Genesis 36:1-43

Daybreak for Students

Genesis 36:1-43

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Genesis 36
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. 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. — Genesis 36:6-7

We have all heard predictions about the future. Some were right. And some were so patently false that they are humorous now!

  • In 1773 King George II said that the American colonies had little stomach for revolution. 

  • Charles H. Duell, Commissioner at the U.S. Office of Patents, stated in 1899, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” 

  • Marshal Ferdinand Foch observed in 1911, “Airplanes are interesting toys, but they have no military value.” 

  • In 1912, an official of the White Star Line, speaking of the firm’s newly built flagship, the Titanic, declared that the ship was unsinkable. 

  • Robert Millikan, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1923, said, “There is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom.” 

  • Economist Irving Fisher observed on October 16, 1929, “Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” 

  • Three days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Frank Knox, U.S. Secretary of the Navy, stated, “Whatever happens, the U.S. Navy is not going to be caught napping.” 

  • A Business Week article in 1958 predicted, “With over fifty foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn’t likely to carve out a big slice of the U.S. market.” 

Clearly, man’s predictions about the future can be wrong! However, today’s text is proof that when God indicates what the future will hold, He is always precisely and completely accurate. He looks ahead with perfect foreknowledge. This chapter records the fulfillment of God’s revealed purpose concerning Esau, and Isaac’s inspired words for his eldest son when he pled bitterly for some blessing from his father (Genesis 25:23; 27:39 - 40). 

What is the lesson for us in this text? Simply this: all of God’s predictions are totally accurate and will come to pass exactly as He said. We live in troubling times, but we can find assurance in the Word of God about our future. Take heart! God always does what He says He will do. Esau is proof of that.

BACKGROUND

This chapter gives a concise history of Esau and his family. Because God’s covenant was with Jacob, the Scriptures focus primarily on him and his offspring. Esau, who was also called Edom, was the ancestor of the Edomites. While this brief account of Esau’s descendants basically concludes Esau’s part in the Biblical narrative, other places in the Bible give accounts of trouble between his descendants and the Israelites. Israel shared its southern border with Edom, and there was bitter animosity between the two nations. When the city of Jerusalem was besieged by the Babylonians, the Edomites did not come to help but actually rejoiced when the city was destroyed (see Psalm 137:7). Edom is frequently alluded to in prophetical writings about the end times and the final destruction of world powers in the Day of the Lord. (See Jeremiah 49:14-22; Amos 1:11-12; Obadiah 8-16; Malachi 1:2-4).

This chapter, in conjunction with other chapters in the Bible, reveals the accuracy of Isaac’s words concerning Esau, given in Genesis 27:39 - 40. At that juncture, in response to Esau’s pleading, Isaac conferred a blessing of sorts upon his eldest son. Isaac said: “Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth . . . ” Esau prospered materially, though he did not inherit the Promised Land. Then Isaac spoke of the nation of Edom, saying, “By thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother . . . ” The Edomites were first defeated by King Saul (1 Samuel 14:47), and then subjugated by King David (2 Samuel 8:14). They also had a failed revolt under Solomon (1 Kings 11:14-22). Finally, they rebelled from Joram, but were subdued once more by Amaziah (2 Kings 14:7 and 2 Chronicles 25:11-19). In the concluding words of Isaac’s blessing, he predicted that eventually “ . . . thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck” (Genesis 27:40). This took place in the time of Jehoram (2 Chronicles 21:8-10), and again, under Ahaz (2 Kings 16:6 and 2 Chronicles 28:16-17). So the words of Isaac to his two sons were fulfilled. 

Six lists make up chapter 36, beginning in verses 1-8 with the wives of Esau and their respective sons. Both Jacob and Esau were wealthy, with enough livestock that it was necessary for them to separate. Esau moved to Mount Seir, which was also called Edom. This was land that was on the east side and to the south of the Dead Sea. In some places it is three thousand feet high, and much of it is rocky. However, it includes some land that can be cultivated, and this was probably where the majority of the population resided. 

Verses 9-14 list the sons and also the grandsons of Esau. One grandson was named Amalek, and his posterity became a fierce enemy of the Israelites. In time, Esau’s descendants formed clans that were headed by dukes (verses 15-19). 

The Horites (verses 20-30) lived in Edom before Esau’s family arrived. The meaning of the word Horite is “cave dweller,” which probably indicates that their ancestors made their homes in caves.

The fifth list, in verses 31-39, is of the kings of Edom. These kings were elected, no doubt for their leadership ability, rather than inheriting the position. Some Bible historians believe the phrase “before there reigned any king over the children of Israel” (verse 31) was added as an editorial comment long after Moses first wrote Genesis. Other scholars feel that since there is no reference to the death of Hadar, the final king listed in verse 39, he may have been the king of the Edomites at the time of Moses. 

The final list of this chapter, verses 40 - 43, connects the dukes of Edom to the geographical locations where they settled. 

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II.   The early history of the chosen race
     C.   Jacob
           7.   The descendants of Esau (36:1-43)
                 a.   Esau and his immediate family (36:1-8)
                 b.   Esau’s sons and grandsons (36:9-14)
                 c.   Chiefs descended from Esau (36:15-19)
                 d.   Chiefs of the Horites (36:20-30)
                 e.   Kings of Edom (36:31-39)
                 f.    A final list of chiefs (36:40-43)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. Why did Esau leave Canaan? 

  2. Why do you think God granted Esau material prosperity in spite of the fact that he had little regard for his birthright?

  3. What lesson can we learn from the fact that God’s predictions about Esau’s future were completely fulfilled?

CONCLUSION

Those who anchor their trust in God will find that He always does what He said He would do.