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Genesis 36

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATION

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB (follows MT)
Esau Moves The Family of Esau Edomite Lists The Descendants of Esau Esau's Wives and Children in Canaan
36:1 36:1-8 36:1-5 36:1-5 36:1-5
36:2-5       Esau's Migration
36:6-8   36:6-8 36:6-8 36:6-8
Descendants of Esau       Esau's Descendants in Seir
36:9-14 36:9-14 36:9-14 36:9-13a 36:9
        36:10
        36:11-12
      36:13b 36:13
      36:14 36:14
  The Chiefs of Edom     The Chieftains of Edom
36:15-19 36:15-16 36:15-19 36:15-16 36:15-16
  36:17   36:17 36:17
  36:18-19   36:18-19 36:18
        36:19
  The Sons of Seir   The Descendants of Seir The Descendants of Seir the Horite
36:20-30 36:20-30 36:20-30 36:20-21 36:20-28
      36:22  
      36:23  
      36:24-26  
      36:27  
      36:28  
      36:29-30 36:29-30
  The Kings of Edom   The Kings of Edom The Kings of Edom
36:31-39 36:31-39 36:31-39 36:31-39 36:31-39
  The Chiefs of Esau     The Chieftains of Edom
36:40-43 36:40-43 36:40-43 36:40-43 36:40-37:1

READING CYCLE THREE

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

BACKGROUND STUDY - Israel's relationship with the descendants of Esau (i.e., Edom)

A. Israel was required to have a special friendship toward Edom because they were related.

l.  Numbers 20:14

2.  Deuteronomy 23:7, 8

 

B.  There are numerous problems between Israel and Edom through the years.

l.  Numbers 20:14-21

2.  Judges 11:16-17

3.  I Samuel 14:47-48

4.  II Samuel 8:14

5.  I Kings 11:14-25

6.  II Kings 14:22; 16:5, 6

7.  II Chronicles 20:10-30; 21:8-15

8.  Amos 1:6, 9

 

C. There are numerous prophecies against Edom.

1. Isaiah 34:5ff ; 63:1ff

2.  Jeremiah 49:7-22; Lamentations 4:21, 22

3. Ezekiel 25:12ff; 35:lff; 36:2-6

4.  Amos 1:11, 12

5.  Obadiah

 

D.  Chapter 36 is the genealogy of Esau, which seems to reflect the prophecy of Gen. 27:39-40. It is obvious from the recurrent phrase ("these are the records of the generations of. . .") found in 36:1 that Moses used these OT characters as a way of dividing his account (i.e., Genesis) of the beginnings of the Hebrew people (cf. 2:4; 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10,27; 25:12, 9; 36:1,9; 37:2). Those who are part of the Messianic line receive the most space and attention.

 

E. A brief outline of this chapter could be

1. vv. 2-9 are Esau's children in Canaan

2. vv. 10-14 are Esau's grandchildren in Seir

3. vv. 15-19 and 40-43 are the chieftains of the nation of Edom

4. vv. 20-30 list the native rulers in this area

5. vv. 31-39 are the later kings of Edom (a similar list occurs in I Chr. 1:35-54)

6. vv. 40-43 are the names of chiefs descended from Esau

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 36:1
  
1Now these are the records of the generations of Esau (that is, Edom).

36:1 "these are the records of the generations of" This recurrent phrase (possibly a colophon) marks the divisions of the book of Genesis (cf. 2:4; 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10, 27; 25:12, 19; 36:1, 9; 37:2). There is no verb in this phrase.

"Esau (that is, Edom)" This emphasis on the origin of the Edomites relating back to Jacob's brother, Esau, is a repeated theme throughout this chapter (cf. 8, 9, 19, 43. Esau's connection to Edom is spelled out specifically in Gen. 25:25, 30).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 36:2-5
  
2Esau took his wives from the daughters of Canaan: Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah the daughter of Anah and the granddaughter of Zibeon the Hivite; 3also Basemath, Ishmael's daughter, the sister of Nebaioth. 4Adah bore Eliphaz to Esau, and Basemath bore Reuel, 5and Oholibamah bore Jeush and Jalam and Korah. These are the sons of Esau who were born to him in the land of Canaan.

