New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Gen 36:1 Now this is the history of the generations of Esau (that is, Edom)- Semitic peoples tend to add second names in reflection of an incident experienced or particular theme or characteristic displayed in the person's life. And thus Esau was also called Edom, 'the red one', reflecting his red complexion and being covered in red hair, and perhaps also the incident with the "red, red soup" which led to his selling his birthright. We note that these generations of Esau include those of Seir from Hor (:20-30), implying the family of Esau had intermarried with that family. Rather than converting people into his family, Esau's family as it were married into the world around them.

Gen 36:2 Esau took his wives from the daughters of Canaan- In contrast to Isaac and Jacob, who went to great efforts not to do so. Time and again in the record of Esau it is emphasized that he married Gentiles. The record mentions this fact no fewer than nine times in Gen. 36 alone! Why such emphasis? Surely to demonstrate how through the millennia of human history, God has remembered Esau's behaviour and held it against him, recording it for our learning.

However this particular verse could be translated as meaning that he took his wives [and children] from among the Canaanites and sent them elsewhere, out of the promised land- which also reads spiritually negative, see on :6.

Adah the daughter of Elon, the Hittite- Adah is the Bashemath of :34. As noted on :1, Semitic peoples went by more than one name because names were added to them which reflected their experiences and characteristics. Aholibamah is also called Judith (Gen. 26:34); Adah is there called Bashemath in the same place; and the woman who is here called Bashemath is called Mahalath in Gen. 28:9.

And Oholibamah the daughter of Anah- "Tent of the High Place". The names of Esau's line and wives often suggest idolatry. The description of Israel as Aholibah in Ezekiel 23:4 recalls Esau’s wife Aholibamah, again associating them with their relatives who had chosen to leave the covenant. Apostate Israel are described in the very language of the adversaries / Satans of God's people. Because they acted like the world around them, from which they had been called out, they were ultimately judged by God as part of that world.

The daughter of Zibeon, the Hivite- Called a Horite (:20) because Hor was the area Zibeon lived in, although by ethnicity he was a Hivite. LXX "Aholibamah, the daughter of Anah the son of Zibeon", as in Gen. 36:14,24.

Gen 36:3 And Basemath, Ishmael’s daughter- The Mahalath of Gen. 28:9. Ishmael had been circumcised into the covenant but chose not to remain in it.

Sister of Nebaioth- "High places", another hint at idolatry.

Gen 36:4 Adah bore to Esau Eliphaz- The Eliphaz the Temanite of the book of Job, who it seems eventually came to know God through Job's forgiveness of him and prayer for him. So we see here how relationship with God skipped a generation, as often happens.

Basemath bore Reuel- "Friend of God". We wonder if as with Eliphaz, this was another example of a spiritual person emerging from an unspiritual background and genealogy.

Gen 36:5 Oholibamah bore Jeush, Jalam, and Korah- Again the names are not indicative of spirituality, these three respectively meaning things like "Hasty" (like Esau), "Occult" and "Bald".

These are the sons of Esau, who were born to him in the land of Canaan- Esau's family is set up as a fake Israel. Jacob's sons are presented as all born outside Canaan from non-Canaanite women, whereas Esau's sons were all born to him from local Canaanites, and were in that sense Canaanites.

Gen 36:6 Esau took his wives, his sons, his daughters, and all the members of his household, with his livestock, all his animals, and all his possessions, which he had gathered in the land of Canaan, and went into a land away from the presence of his brother Jacob- Leaving the land of promise is tantamount to taking oneself out of the things of God's Kingdom. It is never used in a very positive way. Esau went out from the land of Canaan into Edom, maybe slinking away from the face of his brother Jacob, sensing Jacob's righteousness and his own carnality; he didn't want to inherit the Kingdom, he wanted a kingdom for himself in this life. "Went out" is the language of Judas going out (Jn. 13:30), Cain '"went out" (Gen. 4:16), as did Zedekiah in the judgment of Jerusalem (Jer. 39:4; 52:7). Even in this life, those who leave the ecclesia 'go out' after the pattern of Judas, condemning themselves in advance of the judgment by their attitude to the ecclesia (1 Jn. 2:19 cp. Acts 15:24). The unrighteous flee from God now, as they will then (Hos. 7:13). The ungrateful servant "went out" and condemned his brother- thus condemning himself (Mt. 18:28). Yet Peter in this life "went out" from the Lord (Mk. 14:68) and then some minutes later further "went out and wept bitterly" (Lk. 22:62), living out the very figure of rejection at the judgment-  and yet was able to repent and come back. In this life we can be judged, condemned, weep... but still repent of it and thereby change our eternal destiny. But at the final judgment: it will be just too late. That 'judgment' will be a detailed statement of the outcome of the ongoing investigative judgment which is going on right now.

