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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Genesis 36

 

 

Verse 1

Now these are the generations of Esau, who is Edom Now these are the generations of Esau, who is Edom.

These are the generations - history of the leading men and events (cf. Genesis 2:4). Conformably to the plan pursued in the composition of this historical book, the Tholedoth of Esau precedes the ensuing continuous account of the family history of Jacob, as the Tholedoth of Ishmael (Genesis 25:12-17) that of Isaac; the Tholedoth of Japheth and Ham (Genesis 10:1-20) that of Shem; and the Tholedoth of Cain (Genesis 4:18) that of Seth.

Esau, who is Edom. The latter name was applied to him in reference to the peculiar colour of his skin at birth, rendered more significant by his inordinate craving for the red pottage, and also by the fierce sanguinary character of his descendants (cf. Ezekiel 25:12; Obadiah 1:10). The name Edom is prominently introduced at the commencement of this genealogical record, because it formed the national designation of Esau's posterity.


Verse 2

Esau took his wives of the daughters of Canaan; Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite;

Esau took his wives of the daughters of Canaan. The difference in the names of Esau's wives has given rise to various theories of explanation. Some suppose that the list in this chapter refers to wives quite different from those mentioned in Genesis 26:34; Genesis 28:9. Ewald and others maintain that there were more than three; because the name of Judith, who seems to have been the first that Esau married, is omitted in this register of his progeny, probably because she was childless; while that of Aholibamah is added as a fourth; and the suggestion has been also made that Mahalath, daughter of Ishmael, having died, Esau married her sister Bashemath.

The account given of the parentage of these wives has seemed to many equally obscure and perplexing as that of their names. But all these difficulties admit of an easy and satisfactory solution. Thus, with regard to the number of Esau's wives, although it is not expressly said that he had three wives, the several passages in which they are enumerated comprise only three: and these, as shall be presently shown, the same three throughout.

As to the names of the wives, it has been remarked, that while these, in Eastern countries, as elsewhere, are sometimes changed on account of some memorable circumstances in the course of life, women assume new names more frequently than men-they do so particularly on their marriage; and as in this genealogical record all the wives of Esau are distinguished by different names from those which they formerly bore, the change is to be traced partly to their entrance into the matrimonial relation, and partly to their settlement in a foreign land, where Esau himself assumed the permanent designation of Edom (Genesis 36:1-8). The import of their names was founded probably on some conspicuous attribute of character or feature of personal appearance or habit, as Judith or Jehudith (the praised one) was changed into Aholibamah (tent-height - i:e., tall, stately); Bashemath, Hebrew, Basemath (fragrance, the perfumed one) into Adah (ornament, beauty, the adorned one); Mahalath (harp, the musical one), into Basemath (fragrance, perfume, the perfumed one). If Esau obtained the name of Edom from his red hair, or the red pottage, his wives might as well have derived their new appellatives from such trivial circumstances as peculiarity of appearance and dress, or a love of strong-scented unguents. With regard to the names of their respective fathers, Elon the Hittite, and Ishmael stand in both lists; while Anah is not the mother and Beeri the father of Aholibamah, as is supposed by Ranke and others; but, as has been demonstrated with great ingenuity by Hengstenberg, is identical with Beeri. Ahab, being the proper name of the individual, is given in this genealogical record (Genesis 36:2; Genesis 36:14; Genesis 36:24); while Beeri (man of springs), a surname popularly applied to him by his contemporaries (see Genesis 36:24), was naturally preferred in the general narrative (Genesis 26:34).