36:2 "Esau took his wives from the daughters of Canaan" The names of Esau's Canaanite wives are recorded in three different places: Gen. 26:34, 35; 28:8; and 36:2ff. However, the problem arises when these three accounts differ on the names of the wives. This discrepancy has been explained in different ways: (1) that there were not three wives, but four and (2) that these women had more than one name. It seems obvious from the text that Esau had at least two wives from Canaan and one daughter of Ishmael.

▣ "Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite" In Gen. 26:34 the daughter of Elon the Hittite is called Basemath (BDB 142). It seems unusual that this same name is used for Ishmael's daughter in Gen. 36:3. Rashi says that this may have been a common name for women because it is possibly related to the term for fragrance or incense (BDB 141). The Jewish tradition that is so biased against Esau affirms that her name relates to incense which she burned to idols, therefore, making her an idolater.

The term "Hittite" (BDB 366) is used of three distinct groups in the OT.

1. The original inhabitants of central Asia Minor called Hattians (i.e., they spoke Hattic) in the third millennium b.c. They were not Semitic or Judo-European.

2. Judo-European invaders in the second millennium b.c. (i.e., they spoke Nesite) who founded a large powerful empire.

3. Descendants from Heth (Gen. 10:15; 23:3,5,7,10,16,20; 25:10; 27:46; 49:32). They are listed as one of the ten groups who inhabited Canaan.

This titling of three distinct groups by the same name causes great confusion.

"Oholibamah" This name means "tent of high place" (BDB 14), however, all of these names are very debatable as to their original etymological connection. The same root can mean "tree," "aloe," "shine," or "be clean." From Gen. 26:34-35 this same girl is apparently called Judith (if Esau had only three wives). Rashi says that Esau changed her name to Judith (BDB 397 II), which he says means "Jewish" (adjective, BDB 397 I). This shows that she had left her idol worship and, thereby, would impress his father (i.e., Isaac). It is unusual that this same name occurs in v. 41 of this same chapter to denote a man. It is still in the feminine form, which shows that there has been some disruption of the Hebrew text in this chapter. The divergence of genealogies is common in the Bible because of (1) the difficulty of recording long series of names without spelling errors and (2) the difficulty of transcribing names from one language to another. Notice how many names change in I Chr. 1:35-54.

"the granddaughter of Zibeon the Hivite" The Masoretic Text simply has "the daughter of," however, the Samaritan Pent., the Septuagint, and the Syriac translations have "son." It is obvious from the context and v. 24 that we are talking about a granddaughter.

Zibeon is called a Hivite. If it is true that this girl is related to one of the girls recorded in chapter 26, she is also called a Hittite. There has been much confusion in the translation of the OT between the exact relationship of Hittite (BDB 366), Hivite (BDB 295), and Horite (BDB 360 II, cf. v. 20; 14:6). Usually the term "Horites" (cf. v. 20) is used for non-Semitic Hurians (ZPBE, vol. 3, pp. 228-229), but apparently the term may refer to a group of Semites who were miners or cave dwellers (BDB 359, KB 339, "hole"). The evidence for this is that all of their names are Semitic, not Hurian.

36:3 "Basemath" This girl is called "Mahalath," which means "pardon" (BDB 142) in Gen. 28:9. It is interesting that in the Samaritan Penteteuch her name is changed from Basemath (Gen. 36:3,4,10) to Mahalath. This shows that, very early, scholars recognized the problems with these names (i.e., a person has two names, a nickname, a change of names). It is to be remembered that Esau married one of Ishmael's daughters in order to please his father and mother.

"the sister of Nebaioth" It is assumed that Ishmael was dead at this time and that her brother acted in his place in giving her away and that is the reason why his name is included in the text. It is also possible, because this happens so often (i.e., brother acts as family representative in marriage issues, Laban, Simeon/Levi, even Abram claiming to be Sarai's brother), that this may reflect ANE culture. Some have assumed because of the predominance of women's names in this genealogy that there was a tendency toward matriarchy present in these Arabian tribes, but at this point historical documentation is uncertain.

36:4-5 This is a list of some of the major tribes of Esau which will later be developed in the chieftain lists occurring later in this chapter. This chapter can be divided based on the content of these genealogies.

