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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 36

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-43


Esau’s Family Record and the Horites.

Genesis 36:1-43

1Now these are the generations of Esau [ hairy, rough], who is Edom [red]. 2Esau took his wives of the daughters of Canaan; Adah [ornament, grace] the daughter of Elon [oak-grove, oak, strength] the Hittite, and Aholibamah [tent of the sacred height] the daughter of Anah [answering] the daughter of Zibeon [Gesenius: colored; Fürst: wild, robber] the Hivite; 3And Bashemath [pleasant fragrance] Ishmael’s daughter, sister of Nebajoth [lofty place]. 4And Adah bare to Esau, Eliphaz [strength of God]; and Bashemath bare Reuel [friend of God]; 5And Aholibamah bare Jeush [or Jehus, gatherer], and Jaalam [Fürst: mountain-climber], and Korah1 [smooth]: these are the sons of Esau, which were born unto him in the land of Canaan. 6And Esau took his wives, and his sons, and his daughters, and all the persons of his house, and his cattle, and all his beasts, and all his substance which he had got in the land of Canaan; and went into the country from the face of his brother Jacob. 7For their riches were more than that they might dwell together: and the land2 wherein they were strangers could not bear them, because of their cattle. 8Thus dwelt Esau in mount Seir [rough, wild mountain-region]: Esau is Edom.

9And these are the generations of Esau the father of the Edomites, in mount Seir: 10These are the names of Esau’s sons; Eliphaz the son of Adah the wife of Esau; Reuel the son of Bashemath the wife of Esau. 11And the sons of Eliphaz were, Teman [right side, southlander], Omar [Gesenius: eloquent; Fürst: mountain-dweller], Zepho [watch], and 12Gatam [Gesenius: puny, thin; Fürst: burnt, dry valley] and Kenaz [hunting]. And Timna [restraint] was concubine to Eliphaz, Esau’s son: and she bare to Eliphaz, Amalek3: these were 13the sons of Adah, Esau’s wife. And these are the sons of Reuel; Nahath [going down, evening], and Zerah [rising, morning], Shammah [wasting; Fürst: report, call], and Mizzah [Gesenius: fear; Fürst: perhaps joy, rejoicing]: these were the sons of Bashemath, Esau’s wife.

14And these were the sons of Aholibamah, the daughter of Anah, the daughter of Zibeon, Esau’s wife: and she bare to Esau, Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah.

15These were dukes [princes, heads of families, chiefs] of the sons of Esau: the sons of Eliphaz, the first-born son of Esau; duke Teman, duke Omar, duke Zepho, duke Kenaz, 16Duke Korah, duke Gatam, and duke Amalek: these are the dukes that came of Eliphaz, in the land of Edom: these were the sons [grandsons] of Adah.

17And these are the sons of Reuel, Esau’s son; duke Nahath, duke Zerah, duke Shammah, duke Mizzah: these are the dukes that came of Reuel, in the land of Edom: these are the sons [grandsons] of Bashemath, Esau’s wife.

18And these are the sons of Aholibamah, Esau’s wife; duke Jeush, duke Jaalam, duke Korah: these were the dukes that came of Aholibamah the daughter of Anah, Esau’s 19wife. These are the sons of Esau (who is [prince of] Edom) and these are their dukes.

20These are the sons of Seir the Horite [cave-dweller, troglodyte], who inhabited [primitive dweller?] the land; Lotan [= covering, veiled], and Shobal [traveller, wanderer], and Zibeon, 21and Anah, And Dishon [gazelle], and Ezer [Gesenius: store; Fürst: connection], and Dishan4 [same as Dishon]: these are the dukes of the Horites, the children of Seir in the land of Edom. 22And the children of Lotan were Hori [troglodytes], and Heman [Gesenius: destruction; Fürst: commotion]: and Lotan’s sister was Timna. 23And the children of Shobal were these; Alvan [Gesenius: unjust; Fürst: lofty], and Manahath [rest], and Ebal [Fürst: bald 24 mountain], Shepho [bare, desert], and Onam [strong, robust]. And these are the children of Zibeon; both Ajah [screamer, hawk], and Anah [singer, answerer]: this was that Anah that found the mules [hot springs] in the wilderness, as he fed the asses of Zibeon his father. 25And the children of Anah were these: Dishon, and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah. 26And these are the children of Dishon; Hemdan [pleasant], and Eshban[Gesenius: insight; Fürst: thoughtful hero], and Ithran [superior = Jethro and Jithron], and Cheran [Gesenius: harp; Fürst: companion]. 27The children of Ezer are these; Bilhan [—Bilhah; Gesenius: modest; Fürst: tender], and Zaavan [Fürst: unquiet, troubled], and Akan [twisting]. 28The children of 29Dishan are these; Uz [sandman, or woodman], and Aran [Gesenius: mightier]. These are the dukes that came of the Horites; duke Lotan, duke Shobal, duke Zibeon, duke Anah, 30Duke Dishon, duke Ezer, duke Dishan: these are the dukes that came of Hori, among their dukes5 in the land of Seir.

