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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Genesis Chapter 36


gen 36:0

IX. History Of Esau - Genesis 36

"Esau and Jacob shook hands once more over the corpse of their father. Henceforth their paths diverged, to meet no more" (Del.). As Esau had also received a divine promise (Gen 25:23), and the history of his tribe was already interwoven in the paternal blessing with that of Israel (Gen 27:29 and Gen 27:40), an account is given in the book of Genesis of his growth into a nation; and a separate section is devoted to this, which, according to the invariable plan of the book, precedes the tholedoth of Jacob. The account is subdivided into the following sections, which are distinctly indicated by their respective headings. (Compare with these the parallel list in 1 Chron 1:35-54.)

Genesis 36:1

gen 36:1

Esau's Wives and Children. His Settlement in the Mountains of Seir. - In the heading (Gen 36:1) the surname Edom is added to the name Esau, which he received at his birth, because the former became the national designation of his descendants. - Gen 36:2, Gen 36:3. The names of Esau's three wives differ from those given in the previous accounts (Gen 26:34 and Gen 28:9), and in one instance the father's name as well. The daughter of Elon the Hittite is called Adah (the ornament), and in Gen 26:34 Basmath (the fragrant); the second is called Aholibamah (probably tent-height), the daughter of Anah, daughter, i.e., grand-daughter of Zibeon the Hivite, and in Gen 26:34, Jehudith (the praised or praiseworthy), daughter of Beeri the Hittite; the third, the daughter of Ishmael, is called Basmath here and Mahalath in Gen 28:9. This difference arose from the fact, that Moses availed himself of genealogical documents for Esau's family and tribe, and inserted them without alteration. It presents no irreconcilable discrepancy, therefore, but may be explained from the ancient custom in the East, of giving surnames, as the Arabs frequently do still, founded upon some important or memorable event in a man's life, which gradually superseded the other name (e.g., the name Edom, as explained in Gen 25:30); whilst as a rule the women received new names when they were married (cf. Chardin, Hengstenberg, Dissertations, vol. ii. p. 223-6). The different names given for the father of Aholibamah or Judith, Hengstenberg explains by referring to the statement in Gen 36:24, that Anah, the son of Zibeon, while watching the asses of his father in the desert, discovered the warm springs (of Calirrhoe), on which he founds the acute conjecture, that from this discovery Anah received the surname Beeri, i.e., spring-man, which so threw his original name into the shade, as to be the only name given in the genealogical table. There is no force in the objection, that according to Gen 36:25 Aholibamah was not a daughter of the discoverer of the springs, but of his uncle of the same name. For where is it stated that the Aholibamah mentioned in Gen 36:25 was Esau's wife? And is it a thing unheard of that aunt and niece should have the same name? If Zibeon gave his second son the name of his brother Anah (cf. Gen 36:24 and Gen 36:20), why could not his son Anah have named his daughter after his cousin, the daughter of his father's brother? The reception of Aholibamah into the list of the Seirite princes is no proof that she was Esau's wife, but may be much more naturally supposed to have arisen from the same (unknown) circumstance as that which caused one of the seats of the Edomitish Alluphim to be called by her name (Gen 36:41). - Lastly, the remaining diversity, viz., that Anah is called a Hivite in Gen 36:2 and a Hittite in Gen 26:34, is not to be explained by the conjecture, that for Hivite we should read Horite, according to Gen 36:20, but by the simple assumption that Hittite is used in Gen 26:34 sensu latiori for Canaanite, according to the analogy of Jos 1:4; Kg1 10:29; Kg2 7:6; just as the two Hittite wives of Esau are called daughters of Canaan in Gen 28:8. For the historical account, the general name Hittite sufficed; but the genealogical list required the special name of the particular branch of the Canaanitish tribes, viz., the Hivites. In just as simple a manner may the introduction of the Hivite Zibeon among the Horites of Seir (Gen 36:20 and Gen 36:24) be explained, viz., on the supposition that the removed to the mountains of Seir, and there became a Horite, i.e., a troglodyte, or dweller in a cave. - The names of Esau's sons occur again in Ch1 1:35. The statement in Gen 36:6, Gen 36:7, that Esau went with his family and possessions, which he had acquired in Canaan, into the land of Seir, from before his brother Jacob, does not imply (in contradiction to Gen 32:4; Gen 33:14-16) that he did not leave the land of Canaan till after Jacob's return. The words may be understood without difficulty as meaning, that after founding a house of his own, when his family and flocks increased, Esau sought a home in Seir, because he knew that Jacob, as the heir, would enter upon the family possessions, but without waiting till he returned and actually took possession. In the clause "went into the country" (Gen 36:6), the name Seir or Edom (cf. Gen 36:16) must have dropt out, as the words "into the country" convey no sense when standing by themselves.

