Family Issues

Posted: June 28, 2018 in Genesis, Uncategorized

Genesis 34-36, “Family Issues”

Families can be like roller-coaster rides: one moment you’re riding high with them, and the next you’re in a freefall. They can be the greatest comfort this side of heaven, or they can anger you so much you never want to see them again. 

The family lineage descended from Adam had its own issues, as has been seen through every generation. The first brothers invented homicide – one of Noah’s sons took joy in humiliating him – Abraham’s first two sons were from two different women, arousing quite a bit of jealousy – Isaac showed favoritism among his own sons which split the family apart. Jacob had his share of issues as well, beginning with his wedding night onward! In Chapters 34-35, some more family issues come to light (some good, some bad), while Chapter 36 closes the Genesis account on Jacob’s twin brother Esau. What is it they all have in common? Apart from God, they all get into trouble! When we do things on our own, we struggle (and usually fail); when we follow the Lord, that’s the only way we do things pleasing to Him.

A lot of previous storylines come to a close in this section, so a bit of review is in order. Jacob and Esau had been estranged for twenty years. Jacob had tricked his way into receiving the covenant blessing (which God had previously declared would be his, anyway), and due to Esau’s anger & hunger for revenge, Jacob was sent far away to Padam Aram in Syria. There, he married the daughters of his uncle Laban (though not entirely by choice), and between them & their two maidservants, Jacob eventually left Syria with 4 wives, 11 sons, and a daughter named Dinah. He had much trouble with his uncle, but he grew in his trust of God, finally to have it blossom into full worship the night before he was to see his brother Esau. Jacob had feared Esau’s wrath, and though he did all he could through human effort to make things right, Jacob’s sole hope was in the mercies of God – and in a vision, Jacob grabbed hold of God & would not let go until God blessed him.

In response to this act of surrendered faith, God renamed Jacob “Israel,” (strength of God / God perseveres), and gave His blessing to him. Jacob/Israel and Esau were reconciled, and although Esau wanted Jacob to return to Mount Seir with him, each went their separate ways. 

What happens after that? Jacob may have surrendered himself to the Lord, but he didn’t live perfectly in the ways of the Lord. Like all of us, Jacob had his failings – and in what is described, he profoundly failed with his children. Thankfully, that didn’t stop him from worshipping God, and though his family would continue to struggle, Jacob stepped into the shoes of being the spiritual leader of his home. As for Esau, nothing is known of his faith, but it is known that God kept His promises regarding Esau. He grew into a great nation, and this book which is dedicated to the origins of Israel even shows the origins of Edom.

All of it is family. It isn’t perfect, but perfect isn’t expected. All we can do, even in our imperfect families, is follow Jesus. Follow Him!

Genesis 34 – Jacob’s Daughter

  • Dinah violated (1-4)

1 Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. 2 And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her and lay with her, and violated her.

  1. Horrible. Although surely rape had surely happened in the past, this is the first time it is recorded in Scripture. No family is exempt from tragedy, even the family of Israel.
  2. There is a bit of question as to whether this was rape, or a case of pre-marital sex. Either one would be seen as a terrible sin & violation, although only one involved truly criminal intent. The word used in Genesis could be translated “humble, afflict, oppress, humiliate.” It is never used in a good sense, almost always being tragic. Although the following circumstances make this unusual for a rape, that was most likely exactly what it was. Attempts to place some responsibility on Dinah (her being in a place she shouldn’t have been) are wrong. Shechem bears 100% responsibility for his actions – he alone is to blame.
    1. Sexual assault is rampant, and should be quickly condemned and reported. Too many stories exist of too many Christian institutions that try to “handle” reports of sexual assault internally, and it ought never be done. God has granted the government the ministry of the sword for the specific purpose of exacting justice (Rom 13:4). The Church (or Seminary, as the case may be) has no business in ministries not appointed to it by the Lord.

3 His soul was strongly attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the young woman and spoke kindly to the young woman. 4 So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this young woman as a wife.”

  1. He wronged her, but somehow he loved her. For as much as Shechem committed a crime, the text shows him doing his best to do the right thing afterward.
  2. Culturally speaking, this was the best-case scenario of a truly bad situation. A raped woman had virtually zero chance of marriage after the crime against her, thus no chance for children, no hope for her old age, etc. At least with Shechem, he desired to take her as a wife. There’s no indication of what she thought of the proposal, but culturally speaking, that was rarely considered anyway. (It doesn’t make it right or recommended; it just was what it was.)
  • Negotiations (5-12)

5 And Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter. Now his sons were with his livestock in the field; so Jacob held his peace until they came.

