Chapter xxxvi
9. The History of Esau (Chapter 36)

On the heading ("history" fortoledôth) see remarks on Ge 2:4. Quite in harmony with his previous procedure the author, having concluded the "History of Isaac" and being about to take in hand the "History of Jacob," disposes first of the less relevant "History of Esau." For, at least briefly, the marvels of divine grace in reference to Esau are worthy to be recounted. In Ge 27:39,40 a blessing had been pronounced upon Esau, a blessing which was not meaningless. It is worth tracing down how it pleased the Almighty to bless Esau and to make him to become a nation. This skeleton history of Esau serves this purpose and at the same time bears testimony to a breadth of interest on Moses' part that was indeed worthy of emulation. For though Esau had, indeed, begun to display its inveterate animosity quite fully at Moses' time, Moses believed that it behooved Israel to have a generous interest in this brother-race. The information conveyed by the chapter is so obviously correct that it has been remarked that "the chapter evidently embodies authentic information regarding the history and ethnology of Edom" (Skinner).

A word on the meaning of the proper names of the chapter may serve a purpose. As usual the meaning of many of these names is far from certain, as, for example, Whitelaw's comments amply indicate. The meaning of some, which are reasonably sure, shows how in many cases they reflect the natural surroundings of the people. 'Ahah (v. Ge 36:2) may mean "ornament" or "morning." 'Elon (v.2) may mean "a region of deer" or wildreiche Gegend. Zibe'on signifies "hyena." Basemath (v. Ge 36:3) means "perfume." 'Eliphaz seems to mean "pure gold." Re'u'el (v. Ge 36:4) is "friend of God," though this very likely is to be taken in an idolatrous sense. Je'ush (v. Ge 36:5) may mean "helper (is God)." Nahath (v. Ge 36:13) means "rest," Zerah -- "rising" or "east"; Dishon (v. Ge 36:21) -- "gazelle"; Alvan (v. Ge 36:23) -- "wicked"; Shepho -- "bald"; 'Ajah (v. Ge 36:24) -- "hawk"; 'Eshban (v. Ge 36:26) -- "restorer"; Ithran -- "advantage"; Cheran -- "turtle"; 'Akan (v. Ge 36:27) -- "swift"; 'Aran (v. Ge 36:28) -- "mountain goat"; Jobab (v. Ge 36:33) -- "jubilation"; Bozrah -- "fold"; 'Achbor -- "mouse," etc. We have listed these to give a representative selection and to show how groundless the assumption is that we find in these names traces of a totemistic religion, especially on the part of the old Horites. For as Procksch rightly remarks, first of all we know nothing about the religion of the Horites; and, secondly, the giving of names of beasts and birds may be occasioned by many other motives: some names may be "satire" (Spitznamen), some a "boast" (Prahlnamen), some merely "figurative," as found among all nations; cf. even our "Leo" and "Agnes."

We now offer an outline of the chapter to demonstrate at once that it aims to do much more than merely to sketch a brief list of descendants. For from the outline it will immediately become apparent that we are apprised also of the non-Edomitish elements that were incorporated into the race and of the "chiefs" and "kings" that were men of prominence among this people. The outline of the contents of the chapter runs thus: (1) Esau's wives and children and their settlement in Seir (v. Ge 36:1-8); (2) Esau's descendants (v. Ge 36:9-14); (3) the Edomitish chiefs (v. Ge 36:15-19); (4) the Horite chiefs (v. Ge 36:20-30); (5) the Edomitish kings (v. Ge 36:31-39); (6) the Edomitish chiefs -- after another classification (v. Ge 36:40-43).

Strangely, 1Ch 1:35-54 gives lists parallel to these.

