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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Genesis 36

CHAP. XXXVI.

Esau departs from the land of Canaan, where Jacob was, because of the multitude of their flocks. Esau's posterity is enumerated.

Before Christ about 1729.

Verse 1

Genesis 36:1. Now these are, &c.— This account of Esau's family seems to be given by the sacred historian, to shew how exactly the prophecies were fulfilled relating to him in ch. Genesis 25:23.Genesis 27:39; Genesis 27:39. as well as to inform the Israelites of the tribes of Edom whom they were not to attack, as being their brethren.

Verse 2

Genesis 36:2. Esau took his wives It appears by comparing ch. Genesis 26:34. that these wives of Esau went under several names, as seems to have been a common custom in those days. It is of little importance to settle these names, and perhaps impossible at present. The word daughter, in Scripture, is frequently used, like that of brother, in a general sense, for a grand-daughter, a niece, &c. Anah the daughter of Zibeon, should be read the son; see Gen 26:24 as several of the versions direct; if, which may probably be the case, the same name belongs not to two different persons of different sexes.

Verse 6

Genesis 36:6. Esau took his wives Esau, in all probability, had returned from Seir, after his conquest of the country and establishment there, and settled near his father Isaac; but finding the country of Canaan, in which the whole family were strangers, not sufficient for the increasing stock of Jacob and himself, he determined to return, and take up his abode again in Seir: this seems the plain state of the case. Instead of into the country, at the end of the verse, the Samaritan and LXX both read, out of the land of Canaan: though, probably, it might be read, went into HIS country, that is, to mount Seir, which he formerly possessed; and where he now settled with all his family, Gen 36:8 and whence, in process of time, his posterity drove the Horites entirely.

Verse 8

Genesis 36:8. Esau is Edom Some manuscripts omit Esau here, which seems redundant, and read, in mount Seir, that is, Edom. See Kennicott's Dissert.

Verse 15

Genesis 36:15. These were dukes Leaders, or praefects; heads of their respective clans or families. As ףּאל signifies a thousand, as well as a leader, it is probable, that when mankind at the beginning were divided under distinct leaders, this (a thousand) was the number of men of which each government or state consisted: as we find here, that some of the sons of Esau were אלופים aluphim, heads of thousands, before there was a king.

Verse 20

Genesis 36:20. The sons of Seir The country was most probably denominated from this person, whose genealogy is here set down, because Esau's posterity married with some of his descendants. Le Clerc thinks the country was called after Esau, from a word signifying rough, or hairy.

Verse 24

Genesis 36:24. Found the mules, &c.— It is difficult to come at the true meaning of this piece of ancient history. The rabbins, whom our version follows, render the word in the original ימים iemim, mules: the Vulgate renders it, aquas calidas, hot waters: but the interpretation of Bochart seems far the best, namely, that imim is the name of a people, probably the same as the gigantic Emim, mentioned Deuteronomy 2:11. Accordingly the Targum renders it here by a word signifying giants, and Aquila and Symmachus retain the Hebrew name τους Ιαμειμ, the Emim; so that the passage should be rendered, who found, lighted upon, the Emims in the desert, who possibly attacked him there, when feeding, with his servants, his father's asses; these Emims, it is not unlikely, being a kind of free-booters, and used to make such excursions. The word מצא, matsa, rendered found, when applied to enemies, is used, for lighting upon, or even attacking them suddenly. See Parkhurst's Lexicon, or Bochart, vol. 2: p. 238. Houbigant renders the passage, qui dimicavit in deserto contra Emaeos,—who fought against the Emims in the wilderness, in agreement with the above interpretation.

Verse 31

Genesis 36:31. Before there reigned, &c.— Some remark, that this could not have been said till after there had been a king in Israel, and therefore (say they) these cannot be the words of Moses, but must have been afterwards interpolated. Others understand Moses to speak prophetically, since it appears from chap. Genesis 17:6, and Deuteronomy 17:14, that he foresaw there were to be kings in Israel. But the truth is, that the words rendered king, and reigned, may, and ought to be understood only of dominion, or rule in the general, not of royal dominion. The preceding verse shews this: for thence it is plain, that the kings spoken of here, are no other than the dukes, or leaders, spoken of there: and therefore the verse might, with much propriety, be rendered, "these are the governors who governed in the land of Edom, before there was any governor over the children of Israel." And in this view all is clear. Dr. Wall remarks on this verse, that it was the custom of those times to call any one king of a people, who had in any way the rule, government, or superiority over them. And thus Moses was king in Jeshurun, or Israel; so that this is no more than to say, all these kings or governors in Edom were before Moses's time.

Verse 35

Genesis 36:35. Who smote Midian i.e.. The Midianites, in the field of Moab, i.e.. on the frontiers of his country, which joined to that of the Moabites. Bishop Cumberland (Orig. Gent.) imagines, that Moses recorded this exploit, as it proved a calamity to Jethro his father-in-law; and that it was Midian himself, who, according to the Hebrew text, was slain, being at that period one hundred and nine years old.

Verse 40

Genesis 36:40. These are—the dukes Idumea, of which Bozrah, mentioned Genesis 36:33, was the capital, appears at first to have been divided into several districts or jurisdictions, each governed by an independent chief under the name of duke, until, in process of time, all these dukedoms came to be united, and brought under subjection to one prince, who at first was elective. Thus it was with Attica, as Le Clerc remarks; it was peopled by separate tribes, or families, each governed by its own chief, till Theseus incorporated them all into one community.

Verse 43

Genesis 36:43. He is Esau, &c.— This would read better, if rendered, as it ought to be, THIS is Esau, the father of Edom, i.e.. This is his family, and the account of his posterity. After this we meet with no farther mention of Esau in the Mosaic history.

REFLECTIONS.—We have here an account of Esau and his posterity, and see therein the promise to Abraham fulfilled in part, that he should be the father of many nations. He is called Edom, or red, in memory of the profane sale of his birthright for the red pottage. Note; If men by ill doings get an ill name, they must thank themselves for it. His wives and family are mentioned, and his place of abode Mount Seir: there he fixes, and leaves Jacob in peaceable possession of Canaan. Probably God had now convinced him of the unchangeableness of the decree concerning the promised Seed and the possession of the land of Canaan, and he submitted to it. Though God hated him in this sense, by excluding him from the succession, it does not follow either from Scripture or reason that he was on this account eternally lost.

The genealogy of the Horites also, who inhabited Seir, is mentioned in this chapter. By Esau's intermarriage they soon became one people, and, it is to be feared, had one religion. Bad connections by marriage usually end in our following our wives' gods.
In external prosperity, Jacob is far behind his brother. A numerous race of dukes and governors reign in Edom, while Jacob's posterity are servants in AEgypt. Note; We must wait with patience for the fulfilment of the promises. Esau has a present possession, Jacob only a land in prospect. Let us not envy the children of the world; they have their all in hand, while we have ours in hope: and death, which must cast them out of their possessions, shall bring us to our inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and which fadeth not away, reserved for us in heaven.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Genesis 36". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/genesis-36.html. 1801-1803.