There is another difficulty connected with the name of Anah. He is called (Genesis 26:34) a Hittite, here (Genesis 36:2) a Hivite, and (Genesis 36:20) a Horite. But there is nothing contradictory in these statements. For in the historical relation he is called, in a wide sense, a Hittite-a term which is frequently used as synonymous with Canaanite (Joshua 1:4; 1 Kings 10:29; 2 Kings 7:6); while in his tribal connection he was a Hivite, just as a man may be described in a general history as a native of Great Britain, while specifically he is a Scotchman. The word Horite does not imply either a geographical or national distinction, but simply a dweller in caves; Zibeon, on emigrating to Mount Seir, having become a Troglodyte. These difficulties, then, which encompass the domestic history of Esau having been removed, a clear view of the names and parentage of Esau's wives may be exhibited in the following table: Some MSS. have [ been (Hebrew #1121)] son of Zibeon, but they are not of any authority. In this table 'the daughter of Zibeon' is taken in connection, not with Anah (a man's name), but with Aholibamah; and consequently we must interpret [ bat (Hebrew #1323)] daughter in the wider sense it sometimes bears of granddaughter. It may be interesting to add, that Dr. Wilson ('Lands of the Bible,' vol. 1:, p. 33) found that these names are still common in Idumea and among the Arabs. When conversing with the Fellahin, of Wady Musa, he says, 'It is worthy of notice that the first name of a man which they mentioned to us as current among them was that of Esau; and that Matshabah, one of their female names, seems, by a bold anagram, not unusual in the formation of Arabic words from the Hebrew, to resemble Bashemath, wife of Esau. Aidah, too, one of the female names, is like that of Adah, another of Esau's wives.'


Verses 3-5

And Bashemath Ishmael's daughter, sister of Nebajoth.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 6-7

And 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.

Esau ... went into the country from the face - literally, a country, without any certain prospect of a settlement. The Septuagint translators, who seem to have had a different reading in the Hebrew text, render this clause-`and went ek tees gees Chanaan, from the land of Canaan.' In the King James Version something appears wanting to complete the sense and accordingly Knobel, Delitzsch, and others are of opinion that the word 'Seir' or 'Edom' has dropped out of the text.

Of his brother Jacob. This does not mean that he had remained in Canaan until his brother Jacob's return to that country, and then was driven out; for it appears (Genesis 32:3; Genesis 33:16) that Esau had effected a settlement in Seir before Jacob left Padan-aram. But the statement of the sacred historian seems to be this, that Esau having been apprised by his father that he was not the destined heir of Canaan, had early begun to look out a domain for himself elsewhere; and having, doubtless, through the influence of his father-in-law, Ishmael, succeeded in attaining that consummation of his wishes, he withdrew the cattle and other property he had possessed in Palestine to his adopted land, so that it might be said, on his removal from Canaan, that 'he went into the country (Edom) from the face of his brother Jacob.'

The design of this historical sketch of Esau and his family is to show how the promise (Genesis 27:39-40) was fulfilled. In temporal prosperity he far exceeds his brother; and it is remarkable that, in the overruling providence of God, the vast increase of his worldly substance was the occasion of his leaving Canaan, and thus making way for the return of Jacob.


Verse 8

Thus dwelt Esau in mount Seir: Esau is Edom.

Thus dwelt Esau in mount Seir. This was divinely assigned as his possession (Joshua 24:4; Deuteronomy 2:5). It was not a "land of promise" to him, as Canaan was to Jacob; but as the prediction in his father's testamentary blessing pointed, so he received it as the fulfillment of his destiny, Providence paving the way for it in the natural course of events. Having become allied by marriage with the family of Seir, he removed to the mount, and settled there with his family. Upon the rapid increase of his descendants into a tribe, it became evident that both the Edomites and the Horites could not find room enough in the country, and that the one or the other must give way; the former disputed the possession, and having, by Heaven favouring his arms, proved superior in the contest, Esau destroyed the great mass of the Horites, and, incorporating the remnant with his own race, finally "dwelt in mount Seir," as the dominant power. [ See`iyr (Hebrew #8165), hairy, rough, rugged.]

Mount Seir, inhabited by the Edomites, included that mountainous region which extends from the Dead Sea to the Elanitic Gulf, the northern part of which is called Jebal [Gebaleenee, Josephus], and the southern Esh-Sherah (Robinson's 'Biblical Researches,' b. 2:, p. 552; Robinson's 'Physical Geography of Palestine,' p. 42; Burckhardt's 'Travels,' p. 401).