(1) Esau's Wives and Children and their Settlement in Seir (v.1-8)

The following outline shows the relation of names:

(See figure 934)

Our chief difficulty arises from a comparison of the names of Esau's wives as they previously appeared. In Ge 26:34 the Canaanite wives bore the names, "Judith, the daughter of Beeri the Hittite," and "Basemath, the daughter of Elon the Hittite," whereas in Ge 28:9 the Ishmaelite wife was described as "Mahalath, the daughter of Ishmael." Apparently, then, Judith must be identified with Oholibamah, Basemath with Adah -- for both are followed by the name of the same father "Elon" -- and Mahalath must be the Basemath of our list, because in each case follows the father's name, "Ishmael." The reason for identifying Judith with Oholibamah may be made somewhat more convincing by noting that Oholibamah is described (v. Ge 36:2) as "the daughter of Anah." Now Anah, according to v. Ge 36:24, discovered "hot springs"; but be'er is the Hebrew word for spring. However, in the former list he is described as Beeri -- "springman." Such changes of names need surprise no one, for Orientals commonly go under several names, especially the women, who frequently receive a new name at marriage. Men should, therefore, not speak here of a "contradiction as to Esau's wives" and call this "a crucial difficulty."

1-5. And this is the history of Esau -- that is Edom. Esau married women who were Canaanites: Adah, the daughter of Elon, the Hittite, and Oholibamah, the daughter of Anah, the granddaughter of Zibeon, the Hivite; and besides, Basemath, Ishmael's daughter, the sister of Nebaioth. And Adah bare Eliphaz to Esau; and Basemath bare Reuel; and Oholibamah bare Jeush and Jalam and Korah. These are the sons of Esau which were born to him in the land of Canaan.

The parenthetical, "that is Edom," recalls very briefly Ge 25:30. The Hebrew expression for "married" is here again the common idiom, he "took" wives. This sense plainly obtains here; the author is not writing the "took" that is resumed in v. Ge 36:6, for that would make an exceedingly clumsy construction. Since the Anah of v. Ge 36:2 no doubt is a man (cf. v. Ge 36:25), the word bath ("daughter") following it cannot refer to him but must be used in the looser sense of "granddaughter" and naturally refers to Oholibamah. This same Anah appears here as a "Hivite" but in Ge 26:34 as a "Hittite." The difficulty resolves itself quite readily when we observe that "Hittite" is simply a more general designation of Canaanites, which use of the term is found in Jos 1:4; 1Ki 10:29; 2Ki 7:6. For the Hittites were a very prominent group among the inhabitants of the land and so came to stand for all of them. If in v. Ge 36:20, however, Anah appears as a Horite, a term meaning "cave dweller," why should not one, originally a Hivite, also be able to dwell in a cave and so merit the additional cognomen "Horite"?

A summary expression like "these are the sons of Esau which were born to him in the land of Canaan" is not a mark of any particular author's style (such as P) but a necessary summary, lest we overlook that these five were distinct from all other descendants also in this that they were born in Canaan.

6-8. And Esau took his wives and his sons and his daughters and all individuals of his household and his flocks and all his cattle and all his possessions which he had acquired in the land of Canaan, and went to a land where he was far away from Jacob, his brother. For their property was too great to allow for them to dwell together, nor was the land where they sojourned able to support them in view of their flocks. So Esau dwelt in Mount Seir -- Esau is Edom.

We are brought to the time where Esau sees the necessity of leaving the land of Canaan, which has definitely been assigned to his brother Jacob. It will be difficult to determine whether he took this step before Jacob's return from Mesopotamia or some time thereafter. For there is the possibility that Esau's and Jacob's flocks could not subsist together even when the flocks which were potentially Jacob's were still in reality under Isaac's care. The more likely construction to put upon the case would be that Jacob with his large flocks and herds, freshly returned from Mesopotamia, made the problem a critical one. But Esau on his part was by this time resigned to his lot that he yield the preference to his brother to whom the better blessing had been given, and when a clash like that which threatened between Abraham's and Lot's herdsmen seemed imminent, Esau showed prudence in promptly yielding. The naphshoth betho, "souls of his house," here are the "members" or "individuals of his household." The word 'érets, "land," must be construed as being closely connected with the word immediately following mippenê, "from the face of," and so the words signify "a land far away from," or "where he was far away from" -- to use a freer rendering. To concede that some word like "Seir" had fallen away after 'êrets is therefore unnecessary.

