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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 36

Gray's Concise Bible CommentaryGray's Concise Commentary

Verses 1-43



In the last lesson Jacob’s altar at Shechem proclaims God to be his God, but (as another says) it is evident he has not gotten the power of this name for he is walking in his own ways still, as his house at Succoth and his purchase at Shechem testify. So new sorrow and discipline must come.

Dinah represents the young women of today who want to see the world and have their fling. Her conduct was indiscreet, to say the least, and dearly did all concerned pay the consequences. One can feel only utter condemnation for the beastliness of Shechem, and yet the reparation he and his father offered to make was honorable (Genesis 34:3-12 ), and dignifies them in comparison with Jacob’s sons and many modern offenders of high repute.

No justification can be found for the criminality of Jacob’s sons (Genesis 34:18-29 ). That Jacob appreciated its enormity, not only his fear (Genesis 34:30 ) but also his later loathing of it and his curse upon its instigators (Genesis 49:5-7 ), show.

In our indignation we ask why did not God destroy these sons of Jacob instead of continuing His interest in them and even prospering them? In reply, remember that He did this not for their sake but for the world’s sake, our sake. His plan of redemption for the world involved the preservation of Israel, and to have destroyed them would have been to destroy the root of the tree whose leaves ultimately would be for the healing of the nation. It is this that explains God’s patience in later periods of Israel’s history, and indeed His dealings with us; for His own name’s sake He does many things, or refrains from doing them.


God comes to Jacob’s relief in directing him to what place? What marks this as a time of religious crisis in his family (Genesis 35:2-4 )? If he had forgotten God’s house in building his own, God now leads him to a higher plane where he sees his obligation to build God’s house first. What was done with all their emblems of idolatry? In what way does God put Jacob’s fear upon his enemies (Genesis 35:5 )?

How further is God’s goodness shown to Jacob (Genesis 35:9 )? What assurance is renewed to him (Genesis 35:10 )? What are the Hebrew words for God Almighty, and their meaning (compare with the lesson on Genesis 17:0 )? What relation do you perceive between this name and the promise which follows? In what way does God transfer the original blessing to Jacob (Genesis 35:11 )? How does the language (Genesis 35:13 ) show that we have here another theophany?

Jacob seems to be gradually approaching the old homestead. What place is now reached, and what later name is given it (Genesis 35:16-19 )? What domestic events occurred here? It is interesting to note that the pillar erected to Rachel was in existence at the time of Moses, three hundred years later, according to the testimony of Genesis 35:20 . It is mentioned again four hundred years afterward in 1 Samuel 10:2 . The Mohammedans still mark the site with a monument of solid masonry.

What interesting circumstance is mentioned in Genesis 35:27 ? How does Genesis 35:29 testify to the reconciliation of Jacob and Esau? In coming to the end of Isaac’s life it is worth while to note that his blessing, unlike Jacob’s, was uniform and unbroken, doubtless the recompense of the obedience with which his life began. Note also how God preserved him in life so that he did not give up his place as a witness of God’s truth in the earth until Jacob, the son of promise, had returned and was made ready to fill that place. Attention had better be called as well to the phrase, “was gathered unto his people” (Genesis 35:29 ), which was used of Abraham (Genesis 25:7 ), and points to a belief even in those early days of a continued existence of men after death.

THE MEMOIRS OF ESAU (Genesis 36:0 )

We can spare but a paragraph or two for this chapter, which is inserted doubtless because of the natural relations between Jacob and Esau, and the subsequent relations of their respective descendants.

It is noticeable that the author takes pains to identify Esau with Edom, mentioning the fact a number of times. In the second place, we see from the origin of Esau’s wives that “Canaanites” includes the Hittites, Hivites and Horites. In the third place, we should not be misled by the word dukes, which simply means chiefs, or heads of families or clans. In the fourth place, the reference to Esau’s dwelling in Mount Seir (Genesis 36:6-8 ) seems to refer to a second departure into that country after the return of Jacob and the death of Isaac. Finally, the reference in Genesis 36:31 to the “kings that reigned in the land of Edom before there reigned any king over the children of Israel” seems to point to a later author than Moses since there were no kings in Israel until hundreds of years after his death. The entire paragraph with a few variations is found again in 1 Chronicles 1:43-50 , and some have thought that it was taken from thence and added to this chapter.


1. Has Jacob yet become perfected?

2. Should we palliate wrong in those who stand in close relationship to God?

3. Can we give a reason for God’s forbearance in the case of Jacob’s sons?

4. Describe the religious crisis in Jacob’s household at this time.

5. What corroborative evidence of the historicity of this lesson is found in modern times?

Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Genesis 36". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jgc/genesis-36.html. 1897-1910.
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