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On Genesis, Part 46: Vessels of Destruction
The literary style which Moses had employed in Genesis serves a specific purpose, as it relates a family history from Adam through Noah and his sons, which contains just enough information so that the children of Israel may know from where they had come, so that they may recognize those nations to whom they were related, and so that they may be warned concerning those to whom they were not related, or at least, not fully related. Then, after a space of at least thirteen hundred years concerning which there are only a few vague statements, it continues with an account of the family of one man, Abraham, and over a period of two generations the focus is narrowed to Jacob, whom, at this point in Genesis chapter 35, has now been renamed as Israel, or “he who prevails with God”.
Interwoven in accompaniment with this outline of history are descriptions of primordial events which are presented in a manner that the society of the children of Israel may use them as foundational documents. Writing Genesis, Moses must have already expected the children of Israel to utilize these accounts as the primary elements of their education, a sort of constitution, so that they may form a Godly worldview which is tailored according to a pattern which is presented in the Word of Yahweh their God, who had led them out of Egypt, and govern themselves in a manner which He had deemed appropriate. But Genesis itself is actually only a preamble to that constitution, since the later books of Moses which contain the law along with the early history of Israel as a developing nation are all predicated upon the Genesis account, and they had all been instrumental in the function of Israel as a society, containing the formative document of the nation in Exodus as well as the laws by which they were expected to be governed.
Therefore it is also evident that it was not the intention of Moses to write a mere linear history, so his style of writing was not after the manner of a chronicle, or sequence of events presented in a precise chronological order. As we had discussed in reference to the lives of earlier figures, notably Abraham and Ishmael, their deaths are recorded prior to events during which they must have still been living. The death of Abraham is recorded in verse 8 of Genesis chapter 25, and the death of Ishmael is found in verse 17 of that chapter. Then the births of Jacob and Esau were recorded at the end of that same chapter, after the deaths of both Abraham and Ishmael were described. However the ages of each of the patriarchs at the time of their deaths and the births of their sons demonstrates that Abraham could not have died until Jacob and Esau were about fifteen years old, and Ishmael could not have died until they were about 63 years old. Jacob and Ishmael were sired by Isaac when he was 60, and Ishmael being 15 years older than Isaac would have been 75, yet he lived until he was 137 years old. Ostensibly, Moses had recorded the deaths of Abraham and Ishmael in a sequence which had allowed him to close the book, so to speak, on the lives of those men so that he could continue with an account of Isaac without further interruption, since Isaac was Abraham’s heir and he, along with his own heir, Jacob, would become the primary focus of the narrative.
Then in the final verses of Genesis chapter 35 Moses had recorded the death of Isaac, which in the actual chronology of these events could not have taken place until after Joseph had been taken from Canaan, and therefore, as we have asserted, this seems to be a purposeful aspect of his original literary style. So as we proceed with Genesis chapter 36, now that the proverbial book is closed in reference to Isaac, once again Moses has closed a proverbial chapter in Genesis before opening another one, which is the account of Joseph in Egypt. That account is instrumental to understanding both the later years of the life of Jacob, and the future of the children of Israel beyond Jacob and his sons. This style lends a structure to the Genesis account with which the current chapter divisions often seem to interfere.
So before the account of Joseph is begun, Moses has one more account, and one more book in the life of Jacob which needs to be closed, which is that of the life and the posterity of Esau. Ostensibly, it was necessary for the children of Israel to have been aware of the posterity of Esau, as well as their nature and their true origins, because in the account of their early lives they were set in opposition to one another both in the promises of Yahweh God to Rebekah, and in the blessings of Isaac for his sons. So, as it is recorded in Genesis chapter 25, Yahweh had told Rebekah that “Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.” Then when he thought that he was near the end of his life, Isaac had sought to bless his sons, as it is recorded in Genesis chapter 27, where at Rebekah’s insistence Jacob had stood in the place of Esau, so that Isaac had blessed him instead, and told him: “28 Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine: 29 Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother's sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee.”
When the deception was discovered, Isaac had refused to retract his words, and when Esau pleaded, Isaac relented and told him: “37 … Behold, I have made him thy lord, and all his brethren have I given to him for servants; and with corn and wine have I sustained him: and what shall I do now unto thee, my son?” So Esau continued to beg a blessing from his father, and then we read: “39 And Isaac his father answered and said unto him, Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above; 40 And by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck.”