7. Apparently Esau, too, under the blessing of Almighty God, had grown enormously wealthy. Besides, these patriarchs were at a very special disadvantage for the present: Canaan was "the land where they sojourned," literally: "the land of their sojournings." Therefore they were only journeying about, utilizing unclaimed pasturage, and yet, no doubt, wealthier than the actual inhabitants of the land. The resulting jealousy of the native inhabitants will have made their position still more difficult. The negative clause of purpose that some languages might use is covered by the infinitive with min -- mishshébheth -- "from dwelling" -- "to allow them to dwell" (K. S.406 h). The expression "from the face of their flocks" means, of course, "in view of their flocks."

8. "So Esau dwelt in Mount Seir" means that he chose this land south of the Dead Sea for his permanent home. "Seir" -- or "Mount Seir," since it is such mountainous terrain -- is the original designation of the land. Exactly how this occupation proceeded we do not know. Perhaps several modes of procedure blended into one another. As we suggested in the preceding chapter, a process of conquest may have been involved. As the material of this chapter suggests, intermarriage with native Seirites or Horites figured quite largely in the process. Sometimes intermarriage may have preceded, sometimes it may have followed upon certain stages of the conquest, until the aboriginal inhabitants are eliminated and the Edomite stock has become the dominant factor.

(2) Esau's Sons (v.9-14)

9-14. This is the, history of Esau, the father of the Edomites, in Mount Seir. These are the names of the sons of Esau: Eliphaz, the son of Adah, the wife of Esau -- Reuel, the son of Basemath, the wife Esau. And the sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho, and Gatam and Kenaz. And Timnah was a concubine of Eliphaz, Esau's son, and she bore to Eliphaz, Amalek. These are the sons of Adah, the wife of Esau. And these are the sons of Reuel: Nahath and Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah. These were the sons of Basemath, the wife of Esau. And the following were the sons of Oholibamah, the daughter of Anah, the granddaughter of Zibeon, Esau's wife: she bore to Esau Jeush and Jalam and Korah.

Verse 1 began as does v.9, the difference being that from v.9 onward we have "the history of Esau -- in Mount Seir." What preceded was his history in the land of Canaan. Where in v. Ge 36:1-8 we had only the names of those who in the strictest sense were "sons of Esau," here the same expression is used in the looser sense and takes in the grandsons, at least those of Eliphaz and Reuel and incidentally also Amalek. The grandsons of Oholibamah are not listed. Regard 12a as parenthetical and the summary statement, "these are the sons of Adah," fits perfectly into the picture. The following diagram makes the entire section clear at a glance:

(See figure 938)

Trying to force history into certain patterns according to which its author was supposed to have written it, Gunkel claims that the author devises twelve patriarchs for Esau as well as for Jacob -- an attempt on Gunkel's part indirectly to prove how history is manufactured by Biblical writers according to preconceived notions. But he obtains the twelve by the omission of Amalek, whom Moses definitely includes in the list.

If we note Amalek as belonging among the Edomites (v. Ge 36:12), we can understand how, being the son of a concubine, he may have been discriminated against and how that may have resulted in his separation from his brethren. For according to Ex 17:8 and Nu 13:29; 14:25 the Amalekites must have held territory much farther to the west. According to Jud 5:14; 12:15 they must once have occupied territory much farther to the north. Ge 14:7 points to the fact that Amalekites had once dwelt much farther eastward, although in this passage the term refers to territory which later was occupied by Amalekites. All of this cannot seem strange if it be borne in mind that all these tribes may have been more or less nomadic in their day.

How Strack can claim that the Kenizzites of Ge 15:19 may have sprung from the Kenaz of v. Ge 36:11 is difficult to see in view of the fact that these Kenizzites have a land called after their name already in Abraham's day, five generations before Kenaz was born.

In v.9 we have an instance where the name of an individual doubtless is used as a tribal name, for Esau is called 'abi Edom, "the father of Edom," in the sense of "father of the Edomites." Though such a use of proper names indubitably occurs, this use is not to be as freely assumed as is done in critical works.

