The Generations of Esau
Introduction: Chapter 36 of Genesis is one which is almost completely disregarded by people when they read the Bible. Name after name is given and there is seemingly nothing which is attractive or new to keep one’s attention. If it is read at all, instead of being skipped over, it tends to be read without any thought or reflection.
Not since chapter 25 in the genealogy of Ishmael has there been such a long list of names which seem to have no purpose. Before that, one has to go back to chapter 10, the Table of Nations, in order to find such a long and difficult to comprehend list.
This chapter is broken down into six sections which seemingly repeat or overlap each other. They don’t really though. Instead they show the sequence of time and rulers throughout the history of Edom. In order, the sections are as follows:
1-8 – The genealogy of Esau, who is Edom and the wives and children he had while living in Canaan.
9-14 – The genealogy of Esau, the father of the Edomites after his move to Mount Seir.
15-19 – The chiefs of the sons of Esau.
20-30 – The sons of Seir the Horite who inhabited the land.
31-39 – The kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the children of Israel.
40-43 A different set of the chiefs of Esau.
Passages like chapter 36 don’t lend themselves to exciting sermons, but they are a part of God’s word and are important in understanding what lies ahead for God’s people, so they need to be looked at and not simply passed over.
Text Verse: “Will I not in that day,” says the Lord,
“Even destroy the wise men from Edom,
And understanding from the mountains of Esau?
9 Then your mighty men, O Teman, shall be dismayed,
To the end that everyone from the mountains of Esau
May be cut off by slaughter. Obadiah -8, 9
The Bible showed that there would be an end to the people of Edom at some point. If we keep reminding ourselves of who Esau represents, we can see more clearly the end of all fallen men. A time is coming when the line of Adam will disappear as it is either destroyed or assimilated into the line of Jesus.
This is found pictured in the people of Edom who were either destroyed or assimilated into the nation of Israel. The Bible shows us these things both as an advanced warning and as an advanced way of understanding what choices we should make. It’s all to be found in God’s word and so… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.
I. The Generations of Esau
Now this is the genealogy of Esau, who is Edom.
We now come to the ninth set of “generations” listed in the Bible. The last set of generations was that of Isaac, way back in chapter 25. Esau’s genealogy is a branch off the main line which leads to the Messiah.
This is something which is common in the Bible. The last branch off the main line was that of the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s oldest son, born to him by Sarah’s maid Hagar. Only after he was listed came the generations of Isaac. The eight previous generations the Bible has noted were:
The generations of the heavens and the earth (2:4); the generations of Adam (5:1); the generations of Noah (6:9); the generations of the sons of Noah (10:1); the generations of Shem (11:10); the generations of Terah (11:27); the generations of Ishmael (25:12), and the generations of Isaac (25:19).
For context of where we are, we should note that this listing of Esau’s family is given immediately after the record of Isaac’s death in the last verse of the last chapter. It’s also recorded just prior to the generations of Jacob which will come at the beginning of the next chapter.
The listing of these sons is given in order of birth just as Ishmael and Isaac were in Genesis 25. There is a harmony and an elegance in how the Bible is structured which is precise, intent, and which shows great care and affection for what is being relayed to us.
The word which is translated as “genealogy” is the word toledot. Toledot can be spelled a variety of ways depending on the sentence structure, but the important point about it is the inclusion or lack of a particular letter known as “vav” – the 6th letter in the aleph-bet.
Depending on whether there is one vav, two vavs, or no vavs, we can see hints about the plan of redemption that is being worked out in the people groups listed. To understand this better, and if you’re curious about this, you can to go back to the sermon on Genesis 5.
The spelling of toledot here is identical to the spelling of the toledot for Jacob at the beginning of the next chapter. That is good news for Esau as far as I see it.
Esau is the older brother of Jacob and the firstborn to Isaac and Rebekah. His name was given based on his appearance at birth. The name Esau means “covered with hair” or “hairy.” However, his name is also similar to the word asah meaning “to do.” In the first chapter of Genesis, when God made man, the word used was a form of asah.
There is a connection between these which can be made. Hair in the Bible is used to denote awareness. Man, of all the creatures made by God, is an aware being. Esau, during all of the preceding sermons, has pictured man of the earth. Man was created and he is an aware being.