Whether men today realize it or not is immaterial, the truth is that these blessings have set the stage for all world history since the Word of Yahweh had spoken to Rebekah, that “two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels”, even if the full consequences of the impact which the blessings would have on that history have not been manifest until the Christian era, and are still hidden in plain sight in the eyes of most of the world today. But Esau, the worldly of the two brothers, had become a different manner of people than Jacob by his own doing, and while that is manifest in the early accounts of his life, it is fully evident here in Genesis chapter 36 in the records of his posterity. Esau, having chosen wives of the Hittites, and also having chosen to mingle himself with the Horites of Mount Seir, which is made evident here in this chapter, had set his lot with the accursed children of Canaan, who on account of their having been accursed had already mingled themselves with the Rephaim and other races which had evidently originated with the Nephilim, the fallen angels of Genesis chapters 3 and 6 which comprise the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, from which Adam had been commanded not to eat.
So the all of the progeny of Esau were mingled with the seed of the serpent of Genesis 3:15, and it was by his own choice. For this reason, Paul had written of him in Hebrews chapter 12, where he had used him as an example and had admonished his readers to be found “15 Watching closely that not any are lacking from the favor of Yahweh, ‘lest any root of bitterness springing up’ would trouble you and by it many would be defiled, 16 nor some fornicator or profane person, as Esau who for one meal sold his own birthright. 17 For you know that even afterwards, desiring to inherit the blessing he was rejected, for he did not find a place for repentance even though he sought after it with tears.” The progeny of Esau are trees whose fruit has withered, as the apostle Jude described them in his epistle.
While Esau’s death is not recorded by Moses, this account of his posterity serves as the final mention of Esau, or Edom, until the post-captivity records of Numbers and Deuteronomy, where the children of Israel had encountered those of Esau, and they were opposed to them. Therefore this chapter closes the proverbial book on Esau himself, before Moses continues his narrative of the lives of Jacob and his sons. It seems that Moses purposely took this digression at this point, as Esau is mentioned as having helped Jacob bury Isaac their father in the closing verses of Genesis chapter 35. There we read “28 And the days of Isaac were an hundred and fourscore years. 29 And Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people, being old and full of days: and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.”
As we have also already discussed, at the time when Joseph was taken it must have been been close to seventeen years from the time when Jacob had departed Haran, and met with Esau near the river Jabbok east of the Jordan. At that time, Esau had expected Jacob to follow him to Seir, but Jacob chose to go into Canaan instead, and evidently without having said anything to Esau of his plans. However at the time when Isaac had died, it was about thirty years since the time of their meeting near the river Jabbok. So regardless of what may have transpired between them subsequently, Moses had not written anything further, and if there was any contact at all between them during this period, it must have been inconsequential.
As for our chronology, as we have explained in previous portions of this commentary on Genesis, it hinges upon one important, although circumstantial date, which is the estimate of 1450 BC for the approximate year of the exodus of Israel from Egypt. We have already explained many of the historical circumstances which compel us to make that estimate, whereby we have also approximated the call of Abraham to have been about 1880 BC, from the 430 years mentioned by Paul of Tarsus in Galatians chapter 3, where he had explained that it was 430 years from the promises to Abraham to the giving of the law at Sinai. During that period, Jacob goes to Egypt at the age of 130 years, which is precisely halfway through that 430 year period. Abraham was 75 years old when he was called by Yahweh, and 25 years later Isaac was born. Isaac was 60 years old when Jacob was born, which is 85 years after the call of Abraham. Then Jacob went to Egypt at the age of 130, which is a total of 215 years. Therefore, according to Paul, the children of Israel must have been in Egypt for another 215 years until the giving of the law at Sinai. This accords quite well with the genealogies of Israel while they were in Egypt.
While Joseph was taken into captivity at the age of seventeen, which is stated in the opening verses of Genesis chapter 37, he was thirty years old when he stood before pharaoh and interpreted the dream which he had as periods of seven years of plenty to be followed by seven years of famine which, as it is portrayed in Genesis chapter 41, had begun very soon thereafter. So after the seven years of plenty and the first two years of famine, the sons of Israel had gone to Egypt in search of food. There they met Joseph, who at first remained unknown to them, and in that manner he had beckoned them to join him there once they would bring their father and their brother Benjamin, as it is described in Genesis chapter 46. So if we allow ten years for those things to transpire, although it may have been as little as nine, then when Jacob had come to Egypt, Joseph was forty years old, and Jacob was a hundred and thirty, as he had professed where it is described that he stood before pharaoh in Genesis chapter 47. This situation also agrees with the fact of our earlier assertions, that Jacob must have been ninety years old when he departed from Haran, or perhaps just a little older.
