Genesis 36:1-37:1

 |  April 9, 2018

Gen. 36:1-37:1

  1. Locate the passage

This section covers two toledoth sections in Genesis. The first begins in 36:1 and the second begins in 36:9. Both are related to the genealogy of Esau. Because the next toledoth begins in 37:2, 37:1 is here treated as the conclusion to the Esau genealogy and an introduction to the next section. This extended treatment of Esau’s family juxtaposes the listing of Jacob’s 12 sons in 35:23-26. This passage reveals that Esau was “blessed” despite not receiving his father’s blessing.

The unusually extended treatment of a non-Hebrew genealogy and the location of this discussion (just before the story of the Israelites in Egypt and the wilderness journeys) demonstrates the significance of the Edomites in the history of Israel.

  1. Genre

The passage is narrative. It is comprised of extended genealogy lists. No dialogue is recorded in this pericope.

  1. Determine the structure of the passage

36:1-8 – Overview of Esau’s immediate family

36:9-14 – Overview of Esau’s sons

36:15-19 – The Chiefs of the sons of Esau

36:20-30 – Genealogy of the sons of Seir

36:31-39 – The Kings of Edom

36:40-43 – The Chiefs of Esau

37:1 – A reminder of God’s Covenant Promise, before Israel entered Egypt

  1. Exegete the passage

In dramatic contrast to the genealogy of Ishmael (25:12-18), this passage includes an extensive lineage of Esau. The narrator is not interested in the exploits of the Edomites, but merely their family line.

It is significant that the Edomites were from the same “parents” as Israel (Isaac and Rebekah), but different sons. Like the Ishmaelites (Cf. 37:25), the Edomites function as a foil for Israel in the narrative. One could imagine that the descendants of Esau believed they should have been the rightful recipients of the blessing of their father, Isaac.

Ultimately, it was Edomites (Herod the Great and his son Herod Antipater and grandson Herod Agrippa) who sought to kill Israel’s Messiah (Matt. 2:1-10; Luke 13:31); and later tried to kill leaders of the early church (Acts 12:1).

36:1 – The passage begins by identifying Esau as Edomite. That explains the extended discussion here of a “foreign” genealogy. This description is repeated in 36:8, 19, and 43. The fact that the text indicates Esau as the progenitor of the Edomites four times foreshadows the subsequent interactions between Israel and Edom.

36:2 – Esau married three women and had five sons. Notably, one of Esau’s wives, Basemath, was a daughter of Ishmael. Thus, a direct link between the Ishmaelites (the unfavored son of Abraham) and the Edomites (the unfavored son of Isaac) was formed.

36:6-8 – Away from the presence of his brother

36:9 – This verse begins the 2nd toledoth of this pericope. The first tracks Esau’s direct descendants, while the second tracks his extended family.

36:15-19 – The frequency of the word, “chiefs” (Hb. “alluph”) in this passage stands out

36:20-40 – These verses contain the records of 7 sons of Seir, the Horite.

36:31-39 – Edom had a monarchy before Israel. This passage records 8 kings and the cities over which they reigned.

36:40-43 – The key to this list of Edomite chiefs is in the descriptions in 36:40 and 43.

37:1 – This verse is a transition that brings the narrative back to the family of Jacob

  1. Let the structure of the text drive the sermon

Exp. This passage affirms that God keeps His Word

Exp. It is fundamentally why details are important in the Biblical text and why we must faithfully study the text.


Exp. The passage reveals God’s omniscience, His goodness, His faithfulness; His grace; and His redemption


Category: Sermon Structure
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