Genesis 36:9

gen 36:9

(cf. Ch1 1:36-37). Esau's Sons and Grandsons as Fathers of Tribes. - Through them he became the father of Edom, i.e., the founder of the Edomitish nation on the mountains of Seir. Mouth Seir is the mountainous region between the Dead Sea and the Elanitic Gulf, the northern half of which is called Jebl (Γεβαλήνη) by the Arabs, the southern half, Sherah (Rob. Pal. ii. 552). - In the case of two of the wives of Esau, who bore only one son each, the tribes were founded not by the sons, but by the grandsons; but in that of Aholibamah the three sons were the founders. Among the sons of Eliphaz we find Amalek, whose mother was Timna, the concubine of Eliphaz. He was the ancestor of the Amalekites, who attacked the Israelites at Horeb as they came out of Egypt under Moses (Exo 17:8.), and not merely of a mixed tribe of Amalekites and Edomites, belonging to the supposed aboriginal Amalekite nation. For the Arabic legend of Amlik as an aboriginal tribe of Arabia is far too recent, confused, and contradictory to counterbalance the clear testimony of the record before us. The allusion to the fields of the Amalekites in Gen 14:7 does not imply that the tribe was in existence in Abraham's time, nor does the expression "first of the nations," in the saying of Balaam (Num 24:20), represent Amalek as the aboriginal or oldest tribe, but simply as the first heathen tribe by which Israel was attacked. The Old Testament says nothing of any fusion of Edomites or Horites with Amalekites, nor does it mention a double Amalek (cf. Hengstenberg, Dissertations 2, 247ff., and Kurtz, History i. 122, 3, ii. 240ff.).

(Note: The occurrence of "Timna and Amalek" in Ch1 1:36, as coordinate with the sons of Eliphaz, is simply a more concise form of saying "and from Timna, Amalek.")

If there had been an Amalek previous to Edom, with the important part which they took in opposition to Israel even in the time of Moses, the book of Genesis would not have omitted to give their pedigree in the list of the nations. At a very early period the Amalekites separated from the other tribes of Edom and formed an independent people, having their headquarters in the southern part of the mountains of Judah, as far as Kadesh (Gen 14:7; Num 13:29; Num 14:43, Num 14:45), but, like the Bedouins, spreading themselves as a nomad tribe over the whole of the northern portion of Arabia Petraea, from Havilah to Shur on the border of Egypt (Sa1 15:3, Sa1 15:7; Sa1 27:8); whilst one branch penetrated into the heart of Canaan, so that a range of hills, in what was afterwards the inheritance of Ephraim, bore the name of mountains of the Amalekites (Jdg 12:15, cf. Gen 5:14). Those who settled in Arabia seem also to have separated in the course of time into several branches, so that Amalekite hordes invaded the land of Israel in connection sometimes with the Midianites and the sons of the East (the Arabs, Jdg 6:3; Jdg 7:12), and at other times with the Ammonites (Jdg 3:13). After they had been defeated by Saul (Sa1 14:48; Sa1 15:2.), and frequently chastised by David (Sa1 27:8; Sa1 30:1.; Sa2 8:12), the remnant of them was exterminated under Hezekiah by the Simeonites on the mountains of Seir (Ch1 4:42-43).