31And these are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before there reigned any 32king over the children of Israel. And Bela [comp. Genesis 14:2] the son of Beor [Gesenius: torch, lamp; Fürst: shepherd] reigned in Edom: and the name of his city was Dinhabah 33[Gesenius, Fürst: place of plunder (? Fehmgericht)6]. And Bela died, and Jobab [shout, howl, i. e., desert] the son of Zerah of Bozrah [fold, fort] reigned in his stead. 34And Jobab died, and Husham [= Hushai; rapid, haste] of the land of Temani reigned in his stead. 35And Husham died, and Hadad [prince; strong, violent] the son of Bedad [separate, the lonely], (who smote Midian in the field of Moab), reigned in his stead: and the name of his city was Avith 36[Gesenius: ruins; Fürst: tent-village]. And Hadad died, and Samlah [covering] of Masrekah 37[a vineyard] reigned in his stead. And Samlah died, and Saul [asked, wished] of Rehoboth 38[wide, room] by the river reigned in his stead. And Saul died, and Baal-hanan [gracious 39 lord] the son of Achbor [= Achbar, mouse] reigned in his stead. And-Baal-hanan the son of Achbor died, and Hadar [grace, honor] reigned in his stead: and the name of his city was Pau [Gesenius: bleating; Fürst: yawning deep]; and his wife’s name was Mehetabel [God-benefiting], the daughter of Matred [pushing], the daughter of Mezahab [water of gold]. 40And these are the names of the dukes that came of Esau, according to their families, after their places, by their names; duke Timnah, duke Alvah [Gesenius: unrighteousness; Fürst: height, exaltation], duke Jetheth [Gesenius: nail; Fürst: subjugation]. 41Duke Aholibamah, duke Elah [Fürst: oak strong, and hard], duke Pinon [= Punon; Gesenius: darkness; Fürst: a mine]. 42, 43Duke Kenaz, duke Teman, duke Mibzar [fortress, strong city]. Duke Magdiel [Fürst: glory of God; Gesenius: prince of God], duke Iram [citizen, city region]: these be the dukes of Edom, according to their habitations, in the land of their possession: he is Esau,7 the father of the Edomites.


A. It is in full accordance with the mode of statement used in Genesis, that at this point, at which Esau passes out from connection with the theocratic history, the history of his family, as belonging to the genealogical tree, should be preserved in the memory of the people of God (see p. 495). B. The toledoth of the Edomites is recorded in a series of special genealogies: 1. The point of departure: Esau’s wives and children, and his settlement upon the mountains of Seir (Genesis 36:1-8); 2. Esau’s sons and grandsons viewed as tribe-fathers (Genesis 36:9-14); 3. the tribe-chiefs or princes of the house of Esau (Genesis 36:15-19); 4. the genealogy of the aborigines of the land, the Horites, with whom the Edomites, as conquerors, are mingled (Genesis 36:20-30); 5. the kings of the land of Edom (Genesis 36:31-39); 6. the ruling princes, i. e., the heads of provinces, or rather the seats of chieftains, enduring throughout the reigns of the kings of Edom (Genesis 36:40-43).—C. It is clear that these tables do not form any one peculiar chronological succession. The tables, number three of the Edomitic princes, and four, of the Horite princes, form a parallel; in point of time, indeed, the line of Horite princes must be regarded as the older line. So, also, table number five of the kings of Edom, is parallel with number six of the provincial princes or councillors of Edom. There are, therefore, but three fundamental divisions: 1. The sons and grandsons of Edom; 2. the old and new princes of Edom; 3. the kingdom of Edom viewed as to its kings and as to its provincial rulers (or dukedoms).—In Deuteronomy 2:12; Deuteronomy 2:22, the Edomites appear to have destroyed the Horites, as the aboriginal dwellers in Seir. But this must be understood in the sense of a warlike subjugation, which resulted partly in their absorption, partly and mainly in placing the original dwellers in the land in a state of bondage, and that wretched condition in which they are probably described in the book of Job (Job 16:11; Job 17:6; Job 24:7; Job 30:1; see Knobel, p. 277). Knobel refers these tables, as generally all the completed genealogical tables in Genesis, to the Elohist. But this only is established, that the genealogical tables are, in their very nature, in great part Elohistic.