So according to our chronology, which hinges on the date of the exodus as having been 1450 BC, and therefore as the date of the birth of Abraham as having been in 1955 BC, Isaac must have died around 1675 BC. But Joseph was born in 1705 BC, just before Jacob had left Haran, and he was seventeen in 1688 BC. So according to the numbers, Isaac really did not die until thirteen years after Joseph was in Egypt, although during that thirteen years Jacob had thought that Joseph was also dead. So once again we may understand that Moses gave the account of the death of Isaac, and took the occasion here of recording the details of the progeny of Esau, so that he could finish what he had to say about both Isaac and Esau before continuing his narrative concerning Jacob with the account of Joseph and the circumstances by which he would go to Egypt. Furthermore, Joseph must have been a slave and in prison in Egypt for about thirteen years before he interpreted pharaoh’s dream and was elevated to the government of Egypt. That circumstance even further suggests that as Isaac lay dying, Joseph, who was thought to be dead, was instead being freed from his bondage and put into a position whereby he could save his people. So there is life for Israel at the very time that there appears to be only death.
In Romans chapter 9, Paul of Tarsus had written, in reference to the people of Judaea in his own time, that “6 … not all those who are from Israel are those of Israel…” and after recalling the promises which had been made to both Sarah and Rebekah, he went on to compare Jacob and Esau, where he had cited Malachi chapter 1 and wrote: “7 nor because they are offspring of Abraham all children: but, ‘In Isaac will your offspring be called.’ 8 That is to say, the children of the flesh, these are not children of Yahweh, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 Indeed this word of promise: ‘At the appointed time I will come, and there will be a son for Sarah.’ 10 And not only, but Rebekka also had conceived from one, by Isaak our father. 11 Then not yet having been born, nor having performed any good or evil, (that the purpose of Yahweh concerning the chosen endures, not from rituals, but from the calling,) 12 to her it was said, “the elder will serve the younger:” 13 just as it is written, “Jakob I love, and Esau I hated.” Both Ishmael and Esau, as well as the later children of Keturah, were all children of the flesh of Abraham, but only Jacob had inherited the promises. That circumstance was attested by Isaac himself, in Genesis chapter 28, and it was affirmed by Yahweh, in both Genesis chapters 28 and 35.
According to the historical records, many of the people of Judaea, who were practicing Judaism, were actually Edomites and not Israelites. That history was prophesied in Ezekiel chapter 35, and again in a less obvious manner in Malachi chapter 2. Then once the prophesies had been fulfilled, as a matter of record it was later documented by Flavius Josephus in Book 13 of his Antiquities of the Judaeans, and corroborated by the pagan Greek geographer Strabo of Cappadocia in Book 16 of his Geography. So the historical and prophetic records give meaning and clarity to Paul’s words in chapter 9 of the epistle to the Romans. Later in that chapter of Romans, Paul had continued to compare Jacob and Esau, and by that, the Israelites and Edomites of Judaea, while addressing whomever may question his citation from Malachi in relation to the Judaeans. So he continued by displaying indignation, and then by asking a rhetorical question:
“20 But rather, O man, who are you to be arguing against Yahweh? Will the figure say to its fabricator: why did you make me in this manner? 21 Or does the potter not have authority over the clay, to make from out of the same lump one vessel for honor, and one for dishonor? 22 Moreover, if Yahweh wishes to display wrath, and to make known His power, with much patience having bore vessels of wrath furnished for destruction; 23 and so that He will make known the wealth of His honor upon vessels of mercy, which He previously prepared for honor; 24 whom also He has called, us not only from among the Judaeans, but also from out of the Nations?”
The vast majority of the Israelites had been spread abroad in much more ancient times, centuries before the Gospel of Christ, in the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities and even before that, and it is quite demonstrable in all of his epistles and in the book of Acts that those were the nations to whom Paul had endeavored to bring the Gospel of Christ. But in Judaea in his time, the Judaean people consisted of both Edomites and a remnant of the Israelites who returned from captivity, and in that passage Paul had further likened the Edomites as vessels of destruction, while calling the Israelites vessels of mercy. Perhaps the inspiration for his allegory is found in chapter 15 of the Wisdom of Solomon: “7 For even the potter, squeezing soft earth laboriously molds each one for our service, but from the same clay he models both the vessels which are employed for clean works and likewise also all things contrary. But of these, what is the use of each of the other the clay-worker is judge…” It is quite apparent from the very first words which Yahweh had spoken to Rebekah concerning Jacob and Esau, that the progeny of Esau were consigned to fulfill the role of “vessels of wrath furnished for destruction” while the progeny of Jacob were destined to be “vessels of mercy”.
