Genesis 36:31
And these are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel.
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(31) The kings.—In the triumphal song of Moses on the Red Sea we still read of “dukes of Edom” (Exodus 15:15; but when Israel had reached the borders of their land, we find that Edom had then a king (Numbers 20:14). But in the list given here, no king succeeds his father, and probably these were petty monarchs, who sprang up in various parts of the country during a long period of civil war, in which the Horites were finally as completely conquered as were the Canaanites in Palestine under the heavy hands of Saul and Solomon. In the time of the dukes, there were also Horite dukes of the race of Seir, ruling districts mixed up apparently with those governed by the descendants of Esau. But all these now disappear.

Genesis 36:31. By degrees the Edomites worked out the Horites, and got full possession of the country. They were ruled by kings who governed the whole country, and seem to have come to the throne by election, and not by lineal descent: these kings reigned in Edom before there reigned any king over the children of Israel — That is, before Moses’s time, for he was king in Jeshurun. God had lately promised Jacob that kings should come out of his loins: yet Esau’s blood becomes royal long before any of Jacob’s did. Probably it was a trial to the faith of Israel, to hear of the 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.

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.The series of eight kings here enumerated are plainly elective, as not one succeeds his father. The king co-exists with the dukes, who are again enumerated at the close of the list, and are mentioned in the song of Moses Exodus 15:15. These dukes are no doubt the electors of the common sovereign, who is designed to give unity and strength to the nation. It is natural to suppose that no sovereign was elected until after the death of Esau, and, therefore, if he lived as long as Jacob, after the children of Israel had been seventeen years in Egypt. As we calculate that they were two hundred and ten years in that country, and forty years afterward in the wilderness, this would allow two hundred and thirty-three (250-17) years for seven reigns, and a part of the eighth, during which Moses and his host marched along the borders of Edom. Allowing some interval before the first election, we have an average of thirty-three years for each reign. "Before a king reigned over the children of Israel." This simply means before there was a monarchy established in Israel. It does not imply that monarchy began in Israel immediately after these kings; as Lot's beholding the vale of Jordan to be well-watered before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Amorah, does not imply that the cities were destroyed immediately after Lot beheld this sight Genesis 13:10.

Nor does it imply that monarchy in Israel had begun in the time of the writer; as Isaac's saying, "That my soul may bless thee before I die" Genesis 27:4 does not imply that he was dead at the time of his saying so. It merely implies that Israel was expected to have kings Genesis 35:11, as Isaac was expected to die. Of the several sovereigns here mentioned we have no other historical notice. "Beor" is also the name of Balaam's father Numbers 22:5. This indicates affinity of language between their respective tribes. The site of "Dinhabah," the capital of Bela, though the name is applied to many towns, has not been ascertained. "Bozrah" is el-Busaireh, about twenty-one miles nearly south of the Salt Sea. "The land of the Temanite" has its name from Teman, son of Eliphaz. His town was, according to Jerome, five miles from Petra. "Hadad" is a name of frequent recurrence among the Aramaeans. "Who smote Midian in the field of Moab." This records an event not otherwise known, and indicates external conquest on the part of the Idumaean state. "Avith" or Ajuth (1 Chronicles 1:46, probably a graphic error) is not otherwise known.

"Masrecah" is likewise unknown. "Rehoboth by the river." If the river be the Phrat (Onkelos), Rehoboth may be er-Rahabah, not far from the mouth of the Khabur. Otherwise it may be er-Ruhaibeh on a wady joining the Sihor or el-Arish Genesis 26:22, or the Robotha of Eusebius and Jerome, the site of which is not known. "Hadar" is probably a colloquial variation of Hadad Genesis 36:35 which is found in Chronicles. Pau or Pai is unknown. Matred is the father of his wife. Mezahab her mother's father. The death of all these sovereigns is recorded except the last, who is therefore, supposed to have been contemporary with Moses.

31-39. kings of Edom—The royal power was not built on the ruins of the dukedoms, but existed at the same time. He speaks of the posterity of Esau, who after they had subdued the Horites, erected a kingdom there.

Here profane wits triumph. How, say they, could Moses write this, when as yet there was no king in Israel?


1. The word may be taken for any chief governor, in which sense the title of king is given to Moses, Deu 33:5; and to the judges, Judges 17:6; and to others who were not kings, properly so called, Psalm 119:46 Luke 22:25 Acts 9:15, &c.

Answ. 2. Moses might well say thus, because he did by the Spirit of prophecy foresee, and therefore could foretell, that the Israelites would have a king, as appears from Deu 17:14,15.

Answ. 3. This, with other clauses of the same nature, might be inserted afterwards by some holy and inspired man of God, as it is confessed that part of the last chapter of Deuteronomy was.

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.

And these are the {g} kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel.

(g) The wicked rise up suddenly to honour and perish as quickly: but the inheritance of the children of God continues forever, Ps 102:28.

31–39. Kings of Edom

31. any king] From this verse we infer that the writer lived at a time subsequent to the foundation of the Israelite monarchy. The definition, however, of the date is not quite clear in the opinion of some scholars. It is simplest to render, “before there reigned a king for Israel,” i.e. before the time of Saul. But it is noteworthy that LXX Cod. A renders, “before there reigned any king in Jerusalem.” Dillmann translates “before an Israelite king reigned,” i.e. over Edom, referring to the subjugation of the Edomites by David. The tradition shews that Edom had a settled constitution before Israel. In Scriptural terms Esau was “the elder.” It is to be observed that the Edomite kings, (1) had different places of residence, (2) were not hereditary kings. Perhaps they may be compared with the local judges of Israel. “The land of Edom” is the whole territory, more extensive than “mount Seir” (Genesis 36:8). There was a “king of Edom” in Moses’ time (Numbers 20:14).

