|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
36:1-43 Esau and his descendants. - The registers in this chapter show the faithfulness of God to his promise to Abraham. Esau is here called Edom, that name which kept up the remembrance of his selling his birth-right for a mess of pottage. Esau continued the same profane despiser of heavenly things. In outward prosperity and honour, the children of the covenant are often behind, and those that are out of the covenant get the start. We may suppose it a trial to the faith of God's Israel, to hear of the pomp and power of the kings of Edom, while they were bond-slaves in Egypt; but those that look for great things from God, must be content to wait for them; God's time is the best time. Mount Seir is called the land of their possession. Canaan was at this time only the land of promise. Seir was in the possession of the Edomites. The children of this world have their all in hand, and nothing in hope, Lu 16:25; while the children of God have their all in hope, and next to nothing in hand. But, all things considered, it is beyond compare better to have Canaan in promise, than mount Seir in possession.
Verse 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, vers. 15-19), the kings (eight in number, vers. 32-39), and again the dukes (in all eleven, vers. 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.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And these are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom,.... In the land that was afterwards called the land of Edom; for this laud was not so called when these kings began to reign: for, according to Bishop Cumberland (f), and those that follow him (g), these were Horite kings, who, after their defeat by Chedorlaomer, Genesis 14:5; in order to secure themselves the better from such a calamity for the future, set up a kingdom, and which appears, by the following account, to be elective; and so Maimonides (h) observes, that not one of these kings were of Edom: and these were:
before there reigned any king over the children of Israel; and there being no kings over Israel until many years after the times of Moses, hence some have thought these words are inserted by some other writer after him; but there is no need to suppose that; for Moses knew, from foregoing prophecies and promises, that kings would arise out of them and reign over them, Genesis 17:6; and this he was so certain of, that he himself, by divine direction, gave laws and rules to the children of Israel respecting their future kings, Deuteronomy 17:14; besides Moses himself was king in Jeshurun or Israel, Deuteronomy 33:5, so that it is the same as if he had said, these are the kings that reigned in Edom, before this time.
(f) Orig. Gent. Antiq. p. 1-24. (g) Bedford in his Scripture Chronology, and the Authors of the Universal History. (h) Morch Nevochim, par. 3. c. 50. p. 510.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
31-39. kings of Edom—The royal power was not built on the ruins of the dukedoms, but existed at the same time.
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