Bible Commentaries
Genesis 36

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-43

§ 10. THE GENERATIONS OF ESAU (CH. 36:1-37:1).


Genesis 36:1

Now these are the generations (cf. Genesis 2:4; Genesis 5:1, &c.) of Esau,—Hairy (vide Genesis 25:25)—which is Edom—Red (vide Genesis 25:30).

Genesis 36:2, Genesis 36:3

Esau took his wives of the daughters of Canaan;—i.e. who were of the daughters of Canaan (vide Genesis 26:34)—Adah—"Ornament," "Beauty" (Gesenius); the name also of one of Lamech's wives (cf. Genesis 4:19)—the daughter of Elon—"Oak" (Gesenius)—the Hittite, and Aholibamah—"Tent of the High Place" (Gesenius)—the daughter of Anah—"Answering" (Gesenius)—the daughteri.e. the grand-daughter, though, after the LXX. and the Samaritan, some read the son, as in Genesis 36:24 (Gesenius, Kalisch, Furst, et alii)of Zibeon—"Colored" (Gesenius); "Wild," "Robber" (Furst)—the Hivite; and Bashemath—"Sweet-smelling" (Gesenius)—Ishmael's daughter, sister of Nebajoth—"High Place" (Gesenius). The difference between this account and that previously given (Genesis 26:34; Genesis 28:9) will appear at a glance by setting the two lists of wives in parallel columns:—

1. Judith, daughter of Beeri the Hittite.

1. Aholibamah, daughter of Anah, daughter of Zibeon the Hivite.

2. Bashemath, daughter of Elon the Hittite.

2. Adah, daughter of Elon the Hittite.

3. Mahalath, daughter of Ishmael, sister of Nebajoth.

3. Bashemath, Ishmael's daughter, sister of Nebajoth.

The two lists agree in saying

(1) that Esau had three wives,

(2) that one of them was the daughter of Elon the Hittite,

(3) that another of them was Ishmael's daughter, the sister of Nebajoth, and

(4) that the name of one of them was Bashemath.

The discrepancy between the two is greatest in respect of the first wife, who appears with a different name and a different parentage in the two lists; while with reference to the second and the third wives, it is only the difference of name that requires to be accounted for. Now since the two lists belong to the so-called Elohistic document (Tuch, Bleak, Stahelin, Davidson, et alii), the hypothesis must be discarded "that the Hebrew text, though containing several important coincidences, evidently embodies two accounts irreconcilably different" (Kalisch)—a conclusion which can only be maintained by ascribing to the author the most absolute literary incompetence. Equally the conjecture must be set aside that the two lists refer to different persons, the second three being names of wives which Esau took on the decease of the first. The solutions that appear most entitled to acceptance, though all are more or less conjectural, proceed upon the supposition that Esau had only three wives, or at most four.

1. On the hypothesis that Esau had not more than three wives, it is only needful to presume that each of them had two names, a not unusual circumstance in Oriental countries (Rosenmüller, Havernick)—one of them, probably that contained in the present list, bestowed on the occasion of marriage; and that Anah, the father of Aholibamah, was the same person with Beeri, or the Well-Man, who received that cognomen from the incident related in verse 24, viz; that he discovered certain hot springs while feeding his father's asses (Hengstenberg, Keil, Kurtz)—the peculiarity that in one place (Genesis 26:34) he is styled a Hittite, in another (Genesis 36:2) a Hivite, and in a third (Genesis 36:20) a Horite, being explained by the conjecture that the first was the generic term for the race, the second the specific designation of the tribe, and the third the particular name for the inhabitants of the district to which he belonged (Keil, Lange, 'Speaker's Commentary).

2. Another solution gives to Esau four wives, by supposing Judith to have died without issue (Murphy, Jacobus), or, in consequence of being childless, though still living, to have been passed over in silence in the former genealogical register (Quarry), and Aholibamah to have been the fourth partner whom Esau espoused. The Samaritan version reads Mahalath for Bashemath in the second list, which it regards as an error of transcription (W. L. Alexander in Kitto's ' Cyclopedia'); while others think that Adah has been written by inadvertence for Bashemath (Inglis)'; but such conjectures are as unnecessary as they are manifestly arbitrary.