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. Genesis 36:31(Parallel, 1 Chronicles 1:43-50). The Kings in the Land of Edom: before the children of Israel had a king. It is to be observed in connection with the eight kings mentioned here, that whilst they follow one another, that is to say, one never comes to the throne till his predecessor is dead, yet the son never succeeds the father, but they all belong to different families and places, and in the case of the last the statement that "he died" is wanting. From this it is unquestionably obvious, that the sovereignty was elective; that the kings were chosen by the phylarchs; and, as Isaiah 34:12 also shows, that they lived or reigned contemporaneously with these. The contemporaneous existence of the Alluphim and the kings may also be inferred from Exodus 15:15 as compared with Numbers 20:14. Whilst it was with the king of Edom that Moses treated respecting the passage through the land, in the song of Moses it is the princes who tremble with fear on account of the miraculous passage through the Red Sea (cf. Ezekiel 32:29). Lastly, this is also supported by the fact, that the account of the seats of the phylarchs (Genesis 36:40-43) follows the list of the kings. This arrangement would have been thoroughly unsuitable if the monarchy had been founded upon the ruins of the phylarchs (vid., Hengstenberg, ut sup. pp. 238ff.). Of all the kings of Edom, not one is named elsewhere. It is true, the attempt has been made to identify the fourth, Hadad (Genesis 36:35), with the Edomite Hadad who rose up against Solomon (1 Kings 11:14); but without foundation. The contemporary of Solomon was of royal blood, but neither a king nor a pretender; our Hadad, on the contrary, was a king, but he was the son of an unknown Hadad of the town of Avith, and no relation to his predecessor Husham of the country of the Temanites. It is related of him that he smote Midian in the fields of Moab (Genesis 36:35); from which Hengstenberg (pp. 235-6) justly infers that this event cannot have been very remote from the Mosaic age, since we find the Midianites allied to the Moabites in Numbers 22; whereas afterwards, viz., in the time of Gideon, the Midianites vanished from history, and in Solomon's days the fields of Moab, being Israelitish territory, cannot have served as a field of battle for the Midianites and Moabites. - Of the tribe-cities of these kings only a few can be identified now. Bozrah, a noted city of the Edomites (Isaiah 34:6; Isaiah 43:1, etc.), is still to be traced in el Buseireh, a village with ruins in Jebal (Rob. Pal. ii. 571). - The land of the Temanite (Genesis 36:34) is a province in northern Idumaea, with a city, Teman, which has not yet been discovered; according to Jerome, quinque millibus from Petra. - Rehoboth of the river (Genesis 36:37) can neither be the Idumaean Robotha, nor er Ruheibeh in the wady running towards el Arish, but must be sought for on the Euphrates, say in Errachabi or Rachabeh, near the mouth of the Chaboras. Consequently Saul, who sprang from Rehoboth, was a foreigner. - Of the last king, Hadar (Genesis 36:39; not Hadad, as it is written in 1 Chronicles 1:50), the wife, the mother-in-law, and the mother are mentioned: his death is not mentioned here, but is added by the later chronicler (1 Chronicles 1:51). This can be explained easily enough from the simple fact, that at the time when the table was first drawn up, Hadad was still alive and seated upon the throne. In all probability, therefore, Hadad was the king of Edom, to whom Moses applied for permission to pass through the land (Numbers 20:14.).

(Note: If this be admitted; then, on the supposition that this list of kings contains all the previous kings of Edom, the introduction of monarchy among the Edomites can hardly have taken place more than 200 years before the exodus; and, in that case, none of the phylarchs named in Genesis 36:15-18 can have lived to see its establishment. For the list only reaches to the grandsons of Esau, none of whom are likely to have lived more than 100 or 150 years after Esau's death. It is true we do not know when Esau died; but 413 years elapsed between the death of Jacob and the exodus, and Joseph, who was born in the 91st years of Jacob's life, died 54 years afterwards, i.e., 359 years before the exodus. But Esau was married in his 40th year, 37 years before Jacob (Genesis 26:34), and had sons and daughters before his removal to Seir (Genesis 36:6). Unless, therefore, his sons and grandsons attained a most unusual age, or were married remarkably late in life, his grandsons can hardly have outlived Joseph more than 100 years. Now, if we fix their death at about 250 years before the exodus of Israel from Egypt, there remains from that point to the arrival of the Israelites at the land of Edom (Numbers 20:14) a period of 290 years; amply sufficient for the reigns of eight kings, even if the monarchy was not introduced till after the death of the last of the phylarchs mentioned in Genesis 36:15-18.)

At any rate the list is evidently a record relating to the Edomitish kings of a pre-Mosaic age. But if this is the case, the heading, "These are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel," does not refer to the time when the monarchy was introduced into Israel under Saul, but was written with the promise in mind, that kings should come out of the loins of Jacob (Genesis 35:11, cf. Genesis 17:4.), and merely expresses the thought, that Edom became a kingdom at an earlier period than Israel. Such a thought was by no means inappropriate to the Mosaic age. For the idea, "that Israel was destined to grow into a kingdom with monarchs of his own family, was a hope handed down to the age of Moses, which the long residence in Egypt was well adapted to foster" (Del.).

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