Genesis 36: Esau Settles in Edom; The Genealogies of Edom

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Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Esau moves to Edom because Jacob’s livestock takes up too much space.  The sons and chiefs of Esau are listed. The sons and chiefs of Seir the Horite from Edom are also listed.

II. Photo

The inhabitants of Edom are listed: “Those are the clans of Edom by their settlements in the land which they hold; he is Esau, father of the Edomites.” (v. 43)

III. Select Verses

2-3:  Esau took his wives from among the Canaanite women — Adah daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah daughter of Anah daughter of Zibeon the Hivite — and also Basemath daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth.

6-8: Esau took his wives, his sons and daughters, and all the members of his household, his cattle and all his livestock, and all the property that he had acquired in the land of Canaan, and went to another land because of his brother Jacob. For their possessions were too many for them to dwell together, and the land where they sojourned could not support them because of their livestock. So Esau settled in the hill country of Seir — Esau being Edom.

31: These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the Israelites.

32: Bela son of Beor reigned in Edom, and the name of his city was Dinhabah.

IV. Outline

1-8. Introduction to Esau’s story/genealogy

    1. Introduction

    2-3. Esau’s three wives: Adah, Oholibamah, and Basemath

    4-5. Esau’s five sons born in Canaan

    6-8. Esau left Canaan with his family and many possessions because 

9-19. The genealogy of Esau

    9. Introduction

    10-14. Children

        10. Introduction to Eliphaz and Reuel

        11-12. The sons of Adah’s son Eliphaz, including Amalek

        13. The sons of Basemath’s son Reuel

        14. The sons of Oholibamah

    15-18. Chiefs

        15-16. The chiefs from Eliphaz son of Adah

        17. The chiefs of Reuel son of Basemath

        18. The chiefs who are Oholibamah’s sons

    19. Conclusion

20-30. The genealogy of Seir the Horite in Edom

    20a. Introduction

    20b-21. Seir’s seven sons

    22. The sons and sister of Lotan

    23. The sons of Shobal

    24. The sons of Zibeon; a note on the discovery of yemim (springs?) in the desert

    25. The son and daughter of Anah, who was Esau’s wife Oholibamah

    26. The sons of Dishon

    27. The sons of Ezer

    28. The sons of Dishan

    29-30. Conclusion

31-39. The kings of Edom

    31. Introduction

    32. Bela son of Beor

    33. Jobab

    34. Husham

    35. Hadad

    36. Samlah

    37. Saul

    38. Baal-hanan

    39. Hadar

40-43. The chiefs of Esau

    40a. Introduction

    40b-43a. The chiefs

    43b. Conclusion

V. Comment

There are many textual corruptions and contradictions in this chapter.

  • The wives of Esau presented in vv. 2-3 contradict those of 26:34 and 28:9.

Genesis 26:34 – When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite.

Genesis 28:9 – Esau went to Ishmael and took Mahalath daughter of Abraham’s son Ishmael, and sister of Nebaioth, to be his wife in addition to the wives he had.

Genesis 36:2-3 – Esau took his wives from among the Canaanite women — Adah daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah daughter of Anah daughter of Zibeon the Hivite — and also Basemath daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth.

In 26:34, Basemath is the daughter of Elon, but here it is Adah, who is not mentioned previously. In 28:9, Mahalath is the daughter of Ishmael, but here it is Basemath. While genealogies are a fluid genre, the most likely explanation for these differences is textual corruption, that is, scribal error.

  • According to vv. 6-8, Esau moves to the land of Edom because Jacob is taking up too much space in Hebron, but according to Genesis 33:12-15, Esau already lived in Edom.
  • The “sons of Esau” (vv. 10-14) are nearly identical to the “chiefs of Esau” (vv. 15-18), so it is not clear why both are passages are included. One major difference: according to vv. 14, 18, Korah is the son of Oholibamah, but according to verse 15 he was the son of Eliphaz, although he is not mentioned vv. 11-12.
  • Verse 31 has played an important role in the history of Jewish Pentateuchal scholarship because it poses problems for the traditional dating of the book of Genesis. The verse introduces the kings of Edom “before any king reigned over the Israelites.” This is problematic, for if Moses wrote the Pentateuch, how would he know that the Israelites would one day have a king? Also, even if he did know, why would he mention it to his contemporary audience? This verse was so controversial that when “Yitzchaki” (Isaac Abu Ibrahim Ibn Yashush, 10th-11th centuries) wrote that it was a late addition, Ibn Ezra countered that Yitzchaki’s book was “fitting to be burned.” The most likely explanation, however, is that this verse was written after the onset of the Israelite monarchy, probably after David first conquered Edom (2 Sam 8:13–14).
  • Note that the “chiefs of Esau” in vv. 15-18, which are essentially a recapitulation of vv. 10-14, have nothing to do with “chiefs of Esau” in vv. 40-43.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

Photo: “Dana, (wadi) North of Petra by Arassari Trek” (Google Earth)