(3) The Edomitish Chiefs (v.15-19)

15-19. These are the chiefs of the descendants of Esau: the sons of Eliphaz, the first-born of Esau: chief Teman, chief Omar, chief Zepho, chief Kenaz, chief Korah, chief Gatam, chief Amalek. These are the chiefs of Eliphaz in the land of Edom. These are descendants of Adah. And these are the sons of Reuel, the son of Esau: chief Nahath, chief Zerah, chief Shammah, chief Mizzah. These are the chiefs of Reuel in the land of Edom. These are descendants of Basemath, the wife of Esau. And these are the sons of Oholibamah, the wife of Esau: chief Jeush, chief Jalam, chief Korah. These are descendants of Esau and these are their chiefs -- that is Edom's.

A diagram of the chiefs yields the following result:

Sons of Eliphaz Sons of Reuel Sons of Oholibamah

Chief Teman Chief Nahath Chief Jeush

Chief Omar Chief Zerah Chief Jalam

Chief Zepho Chief Shamrnah Chief Korah

Chief Kenaz Chief Mizzah

Chief Korah

Chief Gatam

Chief Amalek

Comparing this diagram with that covering v.9-14, we note that all the descendants of Esau on the former list rose to the rank of "chiefs." We need not find it strange that Amalek should be listed among the chiefs who trace their ancestry to Eliphaz, though he was born of a concubine. But the fifth name "Korah," identical with the last son of Oholibamah as far as name is concerned, does surprise us. It is idle to try to settle speculations such as: did he come into this list by some matrimonial alliance, or is he merely another person of the same name? No one knows. Elaborate conjectures leave us just as much in the dark.

But this is the significant thing about this list: it shows how at a comparatively early date Esau's descendants advance to positions of prominence and honour. For 'alluph, "chief," may well mean "chiliarch," "ruler over a thousand," for 'alluph is from the root 'éleph, which means a "thousand." Now, though the idea of "thousand" is not to be pressed, in any case a rather outstanding dignity was involved in the case of those who bore the name; they were men who ruled a "thousand," or "a thousand families." In these lists the mothers are always prominently mentioned, the reason for this most likely being the fact that Edomites attached importance to the line of maternal descent, and yet this fact could hardly point to a matriarchate.

(4) The Horite Chiefs (v.20-30)

20-30. The following are the sons of Seir, the Horite, the inhabitants of the land: Lotan and Shobal and Zibeon and Anah; and Dishon and Ezer and Dishan. These are the chiefs of the Horites, the sons of Seir, in the land of Edom. And the children of Lotan were Hori and Hemam; and the sister of Lotan was Timna. And these are the children of Shobal: Alvan and Manahath and Ebal, Shepho and Onam. And these are the children of Zibeon: both Ajah and Anah. It was this Anah who found the hot springs in the wilderness, as he fed the asses of Zibeon, his father. And these are the children of Anah: Dishon and Oholibamah, the daughter of Anah. And these are the children of Dishan: Hemdan and Eshban, and Ithran and Cheran. And these are the children of Ezer: Bilhan, and Zaavan, and Akan. These are the children of Dishan: Uz and Aran. The following are the chiefs of the Horites: chief Lotan, chief Shobal, chief Zibeon, chief Anah, chief Dishon, chief Ezer, chief Dishan. These are the chiefs of the Horites in the land of Seir, chief by chief.

The object of this section is to show the ones who comprised the descendants of Seir, that other major group which entered into the making of the Edomites; and at the same time to show how these Seirites were of ancient and honourable stock, for they, too, numbered many "chiefs" in their race. Though "Seir" usually designates the land of the Edomites, extending south from the lower end of the Dead Sea to the Elanitic Gulf, here, without a doubt, it signifies a person, the ancestor of the Horites ("cave dwellers"), who occupied the land before the children of Esau overcame them (cf. De 2:12,22). Chori from chor, "cave," is very properly construed to mean "cave dwellers."

A diagram of the "Horite chiefs" together with their descendants will show at a glance what the list of v.20-30 offers:

(See Figure 942)

It appears at a glance that every son of Seir became a chief. There are no others who succeeded in rising to the level of this honour as was the case in the list of the Edomitish chiefs. From this list we also discover that the Anah, who was the father of Oholibamah, was a son of Seir.