Gen 36:7 For their substance was too great for them to dwell together, and the land of their travels couldn’t bear them because of their livestock- Circumstances repeat within the experiences of God's family and of human beings generally, with whom God is working. This is exactly the language of Abraham and Lot separating from each other for the same reason. And Lot went off to a land, Sodom, which was the spiritual death of most of his family.

Gen 36:8 Esau lived in the hill country of Seir. Esau is Edom- The primary audience of Genesis was Israel on their wilderness journey; perhaps so much detail is given about Esau's descendants, and the emphasis is upon "Esau is Edom" (:1,8,9,43) because Israel were passing through or near these peoples. Genesis sought to explain to Israel the historical background of those peoples; they were their distant relatives, who had chosen not to be part of the Abrahamic line of promise, although individuals amongst them did so, as I have noted several times in this chapter.

Gen 36:9 This is the history of the generations of Esau the father of the Edomites in the hill country of Seir- See on :8. The Israelites who first heard "Genesis" were "many days" in this hill country (Dt. 2:1), and were told that God had given this area to Esau as a possession (Dt. 2:5; Josh. 24:4). Esau as the direct grandson of Abraham could have had the promises of inheritance of the eretz relevant to him; but he chose to go out of that land. Mount Seir was just outside the promised land (Josh. 15:10). And so God accepted that and gave him an inheritance in Seir, although without the promises of eternal inheritance and of the saviour seed. He wanted a possession immediately in this life, and God gave Esau what he really wanted.

Gen 36:10 These are the names of Esau’s sons: Eliphaz, the son of Adah, the wife of Esau; and Reuel, the son of Basemath, the wife of Esau- Reuel, friend of God, may have been a believer, despite having a father and mother and maternal grandmother who didn't want the things of the Kingdom promises. The new creation in Christ means that we are free of such background influences if we truly respond to the word of promise.

Gen 36:11 The sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho, and Gatam, and Kenaz- This could be the "Eliphaz the Temanite" of the book of Job, who [unlike most of his relatives] had El, God, in his name, and who thanks to God's grace and Job's prayer for him, is presented as finally being a penitent believer. So not all Esau's line were outside of God's salvation purpose; always, individuals can step out against the wind of their environments, and forge a relationship with God.

Gen 36:12 Timna was concubine to Eliphaz, Esau’s son; and she bore to Eliphaz Amalek. These are the sons of Adah, Esau’s wife- Amalek became a major enemy of Israel; but his father Eliphaz was a believer, if as suggested on :11 he is the Eliphaz of the book of Job. And so we see what is apparent in the records of the kings of Judah; good men have bad sons and bad men have good sons. Spirituality is personal and not inherited; and bad background is not an insurmountable handicap to faith and spirituality.

Gen 36:13 These are the sons of Reuel: Nahath, Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah. These were the sons of Basemath, Esau’s wife- Again, the names of the sons are distinctly unspiritual, especially bearing in mind the Semitic way of giving a name to a person which reflects their character. Respectively, these names mean "declining", "sun rising" and "wasting". Their birth names could have been recorded, but instead the names they were known by later are recorded.

Gen 36:14 These were the sons of Oholibamah, the daughter of Anah, the daughter of Zibeon, Esau’s wife: she bore to Esau Jeush, Jalam, and Korah- As noted on :5, these three respectively meaning things like "Hasty" (like Esau), "Occult" and "Bald". And as explained on :13, people were born with a name but then were known by another name, which reflected their later character, appearance or experiences. We have a prime example here, in the name "Korah" which means "bald" or strictly 'one who has become bald'; hardly a birth name for a baby boy. The fact the names of the children often reflect paganism or other unspirituality (e.g. "hasty" and "occult") is therefore a reflection of how they actually became known in their lives. And Esau's descendants are full of such spiritual wasters.