1. vv. 2-9 are Esau's children in Canaan

2. vv. 10-14 are Esau's grandchildren in Seir

3. vv. 15-19 and 40-43 are the chieftains of the nation of Edom

4. vv. 20-30 list the native rulers in this area

5. vv. 31-39 are the later kings of Edom.

6. vv. 40-43 are the names of chiefs descended from Esau

A very similar list occurs in I Chr. 1:35-54.

36:5 "Korah" I have simply chosen one of the names which is used two different times in order to show the problem of really understanding the detailed relationship of these genealogies. It is asserted by some that there are two different "Korah's" listed; one here in v. 5 and one in v. 16. However, Rashi says that they are related by the fact that the same person took his father's wife. This shows the Jewish bias against Esau. The rabbinical interpretation of this chapter is very negative and assumes horrendous incest and family problems in the linage of Esau. This may be true, but it is not spelled out in the text and this negative understanding can be attained only by a biased presupposition.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 36:6-8
  
6Then Esau took his wives and his sons and his daughters and all his household, and his livestock and all his cattle and all his goods which he had acquired in the land of Canaan, and went to another land away from his brother Jacob. 7For their property had become too great for them to live together, and the land where they sojourned could not sustain them because of their livestock. 8So Esau lived in the hill country of Seir; Esau is Edom.

36:6 "Esau took his wives and his sons. . .and went to another land away from his brother Jacob" The reason for this separation is mentioned in chapter 36 as the need for more pasture land (cf. v. 7). However, theologically, it seems to be related to the fact that Jacob was the true heir (i.e., Isaac's blessing) of the land of Palestine and when he returned he inherited his father Isaac's flocks as well as his own.

36:8 "So Esau lived in the hill country of Seir; Esau is Edom" It is quite possible that during the years of Jacob's absence Esau moved his flocks from Seir back to Canaan at different times of the year and this account simply states that he stayed in Seir (cf. 32:3). However, this is uncertain. Mt. Seir became the traditional name for the nation of Edom.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 36:9-14
  
9These then are the records of the generations of Esau the father of the Edomites in the hill country of Seir. 10These are the names of Esau's sons: Eliphaz the son of Esau's wife Adah, Reuel the son of Esau's wife Basemath. 11The sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho and Gatam and Kenaz. 12Timna was a concubine of Esau's son Eliphaz and she bore Amalek to Eliphaz. These are the sons of Esau's wife Adah. 13These are the sons of Reuel: Nahath and Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah. These were the sons of Esau's wife Basemath. 14These were the sons of Esau's wife Oholibamah, the daughter of Anah and the granddaughter of Zibeon: she bore to Esau, Jeush and Jalam and Korah.

36:10 "These are the names of Esau's sons" It is obvious from the repeated listing of Esau's sons that this chapter is divided into several distinct types of genealogical documents (see note at 36:4-5).

36:11 "the sons of Eliphaz" There has been much discussion as to whether this is the same Eliphaz as in the book of Job. There seems to be some credibility to this because the land of Uz (i.e., a son named Uz) is mentioned in v. 28. Edom was famous for her wise men, particularly from the city of Teman. These two evidences point toward Edom as the homeland of Job. Whether Eliphaz is the same as his "friend" is uncertain.

36:12 "Timna was a concubine of Esau's son Eliphaz . .she bore Amalek to Eliphaz" She is singled out as a concubine obviously because she is the mother of the fierce enemy of the Israelites known as the "Amalekites" (cf. Exodus 17; Deut. 25:17,19; I Samuel 15). It was meant to be a derogatory statement because this is the only child of a concubine mentioned in this genealogical list.

36:14 "the sons of Esau's wife Oholibamah" There has been much discussion as to why the sons of this one wife are mentioned along with the grandchildren. Some say that this is to relegate the children to the level of the grandchildren, i.e. a rather disparaging comment on this woman's sons. It possibly relates to inheritance rights.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 36:15-19
  
15These are the chiefs of the sons of Esau. The sons of Eliphaz, the firstborn of Esau, are chief Teman, chief Omar, chief Zepho, chief Kenaz, 16chief Korah, chief Gatam, chief Amalek. These are the chiefs descended from Eliphaz in the land of Edom; these are the sons of Adah. 17These are the sons of Reuel, Esau's son: chief Nahath, chief Zerah, chief Shammah, chief Mizzah. These are the chiefs descended from Reuel in the land of Edom; these are the sons of Esau's wife Basemath. 18These are the sons of Esau's wife Oholibamah: chief Jeush, chief Jalam, chief Korah. These are the chiefs descended from Esau's wife Oholibamah, the daughter of Anah. 19These are the sons of Esau (that is, Edom), and these are their chiefs.