Trying to identify these names with certain others mentioned in the Scriptures, which are either similar or identical, is seldom safe. So to seek to connect "Lotan" (v.20) with Lot, Abraham's nephew, is utterly impossible (though Procksch does it), for one was descended from Seir, the other from Haran (Ge 11:31). "Bilhan" (v.27) can for the same reason not be identified with Bilhah, Rachel's handmaid.

In v.25 beney, "sons," is used where of the two descendants one is a son and another a daughter. The same usage appears in Ge 46:23; Nu 26:8.

In v.24 Anah is said to have discovered yemim. The Jews had lost the meaning of the word and so invented the conjecture that it meant "mules" (A. V. and Luther), an idea that may be traced to Jewish antipathy for the Edmonites, whom they by this fiction describe as men tampering with the original purpose of the Creator. The Vulgate already had the correct meaning of the word, which, as K. W. demonstrates, is not farfetched or doubtful. Hot springs, it is claimed, are still found at the point where the ancient pilgrimage route from Damascus crosses the Wadi Hesa, about ten miles southeast of the Dead Sea, and so in Edomite territory.

The linguist will be interested in an observation by Skinner to the effect that "the endings -- an and -- on in this list point to a primitive nunation, as contrasted with sporadic cases of mimation in the Edomite names" (cf. Gatam, Jalam).

The man "Uz" (v.28) may have given name to the land of Uz from which Job came (Job 1:1). Who knows?

The different form of the names in a few instances in the list of 1Ch 1:38-42 may be accounted for on the score that some of these names quite naturally had variant forms.

Nothing is said concerning the Edomitish or the Horite "chiefs" to indicate that they ruled successively. Rather, if one notes that they were all children or grandchildren of the same generation, the conclusion becomes, inevitable, as Luther already pointed out, that these "chiefs" held office simultaneously. In other words, Edom was not governed by a long succession of "chiefs" before a long succession of "kings" came to power.

(5) The Edomitish Kings (v.31-39)

31-39. The following are the kings who ruled over the land of Edom before the ruling of a king for the children of Israel. Now there ruled over Edom Bela, the son of Beor, and the name of his city was Dinhabah. And Bela died and Jobab ruled in his stead, the son of Zerah of Bozrah. And Jobab died and there ruled in his stead Husham of the land of the Temanites. And Husham died and there ruled in his stead Hadad, the son of Bedad, the man who smote Midian in the field of Moab, and the name of his city was Avith. And Hadad died, and there ruled in his stead Samlah from Masrekah. And Samlah died, and there ruled in his stead Shaul from Rehoboth-hannahar. And Shaul died, and there ruled in his stead Baal-Hanan, the son of Achbor. And Baal-Hanan, the son of Achbor, died and there ruled in his stead Hadar, and the name of his city was Pau, and his wife's name was Mehetabel, the daughter of Matred, the granddaughter of Mezahab.

Verse 31 is to this day listed by the critics as belonging definitely to the post-Mosaica, i. e. statements written later than the time of Moses. Some merely make their assertion to this effect without troubling to offer proof. So sure are they of being right. K. C. offers laboured proof, but what he offers is ineffectual. For what an unbiased exegete must admit is that the statement is a very natural one for a man like Moses to make if he knew definitely that also the descendants of Israel were destined to have kings in the course of time. To one who remembers besides that Jacob (Israel) and Esau were brothers such a comparison very naturally suggests itself. Now Moses had previously indicated that kings would come of Israel's line (Ge 35:11 cf. Ge 17:4 ff.). In fact, a common meaning for the verb malakh is not only "be king" or "rule," but to "become king." Note how naturally our interpretation fits into the picture when we render: "the following are the kings who ruled over the land of Edom before a king (cf. G. K.129 c) of the children of Israel became king." All claims, therefore, that this list of Edomitish kings, must have been made in Saul's or David's time or even Solomon's are poorly substantiated. In fact, our contention gains added support from the fact that the death of the last king is not mentioned. This could easily be accounted for by the fact that Moses, who was well informed on the subject he treated, mentions the last king as contemporary with the time of his writing. For himself Moses does not know how many additional kings Esau will have or how long it will be before Israel has kings. But it certainly is very proper in a chapter where the rapid development of the Edomites is sketched to show how in the matter of instituting the royal office they outran Israel by many years.