Genesis 36:4, Genesis 36:5

And Adah bare to Esau Eliphas;—"The Strength of God" (Gesenius); afterwards the name of one of Job's friends (Job 2:11; Job 4:1; Job 15:1)—and Bashemath bare Reuel;—"The Friend of God" (Gesenius); the name of Moses' father-in-law (Exodus 2:18)—and Aholibamah bare Jeush,—"Collector" (Furst, Lange); "whom God hastens" (Gesenius); afterwards the name of a son of Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11:19)—and Jaalam,—"whom God hides" (Gesenius); "Ascender of the Mountains" (Furst)—and Korah:"Baldness" (Furst, Gesenius); the name of a family of Levites and singers in the time of David to whom ten of the psalms are ascribed—these are the sons of Esau, which wore born unto him in the land of Canaan—not necessarily implying' that other sons were born to him in Edom, but rather intimating that all his family were born before he left the Holy Land.

Genesis 36:6

And Esau took his wives, and his sons, and his daughters, and all the persons (literally, souls) of his house, and his cattle (mikneh), and all his beasts (behemah), and all his substance (literally, all his acquisitions), which he had got in the land of Canaan; and went into the country—literally, into a land; not ἐκ τῆς γῆς (LXX.), or in alteram regionem (Vulgate), but either into the land, so. of Seir (Keil), or, taking the next as a qualifying clause, into a land apart (Murphy, Lange)—from the face of—or, on account of (Rosenmüller, Kalisch)—his brother Jacob.

Genesis 36:7

For their riches were more than that they might dwell together; and the land wherein they were strangers—literally, of their wanderings (cf. Genesis 28:4; Genesis 37:1)—could not bear them because of their cattle. This does not necessarily imply that Jacob was established in Canaan before Esau removed. Esau may have recognized the impossibility of two so rich and powerful chieftains as himself and his brother occupying Canaan, and may have retired Before Jacob actually took possession (Keil, Inglis).

Genesis 36:8

Thus dwelt Esau in mount Seir (Genesis 32:3; Deuteronomy 2:5; Joshua 24:4): Esau is Edom (vide Genesis 25:30). The obvious continuation of this verse m to be found in Genesis 37:1, so that Gen 37:9 -40 are parenthetical in their character; but whether originally written by Moses, or inserted by a late redactor, as some maintain, may legitimately be regarded as an open question.

Genesis 36:9

And these are the generations of Esau—"the repetition of this clause shows that it does not necessarily indicate diversity of authorship, or a very distinct piece of composition" (Murphy)—the father of the Edomites (i.e. the founder of the Edomitish nation) in mount Seir.

Genesis 36:10-12

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 (vide Genesis 36:4). And the sons of Eliphaz were Teman,—the name was afterwards given to a district of Idumea (Jeremiah 49:20), and borne by one of Job's friends (Job 2:11)—Omar,—"Eloquent" (Gesenius), "Mountain-dweller" (Furst)—Zepho,—"Watch-tower" (Gesenius); called Zephi in 1 Chronicles 1:36and Gatam,—"their touch" (Gesenius), "dried up" (Furst)—and Kenaz—"Hunting" (Gesenius). And Timna—"Restraint" (Gesenius, Furst, Murphy)—was concubinepilgash, (vide Genesis 16:3; Genesis 25:6)—to Eliphaz Esau's son; perhaps given to him by Adah, so that her children were reckoned Adah's (Hughes) and she bare to Eliphaz Amalek—"Inhabitant of the Valley," or "Warrior" (Furst); "a nation of head-breakers" (Lunge); "Laboring" (Gesenius, Murphy). It is probable that this was the founder of the Amalekite nation who attacked Israel at Horeb (Keil, Kalisch, Murphy), though by others (Gesenius, Michaelis, Furst) these have been regarded as a primitive people, chiefly on the grounds that Amalek is mentioned in Genesis 14:7 as having existed in the days of Abraham, and that Balaam calls Amalek the first of nations (Numbers 24:20); but the first may simply be a prolepsis (Hengstenberg), while the second alludes not to the antiquity of the nation, but either to its power (Kalisch), or to the circumstance that it was the first heathen tribe to attack Israel (Keil). These (including Eliphaz for the reason ,specified above) were the sons of Adah Esau's wife.

