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Genesis Chapter Thirty-six


Genesis 36

Chapter Contents

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, Luke 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.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on Genesis


Genesis 36

Verse 1

[1] Now these are the generations of Esau, who is Edom.

Who is Edom-That name perpetuated the remembrance of the foolish bargain he made, when he sold his birth-right for that red pottage.

Verse 6

[6] And Esau took his wives, and his sons, and his daughters, and all the persons of his house, and his cattle, and all his beasts, and all his substance, which he had got in the land of Canaan; and went into the country from the face of his brother Jacob.

Esau had begun to settle among his wife's relations in Seir, before Jacob came from Padan-aram, Genesis 32:3. Isaac it is likely, had sent him thither, that Jacob might have the clearer way to the possession of the promised land: yet probably during the life of Isaac, Esau had still some effects remaining in Canaan; but after his death, he wholly withdrew to mount Seir, took with him what came to his share of his father's personal estate, and left Canaan to Jacob, not only because he had the promise of it, but because he saw, if they should both continue to thrive, as they had begun, there would not be room for both.

Verse 8

[8] Thus dwelt Esau in mount Seir: Esau is Edom.

Thus dwelt Esau in mount Seir — Whatever opposition may be made, God's word will take place, and even those that have opposed it will see themselves, some time or other, under a necessity of yielding to it. Esau had struggled for Canaan, but now he retires to mount Seir; for God's counsels shall certainly stand concerning the times before appointed, and the bounds of our habitation.

Verse 10

[10] These are the names of Esau's sons; Eliphaz the son of Adah the wife of Esau, Reuel the son of Bashemath the wife of Esau.

These are the names — Observe here, 1. That only the names of Esau's sons and grand-sons are recorded: not their history, for it is the church that Moses preserves the records of, not of those that were without. The elders only that lived by faith obtained a good report. Nor doth the genealogy go any farther than the third and fourth generation, the very names of all after are buried in oblivion; it is only the pedigree of the Israelites who were to be the heirs of Canaan, and of whom were to come the promised seed, and the holy seed, that is drawn out to any length, as far as there was occasion for it, even of all the tribes till Canaan was divided among them, and of the royal line 'till Christ came. 2. That the sons and grand-sons of Esau are called dukes. Probably they were military commanders, dukes or captains that had soldiers under them; for Esau and his family lived by the sword, Genesis 27:40. 3. We may suppose those dukes had numerous families of children and servants. God promised to multiply Jacob and to enrich him, yet Esau increases and is enriched first. God's promise to Jacob began to work late, but the effect of it remained longer, and it had its compleat accomplishment in the spiritual Israel.

Verse 20

[20] These are the sons of Seir the Horite, who inhabited the land; Lotan, and Shobal, and Zibeon, and Anah,

These are the sons of Seir — In the midst of the genealogy of the Edomites is inserted the genealogy of the Horites, those Canaanites, or Hittites, (compare Genesis 26:34,) that were the natives of mount Seir. Mention is made of them, Genesis 14:6, and of their interest in mount Seir before the Edomites took possession of it, Deuteronomy 2:12,22. This comes in here, not only to give light to the story, but to be a standing reflexion upon the Edomites for intermarrying with them, by which it is likely they learned their way, and corrupted themselves. Esau having sold his birth-right, and lost his blessing and entered into alliance with the Hittites, his posterity and the sons of Seir are here reckoned together. Those that treacherously desert God's church are justly numbered with those that were never in it: apostate Edomites stand on the same ground with accursed Horites. Notice is taken of one Anah, who fed the asses of Zibeon his father, Genesis 36:20, and yet is called duke Anah, Genesis 36:29. Those that expect to rise high should begin low. An honourable descent should not keep men from an honest employment, nor a mean employment baulk any man's preferment.

Verse 24

[24] And these are the children of Zibeon; both Ajah, and Anah: this was that Anah that found the mules in the wilderness, as he fed the asses of Zibeon his father.

This Anah was not only industrious in his business, but ingenious too, and successful, for he found mules, or, (as some read it) waters, hot baths in the wilderness. Those that are diligent in their business sometimes find more advantages than they expected.

Verse 31

[31] And these are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel.