Gen 36:15 These are the chiefs of the sons of Esau: the sons of Eliphaz the firstborn of Esau: chief Teman, chief Omar, chief Zepho, chief Kenaz- Some Kenizites (Caleb and Othniel) were adopted into Israel (Josh. 14:14), confirming the picture we get here- that some individuals could always break free of family environment and associate themselves with God's purpose and promises. As the twelve sons of Jacob were to be princes of Israel, so the sons of Esau were "chiefs" or sheikhs. We have here the idea developed that the children of Esau were an imitation Israel; they too were blessed materially, but without the spiritual dimension which was present in the people of Israel, God's people.

Gen 36:16 Chief Korah- See on :14. It seems Eliphaz had a grandson and also a brother of this name (:5). "Sons of Adah" could easily mean 'grandsons' as well.

Chief Gatam, chief Amalek: these are the chiefs who came of Eliphaz in the land of Edom; these are the sons of Adah- This would have been significant information for the Israelites in the wilderness who first heard Genesis, as they fought with Amalek (Ex. 17:8,9).

Gen 36:17 These are the sons of Reuel, Esau’s son: chief Nahath, chief Zerah, chief Shammah, chief Mizzah: these are the chiefs who came of Reuel in the land of Edom; these are the sons of Basemath, Esau’s wife- Respectively, the names mean 'He who declines', 'dawn' [maybe with pagan reference]and 'he who faints from fear'. Again, bear in mind that these names were not birth names, but reflected how these men became known.

Gen 36:18 These are the sons of Oholibamah, Esau’s wife: chief Jeush, chief Jalam, chief Korah: these are the chiefs who came of Oholibamah the daughter of Anah, Esau’s wife- Oholibamah, "tent of the high places", was remembered for her idolatry in her name. And women were only associated with tents on the high places because of their prostitution, as "worship" there was male oriented. Esau married a cultic prostitute, and bore him three children. This is a tacit admission of his own idolatry. As noted on :5, the names of the sons are not indicative of true spirituality, these three respectively meaning things like "Hasty" (like Esau), "Occult" and "Bald".

Gen 36:19 These are the sons of Esau (that is, Edom), and these are their chiefs- The preceding verses have listed 14 "chiefs" who came from Esau. Jacob had 12 sons and two adopted sons counted as his sons (Ephraim and Manasseh) making 14. Again we see Esau's descendants presented as a mirror of the true people of God, an anti-Israel, a fake imitation of the true. See on :20.

Gen 36:20 These are the sons of Seir the Horite, the inhabitants of the land: Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah- The idea is that they were formerly the inhabitants of that land, but were driven out by the Edomites (Dt. 2:12,22), an encouragement to Israel in the wilderness who first heard Genesis to likewise drive out the tribes from their allotted possession as Edom / Esau had done. The sons of Seir are listed amongst the descendants of Esau perhaps on the basis of the idea that Gentile peoples were counted as his descendants, just as was to be true, in a different sense, of Abraham's true seed. As noted on :19, Esau's nation is portrayed as an imitation of the true people of God. Or it could be argued that the similarities are because God chose to bless Isaac's son in this life, but without the eternal and Messianic dimension which was attached to the line through Jacob.

Gen 36:21 Dishon, Ezer, and Dishan. These are the chiefs who came of the Horites, the children of Seir in the land of Edom- Again the names are hardly suggestive of true spirituality; Dishon and Ezer respectively mean "the trampler", "man of treasure". "Dishan" is another form of "Dishon"; it would be likely that Dishon died prematurely and so was as it were replaced by Dishan.

Gen 36:22 The children of Lotan were Hori and Heman. Lotan’s sister was Timna- "Heman" means "raging anger", continuing the uncontrolled passion of the moment which was seen in Esau. The Chronicles genealogy likewise contains the uncommon mention of a woman. Why this special mention of Timna ["restraint"] as being the aunty of "Heman", "raging anger"? Perhaps to continue the theme developed here- that out of all this unspirituality and unrestrained human nature, there were various individuals who were different and rose above their surrounding environment. This is of huge encouragement to us today. See on :23,26,43.