Genesis 36:13

And these are the sons of Reuel; Nahath,—Nachath, "Going down"—and Zerah,—or Zerach, "Rising"—Shammah,—Wasting (Gesenius, Murphy); "Fame, "Renown" (Furst)—and Mizzah:—"Trepidation" (Gesenius); "Fear," "Sprinkling" (Murphy); if from mazaz, "Fear, if from nazah, "Joy" (Furst)—these were the sons of Bashemath Esau's wife.

Genesis 36:14

And these were the sons of Aholibamah, the daughter of Allah the daughter of Zibeon, Esau's wife (vide Genesis 36:2): and she bare to Esau Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah (vide Genesis 36:5).

Genesis 36:15, Genesis 36:16

These were dukes of the sons of Esau. The אַלּוּפים, derived probably from אָלַף, to be familiar, whence to join together, or associate, were Edomite and Horite phylarchs or tribe-leaders, ἡγεμόνες, (LXX.), chieftains of a thousand men (Gerlach). At a later period the term came to be applied to the Jewish chiefs or governors of the Restoration (Zechariah 9:7; Zechariah 12:5). The sons of Eliphaz the firstborn son of Esau; duke Teman, duke Omar, duke Zepho, duke Kemaz (vide on Genesis 36:11), duke Korah,—inserted here probably by clerical error from Genesis 36:18 (Kennicott, Tuch, Knobel, Delitzsch, Keil, Murphy, Quarry), and accordingly omitted in the Samaritan Pentateuch and Version, though still retained by Onkelos and the LXX; and on the hypothesis of its genuineness explained by some as the name of a nephew of Eliphaz (Junius); of a son by another mother (Ainsworth); of a son of Korah (Genesis 36:18) by the widow of Timua (1 Chronicles 1:36), who, having died without issue, left his wife to his brother (Michaelis); of some descendant of Eliphaz by intermarriage who subsequently rose to be the head of a clan (Kalisch),—duke Gatam (vide Genesis 36:11), and duke Amalek (vide Genesis 36:12): these are the dukes that came of Eliphaz in the land of Edom; these were the sons of Adah.

Genesis 36:17

And these are the sons of Reuel Esau's son; duke Nahath, duke Zerah, duke Shammah, duke Minah: these are the dukes that came of Reuel in the land of Edom; these are the sons of Bashemath Esau's wife (vide on Genesis 36:13).

Genesis 36:18

And these are the sons of Aholi-bamah Esau's wife; duke Jeush, duke Jaalam, duke Korah: these were the dukes that came of Aholibamah the daughter of Allah, Esau's wife. In the two previous instances it is the grandsons of Esau that become the alluphim or heads of tribes, while in this it is the sons, which Havernick regards as a mark of authenticity (vide 'Introd.,' § 20).

Genesis 36:19

These are the sons of Esau, who is Edom, and these are their dukes.

