Genesis 36:1-36:43 He came, Esau, He conquered

Standard
generations of Esau… not part of blessing… God of fathers… Esau leaves… over-prospered… mama’s boy… assert manhood… intervention… monogamist… duke… legend… primogeniture… lost interest…

Genesis 36:1-36:43

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

Its been a long time since a new generation (towl@dah) was marked; this appears something of a postscript since Isaac is dead, and Esau’s not part of the mainline blessing.

Esau took his wives of the daughters of Canaan; Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite; And Bashemath Ishmael’s daughter, sister of Nebajoth.

The list of wives (‘ishshah) is interesting for both theological and genealogical reasons. Not only does it serve to introduce his descendants, it also might explain why Esau did NOT inherit the blessing. Jacob, for all his many flaws, ultimately placed loyalty to the God of his fathers (and mothers) above personal satisfaction; Esau was not so careful.

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.

Now, this is funny. The implication is that after Isaac’s funeral, the brothers ended up living together for a time. Yet, this time — unlike the previous two times when Jacob fled — Esau leaves. Was it anger or fear?

For their riches were more than that they might dwell together; and the land wherein they were strangers could not bear them because of their cattle.

No, it was that just they’d over-prospered, like Lot and Abraham. But, amazingly, it isn’t Jacob who moves, but Esau. Why? After all, Isaac is dead — the thing Jacob had feared most. I would’ve expected him to bend over backwards (again) to avoid offending Esau. He’d already spent most of his life running away.

Something must’ve changed. There’s a old saying — I don’t know from where:

A girl ain’t a woman ’til she be a mother
A boy ain’t a man ’til he got no father

Whether or not that’s true in general, it seems true for Jacob. Perhaps it was the spiritual birthright kicking in. Perhaps on his actual deathbed Isaac finally, honestly, blessed the son he had scorned all his life. There certainly is something unmanly and “mama’s boy” about Jacob’s continual slickness, cowardice, and complaisance — which it would be easy to blame on Isaac. Yet, somehow, after Isaac dies Jacob is able to let go of that, and assert his manhood — no small feat! Perhaps because he is now Israel, the prevailing he-man. Eventually God’s intervention seems to have erased the deficit of his upbringing.

But back to Esau:

And these [are] the generations of Esau the father of the Edomites in mount Seir:

I won’t belabor the begetting, but I was struck by a couple of points:

And Timna was concubine to Eliphaz Esau’s son; and she bare to Eliphaz Amalek: these [were] the sons of Adah Esau’s wife.

Its interesting that a concubine (piylegesh) gets mentioned, though to be fair it seems like Isaac is the only monogamist we’ve seen so far. I suspect that this Amalek may relate to the Amalekites we’ll see later.

These [were] dukes of the sons of Esau: the sons of Eliphaz the firstborn [son] of Esau; duke Teman, duke Omar, duke Zepho, duke Kenaz,

The work “duke” (‘alluwph ), translated as “chief ” by the NIV, appears here for the first time. I suspect it is weaker than the earlier “prince” (nasiy’) or “king” (melek), but I’m not sure how. The fact that there’s so many of them certainly fits the title of duke, at least as I understand it.

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.

I just found this a delightful picture — a tiny vignette captured for all of history. A little donkey (chamowr) herder, too young to have his own flock, finds something (yem) — mules? hot springs? Perhaps something so exotic they didn’t have a word for it. Perhaps he was lost and desperate in the wilderness (midbar ), and God miraculously provided water. Regardless, the story was so impressive that it was retold over and over, and perhaps that place was named after Anah (`Anah, answer). The legend was known so widely that even an Israelite writing generations later felt compelled to allude to it.

Now that’s fame. Just goes to show what can happen if you get off your ass (chamowr) and look around once in a while.

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

These appear to be full-blown kings (melek) who actively ruled (malak) over all Edom. What’s interesting is that the kingship apparently didn’t belong to a single family; actually, my understanding is that in traditional societies the elders usually chose a fit leader from among the royal line, rather than just mechanically approving primogeniture.

And Bela died, and Jobab the son of Zerah of Bozrah reigned in his stead.

And Jobab died, and Husham of the land of Temani reigned in his stead.

And Husham died, and Hadad the son of Bedad, who smote Midian in the field of Moab, reigned in his stead: and the name of his city [was] Avith.

Bonus history points for Hadad (Hadad, mighty), who was apparently a great general before he was king, mixing it up with the extended family of Midian and Moab.

And Hadad died, and Samlah of Masrekah reigned in his stead.

And Samlah died, and Saul of Rehoboth [by] the river reigned in his stead.

And Saul died, and Baalhanan the son of Achbor reigned in his stead.

And Baalhanan the son of Achbor died, and Hadar reigned in his stead: and the name of his city [was] Pau; and his wife’s name [was] Mehetabel, the daughter of Matred, the daughter of Mezahab.

Don’t know why the list ends with Hadar; perhaps there were no more kings, perhaps the Edomites themselves were scattered, or perhaps the scribe had either caught up to the present or simply lost interest in Edom’s history.

Which is understandable, because God had lost interest in Edom — at least in terms of His promise to bless the nations.

Which is fair, because Edom had lost interest in God.

Prayer

God, I desire to be a man of blessing. I want you to teach me the meaning of manhood, to stand up for what is right, to make my marriage a place of holiness and prosperity. I want to stand up for the truth. I want a name that will endure for generations — a Name of your goodness in answering me. I want to see my children, and my children’s children, grow up to be people who live in the blessing — my blessing and your blessing — to be a blessing to the nations. Amen.

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