Esau’s wives and children, and his settlement upon the mountains of Seir (Genesis 36:1-8).—Of Esau, that is Edom (Genesis 25:30).—In Genesis 26:34 the two first wives of Esau are called Judith, the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath, the daughter of Elon the Hittite. In Genesis 28:9 the third wife bears the name of Mahalath, the daughter of Ishmael. Here the daughter of Elon the Hittite is called Adah, and in the place of Judith, the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, we have Aholibamah, the daughter of Anah, the granddaughter of Zibeon the Hivite. But while the daughter of Elon is named Bashemath above, here the daughter of Ishmael bears that name. It is perfectly arbitrary when Knobel and others identify the Zibeon of Genesis 36:2 with the Zibeon of Genesis 36:21, and then, instead of the addition, the Hivite, read the Horite. But Knobel remarks correctly: “The different accounts (all of which he ascribes to the Elohist) agree in this: a. That Esau had three wives; b. that one of them is called Bashemath; c. that the third was a daughter of Ishmael and sister to Nebajoth.” Keil explains the differences upon the assumption that Moses used genealogical records of Esau’s family and descendants, and left them unaltered. The statement, however, presents no irreconcilable contradiction, but is explained by the custom of the ancient orientals, which is still in use among the Arabians, by which men often received surnames from some important or remarkable event of life (as, e. g. Esau the surname Edom Genesis 25:30), which gradually became proper names, and by which women at their marriage generally assumed new first names (comp. Hengstenberg’sBeiträge, iii. pp. 273–302). We remark only that Judith takes the name Aholibamah, her father Beeri (for the conjecture of Hengstenberg, which will scarcely stand the test, in our judgment, see Keil, p. 232) the name Anah, while the general popular name Hittites=Canaanites becomes specific in the name Hivite. But now the names Aholibamah and Anah appear to be symbolic and religious names. Bashemath, the daughter of Elon, now bears the name Adah, while, on the contrary, Mahalath, the daughter of Ishmael, is now called Bashemath. This may be explained upon the supposition that Esau, whose garments were fragrant with sweet odors, distinguished Judith [Mahalath?—A. G.], whom he married twenty years later than his other wives, as his favorite wife by the name Bashemath, the fragrant, while as a compensation he called his former Bashemath, Adah, or ornament. If Beeri was a priest, the name Anah (hearing, answering), would be appropriate to him, as also Aholibamah, tent of height, holy tabernacle, would be to his daughter. For the different attempts at reconciling these differences, see Knobel, p. 278. The impossibility of solving these difficulties is emphasized and supported by a collection of examples, which certainly shows that there were different traditions according to different points of view, in full accord with the living nature and character of biblical relations. [These tables carry the genealogy of the descendants of Esau down to the period at which the Pentateuch closes, since the last of the eight kings, whose united reigns would probably cover this length of time, of whom it is not said that he died, was probably still upon the throne at the time of Moses, and was the king of Edom to whom Moses applied for leave to pass through the land. The statement, though very brief, is arranged with the utmost precision. We have first the introductory statement in regard to Esau and his wives, and his settlement at Seir; then the genealogy of his sons and grandsons born in Seir, in distinction from those born in Canaan; then of the tribe-princes of Edom; then by an easy and natural transition the genealogy of the Horite princes and tribes who were absorbed by the Edomitic tribes; then of the kings of Edom; and lastly of the places or chief seats of these tribal princes, after their families, by their names. It is not surprising that there should be inquiries suggested here, which cannot be answered, or that there should be missing links in the historical statement. The apparent discrepancies, however, involve no contradiction. As to the wives of Esau, the different accounts may be reconciled in either of two ways. We may suppose with some (Murphy, Jacobus) that Judith, during the long period between her marriage and the removal of Esau to Seir, had died, without leaving male issue, and that Aholibamah here recorded is the fourth wife of Esau in the order of time, although in this table classed with the daughter of Elon, because she was a Canaanitess also. The mere change of names in the females occasions little difficulty, since it is so common for persons to have two names, and since the first name of the female was so frequently changed at marriage. This seems a natural supposition, and will meet the necessities of the case. We may, however, suppose, as Hengstenberg suggests (see also Kurtz, Keil, Baumgarten), that the names Beeri and Anah designate the same person. In the 24th verse we meet with an Anah who is thus described: “This was that Anah that found the warm springs (E. V. mules) in the wilderness, as he fed the asses of Zibeon his father.” The identity in the name of the father, Zibeon, leads to the identifying of Anah and Beeri. This is confirmed by the significance of the name Beeri, man of the wells, which would seem to refer to some such remarkable event in the desert. He would probably be known by this name, Beeri, among his associates, but in the genealogy he appears with his own proper name, Anah. That he is in one place called a Hittite, in another a Hivite, in another still a Horite, may be easily explained on the theory that the Hittite defines the race, the Hivite the specific tribe, and the Horite describes him with reference to his abode. The theory of Hengstenberg is certainly ingenious, meets essentially the difficulties in the case, and may well be held until a better is suggested. See Hengstenberg’sBeiträge, vol. iii. pp. 273–302; Keil, Kurtz, Baumgarten, in loc.—A. G.]—And Adah bare.—See the names of the sons of Esau, 1 Chronicles 1:35. [The difference between the catalogue there and here is due to the change in the Hebrew from one weak letter to another.—A. G.]—Into the country, from the face of his brother.—The conjecture that the word Seir has been left out after the word land or country, is superfluous [and hence unjustifiable.—A. G.], if we understand the words “away from his brother” as a qualifying adjective or phrase. He sought a country in which he should not meet with his brother. The final emigration of Esau to Seir after the death of his father does not exclude the preliminary migration thither (Genesis 32:3); neither does the motive for the earlier removal, the securing of a wide domain for hunting, and over which he might rule, exclude the motive for the later, in the fact that the flocks of the two brothers had grown so large that they could not dwell together. We may well conclude, however, from the last statement, that Esau had at least inherited a large part of the herds of Isaac, although Keil assumes the contrary.