Genesis 36:20, Genesis 36:21

These are the sons of Seir the Horite, who inhabited the land. The primitive inhabitants of Idumea were Horites (vide Genesis 14:6), of whom the ancestor, Seir ("Rugged"), either gave his name to, or took his name from, the district in which he lived. Though ultimately driven out by the Edomites (Deuteronomy 2:12), they were probably only gradually dispossessed, and not until a portion of them had coalesced with their conquerors, as Esau himself had a Horite wife, Aholibamah, and his son Eliphaz a Horite concubine of the name of Thuna. They were, as the name Horite, from chor, a hole or cavern, imports a race of troglodytes or cavemen, who dwelt in the sandstone and limestone eaves with which the land of Edom abounds. The cave palaces, temples, and tombs that have been excavated in Mount Seir are still astonishing in their grandeur. Lotan,—"Wrapping up" (Gesenius)—and Shobal,—"Flowing" (Gesenius)—and Zibeon, and Anah (this Anah was the uncle of the Anah mentioned in Genesis 36:25), and Dishan,—"Gazelle" (Gesenius, Furst)—and Eser,—"Treasure" (Gesenius)—and Dishan:—same as Dishon (Gesenius, Furst); "Threshing" (Murphy)—these are the dukes of, the Horites, the children of Seir in the land of Edom.

Genesis 36:22

And the children of Lotan were Hori—the name of the tribe (Genesis 36:20)—and Hemam:—or, Homam (1 Chronicles 1:39); "Destruction" (Gesenius), "Commotion" (Furst, Murphy)—and Lotan's sister was Timna—probably the concubine of Eliphaz (Genesis 36:12).

Genesis 36:23

And the children of Shobal were these; Alvan,—or Alian (1 Chronicles 1:40); "Unjust" (Gesenius), "Lofty" (Furst, Murphy)—and Manahath,—"Rest" (Gesenius)—and Ebal,—"Stripped of leaves" (Gesenius, Murphy); "Bare Mountain" (Furst)—Shepho,—or Shephi (1 Chronicles 1:40);" Nakedness" (Gesenius)—and Onam—"Strong" (Gesenius).

Genesis 36:24

And these are the children of Zibeon; both Ajah,—"Screamer" (Gesenius)—and Anah:—the father-in-law of Esau (Genesis 36:2)—this was that Anah that found the mules in the wilderness,—neither invented the procreation of mules (Aben Ezra, Kimchi, Luther, Calvin, Willet, Clarke, Ainsworth, &c.), since מָעַא does not signify to invent, but to light upon or discover (Keil), and there were no horses at that time in those regions (Michaelis), and it is not said that Anah was feeding his father's horses and asses, but only asses (Rosenmüller); nor overcame the giants (Onkelos, Samaritan, Bochart),which would have required אימים (Genesis 14:5; Deuteronomy 2:11); nor found out salt water (Oleaster, Percrius), a useful herb (Mais), or Ἰαμεὶν as a proper name (LXX.); but discovered the warm springs, the ἅπαξ λεγόμενον, יֵמִים, being now generally taken to mean aquce callidae (Vulgate, Dathius, Gesenius, Rosenmüller, Hengstenberg, Keil, Kalisch, Murphy), of which there were venous in the vicinity, as, e.g; the springs of Callirrhoe in the Wady Zerka Maein, and those, in the Wady-el-Ahsa to the south-east of the Dead Sea, and those in the Wady Hamad between Kerek and the Dead Sea—as he fed (literally, in his feeding) the asses of Zibeon his father. "The whirlpool of Karlsbad is said to have been discovered through a hound of Charles IV. which pursued a stag into a hot spring, and attracted the huntsmen to the spot by its howling" (Keil in loco; cf. Tacitus, 'Hist,,' Genesis 5:3).

Genesis 36:25

And the children of Anah—the brother of Zibeon (Genesis 36:20)—were these; Dishon,—named after his uncle (Genesis 36:21) and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah. This Aholibamah was not Esau's wife, but the cousin of Esau's wife's father.

Genesis 36:26

And these are the children of Dishon;—the son of Seir (Genesis 36:21)—Hemdan,—or Amrara (1 Citron. 1.41); "Pleasant" (Gesenius)—and Eshban,—or Heshbon; "Reason," "Understanding" (Gesenius); "Intelligent," "Hero" (Furst)—and Ithran,—the same as Jethro and Jithron; "the Superior or Excellent One" (Gesenius, Furst, Murphy, Lange)—and Cheran—"Harp" (Gesenius), "Companion" (Furst).

