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Genesis 36





Genealogies in the Bible are incredibly interesting. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Um, Kristin, are we reading the same Bible with the same genealogies? How is this interesting?” But hear me out. In Scripture we get to see not only the major players in each story, but through the genealogies and lists of descendents, we can draw connections between figures in one section and another.

For example, in Genesis chapter 36, we get an entire chapter of names! It’s easy to skip over all of these names, but in doing so, we miss some interesting details. The chapter opens with the names of Esau’s wives and children. Buried in these names, in verses 6 through 8, we see some familiar words. “Esau took his wives, his children, and his entire household, along with his livestock and cattle—all the wealth he had acquired in the land of Canaan—and moved away from his brother, Jacob. There was not enough land to support them both because of all of the livestock and possessions they had acquired. So Esau (also known as Edom) settled in the hill country of Seir.”

Where have we heard this phrasing before? Remember back to chapter 13, where Abraham (Jacob and Esau’s grandfather) part ways with his nephew Lot for the very same reason cited here in chapter 36. There were too many demands on the land for them to stay living that close together. So Esau took his family and animals and moved south to the region of Seir.

We then see lists of Esau’s descendants, who grow into the people group called the Edomites. We see more of them later on in Scripture, especially when the nation of Israel, descended from Jacob’s children, are traveling through the region.

From Esau’s five sons, we see fourteen clans emerge: seven descended from Eliphaz, whose mother was Adah; four from Reuel, whose mother was Basemath; and three from the three sons of Oholibamah. Just another list of names, right? Let’s look deeper.

Esau’s third wife, Oholibamah, was the daughter of a man named Anah, who was a native of the land of Seir where Esau ended up settling. We see this in verse 2: “Esau married two young women from Canaan: Adah, the daughter of Elon the Hittite; and Oholibamah, the daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon the Hittite.” We don’t have the exact timeline here of when he moved and when he married each of these women, but we do see Anah’s name later in the chapter.

In verses 20 through 29, we see the genealogy of the original inhabitants of the land of Seir, before it became known as Edom (after Esau) and his descendants ruled the land. Look at verses 24 and 25: “The descendants of Zibeon were Aiah and Anah. (This is the Anah who discovered the hot springs in the wilderness while he was grazing his father’s donkeys.) The descendants of Anah were his son, Dishon, and his daughter, Oholibamah.”

We then see the focus shift back to the descendants of Esau, and we see an abbreviated account of how the Edomites occupied the area where Esau settled after leaving Jacob.

The tricky thing about genealogies is that it condenses several generations into a short paragraph, and that can mess with our understanding of the timeline of biblical stories, especially when the genealogies are nestled between two narratives, like this one is. It’s important to remember, though, that when reading the Bible, genealogies set the stage just as much as a description of the setting of a novel. So consider moving slowly through the genealogies you read. Look for the same names repeated, similar wording, and try to keep the overarching theme of Scripture at the front of your mind: Our God is a God of relationship. Genealogies are, in fact, all about relationships.

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