Verse 9

And these are the generations of Esau the father of the Edomites in mount Seir:

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verses 10-14

These 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.

These are the names of Esau's sons. They were five in number. Adah and Bashemath had each one son, while Aholibamah was the mother of three sons, all of whom became heads of different tribes; but in the case of the other two wives, it was their grandsons who attained that dignity.


Verse 15

These were dukes of the sons of Esau: the sons of Eliphaz the firstborn son of Esau; duke Teman, duke Omar, duke Zepho, duke Kenaz,

Dukes , [ 'luwpiym (Hebrew #441)] - phylarchs, leaders, chieftains of tribes. The term, though used in the general sense of ruler by the later Hebrew writers (Jeremiah 13:21; Zechariah 9:7; Zechariah 12:5-6), is exclusively employed in the Pentateuch as a designation of the Edomite princes (see the note at Exodus 15:15), corresponding to the title of shiekhs among the modern Bedouins. Fourteen alluphim are mentioned here (see the note at Genesis 36:40-43), and each Edomite tribe took the name of its founder, or, as some conjecture from Genesis 36:40, the duke was called after the name of the tribe. From Eliphaz, the oldest son of Esau, sprang seven dukes, three of whom have obtained prominent notice in Scripture history.

Duke Teman. He was chief of a tribe which gave its name to a province of Idumea, frequently mentioned by the sacred writers (Jeremiah 49:7; Jeremiah 49:20; Ezekiel 25:13; Amos 1:12; Obadiah 1:9; Habakkuk 3:3). It must not be confounded with that of Tema, son of Ishmael (Genesis 25:15); and although its exact locality is not clearly defined, it appears, as the name, indeed, imports, to have lain in the southern part of Edom, stretching eastward to Arabia, between Edom and Dedan (Ezekiel 25:13); others, who place it in Northern Idumea, consider the name Teman as indicating a country south of Judea. But this tribe rose into greater importance, and extended over a large portion of the territory of Edom; so that duke Teman was entitled to be mentioned first, not, only as the oldest son of Eliphaz, but as the premier duke of Edom. In Amos 1:12, and perhaps Habakkuk 3:3, Teman is used as son of Eliphaz, but as the premier duke of Edom. In Amos 1:12, and perhaps Habakkuk 3:3, Teman is used as synonymous with Edom.

Duke Kenaz. He was founder of the Kenezite tribe, some of whose distinguished members, as Caleb and Othniel (Joshua 14:14), were adopted into Israel. Foster ('Historical Geography of Arabia') considers the Kenezites to be represented by the powerful Bedouin tribe, AEnezeh, which numbers fully three hundred thousand men, of whom more than ten thousand are mounted on horses, one hundred thousand on camels, and who claim superiority over a district of at least forty thousand square miles.


Verse 16

Duke Korah, duke Gatam, and duke Amalek: these are the dukes that came of Eliphaz in the land of Edom; these were the sons of Adah.

Duke Amalek. His mother, Timna, who was concubine of Eliphaz, was the great-granddaughter of Seir (see the note at Genesis 36:20). The tribe of Amalek early separated from the general body of the Edomites, and formed a distinct independent settlement in the desert between Egypt and Palestine, to the south of Judah as far as Kadesh (Numbers 13:29; Numbers 14:43). But being nomads, they roamed over a large tract of Arabia Petraea, from Havilah to Shur (1 Samuel 15:3; 1 Samuel 15:7; 1 Samuel 27:8), and a portion of them acquired a possession even in Canaan Judges 12:15). For the reference to the Amalekites in the history of Abraham, see the note at Genesis 14:7. Few, if any, and these very questionable, traces of this tribe exist.

