Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Genesis 36:1-8 Esau's Wives

At first, Esau took several wives from among the Canaanites:  Adah and Oholibamah.  Later, he took a daughter of Ishmael as a wife when he realized that the Canaanite women were displeasing to his parents.  (Although how that could not have been obvious to him already is beyond me.  It was not that his parents were prejudiced against the Canaanites, but these Canaanites did not worship the true God, so they did not want their sons to fall into idolatry.)

 "This is the account of Esau (that is, Edom).
Esau took his wives from the women of Canaan:
Adah daughter of Elon the Hittite, and
Oholibamah daughter of Anah and grandaughter of Zibeon the Hivite --
also Basemath daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth."
(Genesis 36:1-3 NIV)

As a son of Abraham, Ishmael's descendants were counted as part of the many nations which would descend from Abraham.  We have already had a glimpse of Ishmael's twelve sons in Genesis 25:12-18.  There we learn that Nebaioth was Ishmael's firstborn (Gen. 25:13) and here in Genesis 36:3 we see that Basemath was Nebaioth's sister.

It seems that Esau married additional Canaanite women.  Take a look at these scriptures which list Esau's wives:

Genesis 26:34 (NIV)  "When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and also Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite.  They were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah."

Genesis 28:6-9 (NIV) "Now Esau learned that Isaac had blessed Jacob and had sent him to Paddan Aram to take a wife from there, and that when he blessed him he commanded him, 'Do not marry a Canaanite woman.' and that Jacob had obeyed his father and mother and had gone to Paddan Aram.  Esau then realized how displeasing the Canaanite women were  to his father Isaac; so he went to Ishmael and married Mahalath, the sister of Nebaioth and daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham, in addition to the wives he already had."  

Genesis 36:1-3 (which was already written out above).

When we take all these Scriptures into account, there are these wives listed:

  • Judith, daughter of Beeri the Hittite
  • Oholibamah, daughter of Anah and grand-daughter of Zibeon the Hivite.
  • Basemath, daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth (Ishmael's firstborn)
  • Adah, daughter of Elon the Hittite
  • Basemath, daughter of Elon the Hittite
  • Mahalath, daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth (Ishmael's firstborn)

It is possible that Basemath (the one who is the daughter of Ishmael) and Mahalath (daughter of Ishmael) are the same person and a nickname is being used.  Or, the two could be two different sisters of Nebaioth.  However, there is an additional Basemath here who is the daughter of Elon the Hittite, so she cannot be the same person as Ishmael's daughter Basemath.

Verses 4-5 detail the sons who were born to some of these women:

"Adah bore Eliphaz to Esau,
Basemath bore Reuel,
and Oholibamah bore Jeush, Jalam and Korah.
These were the sons of Esau, who were born to him in Canaan."
(Genesis 36:4-5 NIV)

Verses 6-8 go on to explain that because the possessions of  Esau and Jacob were too great for them to remain near each other, -- fighting over grazing land or water could easily erupt -- Esau took his household, animals and possessions and moved to a land some distance from his brother.  So that is how Esau came to live in the land of Seir.  In the Bible, when Esau, Edom or Seir is named, it is often a way to refer to Esau or his descendants.

In the next section (verses 9-19), more details will be given regarding Esau's descendants.  At this moment, though, I think it is interesting that Esau peacefully moves apart from Jacob, without any apparent conflict.  I also note the presence of many Hittites.  Perhaps a post on them is in order, too.

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