Second Section. Esau’s sons and grandsons as the ancestors of tribes (Genesis 36:9-14; comp. 1 Chronicles 1:36-37).—To Mount Seir.—The mountain-range between the Dead Sea and the Ailanitic Gulf. The northern part was called Gebalene, and the southern Es Sherah (see Keil, p. 233; Winer’sReal Würterbuch [Kitto, new edition, Smith, Murphy.—A. G.], and the Geographies of the Bible). “While the sons of Aholibamah became directly heads of tribes, it was only the grandsons of the other two wives, each of whom bare only one son, who attained this distinction. There were thus thirteen heads of tribes, or, if we exclude Amalek, who was born of the concubine Timnah, twelve, as with the Nahorites, Ishmaelites, and Israelites.” Knobel. [It is probable, as Hengstenberg has shown, that this Amalek was the ancestor of the Amalekites who opposed the Israelites in their march through the desert; and that this is what Balaam alludes to when he says that Amalek was the first of the nations, not the oldest, but the first who made war with the Israelites after they became the covenant people of God. The reference to the field of the Amalekites, Genesis 14:7, is not in opposition to this, since it is not said in that passage that the Amalekites were slain, but that they were slain who occupied the country which afterwards belonged to this tribe. It is not probable that a people who played so important a part in the history of Israel (see Numbers 13:29; Numbers 14:43; Judges 6:3; Judges 7:12; Judges 12:15; 1Sa 14:48; 1 Samuel 15:2 ff; 1 Samuel 27:8; 2 Samuel 8:12) should have been without their genealogy in the book of Genesis. Amalek probably separated himself early from his brethren, perhaps from the fact of his birth not being strictly legitimate, and grew into an independent people, who seem to have had their main position at Kadesh, in the mountains south of Judah, but spread themselves throughout the desert and even into Canaan. See Hengstenberg: Beiträge, vol. iii. p. 302 ff.—A. G.] There were three divisions from the three wives.—The sons of Eliphaz.—For the ethnographic importance of these names, compare Knobel and the Bible Dictionaries. Amalek, see above.—These are the sons of Adah.—Since Timnah was a concubine, it is assumed that Adah had adopted her.

Third Section. The Edomitic tribe-princes (Genesis 36:15-19). “אַלּוּפִים, probably from אֶלֶף or = אֲלָפִים מִשְׁפָּחוֹת , families, heads of families, is the peculiar title of Edomitic and Horitic phylarchs, only once, Zechariah 9:7; Zechariah 12:5, applied to Jewish princes or governors. Knobel is entirely wrong when he explains these names geographically.” Keil. But they may have established themselves geographically within more or less fixed limits, e. g. Teman (Edom from Teman to Dedan, Ezekiel 25:13).

Fourth Section. Genealogy of the Horites (Genesis 36:20-30; comp. 1 Chronicles 1:38-42).—Of Seir.—The name of the ancestor of the early inhabitants of Seir is identical with the name of the land, as is true also with the names Asshur, Aram, Mizraim, Canaan, in the genealogical table.—The Horites.—חֹרִי, from חוֹר, hole, cave, cave-man, troglodyte.—Who inhabited the land—i. e., the earlier inhabitants in contrast with the Edomites. The land of the Edomites is full of caves (Robinson, “Researches,” vol. ii. p. 551 ff.). “The inhabitants of Idumæa use them for dwellings. Jerome, upon Obadiah, says they had dwellings and sheepfolds in caves. This was peculiarly true of the aboriginal Horites, who (Job 30:6) are described by this peculiarity. It is remarkable that the description of the wretched manner of living and evil courses of the Horites, given in the book of Job, are still accurately true to-day of the dwellers in the old Edomitic land.” Knobel. The Horite table first enumerates seven princes, then their sons, among whom the name Anah occupies a prominent place (Genesis 36:24), who is said in Luther’s version [also in the English.—A. G.], following the error of the Talmud, “to have found the mules in the wilderness.” He discovered rather in the desert הַיֵּמִים, warm springs (Vulgate), which may refer to the warm sulphur springs of Calirrhoe, in Wady Zerka Maein, or to those in Wady El Ahsa, southeast of the Dead Sea, or to those in Wady Hamad between Kerek and the Dead Sea. For further details see Knobel and Keil, the latter of whom remarks that the notice of his feeding the asses may indicate that these animals led to the discovery of the springs, p. 225, note. Besides the sons, there are two daughters named in this genealogical table, Thimnah and Aholibamah. “Thimnah may perhaps be the same person with the concubine of Eliphaz, Genesis 36:12. Aholibamah is, however, not the same with the wife of Esau.” Keil. There may have been, also, more than one person of the name of Thimnah. For the differences between this catalogue and that in 1 Chron., comp. Keil, p. 234. [These diversities are mainly those which arise from the substituting one weak letter for another.—A. G.] The princes are still named once more, as they gave their names to tribes or districts. Knobel attempts to explain these names as if they were geographical and not personal, which Keil should not so strongly have opposed. [Keil shows, however, how vain and groundless this attempt is, by the fact that the son of Zibeon discovered the warm springs, which proves of course that this is a table of the names of persons, and not of tribes or their localities.—A. G.]

