Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Genesis 36

By Joseph Benson


Verse 1
Genesis 36:1. These are the generations of Esau — Esau has the honour of having an account of his posterity recorded, for the sake of his progenitors, Abraham and Isaac, and because the Edomites, his descendants, were neighbours to Israel, and their genealogy would be of use to cast light on the following relations of what passed between them. Hereby also is shown more fully the performance of the promise to Abraham, that he should be the father of many nations, of that declaration made to Rebekah, when she inquired of the Lord, “Two nations are in thy womb,” and of the blessing given to Esau by Isaac, Thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth. Who is Edom — That name perpetuated the remembrance of the foolish bargain he made when he sold his birthright for that red pottage.

Verse 6
Genesis 36:6. Esau took his wives and all his substance, &c. — Although he had begun to settle among his wives’ relations in Seir, before Jacob came from Padan-aram, Genesis 32:3; yet, it is probable, that during the life of Isaac, he 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 Jacob 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
Genesis 36:8. Thus dwelt Esau in mount Seir — Whatever opposition may be made, God’s word will take place, and his counsels shall stand concerning the times before appointed, and the bounds of our habitation.

Verse 10
Genesis 36:10. These are the names — Observe here, 1st, That only the names of Esau’s sons and grandsons 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. 2d, That the sons and grandsons of Esau are called dukes. Probably they were military commanders, that had soldiers under them; for Esau and his family lived by the sword, Genesis 27:40. 3d, 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 complete accomplishment in the spiritual Israel.

Verse 20
Genesis 36:20. These are the sons of Seir — In the midst of the genealogy of the Edomites is inserted the genealogy of the Horites, that were the natives of mount Seir before the Edomites took possession of it, Deuteronomy 2:12; Deuteronomy 2:22. This comes in here, not only to give light to the story, but to be a standing reflection upon the Edomites for intermarrying with them, by which it is likely they learned their ways, and corrupted themselves.

Verse 24
Genesis 36:24. Found mules — As the Hebrew word, here rendered mules, occurs nowhere else in Scripture, it is difficult to ascertain the meaning of this passage. Various have been the conjectures concerning what it was that Anah found. Some render the word waters, or hot waters, and understand the meaning to be, that he found some springs of water which in those hot countries were both rare and valuable, or some hot and medicinal springs. But the Chaldee renders it giants, and the Samaritan version Emims, a sort of giants mentioned Deuteronomy 2:10-11, who were neighbours to the Horites, here spoken of, (Genesis 14:5-6,) and therefore, according to the manner of those times, might make inroads upon them. It has been generally supposed, however, that our translators are right, and that, in keeping asses, he discovered the method of breeding mules; probably by accident.

Verse 31
Genesis 36:31. By degrees the Edomites worked out the Horites, and got full possession of the country. 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 should 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.

Verse 43
Genesis 36:43. In 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.