We need to go back to Genesis 25 to see the story of Esau’s birth in order to see how he received his name –
Now Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived. 22 But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If all is well, why am I like this?” So she went to inquire of the Lord.
23 And the Lord said to her:
“Two nations are in your womb,
Two peoples shall be separated from your body;
One people shall be stronger than the other,
And the older shall serve the younger.”
24 So when her days were fulfilled for her to give birth, indeed there were twins in her womb. 25 And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came out, and his hand took hold of Esau’s heel; so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.
Esau was red and he was hairy like a garment and so the immediate association with his name is being hairy. But another connection needs to be remembered too. Because he was hairy, he would have had the appearance of a man, rather than a baby. He is the “made-man” picturing Adam, the man who was made.
However, Esau has another name, Edom. This name means “red.” Here is where that name came from, also in Genesis 25 –
29 Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary. 30 And Esau said to Jacob, “Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary.” Therefore his name was called Edom.
31 But Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright as of this day.”
32 And Esau said, “Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?”
33 Then Jacob said, “Swear to me as of this day.”
So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. Genesis 25:22-33
Esau was already red, but when he asked for the red stew, the name stuck. And so now he is Esau and he is Edom. But again, the name Edom has a connection to the man who was made. Man was named Adam by God. The name Adam means man; the earthly or physical being. But it has the same origin as the name Edom – the color red. Adam was taken from the ruddy, red soil of the earth.
And so here we have the three connections for you to remember once again. First, Esau is like asah. Man was made and Esau appeared as if fully made when born. Secondly, Esau was hairy and the concept of hair relates to awareness, as in a sentient being. And third, Edom is red which is tied to Adam who is the physical being made from the reddish soil of the earth.
All of this was explained in earlier sermons, but now Esau’s generations are being listed and it’s asking us to remember this and think on why he is considered so important as to have his genealogies listed in the Bible the way they are. In fact, here we have an entire chapter comprising 43 verses which is dedicated to him and those connected to him.
If Jacob is the inheritor of that which is spiritual, then Esau is the inheritor of that which is worldly. Jacob has the birthright and the spiritual blessing, but Esau also received a blessing after Jacob was given his. Esau’s blessing from his father Isaac said this –
“Behold, your dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth,
And of the dew of heaven from above.
40 By your sword you shall live,
And you shall serve your brother;
And it shall come to pass, when you become restless,
That you shall break his yoke from your neck.” Genesis 27:39, 40
As you can see, the reason for the genealogy listed here is because of Esau’s worldly blessing. We are shown that the blessing took place in the reception of worldly things. By including this genealogy with its minuteness of detail, we see that the prophecies were fulfilled by God exactly as they were made to him – both before his birth when the Lord spoke to Rebekah, and again when his father blessed him.
2 Esau took his wives from the daughters of Canaan: Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite; Aholibamah the daughter of Anah, the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite;
The names and places listed in this chapter surely all have importance and relevance, especially because some of these people are listed under different names at other times. However, if we were to analyze every name that is listed, it would take us about 2 or 3 months of sermons to get through this chapter.
Instead, I’ll list just the prominent names and what they mean. The first is Esau’s wife Adah. Her name means “Ornament.” It is the same name as the second woman named in the Bible. She was one of two wives married to Lamech, a descendant of Cain.
Esau’s second listed wife is Aholibamah. Her name means, “Tent of the high places.” Both Adah and Aholibamah were daughters of Canaan, meaning they were descendants of Canaan, the cursed grandson of Noah. One is a Hittite and the other is a Hivite.
3 and Basemath, Ishmael’s daughter, sister of Nebajoth.
In chapter 27, we read this –
6 Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Padan Aram to take himself a wife from there, and that as he blessed him he gave him a charge, saying, “You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan,” 7 and that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and had gone to Padan Aram. 8 Also Esau saw that the daughters of Canaan did not please his father Isaac. 9 So Esau went to Ishmael and took Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife in addition to the wives he had.
This girl named Mahalath in chapter 27 is called Basemath here. Her name means “Sweet fragrances.” Esau married her because she was a daughter of Abraham’s son Ishmael. His parents didn’t like his first two wives and he was hoping that by marrying her, they would be happy with him.
4 Now Adah bore Eliphaz to Esau,
Eliphaz means, “God of strength.”
4 (con’t) and Basemath bore Reuel.