All the other ducal sons of Eliphaz ruled over tribes in the south, as their territorial names indicate. Those of Reuel (Genesis 36:17) abode in the original seat of Esau, as appears from the designation, "Zerah of Bozrah" (Genesis 36:33). Reuel and Kenaz preserve hereditary connection to this day. Burckhardt states that the Beni Ranalla form a principal branch of the AEnezeh as cavalry. Their pasture land lies chiefly in the desert around Jebel Shamman. But they roam over a wide circuit to the neighbourhood of the Hauran, and the country between the Euphrates and Tigris; and in the north and west of the Persian Gulf the names of Reuel's descendants are to be traced in the classical writings and in modern times (Foster's 'Historical Geography').


Verses 17-19

And 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 of Bashemath Esau's wife.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verses 20-30

These are the sons of Seir the Horite, who inhabited the land; Lotan, and Shobal, and Zibeon, and Anah,

These are the sons of Seir the Horite. Seir, with a colony of Horites from Lebanon, settled in the mountains south of Canaan a generation before the time of Abraham, and in their new possessions continued that mode of life to which they had been accustomed in their original settlement-namely, that of dwelling in caves on account of the intense heat (Jeremiah 49:7-22). Hence, they were called [ Choriym (Hebrew #2752)] (in our version, Horites) Troglodytes; and doubtless they were the excavators of those wonderful rock-habitations which abound in the ravines and the soft limestone cliffs around Petra, (Robinson's 'Biblical Researches,' 2: pp. 423, 4; Wilson's 'Lands of the Bible' 1:, p. 311, etc.) "The Horim dwelt in Seir formerly" (Deuteronomy 2:12), until, as has been already mentioned, they were exterminated or absorbed by the Edomites.

The names of those sons of Seir who became heads of tribes are registered here, as the ducal descendants of Esau were in the earlier part of the chapter; and their form of government was precisely the same as that which was at first adopted in Edom-that of alluphim or shiekhs-exercising an independent authority over distinct tribes.

Verse 24. This was that Anah that found the mules ... Since he is mentioned in this list, it is evident that he must have been at the head of a tribe distinct from that of his father Zibeon; and his being in so high a position might be one reason for Esau allying himself with his family by marriage. But Anah is honoured with a special notice on account of a circumstance which in early life had made him famous, and obtained for him the popular appellation of Beeri, the man of springs (see the note at Genesis 26:34). [ hayeemim (Hebrew #3222)]. The meaning put upon this word in our version is universally abandoned. The Samaritan text has: 'found' or 'fell upon, the Emims,' giants. But the translation which, since the days of Jerome, has been most widely supported, is, "this was that Anah that found" - i:e, discovered, the hot springs,' namely, of Callirrhoe (in Wady Zerka Mƒin, north-east of the Dead Sea, or those in Wady el-Ahsy, south-east of the Dead Sea). [The Septuagint does not translate the word, hos heure ton Iamein, thus retaining the original.]


Verse 31

And these are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel.

These are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom. This is not meant to indicate that a political revolution had taken place in Edom by the erection of one great consolidated kingdom on the ruins of the simple and primitive distribution of the people into clans. For it is clear, from the preceding, as well as the concluding part of the chapter, that the authority of the kings was co-existent with the rule of the dukes in their respective tribes. In fact, the kingship was not a hereditary, but an elective monarchy (Havernick, 'Historico-Critical Introduction to Pentateuch,' p. 202; Kurtz, 'Hist. of Old Cov.,' 3:, p. 340), analogous to the practice of the large nomad tribes in Arabia which in time of war, or on any great emergency, choose an emir, invested with sovereign authority, to legislate and act for the protection of their common interests. This emir is chosen from among the shiekhs, as the king appears to have been elected from the alluphim (cf. Exodus 15:15 is chosen from among the shiekhs, as the king appears to have been elected from the alluphim (cf. Exodus 15:15 with Numbers 20:14; Isaiah 34:12).

