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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 36

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-43


Genesis 36:1. Edom.] This is a surname added to his birth-name, Esau. It is the national designation of his descendants.—

Genesis 36:2. His wives.] There is considerable difficulty about the names of Esau’s wives. Comparing this account with the previous one in chaps, Genesis 26:34; Genesis 28:9, we find that two of the three names are entirely different. According to Genesis 25:0, Bashemath is daughter of Elon, the Hittite; according to this account she is daughter of Ishmael. The only honest conclusion must be with Kalisch, “we are obliged to confess that the Hebrew text, though containing several important coincidences, evidently embodies two accounts, irreconcileably different. And even thus we shall still require the hypothesis that subsequent changes have further confused the two accounts.” (Alford.)—

Genesis 36:4. Eliphaz.] His son’s name was Teman. (Genesis 36:11.) Eliphaz, the Temanite, one of Job’s friends, may have been a descendant of this son of Adah.—

Genesis 36:15. Dukes.] The Heb. word is alluph, from the same root as the first or leading letter of the Heb. alphabet. It properly signifies a chief, or leader. The alluphim were the tribe-prince, or sheikhs.—

Genesis 36:24. The mules.] “The translation mules in the A.V. (giants in the Samaritan Pentateuch and in Onkelos) seems to be abandoned, and warm springs supposed to be the right one. These might be the warm springs in the Wadyel Asal, S. of the Dead Sea, or perhaps those yet hotter springs in the Wady Hamad.” (Alford)—

Genesis 36:31. Before there reigned any king over the children of Israel.] “This does not imply that Israel had a king when this history was written, which is not so, but that there was a promise of kings to come out of the loins of Israel (Genesis 35:11; Comp. Genesis 17:16), and Israel had not yet enjoyed the kingly rule.” Others think that this clause is a later insertion.



We have here a detailed account of the posterity of Esau. And we may learn from it the following lessons and truths:—

I. We see how the promises of God concerning Esau were fulfilled. He was promised great temporal prosperity; and that he should be the founder of a nation (Genesis 25:23; Genesis 27:39-40.) The chief design of the chapter is to show how completely these promises were fulfilled.

II. We learn what is the principle upon which Old Testament History is written. This chapter is a kind of leave-taking of Esau and his posterity. They appear as surrounded with a momentary glare of earthly glory, but they immediately fall out of the course of that history which is not a world-history, but a history of the kingdom of God. We hear no more of Esau’s descendants after this, except when they cross the path of Israel’s history, or appear on the page of prophecy as of bad eminence among the kingdoms of this world which are opposed to the kingdom of God. The way is cleared for the sacred annals of the chosen family by concluding and dismissing contemporaneous family histories. This is essentially the method and principle of this book of Genesis. Thus, we read of Abraham and his two sons; then the history takes up Isaac, and gradually becomes silent concerning Ishmael. Again, the history of Jacob advances, while that of Esau ceases. In Jacob’s family, also, Joseph is the one chosen out of all his sons; the rest are scarcely mentioned. Thus God separates and divides His church from the world. The stream of sacred history leads on to the Messiah, the flower and perfection of our human race. Scripture history is written upon this principle—that it was God’s design throughout to bring His only begotten Son into the world, and, therefore, that family alone in which He is to appear shall have a prominent record.

III. We learn that the enemies of God may be distinguished by great worldly glory and prosperity. Three times in this chapter we meet with the phrase, “This is Edom;” and once “He is Esau, the father of the Edomites.” (Genesis 36:1; Genesis 36:9; Genesis 36:19; Genesis 36:43.) They were the bitterest enemies of Israel. Esau is the father of persecutors. Yet Esau was prospered in his lifetime more than his brother. He was established with great power and dominion in Mount Seir, while his brother was a lowly servant at Padan-aram. And while the descendants of one were groaning under Egyptian oppression, those of the other were formed into an independent kingdom, and had eight kings in succession “before there reigned any king over the children of Israel.” (Genesis 36:31.) Thus the good things of this world may spring up rapidly, as with a vehement and plentiful growth and fruition, while the good things of the kingdom of God have to be waited for in faith and patience. Thus the believer is taught that he must toil slowly upwards, and must not envy the rapid and joyful prosperity of the children of this world. His record and his reward are with the Most High. His prosperity may be late and remote, but it is permanent.

IV. We learn how God works in the formation of peoples and nations. The subjugation of the Horites by the Edomites, and the fusion of both under one kingdom, is an instance of the manner in which peoples and nations are formed and consolidated. This has often occurred in history. We have examples in the rise of the Samaritans, and in the formation of the Roman people. And in modern times, we have a similar instance in the subjugation of the Gauls by the Franks. We see that the footsteps of God are to be traced throughout all human history. Those nations which lay outside the covenant people were yet under the care and control of that Divine providence which appointed the bounds of their habitation, and watched over their growth and development. (Acts 17:26).

V. We learn, also, the importance of the individual element in history. The personal or individual element appears in all history, but in a most marked manner in sacred history. We see how nations are stamped with the character of their ancestor. At the close of this record of the evolution of a great people, we read, “He is Esau, the father of the Edomites.” He still lives in this people. His character is stamped upon the entire race. This principle was illustrated with better issues in the case of Israel. Balaam felt that they were an holy nation. The character of their ancestors was impressed upon them. “He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel.” (Numbers 23:21).


Genesis 36:1. 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.—(Wordsworth.)

Genesis 36:7. A similar reason is given for the parting of Abraham and Lot. Esau’s prosperity was the means, in the hands of Providence, of leading him beyond the promised land, so that it might come into the possession of him to whom God had given it. So that prosperity, which we may sometimes be tempted to envy in others, may yet be the means by which God works out His gracious will concerning us.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Genesis 36". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/genesis-36.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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