite dukes who belonged to the time of Esau. If he be their immediate parent, then he is named after that earlier Seir who gave name to the mountain range. “Who dwelt in the land.” The sons of Seir dwelt in this land before the coming of the Edomites. Here follow the descendants of the then living dukes of the Horim. Hori, Lotan’s son, bears the name of the nation. “Hemam,” in Chronicles Homam, by a change of letter. “Timna,” the concubine of Eliphaz Genesis 36:12. “Alvan” and “Shepho”, in Chronicles Aljan and Shephi, by a reverse change of the same letters (see Genesis 36:11).

“Zibon.” This we suppose to be different from Zibon the Hivite Genesis 36:2, Genesis 36:14. “Anah” is of course different from his uncle Anah the brother of Zibon the Horite. “The hot springs in the wilderness.” There were various hot springs in the vicinity, as Kallirrhoe in Wady Zurka Main, those in Wady Hemad between Kerak and the Salt Sea, and those in Wady el-Ahsy. “Sons of Anah.” The plural, sons, here is used according to the general formula, though only one son is mentioned. Oholibamah, being the daughter of Anah, and wife of Esau, while Eliphaz is married to her aunt Timna, is not likely to be the granddaughter by the mother’s side of her uncle Zibon. This is in favor of Zibon the Hivite and Zibon the Horite being different individuals Genesis 36:2. “Anah” is here the brother of Zibon. The nephew Anah Genesis 36:24, bears the name of his uncle Genesis 36:20. “Dishon” is an example of the same community of name Genesis 36:21. All Dishon’s and Ezer’s sons have names ending in “-an.” “Acan” יעקן ya‛ăqân (Jaacan) in 1 Chronicles 1:41 is a graphic error for ועקן va‛ăqân (and Acan). Uz; see Genesis 10:23; Genesis 22:21. In Genesis 36:29-30, the dukes are formally enumerated. “According to their dukes;” the seven officials of pre-eminent authority among the Horites. The official is here distinguished from the personal. This is a distinction familiar to Scripture.

Genesis 36:31-39

The series of eight kings here enumerated are plainly elective, as not one succeeds his father. The king co-exists with the dukes, who are again enumerated at the close of the list, and are mentioned in the song of Moses Exodus 15:15. These dukes are no doubt the electors of the common sovereign, who is designed to give unity and strength to the nation. It is natural to suppose that no sovereign was elected until after the death of Esau, and, therefore, if he lived as long as Jacob, after the children of Israel had been seventeen years in Egypt. As we calculate that they were two hundred and ten years in that country, and forty years afterward in the wilderness, this would allow two hundred and thirty-three (250–17) years for seven reigns, and a part of the eighth, during which Moses and his host marched along the borders of Edom. Allowing some interval before the first election, we have an average of thirty-three years for each reign. “Before a king reigned over the children of Israel.” This simply means before there was a monarchy established in Israel. It does not imply that monarchy began in Israel immediately after these kings; as Lot’s beholding the vale of Jordan to be well-watered before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Amorah, does not imply that the cities were destroyed immediately after Lot beheld this sight Genesis 13:10.

Nor does it imply that monarchy in Israel had begun in the time of the writer; as Isaac’s saying, “That my soul may bless thee before I die” Genesis 27:4 does not imply that he was dead at the time of his saying so. It merely implies that Israel was expected to have kings Genesis 35:11, as Isaac was expected to die. Of the several sovereigns here mentioned we have no other historical notice. “Beor” is also the name of Balaam’s father Numbers 22:5. This indicates affinity of language between their respective tribes. The site of “Dinhabah,” the capital of Bela, though the name is applied to many towns, has not been ascertained. “Bozrah” is el-Busaireh, about twenty-one miles nearly south of the Salt Sea. “The land of the Temanite” has its name from Teman, son of Eliphaz. His town was, according to Jerome, five miles from Petra. “Hadad” is a name of frequent recurrence among the Aramaeans. “Who smote Midian in the field of Moab.” This records an event not otherwise known, and indicates external conquest on the part of the Idumaean state. “Avith” or Ajuth (1 Chronicles 1:46, probably a graphic error) is not otherwise known.

“Masrecah” is likewise unknown. “Rehoboth by the river.” If the river be the Phrat (Onkelos), Rehoboth may be er-Rahabah, not far from the mouth of the Khabur. Otherwise it may be er-Ruhaibeh on a wady joining the Sihor or el-Arish Genesis 26:22, or the Robotha of Eusebius and Jerome, the site of which is not known. “Hadar” is probably a colloquial variation of Hadad Genesis 36:35 which is found in Chronicles. Pau or Pai is unknown. Matred is the father of his wife. Mezahab her mother’s father. The death of all these sovereigns is recorded except the last, who is therefore, supposed to have been contemporary with Moses.

Genesis 36:40-43

The hereditary dukes who were contemporaneous with this sovereign, and formed no doubt his council, are now enumerated. Timna, once the name of a female, now appears as a male, unless we allow a duchess in her own right to have occurred among them. The same applies to Oholibamah. Alva or Aljah is near akin to Alvan or Allan Genesis 36:23. Jetheth, Elah, Pinon, Mibzar, Magdiel, Iram, are new names. Four of the old names reappear. One is only slightly different. The number of dukes is eleven. It is probable that Amalek separated from the family confederacy; and the number of tribes may have been originally twelve. The seven Horite dukedoms probably merged into the Idumaean eleven.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Genesis 36". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/genesis-36.html. 1870.
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