Genesis 36:27

The children of Ezer are these; Bilhan,—"Modest" (Gesenius), "Tender" (Furst)—and Zaavan,—"Disturbed "(Gesenius)—and Akan—Jakan (1 Chronicles 1:42); "Twisting" (Gesenius, Murphy).

Genesis 36:28

The children of Dishan are these; Uz,—"Sandy" (Gesenius, Furst)—and Aran—"Wild Goat" (Gesenius); "Power," "Strength" (Furst).

Genesis 36:29, Genesis 36:30

These are the dukes that came of the Horites; duke Lotan, duke Shobal, duke Zibeon, duke Anah, duke Dishon, duke Eser, duke Dishan: these are the dukes that came of Hori, among (rather, according to) their dukes in the land of Seir.

Genesis 36:31

And these (which follow) are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before there reigned any (literally, before the reigning of a) king over (or, to) the children of Israel.

1. The reference to Israelitish kings in this place has been explained as an evidence of post-Mosaic authorship (Le Clerc, Bleek, Ewald, Bohlen, et alii), or at least as a later interpolation from 1 Chronicles 1:43 (Kennicott, A. Clarke, Lange), but is sufficiently accounted for by remembering that in Genesis 35:11 kings had been promised to Jacob, while the blessing pronounced on Esau (Genesis 27:40) implied that in his line also should arise governors, the historian being understood to say that though the promised kings had not yet arisen in the line of Jacob, the house of Esau had attained at a somewhat early period to political importance (Calvin, Michaelis, Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, Gerlach, Havernick, and others).

2. The difficulty of finding room for the dukes (seven, four and three, all grandsons of Esau, Genesis 35:15-19), the kings (eight in number, verses 32-39), and again the dukes (in all eleven, verses 40-43), that intervened between Esau and Moses disappears if the kings and dukes existed contemporaneously, of which Exodus 15:15, as compared with Numbers 20:14, affords probable evidence.

3. As to the character of the Edomitish kings, it is apparent that it was not a hereditary monarchy, since in no case does the son succeed the father, but an elective sovereignty, the kings being chosen by the dukes, alluphim, or phylarchs (Keil, Hengstenberg, Kalisch, Gerlach), though the idea of successive usurpations (Lange) is not without a measure of probability.

Genesis 36:32

And Bela the son of Beor (cf. Genesis 14:2, where Bela is the name for Zoar; and Numbers 22:5, where Balaam's father is called Beer, whence the LXX. has here Βαλὸκ) reigned in Edom (as the first sore-reign): and the name of his city was Dinha-bah—"Concealment," or "Little Place" (Furst); a place of plunder (Gesenius), the situation of which has not been identified.

Genesis 36:33

And Bela died, and Jobab—probably meaning "Desert," or "Shout" (Gesenius); identified with Job—an opinion which Michaelis declares to be insinis error, nec, historicus solum, sed et grammaticus, Jobab being derived from the root יָבַב; the name of a region of the Joktanite Arabs (Genesis 10:29)—the son of Zerah of Bozrah—"Fort" (Gesenius); afterwards an important city of the Edomites (Isaiah 34:6; Isaiah 63:1; Jeremiah 49:13); still to be traced in El-Busaireh, a village and castle in Arabia Petraea, about twenty-five miles south by east of the Dead Sea—reigned in his stead—literally, under him, i.e. in succession to him.

Genesis 36:34

And Jobab died, and HushamHushai; "Haste" (Gesenius)—of the land of Temani (a province in Northern Idumea, with a city Teman which has not yet been discovered) reigned in his stead.