Genesis 36:15

gen 36:15

The Tribe-Princes Who Descended from Esau. - אלּוּפים was the distinguishing title of the Edomite and Horite phylarchs; and it is only incidentally that it is applied to Jewish heads of tribes in Zac 9:7, and Zac 12:5. It is probably derived from אלף or אלפים, equivalent to משׁפּחות, families (Sa1 10:19; Mic 5:2), - the heads of the families, i.e., of the principal divisions, of the tribe. The names of these Alluphim are not names of places, but of persons-of the three sons and ten grandsons of Esau mentioned in Gen 36:9-14; though Knobel would reverse the process and interpret the whole geographically. - In Gen 36:16 Korah has probably been copied by mistake from Gen 36:18, and should therefore be erased, as it really is in the Samar. Codex.

Genesis 36:20

gen 36:20

(parallel, Ch1 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 (Gen 14:6), were partly exterminated and partly subjugated by the descendants of Esau (Deu 2:12, Deu 2:22). Seven sons of Seir are given as tribe-princes of the Horites, who are afterwards mentioned as Alluphim (Gen 36:29, Gen 36:30), also their sons, as well as two daughters, Timna (Gen 36:22) and Aholibamah (Gen 36:25), who obtained notoriety from the face that two of the headquarters of Edomitish tribe-princes bore their names (Gen 36:40 and Gen 36:41). Timna was probably the same as the concubine of Eliphaz (Gen 36:12); but Aholibamah was not the wife of Esau (cf. Gen 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 Psa 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 (Gen 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., Gen 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.)

Genesis 36:30

gen 36:30

"These are the princes of the Horites according to their princes," i.e., as their princes were individually named in the land of Seir. ל in enumerations indicates the relation of the individual to the whole, and of the whole to the individual.

Genesis 36:31

gen 36:31

(Parallel, Ch1 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 Isa 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 Exo 15:15 as compared with Num 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. Eze 32:29). Lastly, this is also supported by the fact, that the account of the seats of the phylarchs (Gen 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 (Gen 36:35), with the Edomite Hadad who rose up against Solomon (Kg1 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 (Gen 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 Num 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 (Isa 34:6; Isa 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 (Gen 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 (Gen 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 (Gen 36:39; not Hadad, as it is written in Ch1 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 (Ch1 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 (Num 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 Gen 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 (Gen 26:34), and had sons and daughters before his removal to Seir (Gen 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 (Num 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 Gen 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 (Gen 35:11, cf. Gen 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.).

Genesis 36:40

gen 36:40

(Parallel, Ch1 1:51-54). Seats of the Tribe-Princes of Esau According to Their Families. - That the names which follow are not a second list of Edomitish tribe-princes (viz., of those who continued the ancient constitution, with its hereditary aristocracy, after Hadar's death), but merely relate to the capital cities of the old phylarchs, is evident from the expression in the heading, "After their places, by their names," as compared with Gen 36:43, "According to their habitations in the land of their possession." This being the substance and intention of the list, there is nothing surprising in the fact, that out of the eleven names only two correspond to those given in Gen 36:15-19. This proves nothing more than that only two of the capitals received their names from the princes who captured or founded them, viz., Timnah and Kenaz. Neither of these has been discovered yet. The name Aholibamah is derived from the Horite princess (Gen 36:25); its site is unknown. Elah is the port Aila (vid., Gen 14:6). Pinon is the same as Phunon, an encampment of the Israelites (Num 33:42-43), celebrated for its mines, in which many Christians were condemned to labour under Diocletian, between Petra and Zoar, to the northeast of Wady Musa. Teman is the capital of the land of the Temanites (Gen 36:34). Mibzar is supposed by Knobel to be Petra; but this is called Selah elsewhere (Kg2 14:7). Magdiel and Iram cannot be identified. The concluding sentence, "This is Esau, the father (founder) of Edom" (i.e., from his sprang the great nation of the Edomites, with its princes and kings, upon the mountains of Seir), not only terminates this section, but prepared the way for the history of Jacob, which commences with the following chapter.

Next: Genesis Chapter 37