Therefore when we encountered Genesis chapter 29 and the births of the first eleven of Jacob’s sons, we titled our discussion The First Stones, since the sons of Jacob are the beginning of the building of the temple of Yahweh as it is described in 1 Peter chapter 2. But now, with this description of the progeny of Esau in Genesis chapter 36, we see the beginning of the “vessels of wrath fitted for destruction” with which the children of Jacob would struggle throughout the balance of their history. The history of the Edomites is also an exhibition of how there could be men likened to “trees whose fruit had withered”, and how that could even happen, but we cannot possibly present that entire history here. Thus we begin with the genealogy of Esau:
1 Now these are the generations of Esau, who is Edom.
We can only assume that Moses is describing the descendants of Esau as they had existed around the time of the death of Isaac, around 1675 BC. There are several dozen of his male descendants mentioned in this chapter, and that is commensurate with the span of time during which he had children and up to the point of the death of Isaac. While Isaac had passed at the age of 180 years, at that time Esau was about 120 years old, as was Jacob. But Esau was first married when he was only 40 years old, while Jacob was not married to Leah until he was about 77 years old. So ostensibly, Esau had his first sons as many as 37 years before Jacob had any of his own. This is also apparent where the two men had met near the river Jabbok as Jacob returned from Haran. There, Esau had four hundred men with him, and while some of them must have been servants, it is very likely that many of them were his sons and grandsons. In contrast, Jacob’s oldest son Reuben could not have been much older than thirteen years old when Jacob left Haran, and including his servants, his numbers were far fewer than those of Esau. So at this point in the narrative, Esau had already been having children over a span of eighty years, and his oldest sons would be much older than Reuben, who must have been about 43 years old when Isaac had passed.
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 [LXX: son] of Zibeon the Hivite; 3 And Bashemath Ishmael's daughter, sister of Nebajoth.
As we had explained when the Hivites were first mentioned in Genesis chapter 10, in our presentation on the cursed Canaanites, the word Hivite is a scribal error for Horite, with the Hebrew letter ו (vav) apparently having been mistaken in place of the letter ר (resh). Those two letters, and also the letter ד (daleth), are all very similar, especially in handwriting as opposed to modern printing, and they are often mistaken for one another, a confusion for which there are many examples in Scripture. But otherwise, the Hivites are entirely unknown in ancient history and archaeology, and the Hurrians, or Horites in Scripture, who were actually quite prominent, are only mentioned on a few occasions. So with all certainty, where the Scriptures have Hivite it should be read as Horite.
Esau had taken his first two Hittite wives when he was about forty years old, but they were called “Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite” and “Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite”, as it is described in Genesis chapter 26. Then later, when Esau had understood that his Hittite wives had displeased his father, as it is recorded in Genesis chapter 28, he took to wife “Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael”, when he was about seventy years old. So these names are not quite the same as those which had appeared in the earlier chapters of Genesis.
But as we shall see, while the fate of his wife Judith is not recorded, it is possible that he had no children with her since they are not mentioned, unless Judith is actually the Adah mentioned here. The name יהודית or Judith (# 3067) as it appears in Genesis chapter 26 is a feminine form of the name Judah, meaning praised, while עדה or Adah is an ornament (# 5711) although identically spelled words mean fixture (# 5712) and testimony (# 5713). So perhaps Moses had sought to make a statement in his use of these names and they do not represent an error because in the end, all that matters is that the wives of Esau were to be rejected, and taking them Esau had made himself a profane fornicator, a race-mixer who consigned his own progeny to the curse of Canaan.
But something which is even more confusing is the listing of Bashemath here as the daughter of Ishmael. In Genesis chapter 26 Bashemath was the name of one of Esau’s Hittite wives, and Mahalath was the name of Esau’s wife from Ishmael in Genesis chapter 28. So somewhere along the line these names were confused, and it is difficult to determine precisely how that could have happened. Perhaps Esau had taken more than one wife from Ishmael, and something happened to the first wife in the interim. Over a span of eighty years, the time from when Esau had taken his first Hittite wife to the time of the death of Isaac, there may have been many changes in the circumstances of Esau’s wives, and none of them are recorded. However one thing is certainly apparent, Esau continued to take new wives, regardless of what had happened to the old wives. This is apparent as “Aholibamah the daughter of Anah”, one of his wives mentioned here, he must have married much later, since it is revealed later in this chapter that she was one of the Horites of Mount Seir. This is also why Moses included the Horites in Esau’s genealogy here in this chapter.
So here it is evident that perhaps none of the wives of Esau here in this chapter are the same women as the original wives which he had taken in the earlier chapters of Genesis.
Noah had cursed Canaan by stating, as it is recorded in Genesis chapter 9, “25 … Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.” Yahweh must have foreseen Esau’s selection of wives, and for that reason, before he was born Yahweh told Rebekah that “the elder shall serve the younger” because Esau joined himself to the Canaanites. The wife whom Esau had taken of Ishmael was not a Canaanite, as Hagar “his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt”, as it is recorded in Genesis chapter 21 (21:21). However the children which Esau had with her could not have kept themselves from Esau’s other sons and daughters, and they would not have even known that they should have kept themselves apart from the others.