Before there reigned any king over the children of Israel - i:e., previous to the time of Moses, who was virtually the first king in Israel (cf. Exodus 18:16-19 with Deuteronomy 33:5), though the words are usually considered as pointing to the reign of Saul. The insertion of this parenthetical clause was exceedingly natural on the part of the sacred historian, who, having but a few verses before (Genesis 35:11) put on record the divine promise to Jacob that "kings should come out of his loins," was led to remark the national prosperity and regal establishment of the Edomites long before the organization of a similar order of things in Israel. He could not help indulging such a reflection, when he contrasted the posterity of Esau with those of Jacob from the stand point of the promise (Genesis 25:23); and although such a reflection would have been obviously impossible to any ordinary writer, living centuries before the commencement of the Hebrew monarchy, it was quite pertinent in Moses, who not only believed the promise, but actually foretold the fact, and provided for the government, of a king that should reign over the children of Israel (Deuteronomy 17:14-20).

Nevertheless, his observation has been fastened upon as betraying the post-Mosaic origin of his history. And the objection rests on two different grounds-the one general, the other particular. Dr. Davidson ('Introduction to Old Testament') says, 'The list of these Edomite kings may perhaps reach up almost to the time of Moses. It is impossible, however, to show that it reached to his time.'

A similar opinion was previously advanced by LeClerc, Kennicott, and Graves, who, looking to the minuteness of the details respecting the kings, their family descent, the cities of their residence, and even the names of their wives, pronounced the whole passage from Genesis 36:31 to Genesis 36:40 an interpolation, transferred to this place by some copyist from 1 Chronicles 1:43-54, and producing a manifest interruption in the course of the original narrative. But on the view we have given above, that these Edomite kings were elected, and that they reigned contemporaneously with the dukes, there is no break in the narrative.

This catalogue of regal governors occupies its proper place; and the number eight exactly corresponds with the time within which they reigned. From the death of Isaac, when Esau went permanently to reside in Edom, until Moses became leader of the Hebrews, was 236 years. Now, supposing that "Bela, the son of Beer," began to reign 25 years after Esau's settlement, and that each of the kings reigned on an average 25 years-their united reigns would point to a period of 220 years-thus approximating so near to the time of Moses that there is no difficulty in accounting for the very circumstantial information which this register contains.

But Ewald and others maintain the late date of this document on the special ground that Hadad (Genesis 36:35-36) was an enemy of Solomon (1 Kings 11:14), Hengstenberg, however, has triumphantly shown the utter futility of this objection by demonstrating that Hadad, Solomon's contemporary, was the son of a king, the Edomite Hadad-that the former was only a claimant for his father's throne, while the latter actually reigned-that the Hadad mentioned in this passage smote the Midianites in the plains of Moab, while in the days of the Solomonian Hadad the Midianites no longer appear in the sacred history.

Moreover, if Hadad belonged to the late times of Solomon, and he was but the fifth in this list, how could it be said that all these kings reigned in Edom "before there reigned any king over the children of Israel?" (see also Delitzsch and Kurtz, 3:, p. 340.) Lastly, it is a recorded fact, that there was an Edomite king in the days of Moses (Numbers 20:14).


Verse 32

And Bela the son of Beor reigned in Edom: and the name of his city was Dinhabah.

Dinhabah [ Dinhaabaah (Hebrew #1838)] - place of plundering; i:e., robbers' den (Gesenius); probably an early haunt of the predatory Horites. Eusebius and Jerome state that there was a village so called, eight miles from Areopolis, on the road to Arnon. "The name of his city" is a phrase which occurs several times in this list, apparently to mark a native king, while the preposition [ mi- (Hebrew #4480)] "from" - "from Masrekah," "from Rehoboth" - indicates a foreigner.


Verse 33

And Bela died, and Jobab the son of Zerah of Bozrah reigned in his stead.

Jobab the son of Zerah. This grandson of Esau is, in the Septuagint addition to the book of Job, borrowed from the Syriac, identified with the patriarch of Uz.

Bozrah. Dr. Robinson ('Biblical Researches in Palestine,' 2:, p. 570) states that, besides the Moabite Bozrah (now Busrah), there was another Bozrah within the territory of Edom, now El Buseireh, near Petra; and this view seems to be countenanced by Scripture (Isaiah 34:6; Isaiah 63:1; Jeremiah 49:7-22; Amos 1:12.