Fifth Section. The kings of the land of Edom (Genesis 36:31-39; comp. 1 Chronicles 1:43-50). Out of the original discordant or opposing Edomite and Horite princes there sprang one united kingdom, the Edomitic element being undoubtedly the predominant. From the statement here made, it is plain that the kings were not hereditary kings; in no case does the son succeed to the father’s throne. Still less are we to suppose, with Keil, Hengstenberg [also Murphy, Jacobus, and others.—A. G.], that it was a well-ordered elective monarchy, with chosen kings, since in that case, at least, some of the sons would have succeeded their fathers. (Knobel wavers between the assumption of elections and usurpations.) It is rather in accordance with the Edomitic character (see the blessing of Isaac), that a circle of usurpations should arise out of the turbulent transition state; dark counterparts of the way and manner in which the judges in Israel wrought together or followed one another at the calling of God. Thus Bela, of Dinhaba, city of plunder, as devourer (as despotic Balaam), might well begin the series. And the name of Jobab, one who with the howling of the desert breaks forth from his fastness, confirms the mode of the kingdom as already intimated. Husham seems to have gained his power and position by surprise, Hadad by violence, and Samlah by political arts and fraud. With Saul, therefore, we first meet with one who was desired and chosen, and the remark that he was succeeded by Baal-hanan, gracious lord, and he by Hadar, rich in power, whose wife bears a truly pious name, justifies the conjecture that the savage, uncultivated forms of violence and cunning gradually gave place to the more noble forms. Of this eighth king of the Edomites, it is not said here that he died. The table closes, therefore, with the time of Hadar. Keil justly assumes that the tribe-princes or phylarchs (who, indeed, as persons, did not follow each other, but were cotemporary, and as hereditary dignities located and fixed themselves geographically) existed as cotemporaries with the kings (with regard to Exodus 15:15, comp. Numbers 20:14 ff.). “While Moses treats with the king of Edom with reference to a passage through his land, in the song of Moses it is the tribe-princes who are filled with fear at the miraculous passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea (comp. Exek. Genesis 32:29). We may urge further that the account of the seats of these phylarchs, Genesis 36:40-43, follows after the catalogue of the kings.” Keil.—Before there reigned any king over the children of Israel.—It has been inferred from this statement, that Genesis, or the part of Genesis lying before us here, was not composed until the time of the kings in Israel. Delitzsch replies to this, that the narrator might have inserted this clause from the stand-point of the promise spoken, e. g. Genesis 17:1 and Genesis 35:11. Then, indeed, we should have expected another mode of expression. But how obvious it is to suppose that this phrase is an interpolation by a later writer! [“The phrase does not imply that monarchy began in Israel immediately after those kings; nor does it imply that monarchy had begun in Israel at the time of the writer; as Isaac’s saying ‘that my soul may bless thee before I die,’ does not imply that he was dead at the time of his saying so. It simply implies that Israel was expected to have kings, as Isaac was expected to die.” Murphy. The sentence is in its place, and the supposition of any interpolation is needless and therefore unwarrantable.—A. G.] But, carefully considered, this table points back to a very remote time of the Edomitic kingdom. Leaving out of view the fact, that usurpations follow each other far more rapidly than hereditary sovereigns, we must observe that no one of these kings ever appears elsewhere, or is in any way involved in the Israelitish history. Some have, indeed, supposed that Hadad, the son of Bedad, Genesis 36:35, is identical with the Edomite king who rebelled against Solomon (1 Kings 11:14), yet the various distinctions of the two differ altogether (see Keil, p. 236). Hengstenberg, with much stronger force, concludes, from the fact that he is said to have smitten Midian in the field of Moab, that he must have been nearly a contemporary with Moses, since at the time of Gideon the Midianites disappear from the history.—Bela the son of Beor.—It is merely an accidental coincidence, that Balaam also, whose name is related to Bela, is a son of Beor, although even Jewish expositors have here thought of Balaam (see Knobel, p. 286).—Of Bozrah.—An important city of the Edomites (Isaiah 34:6 and other passages). Knobel thinks that the name has been preserved in the village Busaireh [see Robinson: “Researches,” vol. ii. p. 511 ff.—A. G.]. For Masrekah and Rehoboth, see Knobel. [Keil holds that the allusion to the river determines the locality to be on the Euphrates; probably it is the Errachabi or Rachabeh on the Euphrates near the mouth of the Chaboras.—A. G.] We prefer, however, to seek it at some small nahar, river, in Edom.—Hadar, 1 Chronicles 1:50, erroneously Hadad.—Mezahab.—Regarded by Knobel as masculine, by Keil as feminine, but the former is more probable. [Keil makes Matred the mother of his wife, and Mezahab her mother. Murphy regards both as masculine nouns. There is no general rule, other than usage, to determine the gender of many Hebrew names, and the usage is not uniform. See Green’s “Grammar,” § 197.—A. G.] Keil supposes that the last-named king, Hadar, is the same one with whom Moses treated for a passage through his land. The theory that the Pentateuch must be entirely referred to Moses, probably lies at the basis of this supposition. The critical history of the Bible, however, cannot depend upon such conjectures. If we take into account the strong desire in the Edomitic race for dominion, we may well conjecture that the first usurpation began soon after the death of Esau’s grandsons. “If now,” Keil remarks, “we place their death about two hundred and fifty years before the exodus of Israel from Egypt, there would be a period of two hundred and ninety years before the arrival of Israel at the borders of Edom (Numbers 20:14); a period long enough for the reigns of the eight kings, even if the kingdom arose first after the death of the phylarchs mentioned in Genesis 36:15-18.” We may add, further, that the tables may possibly close with the beginning of Hadar’s reign, and hence, perhaps, we have a more detailed account of his family. We should thus only have to divide the two hundred and ninety years between the seven kings. An average of forty years is certainly, however, a very long period to assign to a circle of such despotic sovereigns. [If, however, the kings co-existed with the dukes, and were elective, chosen probably by these dukes or phylarchs, and began soon after the death of Esau, we should have a longer average. The length of human life at that period would justify the assumption of these longer reigns; if there is good reason to believe, as there seems to be, that their reigns were peaceful, and not violent usurpations. All these calculations, however, depend upon the length of the period of the bondage.—A. G.]

