- 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.
The passage is narrative. It is comprised of extended genealogy lists. No dialogue is recorded in this pericope.
- 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
- 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
- These verses assume dialogue between Jacob and Esau as the departure of Esau seems amicable.
- The moving of Esau away from Jacob because his possessions were too great recalls the move of Jacob away from Laban, Isaac from Abimelech, and Lot from Abraham.
- The phrase, “the land where they were strangers” recalls the promise of God to Abraham (Gen. 17:8) and Isaac (Gen. 28:4), Abraham’s self-description (Gen. 23:4), and is later used in the description of where Jacob dwelt (Gen. 37:1)
- There was a functional reason for the separation – the land was not able to sustain their combined flocks and herds
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
- The word occurs 69 times in the OT; 56 of those occurrences are in this passage and 1 Chron. 1 which also records the genealogy of the Edomites.
- The word is most likely related to the Hb. word “eleph,” which can mean, “tribe” or “thousand.”
- Thus, this seems to be a designation of rank (i.e. “chief over a thousand”)
- See note on the “chiefs” of Edom in Ex. 15:15.
36:20-40 – These verses contain the records of 7 sons of Seir, the Horite.
- The Horites were “A tribe or group of tribes in the mountains of Seir (Gen. 14:6; 36:20–30; Deut. 2:12, 22). According to Gen.14:6 and Deut. 2:12, 22, the Horites inhabited the country of Seir until they were conquered and expelled by the Edomites. Ernst Axel Knauf, “Horites,” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 288.
- Outside of Genesis 36, they are only mentioned in Gen. 14:6 and Deut. 2:12, 22. Deut. 2:12 records the destruction of the Horites by the Edomites
36:31-39 – Edom had a monarchy before Israel. This passage records 8 kings and the cities over which they reigned.
- Notably, not one Edomite king was succeeded by his son.
36:40-43 – The key to this list of Edomite chiefs is in the descriptions in 36:40 and 43.
- 36:40 – according to their families and their places
- 36:43 – according to their dwelling places in the land of their possession
- Thus, these lists are distinguished by location.
- So, one could read these names inserting “of” between the name and the location (i.e. “Chief [of] Timnah,” “Chief [of] Alvah,” etc.)
37:1 – This verse is a transition that brings the narrative back to the family of Jacob
- It locates Jacob in the land of Promise. This is significant in light of the next “threat” to the Promise with the events that lead to the captivity in Egypt.
- Jacob lived in the land promised to him, his father, Isaac, and his grandfather, Abraham.
- That he was a “stranger” in this land recalls the promise of God to Abraham (Gen. 17:8) and Isaac (Gen. 28:4).
- 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.
- God allows even unbelievers to receive His blessing
- Exp. God blessed Esau, even though he was not the child of promise
- Exp. Perhaps the goodness of the Lord to them was designed to draw them to Him
- Exp. The text reveals that God even remembers the names of those who do not follow Him
- God is faithful to His Promise to His people
- Exp. Before Israel left the land, we are reminded that God is still faithful to His promise
- Exp. God brought them to the land that He promised to Abraham (37:1)
Exp. The passage reveals God’s omniscience, His goodness, His faithfulness; His grace; and His redemption
- If God knows the name of my enemies, I can be sure He knows mine
- The goodness of the Lord to others reminds me of His goodness to me
- The fact that God has always kept His promises to His people reminds me that He will keep His promise to me
- The fact that God kept His promises to His people despite their sin reminds me that His grace is sufficient for my sin
- God’s promises were ultimately revealed in Christ and the promise of eternal life yet to come through the salvation He made possible.
- The foreshadowing of God’s rescue of His people from Egypt reminds us of His ultimate rescue of His people in Christ
|↑1||Ernst Axel Knauf, “Horites,” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 288.|