Reuel means “Friend of God.” In Exodus 2, Moses’ father in law has the same name, but he is called a Midianite. Once again, it could be the same person, but he is called a Midianite because of where he lives and not who his father is. Or it could be a different person with the same name – scholars debate this.
5 And Aholibamah bore Jeush, Jaalam, and Korah. These were the sons of Esau who were born to him in the land of Canaan.
Three sons are born to this wife of Esau. Jeush means, “Haste.” Jaalam means “Hiding.” And Korah means “Ice” or “Baldness.” Together five sons were born to Esau while he lived in Canaan.
II. Esau’s Move to Seir
6 Then Esau took his wives, his sons, his daughters, and all the persons of his household, his cattle and all his animals, and all his goods which he had gained in the land of Canaan, and went to a country away from the presence of his brother Jacob.
Here’s what the Geneva Bible says about this verse, “In this, God’s providence appears, which causes the wicked to give place to the godly, that Jacob might enjoy Canaan according to God’s promise.”
Very rarely do I disagree with the commentaries of the Geneva Bible. They are usually short, concise, and spot on, but this time they blew it. Calling Esau “wicked” simply because he wasn’t the son of promise is really stretching it.
Esau was just a guy and the people who come from him will often be at odds with Israel, but they will also eventually become a part of the Israelite people. The reason for the move is explained in the next verse and it is the same reason as was given for the move of Lot away from Abraham.
7 For their possessions were too great for them to dwell together, and the land where they were strangers could not support them because of their livestock.
When Abraham and Lot lived together, eventually their livestock grew to the point that there were problems. Here is what it says in Genesis 13 –
“Now the land was not able to support them, that they might dwell together, for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together. 7 And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock.” (6, 7)
Lot moved south toward Sodom, Esau is moving south and east to the land of Seir. Lot’s line includes ancestors of Jesus through both of his daughters. The move was one of necessity, but it was also one directed by God to fulfill His plans.
The same is true here with Esau. This will be seen time and time again as Israel and Edom interact throughout the rest of the Bible.
8 So Esau dwelt in Mount Seir. Esau is Edom.
The name Esau is mentioned 25 times in this chapter. The name Edom is mentioned 11 times. In 5 of those times, it is explicitly said that Esau is Edom or that Esau is the father of the Edomites. This is the second time this has happened.
This is obviously important to God, and He wants us to know it. What is it about Esau being Edom which is so significant that we are repeatedly told this. The answer goes right back to what the names mean.
If we understand that Esau and the Edomites are picturing Adam and his seed, and they have moved out of Canaan, then we can more clearly see what is going on. Jacob is renamed Israel and is the son of promise. Throughout the sermons detailing his life, he has pictured Jesus. We can look at Canaan as representative of perhaps the Garden of Eden.
Esau who is Edom was in Canaan just as Adam was in Eden. Adam, the earthly man, disobeyed God and was cast out of Eden – he in essence traded his birthright for soup. But in his disobeying God, he also gained something. He gained conscience and awareness as we note in Genesis 3:22 –
“Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil.”
And in the same pattern, here in verse 8, it notes that “Esau dwelt in Seir.” Adam went into the world of awareness and Esau has gone to the land of Seir – meaning “hairy.” I’ve already explained several times that hair in the Bible denotes “awareness.”
None of this is arbitrary and none of it should be quickly dismissed. The struggle which will continue between the descendents of Israel and the descendents of Edom is reflective of the spiritual struggle noted throughout the Bible. We are in Adam, or we are in Jesus.
This land that Esau moves to now is the same land he was living in at the time of Jacob’s return from Mesopotamia, the mountain of Seir. The name Seir probably comes from a person that will be mentioned in verse 20. He is named Seir the Horite.
Or it could be that Seir’s name came from the mountain because of it’s hairy appearance. It probably had low bramble bushes on it which made it look hairy. Another nearby mountain is called Khalak, which means “smooth.” And so this could be the case.
This makes sense because when Esau moved there, the name Seir was retained. Once again, hair is the connection between Esau and Seir – the hairy man living on the hairy mountain. The name of the land is Seir, but it will also be called Edom from now on out.
It is an area which is south of the land of Judah and it extends from the area of the Dead Sea all the way to the Gulf of Aqaba. It is in the modern land of Jordan and includes the ruins of Petra, the city carved from the sandstone used in the Indiana Jones movie.