4 And Adah bare to Esau Eliphaz; and Bashemath bare Reuel;
The Hebrew name רעואל or Reuel (# 7467) is a phrase which means friend of god, but that does not mean in this case that it refers to Yahweh God. In the Septuagint, it was often rendered as Ραγουηλ or Raguel, a form which was employed on occasion in the King James Version where the name appears elsewhere in Scripture. As it is described here, this Reuel was born to Esau in the land of Canaan, before he had moved to Mount Seir, and apparently he must have been born some time before Jacob had returned from Haran, and probably even sooner. Esau had already been married for thirty years before Jacob had even departed for Haran. So it is not far-fetched to imagine that Reuel was already of age by the time when Jacob went to Haran.
But because the father-in-law of Moses, who had been known by several other names or titles, was called by the same name Reuel in Exodus chapter 2 and elsewhere, there are some who insist that he should be identified with this Reuel. We do not know how old the father of the wife of Moses was, but Moses was about 40 years old when he fled to the land of Midian and met his then-future wife, and Moses was not born until about 135 years after Jacob went down to Egypt. Jacob went to Egypt 215 years before the exodus, which happened when Moses was about eighty years old. This Reuel, even if he was not born until Esau was 70, would have been about 50 years old when Isaac died, and by necessity he would have been about 60 years old when Jacob went to Egypt 10 years later, and 195 years old when Moses was born. Considering the lifespans of the patriarchs at this time, it is not likely that he would have lived until he was 235, when Moses was 40, and even some years beyond that time. If he was born soon after Esau was first married, he would have been closer to 265 years old when Moses was 40, so it is quite incredible to think that this Reuel was the same Reuel as the father-in-law of Moses. Moses did not marry an Edomite, but a Midianite, a descendant of Abraham by his son Midian.
5 And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these are the sons of Esau, which were born unto him in the land of Canaan.
While we are not going to define, or even discuss all of the names here, it should be evident at this point that certain names were popular among the various related nations of the ancient world, at least here in the Levant and Mesopotamia, and some of them occur frequently throughout Scripture.
6 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. 7 For their riches were more than that they might dwell together; and the land wherein they were strangers could not bear them because of their cattle.
Here Esau is depicted as if he were just moving from Canaan, while he had already lived in Mount Seir for many years. However it is apparent that, since Moses is giving this account of Esau’s move immediately after he had helped Jacob bury Isaac, and Isaac had a great number of servants and cattle of his own. As we have also already discussed, in the ancient world, it is apparent that a man is not truly independent until the death of his father. So it is further apparent that when Isaac died, Esau had very likely come to Canaan with his entire family, who had then mourned Isaac, after which Jacob and Esau would have divided his estate, adding many cattle and servants to those which each of them had already had. So after the division of their father’s estate, Esau moved back to Mount Seir once again. But here, Moses is describing all of the sons which Esau had already had in Canaan, and now he will describe all of the sons which he had in Seir, and in that manner it is not necessary to perceive any discrepancy in the account:
8 Thus dwelt Esau in mount Seir: Esau is Edom. 9 And these are the generations of Esau the father of the Edomites in mount Seir:
It is plausible that Esau had first been called Edom by Jacob, where he had sold his birthright for a bowl of red lentils, and we read in Genesis chapter 25: “30 And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom.” So Esau was named for his materialistic, worldly desires. But Jacob was renamed Israel because he would overcome his worldly struggles, first by the angel near the river Jabbok, and later he was renamed Israel by Yahweh Himself in Genesis chapter 35.
10 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. 11 And the sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho, and Gatam, and Kenaz.
The posterity of Teman is later mentioned in Jeremiah chapter 49: “20 Therefore hear the counsel of the LORD, that he hath taken against Edom; and his purposes, that he hath purposed against the inhabitants of Teman: Surely the least of the flock shall draw them out: surely he shall make their habitations desolate with them.” If the location of ancient Teman in Idumaea is properly identified with a site near Petra which bears its name in modern Jordan today, it is about 75 miles southeast of Beersheba. These other sons are not mentioned outside of the genealogies found here and in 1 Chronicles chapter 1.
12 And Timna was concubine to Eliphaz Esau's son; and she bare to Eliphaz Amalek: these were the sons of Adah Esau's wife.
The noted tribe of the Amalekites are described later in Scripture as having dwelt to the south of Judah and west of the southern portion of the Dead Sea, extending southward into the lands of Ishmael and the borders of Egypt. The Amalekites had fought with Israel as early as Exodus chapter 17, and in the closing verses of that chapter we read: “14 And the LORD said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. 15 And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovahnissi: 16 For he said, Because the LORD hath sworn that the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” While the relevance of such things are unknown among nearly all Christians today, it should by understood that the Amalekites, like the rest of the Edomites are found primarily among both Jews and Arabs of today.
13 And these are the sons of Reuel; Nahath, and Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah: these were the sons of Bashemath Esau's wife. 14 And these were the sons of Aholibamah, the daughter of Anah the daughter [LXX: son] of Zibeon, Esau's wife: and she bare to Esau Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah.