Sixth Section. The permanent tribe-princes, or the seats of their power, in Edom (Genesis 36:40-43; comp. 1 Chronicles 1:51-54). It is plain that we have here the geographical position of the original personal tribe-princes, recorded under the political provincial tribe-names, i. e., we have the ethnographic and geographical divisions of the kingdom of Edom; and Keil justly rejects the assertion of Bertheau, that there follows here a second catalogue of the Edomitic princes, who perhaps, after the death of Hadar, “restored the old tribal institution and the hereditary aristocracy.”—After their places, according to their families, by their names.—After the names, i. e., which their families and places had formed for themselves. Hence many, perhaps the most, of the old names of princes have passed over into new names of tribes and localities.—1. Thimnah=Amalek (see Genesis 36:12; Genesis 36:16; Genesis 36:22).—2. Alwah.—Here the Horitic name Alwan, Genesis 36:23, appears to have forced its way through the Edomite dominion.—3. Jetheth.—4. Aholibamah.—Perhaps the district of the sons of Aholibamah, Genesis 36:2. Keil is inclined to refer it to the Horite Aholibamah, Genesis 36:25. Elah.—Reminds us of Elon, Genesis 36:2, and of Eliphaz his grandson and Esau’s son, whose sons, Omar, Zepho, and Gatam (Genesis 36:11), may perhaps have gone up into the district of Kenaz.—6. Pinon.—7. Kenaz.—Points back to Kenaz, the son of Eliphaz, Genesis 36:11. Theman.—This was the name of the first son of Eliphaz, Genesis 36:11.—9. Mibzar.—Goes back, perhaps through Bozra, to a tribe-prince. The signification of Zepho, Genesis 36:11, is analogous.—10. Magdiel.—Is perhaps connected with Manahath, Genesis 36:23.—11. Iram.—“אֵלָה is the sea-point Aila. פִּינֹן is the same with Phunon, a camping place of the Israelites (Numbers 33:43 f.), celebrated for its mines, to which many Christians were sent by Diocletian, situated between Petra and Zoar, northeasterly from Wady Musa (Ritter, xiv. p. 125 ff.). תֵּימָן, the capital,אֶרֶץ הַתֵּימָנִי, Genesis 36:34.” Keil. Mibzar might be referred to Petra, Knobel thinks, since it is a stronghold, but that place is usually called Selah.—He is Esau.—The conclusion of the narrative is entirely in accordance with the Hebrew conception of the personal character and relations of history. Esau is actually “the father” and not merely the founder of Edom, as he lives on in his toledoth. This close of the toledoth of Esau points forward to the toledoth of Jacob.