Genesis 36:35

And Husham died, and Hadad—"Shouting," e.g. for joy (Gesenius); whence "Conqueror" (Furst)—the son of Bedad,—"Separation" (Gesenius)—who smote Midian (vide Genesis 25:2) in the field of Moab (vide Genesis 19:37), reigned in his stead: and the name of his city was Avith—"Ruins" (Gesenius), "Twisting" (Murphy), "Hut-Village" (Furst). An attempt has been made (Bohlen) to identify this monarch with the Edomite of the same name who rose against Solomon (1 Kings 11:14); but

(1) this Hadad was not of royal blood, while Solomon's contemporary was;

(2) this Hadad was a king, while Solomon's adversary was only a pretender;

(3) this Hadad was a conqueror of the Midianites, while in Solomon's time the Midianites had vanished from history; and

(4) this Hadad lived and reigned before Israel had any kings (vide Hengstenberg, 'On the Genuineness of the Pentateuch,' vol. 2. dissert. 6; and cf. Havernick's 'Introd.,' § 20, and Keil in loco).

Genesis 36:36

And Hadad died, and Samlah—"Covering," "Garment," (Gesenius, Furst, Murphy)—of Masrekah—"Vineyard" (Gesenius)—reigned in his stead.

Genesis 36:37

And Samlah died, and Saul "Asked" (Gesenius)—of Rehoboth by the river—Rehoboth (literally, wide spaces) of the River is so called to distinguish it from the Asshurite settlement of the same name in Genesis 10:11 (Rosenmüller), though by some it is identified with Rehoboth Ir (Ainsworth). If the river spoken of be the Euphrates (Onkelos, Keil, Kalisch), then it is probably to be sought for in the Errachabi or Rachabeh near the mouth of the Chaboras (Keil), though the river may be some small nahar in Idumea (Lange), in which case the site will be uncertain—reigned in his stead.

Genesis 36:38

And Saul died, and Baal-hanan—"Lord of Benignity" (Gesenius)—the son of Achbor—"Mouse" (Gesenius)—reigned in his stead.

Genesis 36:39

And Baal-hanan the son of Achbor died, and Hadar—Hadad (1 Chronicles 1:50)—reigned in his stead: and the name of his city was Pau;—Pal (1 Chronicles 1:50); "Bleating" (Gesenius), "Yawning" (Furst), with which accords Φογώρ (LXX.)—and his wife's name was Mehetabel,—"Whom God benefits" (Gesenius)—the daughter of Marred,—"Pushing" (Gesenius)—the daughter of Mezahab—"Water of Gold" (Gesenius). That the death of this king, which a later chronicler records (1 Chronicles 1:51), is not here mentioned by the historian is commonly regarded (Rosenmüller, Havernick, Hengstenberg, Keil, Kalisch, et alii) as a proof that he was then alive, and that in fact he was the king of Edom to whom Moses sent ambassadors requesting permission to pass through the land (Numbers 20:14).

Genesis 36:40-43

And these are the names of the dukes that came of Esau, according to their families, after their places, by their names. It is now generally agreed that this and the ensuing verses contain not a second list of dukes who rose to power on the overthrow of the preceding monarchical institutions (Bertheau, Ainsworth, Patrick), or a continuation of the preceding list of dukes, which had simply been interrupted by a parenthesis about the kings (Bush); but either an enumeration of the hereditary phylarchs who were contemporaneous with Hadar, and in all probability formed, his council (Murphy), or a territorial catalogue of the districts in which the original alluphim who sprang from Esau (Genesis 36:15-19) exercised their sovereignty (Keil, Kalisch, Lange, 'Speaker's Commentary'). Duke Timnah,—according to the explanation just given this should perhaps be read duke of Timnah = Amalek, whose mother was Timna (Lange), but this is conjectural—duke Alvah,—or of Alvah, or Allah, closely allied to Alvan (Genesis 36:23)—duke (of) Jetheth,—"Nail" (Gesenius), "Subjugation" (Furst)—duke (of) Aholiba-mah,—vide Genesis 36:2; perhaps Esau's wife as well as Eliphaz's concubine gave her name to the district over which her son ruled—duke Elah,—"Strength" (Furst), "Tere-binth" (Murphy)—duke Pinon,—probably equal to Pimon, dark (Gesenius)—duke Kenaz (vide Genesis 36:11), duke Teman (Genesis 36:15), duke Mibzar,—"Fortress," "Strong City" (Gesenius)—duke Magdiel,—"Prince of God" (Gesenius)—duke Iram:"Citizen" (Gesenius)—these be the dukes of Edom, according to their habitations (i.e. their capitals, or districts) in the land of their possessions. The word seems to indicate an independent sovereignty within their respective provinces or principalities. He is Esau the father of the Edomites. The clause is equivalent to saying, This Esau (already referred to) was the ancestor of these Edomites.