By degrees the Edomites worked out the Horites, and got full possession of the country. 1. 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 shall 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. 2. They were afterward's governed by dukes again, here named, who, I suppose, ruled all at the same time in several places in the country. They set up this form of government, either in conformity to the Horites, who had used it, Genesis 36:29, or God's providence reduced them to it, as some conjecture, to correct them for their unkindness to Israel, in refusing them passage through their country, Numbers 20:18.

Verse 43

[43] Duke Magdiel, duke Iram: these be the dukes of Edom, according to their habitations in the land of their possession: he is Esau the father of the Edomites.

Mount Seir is called the land of their possession - While the Israelites dwelt in the house of bondage, and their Canaan was only the land of promise, the Edomites dwelt in their own habitations, and Seir was in their possession. The children of this world have their all in hand, and nothing in hope, while the children of God have often their all in hope, and next to nothing in hand. But, all things considered, it is better to have Canaan in promise than mount Seir in possession.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on Genesis



36 Chapter 36


Verses 1-43

Genesis 36:1-43

Now these are the generations of Esau, who is Edom

The history of the generations of Esau


II. WE LEARN WHAT IS THE PRINCIPLE UPON WHICH OLD TESTAMENT HISTORY IS WRITTEN. This chapter is a kind of leave-taking of Esau and his posterity. The stream of sacred history leads on to the Messiah, the flower and perfection of our human race. Scripture history is written upon this principle--that it was God’s design throughout to bring His only begotten Son into the world, and, therefore, that family alone in which He is to appear shall have a prominent record.

III. WE LEARN THAT THE ENEMIES OF GOD MAY BE DISTINGUISHED BY GREAT WORLDLY GLORY AND PROSPERITY. Three times in this chapter we meet with the phrase, “This is Edom”; and once “He is Esau, the father of the Edomites” (Genesis 36:1; Genesis 36:9; Genesis 36:19; Genesis 36:43). They were the bitterest enemies of Israel. Esau is the father of persecutors. Yet Esau was prospered in his lifetime more than his brother. Thus the believer is taught that he must toil slowly upwards, and must not envy the rapid and joyful prosperity of the children of this world. His record and his reward are with the Most High. His prosperity may be late and remote, but it is permanent.

IV. WE LEARN HOW GOD WORKS IN THE FORMATION OF PEOPLES AND NATIONS. The subjugation of the Horites by the Edomites, and the fusion of both under one kingdom, is an instance of the manner in which peoples and nations are formed and consolidated. This has often occurred in history. We have examples in the rise of the Samaritans, and in the formation of the Roman people. And in modern times, we have a similar instance in the subjugation of the Gauls by the Franks. We see that the footsteps of God are to be traced throughout all human history. These nations which lay outside the covenant people were yet under the care and control of that Divine providence which appointed the bounds of their habitation, and watched over their growth and development (Acts 17:26).

V. WE LEARN, ALSO, THE IMPORTANCE OF THE INDIVIDUAL ELEMENT IN HISTORY. The personal or individual element appears in all history, but in a most marked manner in sacred history. We see how nations are stamped with the character of their ancestor. (T. H. Leale)


1. The genealogy of the wicked God records for His own ends in His Church.

2. God’s record of the wicked’s line is but to brand them to those who read it (Genesis 36:1).

3. Godless hearts take strange wives--Hittites, Hivites, Ishmaelites--whatever God says against it (Genesis 36:2; Genesis 36:8).

4. Providence doth vouchsafe progeny to wicked and multiplied matches, though He like them not (Genesis 36:4-5).

5. In God’s own time He moveth the hearts of wicked enemies, to turn aside from straitening His Church (Genesis 36:6).

6. Outward portions to the wicked satisfy them in and for their departing from God’s Church (Genesis 36:7).

7. Mount Seir pleaseth Esau better than the land of promise, because he is Edom (Genesis 36:8).

8. The reproach of a profane Esau God maketh to rest upon his posterity (Genesis 36:9).

9. Multitudes of wives and children and offspring God may grant unto the wicked.

10. God hath recorded the wicked End their progeny to distinguish them from His Church (verse 10-14).

11. Dukedoms and dignities in the world is only the ambition of the wicked. The saint’s is of another kind (2 Corinthians 5:1-21; 2 Corinthians 6:1-18; 2 Corinthians 7:1-16; 2 Corinthians 8:1-24; 2 Corinthians 9:1-15).