III. The Genealogy of Esau in Mount Seir
9 And this is the genealogy of Esau the father of the Edomites in Mount Seir.
For a second time in the chapter, the genealogy of Esau is mentioned. Some scholars try to pick apart the Bible because of these type of repetitions. They will claim that this is a later insert by a different author. But this isn’t at all what’s happening.
Instead, as I said earlier, the listing here is all his genealogy after moving to Seir. The first only includes those born in Canaan. The Bible is being extremely precise about this group of people, where they were born, and who they were born to.
What may seem long and tedious is actually a careful record and account of a people picturing the trek of man, from his time in Eden and throughout his generations.
10 These were the names of Esau’s sons: Eliphaz the son of Adah the wife of Esau, and Reuel the son of Basemath the wife of Esau.
This verse repeats what was said in verses 4 & 5.
11 And the sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam, and Kenaz.
Eliphaz, Esau’s firstborn, has five sons. One of them is called Teman. In the book of Job, one of the three people that comes to comfort him is named Eliphaz the Temanite. Because of this, it is either the same person and he is living in the land named after his son, which seems likely, or it is his grandson who is called a Temanite after his father.
Either way, either he or one of his grandsons shows up again in Job. In that book, Eliphaz and his two friends speak wrongly about God and God chastises them for it. Here is what that account says –
7 And so it was, after the Lord had spoken these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has. 8 Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.” 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did as the Lord commanded them; for the Lord had accepted Job. Job 42:7-9
As you can see, this line of people, descending from Esau, has incorrect concepts of God, just as men around the world who descend from Adam do. However, God in His mercy corrects them and gives them an opportunity to be forgiven.
These are the lessons we should be seeing as we travel through such seemingly difficult verses. There is nothing boring about them, but instead, there is the richness of God’s love for the people of the world – all of Adam’s fallen children, symbolized by the descendants of Edom.
12 Now Timna was the concubine of Eliphaz, Esau’s son, and she bore Amalek to Eliphaz. These were the sons of Adah, Esau’s wife.
Here in this verse, we have the introduction of a group of people who will continue to afflict Israel for many generations and almost bring then to ruin. Timna is the daughter of Seir and is noted as the sister of Lotan in next week’s verses. She became the concubine of Eliphaz, the son of Esau.
Because she becomes the concubine of Eliphaz, it gave the descendents of Esau the chance to intermix with the people of Seir and eventually take over the land and expel the Horites. We find this noted in Deuteronomy 2:12 –
The Horites formerly dwelt in Seir, but the descendants of Esau dispossessed them and destroyed them from before them, and dwelt in their place, just as Israel did to the land of their possession which the Lord gave them.)
The Edomites will gain ascendancy in the land and this will continue for many generations. Eventually, Herod – Israel’s king at the time of Jesus, will be from the Edomite people. As you can see, every detail eventually looks forward to the coming of Jesus.
But the reason why Timna is mentioned is because of the son she will bear, Amalek. The group of people who will descend from him will be great and long-standing enemies of Israel. After the exodus from Egypt, this group will attack the Israelites. The story is memorable and a favorite of God’s people even to this day –
8 Now Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim. 9 And Moses said to Joshua, “Choose us some men and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.” 10 So Joshua did as Moses said to him, and fought with Amalek. And Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 And so it was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands became heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. And Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 So Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. 14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this for a memorial in the book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” 15 And Moses built an altar and called its name, The-Lord-Is-My-Banner; 16 for he said, “Because the Lord has sworn: the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” Exodus 17:8-16
This same group of people continued to afflict Israel throughout the time of the Judges and when the kingdom was established, their presence brought about the downfall of Israel’s first king. When God commanded King Saul to destroy the Amalekites completely, he failed to do it. We read this in 1 Samuel 15 –
And Saul attacked the Amalekites, from Havilah all the way to Shur, which is east of Egypt. 8 He also took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. 9 But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.
Because of his failure, Samuel spoke this to King Saul, –
“For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,
And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
He also has rejected you from being king.”
This king of the Amelekites, Agag, was ancestor to Haman, the great enemy of the Jews who were in exile as recorded in the book of Esther. Saul’s failures to do as he was instructed continued as a thorn to Israel which almost caused their extinction.
***One error leads to another until things can finally boil over.
13 These were the sons of Reuel: Nahath, Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah. These were the sons of Basemath, Esau’s wife.