Genesis 37:1


Genesis 37:1

And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger (literally, in the land of the sojourning,'s of his father), in the land of Canaan. This verse is not the commencement of the ensuing (Keil, Kalisch, Lange, &c.), but the concluding sentence of the present, section, the adversative particle ו, corresponding to the δε of the LXX; introducing a contrast between Esau, who dwelt in Mount Seir, and Jacob, who dwelt in the land of Canaan, and the following verse beginning the next division of the book with the customary formula, "These are the generations". Rosenmüller less happily connects the present verse with Genesis 35:29; the Vulgate begins the next section with Genesis 35:3. A similar division of verses to that proposed will be found in Genesis 25:11.


Genesis 37:1

The last of the house of Esau.


1. A complete removal. "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 a land apart from the face of his brother."

2. A necessary removal. Two things rendered the withdrawal of Esau from Canaan imperative—

(1) that which was patent to Esau's sense, viz; that the land of Canaan was too strait to afford accommodation to two so powerful chieftains as his brother and himself; and

(2) that which appears to have been accepted by Esau's faith, viz; that the decision of Divine providence was against him, and that the land belonged to Jacob. Hence for this twofold reason his retirement from Canaan is said to have taken place on account of his brother.

3. A peaceful removal. Though in one sense compulsory, in another aspect of it Esau's departure was voluntary. Instead of disputing possession of the land with his brother, which, humanly speaking, he might have done with some considerable hope of success, he quietly ceded what perhaps he saw he could not ultimately retain. Still it was to his credit that, instead of wrangling with Jacob about its present occupation, he peacefully withdrew to the wild mountain region of Seir. A permanent removal. Esau established his settlements altogether outside the limits of the Holy Land, and never again appeared as a claimant for its possession, leaving it finally in the free and undisputed ownership of Jacob. Hence, while it is said that "Esau dwelt in Mount Seir," it is appropriately added by the historian, in concluding the present section, "And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan."


1. A numerous race. Though Esau's sons were not so many as those of Jacob, yet his descendants developed into a people much more rapidly than did those of Jacob. This may have been partly due to the circumstance that they were—

2. A mixed race, having obviously incorporated amongst themselves a portion at least of the original Horites, whose land they appropriated, and whose political life they appear to have adopted. Then it is apparent that they were—

3. An aristocratic race. At the time of their invasion by the Esahites, the cave-dwellers of Mount Seir had attained to something like a settled government by means of alluphim, phylarchs, or tribe princes, each of whom enjoyed a sort of independent sovereignty; and, as has often happened since, though obliged to retire before the more powerful Canaanitish tribe, they succeeded in imposing on their conquerors their own political institutions. No fewer than fourteen of Esau's grandsons became reigning dukes in the country. Still further, it may be inferred that they were—

4. A progressive race. The impulse towards a national life thus communicated by the Seirites does not appear to have exhausted itself by simply the formation of small independent principalities, which, as civilization advances, are always felt to be a source of weakness rather than strength to the country whose social and political unity is thus broken up, and which eventually call for the reverse process of a unification of the different fragments, whether by free confederation or by imperial subordination. In the case of the Edomites the phylarchs were succeeded by kings, whether elective monarchs or foreign usurpers cannot be determined, though the preponderance of sentiment among interpreters is in favor of the former hypothesis. And then, finally, they were—

5. An exiled race; that is to say, though sprung from the soil of Canaan, they developed outside its limits-Jacob's family alone, as the Heaven-appointed heirs, remaining within the borders of the Holy Land.