Now the names of the sons of Esau are listed again, in a somewhat different manner:
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, 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. 17 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. 18 And these are the sons of Aholibamah Esau's wife; duke Jeush, duke Jaalam, duke Korah: these were the dukes that came of Aholibamah the daughter of Anah, Esau's wife. 19 These are the sons of Esau, who is Edom, and these are their dukes.
All of these names had been mentioned in verses 4 through 14, but here they are described as dukes, which is an unfortunate word because in English duke is the title of a monarch who rules over a duchy, which is a parcel of land which a duke holds as a hereditary ruler. The word duke is from the Latin term dux which described a military commander of no specific rank. But the Hebrew word translated as duke here, אלוף or elewph (# 441), is defined by Strong’s to mean “familiar; a friend, also gentle; hence a bullock (as being tame; applied, although masculine, to a cow); and so a chieftain (as notable like neat cattle)”. Gesenius defined the term in very much the same manner, except that instead of having chieftain he has “the leader of a family or tribe” , which certainly is more appropriate.
So these sons of Esau were not dukes, as the King James Version has it, but rather each of them had become the patriarchs of their own households, in what would grow to become known as the historical land of Edom, which was already a viable political entity by the time of Moses and the Exodus, two hundred and twenty five years after the death of Isaac. However describing them here at this early time as leaders of families, Moses indicates that they were already leaders of families, as Esau was having children long before Jacob had his own.
However while this was the posterity of Esau, it was hardly an image of the genetic heritage of Esau himself, which is apparent as a branch of the Horites, who in turn had also descended from the ancient Canaanites but had evidently mingled with other groups, are now included in this genealogy of Esau:
20 These are the sons of Seir the Horite, who inhabited the land; Lotan, and Shobal, and Zibeon, and Anah, 21 And Dishon, and Ezer, and Dishan: these are the dukes of the Horites, the children of Seir in the land of Edom. 22 And the children of Lotan were Hori and Hemam; and Lotan's sister was Timna.
This last statement is one of two which reveals the underlying reason why Moses had included the Horites of Seir in the genealogy of Esau. Earlier in this chapter we read that “12 … Timna was concubine to Eliphaz Esau's son; and she bare to Eliphaz Amalek: these were the sons of Adah Esau's wife.” So we would assert that this must be the same Timnah, since Moses would otherwise have had no reason to include a woman in this list of Horites, as daughters were typically not reckoned in ancient genealogies without a particular reason for their having been mentioned.
Continuing with the Horites of Seir:
23 And the children of Shobal were these; Alvan, and Manahath, and Ebal, Shepho, and Onam. 24 And these are the children of Zibeon; both Ajah, and Anah: this was that Anah that found the mules in the wilderness, as he fed the asses of Zibeon his father.
Earlier in this chapter, in verse 2, this Zibeon is called a Hivite, and this helps to establish the truth of our assertion as an incontrovertible fact: that Hivite is an error for Horite wherever the word appears in Scripture. Now, as we had seen with Timna, another daughter is mentioned among the sons of Anah:
25 And the children of Anah were these; Dishon, and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah.
This Aholibamah is clearly “Aholibamah the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon” whom Esau himself is described as having taken to wife here in verse 2. So the three wives of Esau described here, with whom he had these sons, are not necessarily the same as the three women whom he had taken to wife in Genesis chapter 26 and 28, and this wife is is certainly not one of those earlier three.
This also establishes our assertions that these Horites are listed here because Esau had joined himself to them, and the Edomites became one with the Horites of Seir, which is evidently why they are listed here in this description of the genealogy of Esau in the first place. So Esau, and ostensibly all of his sons, continued to intermingle with the Canaanites, and Esau had purposely transgressed the will of his father, which he was portrayed as having acknowledged in Genesis chapter 28, backsliding to return to the daughters of Canaan.
26 And these are the children of Dishon; Hemdan, and Eshban, and Ithran, and Cheran. 27 The children of Ezer are these; Bilhan, and Zaavan, and Akan. 28 The children of Dishan are these; Uz, and Aran.
This Uz is very likely the man for whom the land of Uz was named, which seems to have been immediately to the south of Judah, although its precise location is not known. In Jeremiah chapter 25 there may be a hint where in an oracle condemning many of the surrounding nations we read: “19 Pharaoh king of Egypt, and his servants, and his princes, and all his people; 20 And all the mingled people, and all the kings of the land of Uz, and all the kings of the land of the Philistines, and Ashkelon, and Azzah, and Ekron, and the remnant of Ashdod, 21 Edom, and Moab, and the children of Ammon…” There Uz is grouped with Egypt and the Philistines and their cities on the coast, where Uz may well have been located on the western borders of Edom, south of Judah. So Egypt and Uz are mentioned first, then the Philistines and their cities, and after that Edom and Moab are mentioned, so Uz is grouped with the places to the west and not to the east of Judah.