Reuel, Esau’s son and the grandson of Ishmael, had these four sons. There is nothing further of note about any of them in the rest of the Bible.
14 These were the sons of Aholibamah, Esau’s wife, the daughter of Anah, the daughter of Zibeon. And she bore to Esau: Jeush, Jaalam, and Korah.
This is basically a repeat of verse 5. Unlike the other sons of Esau, there is no mention of their grandsons. Once again, only what is needed for God to instruct us is given. Each name here certainly has special significance and purpose, but the inclusion of grandsons born to these sons holds none.
Today we’ve looked at 14 of the 40 verses of chapter 36. In them are concepts of hope for fallen man, lessons of the disobedience of descendants which will come against God’s people, and even how God uses places and locations to make spiritual applications as He works out His marvelous plan.
Nothing is superfluous, nothing is arbitrary, and nothing is missing in God’s word. And throughout it all, one continuous theme is displayed – God’s love for you, and how He is working out His love through the giving of His Son to reconcile us, fallen sons of Adam, pictured by Edom, to His Father.
The plan has been going on since before creation and it is going on in each of you as well. As you learn His word, He is revealing His Son to you. But some of you may not yet know Him. If you’ve never made a commitment to Jesus, please give me another moment to explain to you why it is so important that you do…
Closing Verse: The sword of the Lord is filled with blood, It is made overflowing with fatness, With the blood of lambs and goats, With the fat of the kidneys of rams. For the Lord has a sacrifice in Bozrah, And a great slaughter in the land of Edom. Isaiah 34:6
Next Week: Genesis 36:15-43 (An Awareness in the Sons of Adam) (91st Genesis Sermon) – Make sure to read and study those verses.
The Lord has you exactly where He wants you and He has a good plan and purpose for you. Call on Him and let Him do marvelous things for you and through you.
The Generations of Esau
Now this is the genealogy of Esau, who is Edom
Maybe one name came from his dad and the other from his mom
Esau took his wives from the daughters of Canaan:
Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite
Aholibamah the daughter of Anah, and then…
She is the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite
And Basemath, Ishmael’s daughter
She is the sister of Nebajoth, having the same father
Now Adah bore Eliphaz to Esau
And Basemath bore Reuel
And Aholibamah bore Jeush, Jaalam, and Korah
Lots of names in this story to tell
These were the sons of Esau, so grand
Who were born to him in Canaan the land
Then Esau took his wives, his sons, his daughters
And all the persons of his household also
His cattle and all his animals, maybe some otters
And all his goods, and he was set to go
All which he had gained in the land of Canaan
And went to a country some distance away
From the presence of his brother Jacob, and then
He left the land as the Bible does say
For their possessions were too great bringing dangers
For them to dwell together as one flock
And the land where they were strangers
Could not support them because of their livestock
So Esau dwelt in Mount Seir
Esau is Edom, the Bible makes this clear
And this is the genealogy of Esau listed here
He is the father of the Edomites in Mount Seir
These were the names of Esau’s sons:
Eliphaz the son of Adah Esau’s wife
And Reuel the son of Basemath
The wife of Esau, she always brought a smile to his life
And the sons of Eliphaz were Teman, the first one
Omar, Zepho, Gatam, and Kenaz too
Now Timna was the concubine of Eliphaz, Esau’s son
And she bore Amalek to Eliphaz, and so his family grew
These were the sons of Adah, Esau’s wife
Lots of sons to bring joy to his life
These were the sons of Reuel:
Nahath, Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah
These were the sons of Basemath, Esau’s wife, oh well
To feed them all would take a lot of pizza
These all were Aholibamah’s sons
Esau’s wife, the daughter of Anah
The daughter of Zibeon, these are the ones
And she bore to Esau: Jeush, Jaalam, and Korah
Lots of a names and plenty of rhymes
And some are repeated several times
But they are given to establish God’s word
And lead us to insights about Jesus His Son
They show us the glory of our dear Lord
Who through His shed blood the victory is won
Adam’s seed, reflected in Esau’s generations
Is reconciled and restored through Jesus’ blood that was shed
God has done it for people in all nations
A vast multitude marching with Christ as its Head
Let us sing greatly and magnify our glorious Lord
As we wait for the treasures which for us in heaven are stored
Hallelujah and Amen…