  1. Jacob took his time to react…not necessarily a bad thing. It is good not to be ruled by one’s emotions, and to carefully consider a response to even things that are emergencies. But there needs to be some The troubling part was that Jacob didn’t seem to react at all. To say that “Jacob held his peace,” is literally to say that “he was silent.” His daughter (perhaps his only daughter) was raped, and he said nothing. In fact, he takes a back-seat to the entire matter – something which doesn’t speak in his favor.
    1. Leadership (including family leadership) requires leading. At some point, action needs to be taken – especially those who are charged with a family’s protection & provision. God has given that responsibility to husbands/fathers, and Jacob failed miserably on this count.

6 Then Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him. 7 And the sons of Jacob came in from the field when they heard it; and the men were grieved and very angry, because he had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, a thing which ought not to be done.

  1. The brothers were exceedingly angry, and their anger was understandable. After all, this would have been bad enough to happen to any woman, but this was their sister. And not only that, their father had been silent. What would happen? Anything? No doubt, it was infuriating – just as any occasion in which it seems that injustice isn’t answered.
  2. What had happened was totally unjust: “a thing which ought not to be done.” Some things ought not even be in existence. Rape, child molestation, and other similar crimes are examples.
    1. The good news is that there will be justice in all of these things. God will see to it!
  3. FYI: This is the first instance in the Bible when “Israel” is used to describe a nation/land, rather than an individual.

8 But Hamor spoke with them, saying, “The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter. Please give her to him as a wife. 9 And make marriages with us; give your daughters to us, and take our daughters to yourselves. 10 So you shall dwell with us, and the land shall be before you. Dwell and trade in it, and acquire possessions for yourselves in it.”

  1. Again, one of the unusual aspects about this crime was that Shechem really seemed to care for Dinah. His “soul” longed for her. (נֶ֫פֶשׁ) There is a sincerity implied. People can put on faces & try to say the “right” words, but you can’t fake what’s on the inside. Apparently, he truly longed for this woman he wronged.
    1. It doesn’t make it right; the ends never justify the means.
  2. Hamor begins the process of negotiating for the life of his son. Truly, he should have been killed for his crime, but Hamor attempted to make some form of restitution. That’s why he proposes the intermarriages. Shechem had wrongfully taken a daughter of Israel; the sons of Israel were invited to take the daughters of the city.
  3. That wasn’t all Hamor attempted to do! He also looked to expand his own people, being a ruler of them (Shechem was a prince, vs. 2). He wasn’t simply trying to negotiate justice; he was negotiating trade and commerce. To Jacob’s family, he suggested that they would be able to “acquire possessions” for themselves; in reality, he had a much more selfish motive in mind (which will later be apparent).

11 Then Shechem said to her father and her brothers, “Let me find favor in your eyes, and whatever you say to me I will give. 12 Ask me ever so much dowry and gift, and I will give according to what you say to me; but give me the young woman as a wife.”

  1. Was this a sincere offer from Shechem? He seems to have been willing to do anything, pay any price in order to acquire Dinah as a wife.
  • Deceit (13-24)

13 But the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father, and spoke deceitfully, because he had defiled Dinah their sister.

  1. Before we go any further, notice who gave an answer to Shechem & Hamor: “the sons of Jacob.” Where was Jacob? His silence continued far too long! He disengaged himself from the entire process, thus he had only himself to blame for the results. If he had taken the point of leadership (as he should have), who knows what would have happened?
  2. Notice also that Jacob’s sons had no intention of seeking justice or reconciliation. They “spoke deceitfully,” purposefully lying in order to seek revenge. Whether they learned this from their father or their great-uncle Laban is uncertain, but it was certainly a sad family tradition. They had a plan for their own brand of vigilante justice.
  3. How exactly did they lie? They brought their religious faith into the equation.

14 And they said to them, “We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a reproach to us. 15 But on this condition we will consent to you: If you will become as we are, if every male of you is circumcised, 16 then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters to us; and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people. 17 But if you will not heed us and be circumcised, then we will take our daughter and be gone.”