36:15-19 This is a list of the tribal leaders who came from Esau. The term "chief" (BDB 49 II) is the Hebrew word for "thousand" (BDB 48 II), which is used for

1. a family or clan unit, Josh. 22:14; Jdgs. 6:15; I Sam. 23:23; Zech. 9:7

2. a military unit, Exod. 18:21,25; Deut. 1:15

3. a literal thousand, Gen. 20:16; Exod. 32:28

4. symbolism, Gen. 24:60; Exod. 20:6 (Deut. 7:9; Jer. 32:18)

5. Ugaritic (a cognate Semitic language), the same consonants as alluph, which means "chieftain" (cf. Gen. 36:15). This would mean that for Num. 1:39 there were 60 chieftains and 62,700 men from Dan. The problem comes when there are obviously too many chieftains for the number of men in some tribes.

Many of the number problems of the OT can be explained by our inability to be certain of the translation of some of these Hebrew words. Many of Esau's sons are mentioned in this list of chieftains, which shows how his family took over the leadership of this geographical area.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 36:20-30
  
20These are the sons of Seir the Horite, the inhabitants of the land: Lotan and Shobal and Zibeon and Anah, 21and Dishon and Ezer and Dishan. These are the chiefs descended from the Horites, the sons of Seir in the land of Edom. 22The sons of Lotan were Hori and Hemam; and Lotan's sister was Timna. 23These are the sons of Shobal: Alvan and Manahath and Ebal, Shepho and Onam. 24These are the sons of Zibeon: Aiah and Anah - he is the Anah who found the hot springs in the wilderness when he was pasturing the donkeys of his father Zibeon. 25These are the children of Anah: Dishon, and Oholibamah, the daughter of Anah. 26These are the sons of Dishon: Hemdan and Eshban and Ithran and Cheran. 27These are the sons of Ezer: Bilhan and Zaavan and Akan. 28These are the sons of Dishan: Uz and Aran. 29These are the chiefs descended from the Horites: chief Lotan, chief Shobal, chief Zibeon, chief Anah, 30chief Dishon, chief Ezer, chief Dishan. These are the chiefs descended from the Horites, according to their various chiefs in the land of Seir.

36:20 "These are the sons of Seir the Horite, the inhabitants of the land" From Deut. 2:12 we learn that the sons of Esau disposed the inhabitants of Edom as the sons of Jacob disposed the inhabitants of the land of Canaan. However, we also see that there was some intermarriage between these two groups. It is uncertain if the intermarriage was an initial result of amalgamation of the tribes or if it was a result of defeating these people and taking their women as booty.

36:24 "These are the sons of Zibeon. . .who found the hot springs in the wilderness when he was pasturing the donkeys of his father Zibeon" The Hebrew word translated "hot springs" (BDB 411) is difficult to define. I want to use this as an example of some of the difficulties we encounter in trying to understand parts of the OT, particularly those parts which are described by terms which are rarely used.

1. this term is used only here in the Hebrew Bible

2. in the Septuagint it is merely transliterated, not translated

3. in the Vulgate it is translated as "hot springs" (cf. REB), which we know are present in this geographical area

4. some translations believe that it refers to the term "vipers," which also are present in this area

5. the Peshita changes the consonants "ymm" (ממי) to "mym" (מימ) which means "water" (cf. NKJV)

6. the rabbis say that a very similar term for "mules" (cf. KJV, ASV, NEB) is referred to here because it is a symbolic or idiomatic way of saying that this tribe came to no end in itself, i.e. mules cannot reproduce

7. the Samaritan Pentateuch changes the word to Emim, which is used in Deut. 2:10 for the giants.

This kind of wide divergence in translation shows the problem of trying to understand the meaning of these rare Hebrew terms. Be careful not to get caught up in these kinds of details that do not affect the main truth(s) of the literary unit! They are interesting, but not crucial.