12. Dignities can never blot out the stain of sin from God’s presence. The Dukes are Edomites still (verse 15-19). (G. Hughes, B. D.)


The name and line of the wicked are mentioned by God’s Spirit for distinction, not for honour to them.

2. Horites, Hittites, and Hivites are the national titles of the same sort of sinful people.

3. Uncleanness and unnaturalness are recorded in the wicked’s line to make them stink.

4. A numerous progeny with dignity may be the portion of the wicked here below.

5. Affinity with persons that are wicked, usually bring souls to affinity with their sins.

6. God suffers and orders the wicked to join so in affinity, in order to the destroying of each other. So it was with Seir and Edom (verse 20-30.) (G. Hughes, B. D.)


1. Worldly men are ambitious of the highest titles of honour. Kings and dukes.

2. Earthly kingdoms God may order to the wicked (a settled government) before His Church (Genesis 36:31).

3. Stinted are the numbers of kings and dignities by God in the world.

4. God maketh some notable for exploits above others. Hadad vanquisheth Midian.

5. Kings and queens are sometimes recorded for their shame by God’s Spirit.

6. God overturneth and changeth states and government at His pleasure.

7. Profane fathers and profane children are branded by God’s Spirit together, where mention is made of them. (G. Hughes, B. D.)

Increase of Esau’s house

The text systematically shows the gradual growth and increase of the house of Esau. Through his three wives he became the father of five sons; Adah and Bashemath gave each birth to one son (Eliphaz the firstborn (Genesis 36:15), and Reuel). and Aholibamah to three (Jeush, Jaalam, and Korah). These children were born to him in Canaan. But he could no longer stay in the land of his birth. His herds and flocks were too numerous to find room, by the side of those of his brother Jacob; and he emigrated spontaneously. But this took place a very considerable time before the events related in the preceding chapter; for when Jacob returned from Mesopotamia, he sent messengers to Esau into Idumea, and promised to visit him later in Seir. But this circumstance does not imply a contradiction. Our portion records the history of Esau as far as it relates to political power; it, therefore, goes back to the fortieth year of his life when he first married. He had then long sold his birthright; he had, no doubt, heard the prophecy given to his mother, that to his younger brother Jacob, the inheritance of the blessings of Abraham was reserved; when, therefore, his father Isaac advanced in years and became afflicted with infirmity, Jacob was regarded as the future head of the house, and as such obtained the superintendence over his father’s property; the cattle of Isaac was, therefore, considered as that of Jacob; and it was within the thirty-eight years between his marriage and Jacob’s flight, that Esau, at that time not inimical to his brother, left Canaan, thus willingly acknowledging the superior rights of Jacob, and spontaneously resigning his own claims upon the land. When Isaac, at the age of nearly 140 years, wish to bless his firstborn and favourite son, he sent for him to his new abodes; and Esau answered to the call, just as he came later to Canaan, at his father’s death, to assist at the funeral duties. (M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)

Verse 7

Genesis 36:7

For their riches were more

Riches cannot secure happiness

“I wish I were rich, I would buy everything,” cried Charlie.
“The sun, moon, and stars?” inquired William. “No; everything that can be had for money.” “That’s not happiness,” said William. “Get your hat, Charlie, and come with me to Mr. Morrison’s,” said his father. “Oh, please not, papa, he is such a disagreeable, miserable old man, with his cross looks and gouty foot, hobbling about and groaning.” “I think you would like to live with him,” said his father. “I, papa? I would rather live down a coal-pit!” “With him you would have all that can be bought with money.” “I see it won’t do,” said Charlie. “Health cannot be bought with money.” “Nor good temper, nor friendship, nor life,” said William. “Above all,” added their papa, “the favour of God cannot be bought with money. Be content with as much of it as God gives, and seek to use it aright.”

“The fear of God and sweet content Yield riches that will ne’er be spent.”.

──The Biblical Illustrator