Other comments on this day's readings can be found here.
Reading 1 - Gen 36:1-3
"This is the account of Esau (that is, Edom)" (Gen
He is called Edom (which signifies "red") here (and again, in
Gen 36:8). By that name is perpetuated the memory of the foolish bargain he
made, when he sold his birthright for a bowl of tasty beans (Gen 25:30). The
very mention of that name "Edom" is enough to explain why his whole family is
dispensed with in such a short account -- one chapter. "If men do a wrong thing
they have only themselves to thank, when long after it is remembered against
them to their reproach" (Matthew Henry).
The foolish decision to relinquish his precious birthright
seems to have begun a whole string of other foolish decisions -- involving
alliances with women, and families, of the land, peoples who cared nothing for
the divine covenants of promise.
"Esau took his wives from the women of Canaan: Adah daughter
of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon
the Hivite" (Gen 36:2).
Esau consorted with the women of the corrupt and rejected
Hittites and Hivites. These were women of Canaan -- posterity of the cursed
Canaan (Gen 9:25). It has been suggested -- on the basis of Heb 12:16, where he
is called "sexually immoral" -- that Esau picked up his wives at Canaanite
houses of prostitution and idolatry. (The names of his wives here seem to bear
this out: see below.) If so, this was not only grossly evil, but it was an
absolute departure from what his role should have been: as the firstborn, he
should have been serving at God's tabernacle; but instead he was frolicking in
the temples of iniquity.
"Adah" is a name which signifies "ornamental" or "bedecked";
this suggests an outward show, but no inward substance (cp 1Pe 3:3; 1Ti
"Oholibamah" is a name derived from two Hebrew words: "ohel"
(tent) and "bamah" (high place); this name strongly suggests a tent at the high
place -- that is, sexual abomination at the scene of idolatrous worship! Notice
the similarity of this name to Oholah and Oholibah, the symbolic names Yahweh
gave to Israel and Judah, when they forsook their marriage to Him and became
"harlots" (Eze 23).
"...also Basemath daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth"
Basemath was mentioned earlier, in Gen 26:34, along with
Judith of the Hittites. These two wives were a "source of grief to Isaac and
Rebekah." [It is also noted that Esau had married Mahalath a daughter of Ishmael
(Gen 28:9); this is possibly the same woman as Basemath. And since they were
both described as Hittites, it is also possible that Judith (Gen 26:34) and Adah
(Gen 36:3) were one and the same. It is also possible, for that matter, that
these were even more wives!]
Such marriages were wrong on two accounts:
It was a departure from the divine ideal to have more than one wife (Gen
2:24; Mat 19:4-6).
Esau married women of the land (Hittites, Hivites, and
This is sad, and points a solemn warning to us. Marriage is a
momentous undertaking, and for one of the LORD's people to unite with a person
of the world is to court disaster as well as to dishonor God. Yahweh's
instructions to Israel were very pointed: under no circumstances must they marry
a Canaanite (Deu 7:3). In the times covered by the book of Genesis, though
apparently no divine law had been given respecting it, yet the mind of God was
clearly understood. This is evident from the care which Abraham took to secure
Isaac a wife from among his own people (Gen 24); thus did he prevent Isaac from
marrying a daughter of Canaan. But Isaac was careless about this matter. He
failed to watch over his children so as to anticipate mischief. Esau, as we have
seen, married daughters of the Hittites, Hivites, and Ishmaelites. God could not
say of Isaac as he had of his father, "For I know him, that he will command his
children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord"
The Scriptures abound in warnings against alien marriage. The
sons of God marrying the daughters of men resulted at last in the Flood. Abraham
and Isaac, faithful sojourners looking for the Kingdom, opposed such marriages
for their sons (Gen 24:3; 28:1). The Law forbade the yoking together of the
clean ox and the unclean ass (Deu 22:10). Moses said to take no alien spouses
(Deu 7:3,8). Solomon's alien wives turned his heart from God (1Ki 11:1-11). Ezra
(Ezr 9; 10) and Nehemiah (Neh 13:23-29) tell us of the evils of such alliances,
and Paul has stressed the same:
"Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do
righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have
with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a
believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the
temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has
said: 'I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and
they will be my people.' 'Therefore come out from them and be separate,' says
the Lord. 'Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to
you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty' " (2Co
Reading 2 - Psa 38
Psalm 38 is one of the penitential psalms (along with Psa 6,
32, 51, 102, 130, and 143). These psalms probably refer to David's sins with
Bathsheba and Uriah, and the aftermath.
Alternate verses -- 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11 -- use the language
of desperate illness. So, perhaps, not only did David lose four members of his
own family as a direct result of his sin, but also he himself was punished
physically by God. This affliction of David may have been leprosy, the
sin-disease. (The word "sore" or "stroke" -- v 11, mg -- is used of leprosy 54
times in Lev 13; 14.)
Reading 3 - Mat 23:23
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you
hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices -- mint, dill and cummin. But you
have neglected the more important matters of the law -- justice, mercy and
faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the
former" (Mat 23:23).
"After all that the prophets had said, Christ needed to
explain the law of justice again. His contemporaries were zealous for their
traditions but they neglected the weightier matters of the law of God, justice,
faith and love. They were eager to lade men with heavy and unnecessary burdens
but they could not apply the just balance and just measure to the affairs of
spiritual life. So has it been in later days. There has often been a passionate
zeal for rectitude in little matters of form and expression, resulting in bitter
criticism and often injustice to fellow labourers. We have a strong conviction
that when the Just One passes final judgment, some well-meaning but self-centred
men will be reproved because they have rigorously enforced so many rules of
their own and have been neglectful of justice, mercy, faith and the love of God"
(Islip Collyer, "Principles and Proverbs" 186).