36:25 Notice one of the names of Esau's wives, Oholibamah, is used here again in connection with the daughter of Adah (cf. v. 2). This has caused great problems for commentators. The Pulpit Commentary says that this was a different person, but was the cousin of Esau's wife's father. Names are common within families, regions, areas, and periods of time. Often several people go by the same name. The only way to differentiate them is by their fathers.

36:26 "Dishon" The Hebrew text has "Dishan," but because of I Chr. 1:41 most translations have changed the term. There is another descendant named "Dishon" in v. 3 or "Dishan" in I Chr. 1:42.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 36:31-39
  
31Now these are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the sons of Israel. 32Bela the son of Beor reigned in Edom, and the name of his city was Dinhabah. 33Then Bela died, and Jobab the son of Zerah of Bozrah became king in his place. 34Then Jobab died, and Husham of the land of the Temanites became king in his place. 35Then Husham died, and Hadad the son of Bedad, who defeated Midian in the field of Moab, became king in his place; and the name of his city was Avith. 36Then Hadad died, and Samlah of Masrekah became king in his place. 37Then Samlah died, and Shaul of Rehoboth on the Euphrates River became king in his place. 38Then Shaul died, and Baal-hanan the son of Achbor became king in his place. 39Then Baal-hanan the son of Achbor died, and Hadar became king in his place; and the name of his city was Pau; and his wife's name was Mehetabel, the daughter of Matred, daughter of Mezahab.

36:31 "Now these are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the sons of Israel" This verse has caused a tremendous amount of stir among commentators of the OT. Because of the mention of the kings of Israel it seems to have been written in a later period when Israel had kings. This seems to imply that Genesis, if not written later, at least was edited at a later time. Those who hold to the documentary hypothesis (four different later authors, J.E.D.P.) use this as solid evidence that Moses is not the original author of the Pentateuch. Those who assert Mosaic authorship say that this was a prophecy about the days when a king would appear. One must admit that Israel is prophesied to have a king in Gen. 49:10; Num. 24:7,17; Deut. 17:14-20. For me it is obvious that someone has edited the writings of Moses-whether it was Jeremiah, Ezra, or one of the prophetic schools is uncertain, but brief editorial comments like this one do not seriously affect Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. See Introduction, Authorship in Vol. 1A: "How It All Began," Genesis 1-11.

36:32 "Bela the son of Beor" The consonants of this name, Bela (BDB 118), are similar to the name for Balaam, who is also called the son of Beor (BDB 129). These are the only two occurrences of the father's name (cf. Num. 22-24). To identify these as the same person is improbable, but in these genealogical lists, nothing is certain.

36:37 "the Euphrates River" This Hebrew term for "the river" (BDB 625) is used in most instances to refer to the Euphrates (i.e., 31:21). However, in context it must refer to a local river because there is no historical documentation for a king from the line of Esau ever reigning in the land of Mesopotamia.

36:39 Because of the mention of several women in v. 39, Albright (noted American archaeologist) asserts that there was a matriarchal succession for kings in Edom. Since it is obvious that none of these kings are sons of the previous kings and because the wives are mentioned, this is a possibility although there is no historical evidence.

▣ "Hadar" The Masoretic Text has "Hadar" (BDB 214). However, in I Chr. 1:50 it is spelled "Hadad." Hadad (BDB 212, cf. I Kgs. 11:14,17,21,25) became a general title for the kings of Syria, but in this account it is obviously not a reference to Syria.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 36:40-43
  
40Now these are the names of the chiefs descended from Esau, according to their families and their localities, by their names: chief Timna, chief Alvah, chief Jetheth, 41chief Oholibamah, chief Elah, chief Pinon, 42chief Kenaz, chief Teman, chief Mibzar, 43chief Magdiel, chief Iram. These are the chiefs of Edom (that is, Esau, the father of the Edomites), according to their habitations in the land of their possession.

36:40 "these are the names of the chiefs descended from Esau" This seems to be very similar to the chieftains mentioned earlier, however, this particular group is designated by their locality.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1.  Why is an entire chapter given to the descendants of Esau?

2.  Why is there such confusion in the listing of his wives?

3.  Why are there seemingly five different lists recorded in this chapter?

4.  Briefly outline the relationship between the descendants of Esau and the descendants of Israel.

5.  Explain the relationship between the terms Hittite, Hivite, and Horite.