Gen 36:23 These are the children of Shobal: Alvan, Manahath, Ebal, Shepho, and Onam- Shobal = 'overflowing'; Alvan = 'haughty'; Manahath = 'rest / peace'; Ebal = 'naked'; Shepho = 'naked'; Onam = 'strong man'. As noted on :22, in the midst of these names with sexual and other very human connotations, Manahath has a much nicer meaning. Perhaps again we have one spiritual person amongst unspiritual siblings. See on :22,26.

Gen 36:24 These are the children of Zibeon: Aiah and Anah. This is Anah who found the hot springs in the wilderness, as he fed the donkeys of Zibeon his father- This continues the similarities between the faithful family and the Edomites; for Isaac was also noted for discovering wells / springs. Or as AV "This was that Anah that found the mules in the wilderness" could mean that Anah was the first to produce mules, by mating horses and donkeys in the wilderness.

Gen 36:25 These are the children of Anah: Dishon and Oholibamah, the daughter of Anah- Oholibamah means 'tent of the high places' and women were only famed for such places because they were cultic prostitutes there. Women are rarely named in these records unless there is some significance to them; and perhaps the idea of this reference is to show that Esau's family included a woman famed for her cult prostitution. But it is twice emphasized in this verse that this sad woman was the daughter of Anah, 'one who gives heed / pays attention'; and Anah is mentioned nine times in this genealogy, more than anyone else. Although she is described as a "son of...", "son" can simply mean 'child of'. Perhaps she is singled out for her obedience, but the point is clearly made that a spiritual person can have very unspiritual offspring.

Gen 36:26 These are the children of Dishon: Hemdan, Eshban, Ithran, and Cheran- Hemdan = 'desirable wine' (s.w. Is. 27:2 AV "red wine"); Eshban = 'vigorous growth'; Ithran = 'excess'; Cheran = 'angry'. We have the same idea as noted on :22,23; in the midst of very unspiritual names, we have one which speaks of something positive, of growth. Out of all this unspirituality and unrestrained human nature, there were various individuals who were different and rose above their surrounding environment. This is of huge encouragement to us today.

Gen 36:27 These are the children of Ezer: Bilhan, Zaavan, and Akan- Bilhan = 'humble'; Zaavan = 'not at peace'; Akan = 'twister'. As noted on :26, we again have here one spiritual name in the midst of very unspiritual ones, remembering that names were attached to individuals according to what they were known well for. See on :22.

Gen 36:28 These are the children of Dishan: Uz and Aran- Job lived "in the land of Uz" (Job 1:1), another reminder that out of all this unspirituality, there were spiritual individuals within the line of Esau who rose above all the bad environment. Aran means 'shouter' and Uz means "fertility man", although Strong suggests otherwise. Fertility and paganism were well connected; out of this bad environment came the "perfect" Job.

Gen 36:29 These are the chiefs who came of the Horites: chief Lotan, chief Shobal, chief Zibeon, chief Anah- Anah is mentioned nine times in this genealogy, more than anyone else; see on :25. Although she is described as a "son of...", "son" can simply mean 'child of'. Perhaps she is singled out for her obedience, but the point is clearly made that a spiritual person can have very unspiritual offspring such as Oholibamah. We note that Oholibamah was a woman but also a chief (:41).

Gen 36:30 Chief Dishon, chief Ezer, and chief Dishan: these are the chiefs who came of the Horites, according to their chiefs in the land of Seir- See on :21.

Gen 36:31 These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom, before any king reigned over the children of Israel-
The hint therefore is that Israel's desire for a king was in order to be like the nations around them, such as Edom. And by so doing they were rejecting God as their king, and becoming like those such as Edom who had left the family of faith.

However, the reference could be to Moses as "king" of Israel effectively (Dt. 33:5), and the idea may simply be that this was how things were before the time of Moses. The list of kings we now have could be a chronological list of those who reigned in the area up until the time of Moses and the book of Genesis being completed, which would explain why the last king in the forthcoming list is not recorded as dying, whereas the others are (:39).

Gen 36:32 Bela, the son of Beor, reigned in Edom. The name of his city was Dinhabah- "Robbers' den" (Gesenius). As noted on :33, Job overcame this bad background, as we can, to become a truly spiritual person. Balaam is very close to "Bela" and was also "the son of Beor", and if there is a reference to
Balaam, then it would be in that he is framed as related to this man and similar to him. Again we get the impression that knowledge of Yahweh was not totally absent amongst all the descendants of Esau.