Now as Moses repeated the clan leaders of the sons of Esau, he does that same thing for the sons of Seir the Horite, whose progeny had become joined to that of Esau:
29 These are the dukes that came of the Horites; duke Lotan, duke Shobal, duke Zibeon, duke Anah, 30 Duke Dishon, duke Ezer, duke Dishan: these are the dukes that came of Hori, among their dukes in the land of Seir.
Here the number of the clan leaders of the family of Seir the Horite are only half that of the Edomites, and once again, all of these dukes had been mentioned in the genealogy which had preceded. There is some confusion concerning this Anah, as Anah was described as the daughter of Zibeon here in verses 2 and 14. but in the Septuagint, this Anah was called the son of Zibeon, which is more than likely to be the correct reading. Anah was certainly a man, a son of Zibeon and not a daughter, as we read in verse 24 that “… this was that Anah that found the mules in the wilderness, as he fed the asses of Zibeon his father.” The meaning of the word translated as mules there is contended and it may refer to hot springs. So this Anah who had given a daughter in marriage to Esau must have been notable enough among the sons of Zibeon to merit having been mentioned separately here.
So two women have been mentioned in this genealogy of the Horites of Seir, Timna and Aholibamah, and Esau had taken one of them to wife, while his son Eliphaz had taken the other. The withered apple does not fall far from the tree, and many other Edomites must have also mingled with the Horites.
Now certain men of the descendants of those listed here, who are apparently not mentioned earlier, had evidently risen to rule over all of these families, those of Edom and those of Seir the Horite, but it is not even certain which side of the family it was to whom they had belonged. It shall also become evident that as Moses progresses, the time frame moves beyond the time of Esau himself, and perhaps it is followed all the way down to the time of Moses:
31 And these are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel. 32 And Bela the son of Beor reigned in Edom: and the name of his city was Dinhabah. 33 And Bela died, and Jobab the son of Zerah of Bozrah reigned in his stead. 34 And Jobab died, and Husham of the land of Temani reigned in his stead.
Later in Scripture and in history the name of Bozrah is notable, where it is mentioned several times in Isaiah and Jeremiah, and also in Amos and in Micah. So, for example, we read in Jeremiah chapter 49: “13 For I have sworn by myself, saith the LORD, that Bozrah shall become a desolation, a reproach, a waste, and a curse; and all the cities thereof shall be perpetual wastes.” The other towns mentioned here are all obscure. This Jobab was only the second king of Edom, so he must have been early, and it seems that the Zerah mentioned here as having been his father is the same Zerah who was a son of Reuel the son of Esau mentioned in verse 13 of this chapter. So this Jobab is very likely a great-grandson of Esau, as well as one of the early kings of Edom.
It has been proposed by some, that this Jobab is the same man as the Job of Scripture, who had lived in the south of Judah, in the land of Uz which had been associated with neighboring Edom. The basis for this is only the similar sounding name. However Moses here seems to have listed only the descendants of Esau and of Seir the Horite who had lived in their own immediate time, where only a couple of grandsons and great-grandsons are mentioned, and up to this point there is nobody beyond that third generation of descendants. Seir was certainly a contemporary of Esau, since in the later portion of his life Esau had taken his great-granddaughter for a wife. As it is described here, Aholibamah was the daughter of Anah, the son of Zibeon, the son of Seir. So even if Seir was a little older than Esau, it is evident that Esau and he were contemporaries. Then as the chapter proceeds, there are many more kings listed which seems to bring the account of the kings of Edom down to the time of Moses.
However in the Book of Job, the title character had evidently lived in the land of Uz after Israel had taken Canaan, at a time when “6… there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD”, as it is recorded in Job chapter 1. First, the Israelites did not refer to themselves as the “sons of God” until Yahweh their God had Himself called them His children, no earlier than Deuteronomy chapter 14. Secondly, only the Israelites were commanded to appear before Yahweh, as it is found in the law in Exodus 23:17, three times each year. Thirdly, Job seems to have lived in a relatively peaceful time, after the days of Joshua and the conquest of at least most of Canaan, so by those circumstances alone he must have lived, at the earliest, some time around 1350 BC, and probably later. Fourth, the “kindred of Ram” are mentioned in Job chapter 32, and it is apparent in the later genealogies, for example in Ruth chapter 4, that Ram was a notable Judahite, an ancestor of David who lived in the eighth generation before David. Apparently Ram was a son of Hezron, the son of Pharez the son of Judah. While Hezron accompanied Pharez to Egypt, as it is described in Genesis chapter 46, it is apparent there that Ram was not yet born, so he must have been born later, in Egypt.
