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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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(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?

Answ.

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.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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. (parallel, 1 Chronicles 1:38-42). Descendants of Seir the Horite; - the inhabitants of the land, or pre-Edomitish population of the country. - "The Horite:" ὁ Τρωγλοδύτης, the dweller in caves, which abound in the mountains of Edom (vid., Rob. Pal. ii. p. 424). The Horites, who had previously been an independent people (Genesis 14:6), were partly exterminated and partly subjugated by the descendants of Esau (Deuteronomy 2:12, Deuteronomy 2:22). Seven sons of Seir are given as tribe-princes of the Horites, who are afterwards mentioned as Alluphim (Genesis 36:29, Genesis 36:30), also their sons, as well as two daughters, Timna (Genesis 36:22) and Aholibamah (Genesis 36:25), who obtained notoriety from the face that two of the headquarters of Edomitish tribe-princes bore their names (Genesis 36:40 and Genesis 36:41). Timna was probably the same as the concubine of Eliphaz (Genesis 36:12); but Aholibamah was not the wife of Esau (cf. Genesis 36:2). - There are a few instances in which the names in this list differ from those in the Chronicles. But they are differences which either consist of variation in form, or have arisen from mistakes in copying.

(Note: Knobel also undertakes to explain these names geographically, and to point them out in tribes and places of Arabia, assuming, quite arbitrarily and in opposition to the text, that the names refer to tribes, not to persons, although an incident is related of Zibeon's son, which proves at once that the list relates to persons and not to tribes; and expecting his readers to believe that not only are the descendants of these troglodytes, who were exterminated before the time of Moses, still to be found, but even their names may be traced in certain Bedouin tribes, though more than 3000 years have passed away! The utter groundlessness of such explanations, which rest upon nothing more than similarity of names, may be seen in the association of Shobal with Syria Sobal (Judith 3:1), the name used by the Crusaders for Arabia tertia, i.e., the southernmost district below the Dead Sea, which was conquered by them. For notwithstanding the resemblance of the name Shobal to Sobal, no one could seriously think of connecting Syria Sobal with the Horite prince Shobal, unless he was altogether ignorant of the apocryphal origin of the former name, which first of all arose from the Greek or Latin version of the Old Testament, and in fact from a misunderstanding of Psalm 60:2, where, instead צובה ארם, Aram Zobah, we find in the lxx Συριά Σοβάλ, and in the Vulg. Syria et Sobal.)

Of Anah, the son of Zibeon, it is related (Genesis 36:24), that as he fed the asses of his father in the desert, he "found היּמם" - not "he invented mules," as the Talmud, Luther, etc., render it, for mules are פּרדים, and מצא does not mean to invent; but he discovered aquae calidae (Vulg.), either the hot sulphur spring of Calirrhoe in the Wady Zerka Maein (vid., Genesis 10:19), or those in the Wady el Ahsa to the S.E. of the Dead Sea, or those in the Wady Hamad between Kerek and the Dead Sea.

(Note: It is possible that there may be something significant in the fact that it was "as he was feeding his father's asses," and that the asses may have contributed to the discovery; just as 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.)

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