Verse 34

And Jobab died, and Husham of the land of Temani reigned in his stead.

Husham of the land of Temani - or the Temanites. [The Septuagint has: ek tees gees Thaimanoon]. Eusebius and Jerome mention a town, Teman, fifteen miles from Petra. Burckhardt identifies it with the present Maan. Wilton (Negeb), who considers Teman synonymous with Mount Paran (Habakkuk 3:3), makes Heshmon the city of Husham (see the note at Joshua 15:27).


Verse 35

And Husham died, and Hadad the son of Bedad, who smote Midian in the field of Moab, reigned in his stead: and the name of his city was Avith.

Aih Avith - i:e., ruins. This royal city has been 'identified with Khurabet el-'Abid (the ruins of 'Abid), in the plain east of Mount Seir, and midway between the two countries here associated with this brief record of Hadad's reign. It is interesting to note that 'Abid, true to its etymology, is situated close to a number of detached hills, forming quite a remarkable group, and at once explaining the origin of the name' (Negeb).


Verse 36

And Hadad died, and Samlah of Masrekah reigned in his stead.

Samlah of Masrekah - literally, from Masrekah, Eusebius and Jerome concur in placing Masrekah in Gebalene (now Jebal), in the northern portions of Idumea [ Masreeqaah (Hebrew #4957) - i:e., a vineyard of noble vines]; and Burckhardt ('Travels in Syria') describes this district as rich 'in extensive vineyards,' and abounding in 'great quantities of dried grapes.'


Verse 37

And Samlah died, and Saul of Rehoboth by the river reigned in his stead.

Saul of Rehoboth by the river - rather, Rehoboth of the river; i:e., the Euphrates. The site of this place is supposed by Col. Chesney ('Euphrat. Exped,' 1:, p. 119) to be at Rahabeh, on the right bank, a little below the confluence of the Khabour. Bochart, Gesenius, and many others, fix on this town. There is another a few miles further down, on the opposite bank, called Rahabeh-Malik - i:e., 'royal,' to which Jewish writers assign the honour of being 'the city of Saul.' Whichever of these two places may be the Rehoboth of Saul, that king appears to have been a foreigner.


Verse 38

And Saul died, and Baalhanan the son of Achbor reigned in his stead.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 39

And Baalhanan the son of Achbor died, and Hadar reigned in his stead: and the name of his city was Pau; and his wife's name was Mehetabel, the daughter of Matred, the daughter of Mezahab.

Hadar - or Hadad (1 Chronicles 1:50-51). [The Septuagint has: Arad huios Barad.]

Pau - or Pai (1 Chronicles 1:50). [The Septuagint, Fogoor.]

Mehetabel - i:e., 'Blessed of God' (Gesenius). It may be that Hadar was the Edomitish king who was contemporary with Moses (Numbers 20:14).


Verses 40-43

And 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, duke Jetheth,

These are the names of the dukes ... The list of the dukes is here resumed, with the names of their seats; but whereas there were fourteen enumerated in the former, there are only eleven mentioned in this. Kurtz supposes that in Genesis 36:15-19 'the original number of the tribes is given, possibly at the time when the princes created for themselves a center by the election of a king; whereas the concluding verses refer to the time of the historian.'

The following circumstances should be taken into consideration in attempting to account for the diminution:-First, the early secession of Amalek from the confederacy; secondly, the name of duke Korah (p.

16) does not occur in the Samaritan version, and in all probability the text is corrupt, as it is not likely the Edomites would have two tribes of the same name; thirdly, two Edomite tribes were named after the daughters of Seir (Genesis 36:40-41). And other circumstances, unknown to us, may have had an influence in effecting the reduction. But Delitzsch contends that this is not a second list of dukes or phylarchs, but only an enumeration of them according to their capital cities.

Elah - he considers as the part Aria.

Pinon - as Phunon, in the north-east of Wady Musa.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Genesis 36:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/genesis-36.html. 1871-8.

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