Therefore Ram was not born for at least some decades after the death of Isaac, and could not have had a family of his own for at least some decades after that. Then Elihu, the young man in the account of Job whose father was described as having been “of the kindred of Ram”, meaning that the man was a descendant of Ram, very likely had lived long after Ram himself had died. In Job 32:2 we read of “… Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram …” The Ram who was the son of Hezron the son of Pharez was the chief of a notable clan of Israel during the captivity from Egypt. Elihu’s father was described as having been “of the kindred of Ram”, so there is some distance between the time of Job and the time of Jobab, at least two hundred and fifty years and possibly as many as two hundred more. With Job’s having been described in the opening verse of his book as a “man … perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil” it is practically slanderous to associate him with this Jobab, a bastard king over Edom at a much earlier time, based on a mere similarity of the names.
35 And Husham died, and Hadad the son of Bedad, who smote Midian [the Midianites] in the field of Moab, reigned in his stead: and the name of his city was Avith. 36 And Hadad died, and Samlah of Masrekah reigned in his stead. 37 And Samlah died, and Saul of Rehoboth by the river reigned in his stead. 38 And Saul died, and Baalhanan the son of Achbor reigned in his stead. 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.
Here we are not certain of how far in time this succession of kings takes us, but this list is long enough that it seems to have been recorded nearly down to the time of Moses himself. To us today, who are far detached from this long-lost history, the names seem insignificant, and none of them are found elsewhere in Scripture, nor are the names of the few towns which are mentioned here found in later Scripture outside of these genealogies. But they must have meant something to the Israelites of the time of Moses and thereafter, as the history would have been more accessible to them, and since these men ruled a land which was in close proximity to Egypt, their names must have been known to the Egyptians.
Now the account takes an odd turn, as there are clan leaders of the descendants of Esau who are mentioned once again:
40 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, 41 Duke Aholibamah, duke Elah, duke Pinon, 42 Duke Kenaz, duke Teman, duke Mibzar, 43 Duke Magdiel, duke Iram: these be the dukes of Edom, according to their habitations in the land of their possession: he is Esau the father of the Edomites.
Where Aholibamah is listed as a clan leader here, or duke, the word for duke is in the same masculine form as it is everywhere in this chapter, so evidently we have a descendant of Esau who was named after one of Esau’s wives, and who was probably this same man’s grandmother, or great-grandmother, or perhaps she was an even more distant ancestor.
Here there is a second list of the clan leaders of the Edomites, and as the preceding history of the kings of Edom must have spanned a significant period of time beyond the death of Isaac, this list seems to reflect a result of that history. Initially, there were fourteen clan leaders of Edom listed in verses 15 through 19 of this chapter, and here there are only eleven. Of these eleven, only two names appear in the first list, that of Kenaz and Teman. But this Kenaz and Teman are not necessarily the same Kenaz and Teman of the first list, and this list seems to belong to a time which is some generations later.
So apparently, this history spans from the death of Isaac to the time of Moses, during which these kings had ruled Edom, a period of two hundred and twenty-five years, and the clans were engaged with either power struggles or consolidation with one another. Furthermore, there must have been at least some external wars, as the example in verse 35 suggests, where it was said that “Hadad the son of Bedad, … smote Midian in the field of Moab”.
In any event, these are all the beginnings of the “vessels of destruction” found in the Edomites, the ancestors of the modern Jews and at least many of the modern Arabs, who were also described by the apostles as “trees whose fruit has withered”, ostensibly because they are all bastards, and none of them have the Spirit of Yahweh within them.
In the late 2nd century BC, and into the first quarter of the 1st century BC, the Judaean high priests John Hyrcanus and Alexander Jannaeus had executed a policy of forced conversions of the Edomites in Judaea, who were quite numerous, to the religion of Jerusalem which by then had been corrupted enough to be identified as Judaism. It certainly was not the profession of Moses, of David, or of Christ.
Then Herod, who was from a notable family of those Edomites, became an officer in the court of one of the later of those priests, whose name was also Hyrcanus, and had betrayed him by siding with the Romans, where for his treachery they had rewarded him with the position of kingship of Judaea once Rome had prevailed. From that time until the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the Edomites had ruled the city pretending to be the heirs of Abraham, and they were the adversaries of Christ.
Of these, the apostle Jude had warned in his lone epistle “4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Then, speaking of his own time, he continued further on and wrote: “12 These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; 13 Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.” They are still among Christians today, and these same things hold true every time a Jew or an Arab is admitted into a Christian fellowship.
This concludes our commentary for Genesis chapter 36.
1 Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament, translated by Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, Baker Books, 1979, p. 726.
2 The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, Hendrickson Publishers, 2021, p. 875.
3 Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament, p. 50.