1. That God is able to bring about his purposes in peaceful ways when he so desireth.

2. That natural men often exemplify great virtues in their conduct.

3. That abundance of wealth is frequently a cause of separation among friends.

4. That political greatness is much more easily attained, by nations as well as individuals, than spiritual pre-eminence.

5. That a nation's advancement in civilization is no certain guarantee of its continuance.

6. That in nature, as well as grace, the first is often last, and the last first.

7. That the heirs of the covenant are certain in the long run to obtain the inheritance.


Genesis 37:8

Esau separates from Jacob.

I. GOD REQUIRES ENTIRE DEVOTEDNESS AND FAITH. Edom is allied to the true kingdom, but is not one with it. We may keep in mind the relationship between the descendants of the two brothers, that we may learn the more clearly to distinguish the true heirs of the blessing.

II. THE TRUE BELIEVERS SET APART BY SPECIAL GRACE. The rest of the Book of Genesis follows the course of the one family in whose midst the ark of the covenant, as it were, was already resting, where was

(1) the revelation of God and

(2) the special manifestation of his favor, and out of which should come forth

(3) the people among the peoples, the kingdom among the kingdoms, the Goshen in the Egypt, the seed of life in the world of death.—R.

Genesis 37:31

Delay in fulfillment of God's promises.

Between two stages of the history of the covenant family stands the genealogy of Esau's descendants. The text suggests a contrast between their course and that of the family of Jacob. On the death of Isaac Esau departed from Canaan with family and possessions (cf. Genesis 27:40). The desert and the valleys of Seir were more attractive than quietness of Canaan. Prosperity, such as he cared for, attended him. Among his family we read of dukes, or heads of tribes, and of kings. And what of the line of promise?—kings foretold to them (Genesis 17:6; Genesis 35:11). Yet while kings were reigning in Edom, Israelites were slaves in Egypt or wanderers in the desert. Is God slack to fulfill his word? (1 Peter 3:4). This is often a trial to believers (Psalms 73:3). But God's promises are sure, though the time may seem long. The fulfillment of promises of great blessings has almost always been slow, as we count it. Abraham waited long (Genesis 12:2). It was long ere the kingdom of Israel arose; far longer ere the promise of a Savior fulfilled (Genesis 3:15; Galatians 4:4); and still we wait for the Lord's return. The same truth appears in nature. Great and precious things are of slow growth.

Doctrinal lessons:

1. Delay serves for the trial and strengthening of faith. Faith grows by enduring trial. Mark how often the faith of eminent saints has been tried. Without faith we cannot please God; for faith believes God's truth and love, and embraces his will. Unbelief charges God with untruth (Genesis 3:4; 1 John 5:10). Even in believers a leaven of unbelief may be at work. Trials are sent to cause faith to develop into other graces (James 1:3).

2. What springs up quietly is apt to fade quickly (cf. Exodus 3:11 with Haggai 1:2). Danger lest what seems to be faith be merely feeling.

3. The time that seems so long is not mere delay, but preparation. While the seed lies in the earth a process is going on, though unseen, without which the perfect plant could not be formed. Compare the expression, "the fullness of time" (Galatians 4:4), and the way in which all previous history prepared the way for the coming of Christ. These lessons apply equally to God's dealings with the world and with individuals.

Practical lessons:

1. Encouragement if disheartened by slow progress of Christ's kingdom: much labor among the heathen with little apparent result; or many efforts at home, yet ungodliness not checked. We have promises (Isaiah 55:11; 1 Corinthians 15:58). In his own time God will make them good.

2. In like manner if our own striving for personal holiness, or for good of others, seems to have little success. We require the training of disappointment to check pride (2 Corinthians 12:7), and God will see to the result (Galatians 6:9).

3. To bear in mind that we are but instruments in the Lord's hand (1 Corinthians 3:6). Every work to be performed "looking unto Jesus" (2 Corinthians 12:10).—M.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Genesis 36". The Pulpit Commentary. 1897.