Genesis 36

The Word Made Fresh

1This is the family tree of Esau, also called Edom. 2Esau’s first two wives were Canaanite: Adah, daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah, daughter of Anah, son of Zibeon the Hivite. 3Then he married Basemath, Nebaioth’s sister, daughter of his uncle Ishmael (Jacob’s brother). 4Adah gave Esau a son, Eliphaz. Basemath gave him a son, Reuel. 5And Oholibamah gave him three sons; Jeush, Jalam and Korah. These were Esau’s sons born in the land of Canaan.

6Esau took his wives and sons and daughters and others of his family group, along with all his livestock and all the belongings he had gotten in Canaan, and moved away from his brother Jacob. 7Between the two of them there were just too many animals for the land to support them both. 8So, Esau (also known as Edom) settled in the land of Seir.

9Here is the family tree of Esau, who is the ancestor of the Edomites in the hill country of Seir:

10Esau’s son by his wife Adah was Eliphaz. His son by his wife Basemath was Reuel. 11The sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam and Kenaz. 12Eliphaz also had a mistress, Timna, who bore him Amalek. These were considered grandsons of Esau’s wife Adah.

13Reuel, whose mother was Basemath, had sons: Nahath, Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah.

14Esau’s wife Oholibamah, daughter of Anah, son of Zibeon, bore him Jeush, Jalam and Korah.

15Here are the family groups among Esau’s descendants:

Eliphaz, Esau’s firstborn, had Teman, Omar, Zepho, Kenaz, 16Korah, Gatam and Amalek – these are all the descendants of Eliphaz in the land of Edom. They are the grandchildren of Esau’s wife Adah.

17Esau’s son Reuel was the father of Nahath, Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah – they were the descendants of Reuel in the land of Edom. They are descended from Esau’s wife Basemath.

18Esau’s wife Oholibamah, daughter of Anah, had Jeush, Jalam and Korah.

19All these were the direct descendants of Esau.

20The sons of Seir the Horite who were living in that area were Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, 21Dishon, Ezer and Dishan. They were Horite families, descendants of Seir in the land of Edom. 22Then Lotan, whose sister was Timna, had Hori and Heman. 23Shobal’s sons were Alvan, Manahath, Ebal, Shepho and Onam. 24Zibeon’s sons were Aiah and Anah (this is the Anah who discovered the watering places in the wilderness while he was watching his father Zibeon’s donkeys.)

25The children of Anah were Dishon his son, and Oholibamah, his daughter. 26Dishon’s sons were Hemdan, Eshban, Ithran and Cheran. 27The children of his brother Ezer were Bilhan, Zaavan and Akan. 28The sons of Dishan were Uz and Aran.

29All these are the Horite family groups: Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, 30Dishon, Ezer and Dishan. These all settled the land of Seir.

31These are the rulers in the land of Edom before there was a king over the Israelites: 32Bela son of Beor ruled Edom. His capital was Dinhabah. 33Bela died and was succeeded by Jobab, son of Zerah from Bozrah. 34When Jobab died, Husham the Temanite succeeded him as king. 35When Husham died he was succeeded by Hadad, son of Bedad. He was the one who defeated Midian in the land of Moab. He established his capital at Avith. 36When Hadad died, Samlah of Masrekah succeeded him. 37Samlah died and was succeeded by Shaul of Rehoboth on the Euphrates. 38Shaul died and was succeeded by Baal-hanan son of Achbor. 39Baal-hanan died and was succeeded by Hadar. His capital was Pau. His wife was Mehetabel, daughter of Matred, daughter of Me-zahab.

40These are the chief family groups descended from Esau, and the areas they ruled: Timna, Alvah, Jetheth, 41Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon, 42Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, 43Magdiel and Iram. These descended from Esau, the founder of Edom, by their cities and the territories they ruled.

Commentary

1-3: Now we’ll catch up with what’s been going on with Esau. He marries two Hittite girls who are a source of vexation for Isaac and Rebekah (26:34-35). Later, when they send Jacob away to find a wife in Haran, Esau marries within the family to a daughter of Ishmael, a first cousin. However, this is a different tradition, and the names are somewhat confused. Here is a chart showing the two lists side by side:

Genesis 26:34-35Genesis 36:1-3
Judith daughter of Beeri the HittiteAdah daughter of Elon the Hittite
Basemath daughter of Elon the HittiteOholibamah daughter of Anah the Hivite
Mahalath daughter of IshmaelBasemath daughter of Ishmael

4-5: While still living in Canaan with or near Isaac and Jacob, Esau has five children whose names are listed here.

6-8: Esau then moves to the hill country of Seir, in what will later be Edom. Edom is located on the east side of the Jordan river valley, south of the Dead Sea. The reason given for his moving is that he and Jacob have too many animals for the land to support them both, a situation that we saw once before between Abraham and Lot (13:5-9). However, the chronology seems to be a bit confused because when Jacob was returning from his time in Haran, he sent messengers to Esau “in the land of Seir,” (32:3), indicating that Esau had already moved there.

9-14: All the sons and grandsons of Esau when they settled in Seir are listed here.

15-19: Now the record of lineage expands to show how certain clans or tribes within Edom are direct descendants of Esau through each of his three wives.

20-30: But now a curious thing happens. The list of Esau’s descendants is interrupted to give the lineage of one Seir the Horite. The linkage between the two is not readily seen, but in fact Esau married Seir’s great-granddaughter Oholibamah (verse 25). She was the daughter of Anah (verse 25), son of Zibeon (verse 24), son of Seir (verse 20). Oholibamah, then, comes from a prominent family in Edom, which is probably why we have this paragraph listing the descendants of Seir.

30-39: And now an even more curious turn: A list of the kings of Edom who ruled before there were kings in Israel is given, but no explanation as to why they are named here, when in fact this same list is repeated almost exactly in I Chronicles 1:43-50 where it is more appropriate. The list has no application in this part of the story of Israel’s pre-history.

40-43: The list of the Edomite clans descended from Esau is concluded here. We will see that Edom and Israel are often allies in the future because the Edomites are considered to be descended from Isaac through Esau just as Israel is considered to be descended from Isaac through Jacob.

Takeaway

The genealogical records are curious to us, but they were important to Israel because that is the way ownership of land was justified. It was necessary for the early chroniclers to spell out in detail how each portion of territory around what would later become Israel was settled and how they were aligned to each other. These records were also used to justify alliances between different nations as well as wars. For us today, it seems pedantic and even confusing, but for early Israel it was necessary information.