Click here to read Genesis 36:1-37:1

At first glance today’s passage seems somewhat intimidating–or maybe boring is the word that popped into your head. But this passage is very important to the God’s story that is being told through out Genesis.

Back in Genesis 27 Isaac gave Esau a blessing that stated:

39“Your dwelling will be
away from the earth’s richness,
away from the dew of heaven above.
40 You will live by the sword
and you will serve your brother.
But when you grow restless,
you will throw his yoke
from off your neck.” (NIV)

And this passage shows that this is exactly what happened.  Esau lived off the fat of the land, he lived by the sword and he did indeed throw his brother’s yoke from around his neck.  Through these genealogies not only do we see that his descendants are regarded as powerful chiefs of their tribes, but we also see that Esau subjugated the people who lived in the land before him (the Horites).  Esau’s line (and his name) is shown to have grown powerful—reigning over leaders, kings, and much land.

The second purpose of this passage is to contrast the line of Esau with the line of Jacob.  Esau’s children were born in Canaan and he moved them out of the land and into Seir.  On the other hand, the children of Jacob (to whom God promised the land of Canaan) were all born in Paddan Aram (except Benjamin) and later moved into the land of Canaan.  This passage also points out that Esau’s power and influence expanded into a great nation and a position of kingship much quicker than Jacob.  In fact, this passage ends by clearly stating that Jacob lived in the land where his father had sojourned—directly after listing all of the rulers of Edom (that is, Esau).  And Franz Delitzsch is credited with pointing out this whole section highlights how quickly secular greatness comes in comparison to spiritual greatness (He says it here).

But perhaps what is most important about this passage is that this record shows that God kept His promise to multiply Abraham’s descendants. Lot, Ishmael, and Esau were not chosen to continue the line of promise, but God still blessed them greatly. So far in book of Genesis God has consistently shown that He absolutely keeps His promises.

Names Places

Esau (Edom) – firstborn of Isaac, brother of Jacob

Jacob – second son of Isaac, brother of Esau


Canaan – where Isaac lived and Jacob, too

Seir – where Esau settled

click here to see Esau’s descendants 

click here to see the Chiefs of Edom (Esau)

click here to see the Sons of Seir

click here to see the rulers of Edom

all from Logos Bible Software



Interesting facts:

1) Although it might seem like the record of Esau’s descendants is randomly jammed in here, that isn’t the case at all.  Chapters 4, 10, and 21 all record the history of the unchosen line before going into greater detail about events in the chosen line.  These lengthy genealogies provide a quick glance at what else God is doing (along with a concise commentary) without getting sidetracked from one of the main points of Genesis – providing a history of how the nation of Israel came to be.

2) You may have noticed that the names of Esau’s wives in this passage do not match the names of the earlier account.  There are three main explanations offered for this:

1. The wives that were previously mentioned have died.
2. Esau  favored these wives over the previous ones (something we’ve seen happen in his family)
3. Esau gave the previous wives new names as was sometimes the custom.

None of these reasons are any better than the other, it just helps to explain what might seem strange.

3) It might seem odd to include the first verse of chapter 37 in this passage, especially since someone took the time to place it as the beginning of chapter 37.  The reason that it’s included in this passage is because the phrase used in verse 2 always indicates the beginning of a new section in Genesis.  In the NIV it is translated as “the account of,” but it literally means “the generations of.”  You may occasionally see each of these accounts referred to as the “toledot of …” because the Hebrew word is “toledot.” The ten instances in Genesis are listed below.

2:4 – heavens and earth
6:9 – Noah
10:1 – Shem, Ham, Japheth
11:10 – Shem
11:27 – Terah
25:12 – Abraham’s son Ishmael
25:19 – Abraham’s son Isaac
36:1 – Esau
36:9 – Esau
37:2 – Jacob