The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Genesis 36

Gen 36:1

Gen 36: "After the experiences of the family of Abraham, and a generation of faith, the record now considers the development of the Family of Sin: the generations of Esau. There is a listing of Esau's wives and sons (vv 1-8), the genealogy of Esau (vv 9-14). The power of Esau's descendants (vv 15-19), as men of flesh. The genealogy of Seir the cave-dweller (vv 20-30). The kings of Edom (vv 31-39). The territory occupied by the Edomites (vv 40-43).

"So there is a contrast between Israel and Edom: between the faithful and the worldly, and no compromise should be found to unify both. At first Esau seemed moved by religious conviction -- the influence of his father. He named his sons Eliphaz (Strength of El) and Reuel (Friend of El), in v 4. But there was a decline, indicated by the naming of successive sons: Jeush (hasty), Jaalam (occult), Korah (baldness), in v 5. The story of the names indicate the deterioration evident in the family of Esau, the profane man, in whom faith was absent. He is the man of the world (Heb. 12:16), and those who imitate similar characteristics become part of his 'family' in the latter days" (GEM).

ESAU (THAT IS, EDOM): 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" (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.

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: A name which signifies "ornamental" or "bedecked"; this suggests an outward show, but no inward substance (cp 1Pe 3:3; 1Ti 2:9,10).

OHOLIBAMAH: 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).

See Lesson, Alien marriage.

See Lesson, Jews and Arabs are cousins.

Gen 36:3

BASEMATH: 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: (1) It was not ideal to have more than one wife (Gen 2:24; Mat 19:4-6). (2) Esau married women of the land (Hittites, Hivites, and Ishmaelites). Isaac, his father, married Rebekah of his own kindred. Jacob's wives were also of his own kindred. When the Jews were about to enter the land they were warned by Moses not to make marriages with the people of the land lest they turn them away from God toward idols (Deu 7:3-4; cp Jos 23:12,13). Such an error of Solomon turned his heart to idolatry (1Ki 11:1-6; cp 1Co 7:39; 2Co 6:14).

"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 Christ. 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' (Gen 18:19)" (Pink).

Gen 36:6

Impl that Esau received the double portion of the firstborn, and that the new Jacob/Israel did not protest or scheme to take it away. Note ct: Esau got his riches inside the land, and left; Jacob got his riches outside of the land, and returned!

MEMBERS: "Slaves" (LXX).

Gen 36:8

A Jew becomes a Gentile!

Gen 36:24

HOT SPRINGS (MULES: AV): "Hot springs" also in RSV. See LB 397.

Gen 36:31

BEFORE ANY ISRAELITE KING REIGNED: How did the writer know of this? Because kings were promised to Israel in Gen 35:11.

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