1. The sacred history hangs up in the treasure-house of the Old Testament the tables of the toledoth of Esau, not merely because he too received a blessing from God, and had the promise of a blessing (Keil), but more especially because he now breaks the band of the theocracy, and passes out of view, just as it had done with the tables of the nations, and all the succeeding genealogical tables. God, indeed, permits the heathen to go their own way (Acts 14:16; Psalms 81:13), but is mindful of all his children (Acts 15:14 f.; Genesis 17:26), even those who are in the kingdom of the dead [but in a different sense, surely.—A. G.] (Luke 20:38; 1 Peter 4:6), and hence the people of God, too, preserve their memory in hope.

2. We may suppose that Edom at first preserved the patriarchal religion, although in a more external form. Its vicinity to the tribe of Judah, if it made any proper use of it, was a permanent blessing. The idolatry of Edom is not referred to frequently even in later history. The only allusions are 1 Kings 11:1; 1 Kings 9:8; 2 Chronicles 25:14. From these intimations we may infer that Edom declined, to a certain extent, into heathen, religious darkness, but much more into moral depravity (see Exodus 15:15, and other passages). The people of Israel are frequently reminded, however, in the earlier history, to spare Esau’s people, and treat them as brethren (Deuteronomy 2:4-5; Deuteronomy 23:7-8). It may be remarked, by the way, that these passages show the early age of Deuteronomy, since Edom stands in other relations at a later period. The refined theocratic recollection in Edom, avails so far as to even awaken and cherish its jealousy of Israel. And in this respect Edom stands in the relation of an envious, malicious, and false brother of Israel, and becomes a type of Antichrist (Obadiah). This, however, does not exclude the promise of salvation for the historic Edom, in its individual members (Isaiah 11:14; Jeremiah 49:17 ff.). We do not read of any special conversion of Edom to Christianity, perhaps (see, however, Mark 3:8), because the violent conversion of Edom to the Jewish faith, under John Hyrcanus, had first occurred, by which Edom was partially merged into the Jews, and partially amalgamated with the Bedouin Arabs. To return back to Jacob, or to fall away to Ishmael, was the only alternative open to Edom.

3. In the Herodian slaughter of the children at Bethlehem, however, the old thought of Esau, to kill his brother Jacob, becomes actual in the assault upon the life of Jesus.
4. The history of the Edomites falls at last into the history of the Herods. For this history, as for that of Edom, we may refer to the Bible Dictionaries, the sources of religious history (Josephus, and others), and books of travels. [Robinson, “Researches,” vol. ii. p. 551 ff.—A. G.]

5. The table here is composed of several tables which portray, vividly and naturally, the origin of a kingdom: 1. The period of the tribe-chiefs; 2. the period of the peculiar permanent tribe-princes; 3. the period of the formation of the kingdom, and its continued existence upon the basis of permanent tribe principalities or dukedoms.

6. The subjugation of the Horites (whom we are not to regard as savages, merely because they dwelt in caves) by the Edomites, and the fusion of both people under an Edomitic kingdom, represents to us vividly the process of the formation of a people, as in a precisely similar way it has occurred a hundred times in the history of the world. In sacred history we may refer here especially to the rise of the Samaritans, and in later history, to the formation of the Roman people. The Franks overcame the Gauls as the Edomites the Horites, although under different moulding relations. This great forming process is now taking place under our very eyes in North America. But these historical growths of a people are the subject of a special divine providence (Acts 17:26).

7. We are here reminded again of the prominent personal view of all the relations of life in the sacred Scriptures. At the close of the whole evolution of a people it is said again: This is Esau. He lives still, as the father, in the entire people; stamps even the Horitic element with his own image.
8. The discovery of the warm springs by Anah, is an example of human discoveries in their accidental and providential bearings and significance. [Wordsworth says: There is an important moral in these generations of Esau. They show that the families of the carnal race of this world develop themselves more rapidly than the promised seed. Ishmael and Esau come sooner to their possession than Isaac and Jacob. The promised seed is of slow growth. It is like the grain of mustard-seed (Matthew 13:31). The fulfilments of all God’s promises, of great blessings to his people, are always long in coming. But the kingdoms of this world would soon fade, while the kingdom of heaven will endure for ever (p. 147, 148).—A. G.]


Meditations upon this chapter must be connected with the general declarations as to Esau, e. g., with Isaac’s blessing upon him, with the prophetic passages relating to Esau, with the history of the Herods, with Acts 17:26, or with other New Testament passages.—The fulfilling of the blessing upon Esau.—Esau’s development.—The ancient and modern Edom.—How Israel even in later days regarded the fraternal relation of Edom as sacred.

