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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Genesis 36

Verses 1-8

Esau Goes Away from Jacob

When Isaac has died, history continues with his sons. First the oldest is mentioned, the son who does not follow the line of faith. The death of his father reveals what lives in the heart of Esau. It has not made a lasting impression on him. His heart has not changed: he goes away from his brother (Gen 36:6), with which he indicates that he wants to have nothing to do with the line of God’s thoughts. He has his own plans and follows his own path.

Esau has three wives. The sons they give birth to are all born in Canaan, while the sons of Jacob, except Benjamin, are all born outside the land. And while Jacob enters the land, Esau leaves it to live in the hill country of Seir.

Esau is Edom, the father of the Edomites, so it says several times in this chapter (Gen 36:1; 8; 9; 19; 43). This people will reveal themselves as Israel’s most bitter enemy. The judgment on them is written down by the prophet Obadiah.

Yet in this generation of curse, also an example of grace is present. In Gen 36:15 we read about Kenaz. Caleb, about whom we read in Joshua 14, is called “the Kenizzite” (Jos 14:6). Kaleb is a descendant of Kenaz. Being born as an Edomite is therefore not hopeless (Jdg 3:9).

Verses 9-14

The Sons of Esau

These generations built the Edomite people in the hill country of Seir. In the names mentioned here, we see a piece of God’s accountancy. Nothing escapes Him. Among these almost all unknown names, a name like “Amalek” (Gen 36:12) stands out. This name we encounter more often in the course of the history of Israel (Exo 17:8-16; Deu 25:17-19). It is the avowed enemy of God’s people, a picture of the flesh of the believer. This cannot be otherwise as a descendant of Esau.

All these names are about the persons, not about their history or their actions. God calls their names because of the connection that exists between the generation of Esau and His people. Unfortunately not as friends, but as enemies.

Verses 15-19

The Chiefs

It seems that the Edomites, like the Israelites, are divided into tribes, after the names of the sons.

Verses 20-30

The Sons of Seir

Of the sons of Seir, the inhabitants of the land to which Esau went, the chiefs are mentioned. They live there, before Esau comes there (Deu 2:12; 22).

Sometimes a particular event is mentioned between the enumeration of the names. This may have to do with a find (Gen 36:24) or a military act (Gen 36:35). Anah is mentioned as making a special discovery: he finds hot springs in the wilderness. In a hot wilderness, the discovery of a spring promises refreshment and life. However, if hot water comes from that source, it worsens the condition of the thirsty desert traveler. Finding a hot spring in a wilderness indicates the experience of great disillusionment, while a great pleasure was expected.

Inventors and politically influential figures have shaped mankind without God. They always promise to improve living conditions. The people believe in it and therefore choose them as their leaders, but time and again it turns out to be a bitter disappointment.

Verses 31-39

Kings in Edom

It seems as if Esau is more successful in life than his brother. In his posterity honorable men are mentioned sooner than in the descendants of Jacob (Gen 36:31). With the Edomites everything goes much faster. But God deals with their entire history in one chapter. The history of Jacob is seen from Genesis 37 onward in relation with Joseph. In that history we see how suffering precedes glory.

Verses 40-43

The Chiefs

Here again the same persons are mentioned that we have also seen in Gen 36:15-19. Only there the names of the persons are mentioned, while here their localities are mentioned.

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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Genesis 36". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.