Gen 36:33 Bela died, and Jobab, the son of Zerah of Bozrah, reigned in his place- According to the addition to the book of Job found in the Septuagint, this is Job. Again we see how individuals amongst the otherwise unspiritual line of Esau did turn to the true God and were accepted in covenant relationship; some of the names and localities of his three friends also occur in this list of Esau's descendants and associates. In this case we marvel at the spiritual growth of Job, coming from such an unspiritual background, with the previous king living in a city called "Robbers' den" (see on :32).

Gen 36:34 Jobab died, and Husham of the land of the Temanites reigned in his place- Teman is apparently near Petra and Mount Paran (Hab. 3:3), as is Dinhabah (:32). We can therefore assume that Job lived in that area too.

Gen 36:35 Husham died, and Hadad, the son of Bedad, who struck Midian in the field of Moab, reigned in his place. The name of his city was Avith- Israel in the wilderness were the primary audience of Genesis, and they too smote Midian (Num. 31:8; Josh. 13:21). The fact others had "struck Midian" was therefore recorded as encouragement to them; and we too are intended to be inspired by Biblical history, realizing that our experiences are not totally unique, but in essence are repetitions of Biblically recorded situations and past victories.

Gen 36:36 Hadad died, and Samlah of Masrekah reigned in his place- Masrekah means "vineyards" and we assume he was famed for his wine; contributing to the generally negative spiritual tone found in most of these names. "Samlah" likewise means 'mantle', perhaps a referring to the mantles used in religious rituals.

Gen 36:37 Samlah died, and Shaul of Rehoboth by the river, reigned in his place- "The river" is the Euphrates, which formed the boundary of the promised land; again the impression is given that the people of Esau chose to live outside the promised land. 

Gen 36:38 Shaul died, and Baal Hanan, the son of Achbor reigned in his place- Strong offers "possessor of grace" as the meaning of Baal Hanan, which would fit in with the theme of there being occasionally very spiritual people amongst the otherwise unspiritual line of Edom, encouraging us also to rise up against the factors of environment and hereditary; for his father Achbor means 'attacker'. But it could equally mean the Baal or Lord of Canaan, even though they were not in Canaan.

Gen 36:39 Baal Hanan the son of Achbor died, and Hadar reigned in his place. The name of his city was Pau. His wife’s name was Mehetabel, the daughter of Matred, the daughter of Mezahab- More detail is given about this Hadar, and his death isn't recorded. I suggested on :31 that  this list of kings could be a chronological list of those who reigned in the area up until the time of Moses and the book of Genesis being completed, which would explain why this last king in the list is not recorded as dying, whereas the others are. In this case, Hadar would be "the king of Edom" with whom Israel had dealings in Num. 20:14.

Gen 36:40 These are the names of the chiefs who came from Esau, according to their families, after their places, and by their names: chief Timna, chief Alvah, chief Jetheth- There are only 11 recorded here compared to the 14 earlier in this chapter. This could be because some were assimilated into others; or because what we now read is a list of their localities rather than of individuals, and there may have been more than one "chief" within the same single locality.

Gen 36:41 Chief Oholibamah, chief Elah, chief Pinon- Oholibamah ['tent of the high places'] was a woman, and I suggested on :29 that Anah was also a female chief. Elah = 'oak tree', associated with paganic shrines; Pinon = 'distracted'. All evidence of paganism and unspirituality.

Gen 36:42 Chief Kenaz, chief Teman, chief Mibzar- Kenaz = 'hunter'; Teman = 'stronger', Mibzar = 'strong hold'; all the language of human strength and prowess. See on :43.

Gen 36:43 Chief Magdiel, and chief Iram. These are the chiefs of Edom, according to their habitations in the land of their possession. This is Esau, the father of the Edomites- Iram = 'wisdom of the city'. The names of the other chiefs in :41 and :42 were all very unspiritual and some have definite paganic hints. Therefore Magdiel, 'precious to God', stands out in its meaning. Again as noted on :22, we are being shown that out of an unspiritual lineage, family and environment, individuals can be transformed and overcome all that to be part of God's covenant purpose. This is significant encouragement for we today who can feel swamped by unspiritual environments.