Starke: This narrative of Esau has, doubtless, its important uses, partly as it shows how richly God fulfils his promises (Genesis 25:23; Genesis 27:39-40), partly as it sets before the descendants of Jacob, how far the boundaries of Esau’s descendants reach, and partly as thence the Israelites are earnestly forbidden to encroach upon them (Deuteronomy 2:4-5), except in relation to the Amalekites (Exodus 17:14). Moreover, there were many pious men among the descendants of Esau, who were in covenant with God. Observe how the patriarchal sacrificial service continued for a long time among the Edomites, until, after the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, the church of the Edomites gradually declined, etc. (Taken in part from Rambach’s “Ecclesiastical History.”) Genesis 36:3. These names lead one to think of Job’s friends. (He then remarks, that some suppose that Job’s friend Eliphaz descended from this one, while others regard the Eliphaz of Job as still older.) View of the Edomites and of the Amalekites.—(Genesis 36:24. Mules, according to Luther. The Hebrew word occurs but once in the sacred Scriptures, and is, therefore, more difficult to explain. The Sept. has formed from it a man’s name; the Chaldee renders it “giants;” the Samar. Emim, a race of giants; in the Arabic some understand a kind of warm bath; others, a kind of healing drug.)

Genesis 36:33. This Jobab is held by some, though without any good reason, as the same with Job.—Osiander: The kingdom of Christ alone endures and is eternal; the other kingdoms and sovereignties, which are of this world, are subject to frequent changes, and, indeed, decay and perish (Psalms 89:3-4). Whatever rises rapidly disappears rapidly also (Psalms 37:35 f.). Lange: Jacob, not less than Abraham and Isaac, was a type of Christ: 1. According to the promise, the lord over all Canaan, but he had nothing of his own there but the parcel of the field which he bought at Shechem. Thus, Christ also is the Lord of the whole world, etc.; 2. Jacob a great shepherd, Christ the chief shepherd; 3. Jacob’s long service for Rachel and Leah, Christ in the form of a servant and his service; 4. Jacob gained two herds, Christ the Jews and Gentiles; 5. Jacob a prophet, priest, and king, the three offices of Christ; 6. Jacob’s wrestling, and Christ’s agony and struggle; 7. Jacob lame in his thigh, Christ and the prints of the nails and spear; 8. Jacob left behind him twelve patriarchs, Christ the twelve apostles. Gerlach: Calvin’s remarks. We must here remember, that those separated from God’s covenant rise quickly and decay rapidly, like the grass upon the house-tops, which springs up quickly and soon withers because it has no depth of earth and roots. Both of Isaac’s sons have the glorious promise that kings shall come from them; now they appear first among the Edomites, and Israel seems to be set aside. But the course of the history shows how much better it is first to strike the roots deep into the earth, than to receive immediately a transitory glory which vanishes away in a moment. The believer, therefore, while he toils slowly onwards, must not envy the rapid and joyful progress of others, for the permanent prosperity and blessedness promised to him by the Lord is of far greater value.—Schröder: (Ranke:) The Israelites also were to be encouraged in their contest, through the conspicuous victory which the Edomites in earlier times had obtained over the numerous tribes of Seir. (Baumgarten:) This external glory in the very beginning of Esau’s history, stands in striking contrast to the simple relations in the family of Jacob, but corresponds perfectly with the whole previous course of our history, which, from the beginning, assigns worldly power and riches to the line which lies beyond the covenant and union with God, while it sets forth the humility and retiring nature in the race chosen by God.—In later history, the kingdom among the Edomites appears to have been hereditary (1 Kings 11:14).

Genesis 36:43. (Baumgarten:) We may explain the fact that only eleven names are found here, while there are fourteen above, upon the supposition that some of the seats of power embraced more than one princely family.


[1][Genesis 36:5.—Murphy gives these names the signification of haste, hiding, ice.—A. G.]

[2][Genesis 36:7.—Of their sojournings.—A. G.]

[3][Genesis 36:12.—From עַם מָלַק, a nation of head-breakers, spoilers? Lange. Laboring, licking up; Murphy: which seems the better derivation.—A. G.]

[4][Genesis 36:21.—Murphy: threshing.—A. G.]

[5][Genesis 36:30.—Which were to them for tribe-princes (and tribe names).—A. G.]

[6][Genesis 36:32.—The Fehmgericht was the secret criminal court in Westphalia, somewhat akin to our vigilance committees.—A. G.]

[7][Genesis 36:43.—Lit., This is Esau = the father of Edom, the founder of the Edomites, with their kings and princes. This closes this Section, and at the same time prepares us for what follows.—A. G.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Genesis 36". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/genesis-36.html. 1857-84.
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