If now kings began to rule about the third generation after Esau, that is about a generation after the "chiefs" began to rule or about 1850 B. C., and Moses wrote about 1450, that would seem to allow 400 years for the eight kings of this list. But that offers no grave difficulty. The kingdom may have been established a century later than we suggest. This idea gains support from the fact that "chiefs" and "kings" ruled simultaneously in Edom, as a comparison of Ex 15:15 with Nu 20:14 ff shows. Besides, in those days, at least in the earlier of these four centuries men lived longer. Besides, interregna may have occurred between the kings of this list. For it should also be noted that the line of succession in Edom was not hereditary. Not one of these eight kings succeeded his father. Note what things the following list reveals:

Kings of Edom

1. Bela -- son of Beor -- his city Dinhabah.

2. Jobab -- son of Zeta -- of Bozra.

8. Husham -- of the land of the Temanites.

4. Hadad -- son of Bedad -- his city Avith.

5. Samlah -- from Masrekah.

6. Shaul -- from Rehoboth-hannahar.

7. Baal-Hanan -- son of Achbor.

8. Hadar -- his city Pau.

Three of these kings had each "his city," which must mean, his royal city where he established himself as king. Either the other five had no city, or else after one had become king, he continued to use the royal city of his predecessor until his successor in turn shifted to another capital city. The list most clearly shows that not one of the kings was descended from another.

"Hadar" (v.39) is called "Hadad" in 1Ch 1:50. That, however, by no means identifies him with the Hadad who was Solomon's adversary, 1Ki 11:14. In fact, this last named Hadad was not a king but only a man "of the king's seed."

In v.37 the town "Rehoboth" is followed by the word hannahar, i. e. "of the river." This expression (noun plus the article) almost invariably refers to the Euphrates, unless the connection points to another stream. K. C. therefore places Rehoboth on the Euphrates. Foreign conquerors have sometimes established themselves in a land even if they came from afar. Yet it cannot be denied that in a connection such as this nahar might refer to almost any stream.

Attempts have been made to identify béla', the son of be'or (v.32), with bil'am, the son of be'or (Nu 22:5). Though the names are strikingly similar, the identity is far from likely. Nor is the Jobab (v.33) to be regarded as the same person as Job, whose Hebrew name is 'iyyobh. Even Michaelis already declared this latter view an insignis error.

(6) The Edomitish Chiefs -- a geographical classification (v.40-43)

We already had one list of Edomitish chiefs in v. Ge 36:15-19. Only a few of the names of that list recur in v. Ge 36:40-43. The cue to the difference between these two lists therefore seems to be found in v.40 in the statement: "These are the names of the chiefs of Esau by clans according to their places of residence (limqomotham)." Dillmann, therefore, seems to be entirely correct in calling the first list of chiefs "historic-genealogic" and our list "geographic-statistic." Then Elah (v.41) may be identical with Elath (De 2:8) on the Elanitic Gulf. Then, of course, all the proper names are place names not personal names, as the following translation shows:

40-43. The following are the names of the chiefs of Esau by clans according to their place of residence, name by name: the chief of Timna, the chief of Alvah, the chief of Jetheth, the chief of Oholibamah, the chief of Elah, the chief of Pinon, the chief of Kenaz, the chief of Teman, the chief of Mibzar, the chief of Magdiel, the chief of Iram. These are the chiefs of Edom according to their habitations in the land of their possession. This is Esau, the father of the Edomites.

It can hardly be doubted that the last word 'edhom must be translated "Edomites" and not "Edom."

A brief explanation as to the so-called sources of this chapter as the critics see them. The following outline will show quite clearly what a problem the critics have on their hands and how little harmonious "the assured results" of criticism are. Skinner's position is covered by the statement that the chapter contains "partly P," for he recognizes the problematic nature of many of the conclusions. Strack says: P: 6-8, 40-43; JE: v.31-39. Procksch: P.9, 6, 7, 40, 41; J: 8, 10-14; 20-28; 31-39. Koenig: P: 7, 9, 31; J: 8, 10-30.


Source analysis here too is "groping blindly."

chapter xxxv
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