  1. The issue was circumcision, but what did it mean for a Hebrew to be circumcised? It was the sign of their covenant with God. It was the outward sign of their commitment to the Lord as their God, and their trust in Him. When the sons of Jacob proposed circumcision to Hamor, they were basically inviting them to become Hebrews. They used the covenant sign of conversion for their deceit.
    1. Imagine using the promise of salvation in order to exact revenge. That’s the basic equivalent. The sons of Jacob used the holy things of God for their own purposes, and they entered into sin themselves.
  2. They also proposed unity as a people, which was another problem. This was a direct violation of God’s covenant commitment to grow them into a nation. The reason Jacob had 11 sons was because he went away from Canaan in order to find a wife and family. His family was supposed to remain separate & pure, as they trusted God for their growth. So not only were they abusing the covenant sign of God, they were proposing an abandonment of the promises of God.
    1. Of course, this was all deceit – something not intended to come to pass. Even so, it was wrong. No one (with the exception of Dinah) is without sin in this situation.

18 And their words pleased Hamor and Shechem, Hamor’s son. 19 So the young man did not delay to do the thing, because he delighted in Jacob’s daughter. He was more honorable than all the household of his father.

  1. The plans of the sons sounded wonderful to Hamor & Shechem. Shechem didn’t even hesitate at the prospect of circumcision.
  2. The note on verse 19 is interesting: “He was more honorable than all the household of his father.” How can this be said about an admitted rapist? What Shechem did was evil, but that act was not his defining characteristic. Truth be told, we’re all Some acts of evil are more public than others, and some people sit in prison because of what they’ve done – others of us live as free men and women. Shechem did something terrible, no matter what culture & age in which it was committed – but according to the culture of the day, he tried to make things right, and apparently he truly loved (“delighted in”) Dinah. There is a whole lot of wrong in the situation, but Shechem cannot be caricatured as a single-sided villain.
    1. Aren’t you glad God sees you for more than your sin? Aren’t you glad God extended you His grace in spite of your sin? We are just as deserving of God’s eternal death sentence as anyone sitting on death row; we just know the grace of Jesus. What we’ve experienced, we ought to extend.
  3. Hamor & Shechem took the proposal back to their city. 

20 And Hamor and Shechem his son came to the gate of their city, and spoke with the men of their city, saying: 21 “These men are at peace with us. Therefore let them dwell in the land and trade in it. For indeed the land is large enough for them. Let us take their daughters to us as wives, and let us give them our daughters. 22 Only on this condition will the men consent to dwell with us, to be one people: if every male among us is circumcised as they are circumcised. 23 Will not their livestock, their property, and every animal of theirs be ours? Only let us consent to them, and they will dwell with us.” 24 And all who went out of the gate of his city heeded Hamor and Shechem his son; every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city.

  1. As Hamor presented it (Shechem is listed along with him, but it seems that the words were primarily Hamor’s), it all sounded like a winning scenario.
  2. Ultimately, Hamor believed that it was his people who would reap the benefits. They might all experience the pain of circumcision now, but it would be Jacob’s family that was assimilated into Hamor’s people; not the other way around. Thus Hamor’s people would receive Jacob’s wealth & all that went with it.
    1. Consider for a moment what would have happened if the sons of Jacob had been sincere in their offer, and had actually joined with Hamor & the city? The nation of Israel would never have existed! The Messianic line would have been broken!
    2. This is what happens when we do things outside of the will of God. We inevitably make bad situations worse!
  3. The people of the city agreed with Hamor’s proposal, and the men followed in circumcision. Note: They were circumcised; not converted. Circumcision was the outward sign of the covenant, but a true Israelite is circumcised in the heart in addition to the flesh (Dt 10:16, Rom 2:29). The men of the city engaged in religious ritual; not true religion.
    1. Ritual does not equal relationship. Sacraments do not equal salvation. We need what is real; not the mere symbols of the reality.
  • Vengeance (25-31)

25 Now it came to pass on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and came boldly upon the city and killed all the males. 26 And they killed Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah from Shechem’s house, and went out.

  1. Simeon and Levi attacked the men at their weakest. They totally slaughtered the men.
  2. For all that could be said about this, this was not justice.

27 The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and plundered the city, because their sister had been defiled. 28 They took their sheep, their oxen, and their donkeys, what was in the city and what was in the field, 29 and all their wealth. All their little ones and their wives they took captive; and they plundered even all that was in the houses.

  1. If Simeon and Levi shed the most blood, the rest of the sons of Jacob (or at least, the sons of Leah, the brothers of Dinah) came back and plundered the rest of the city.
  2. This was the converse of verse 23. Originally, Hamor and the men of the city believed that they would gain everything that belonged to Israel; as it turned out, the sons of Israel plundered the city.

30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have troubled me by making me obnoxious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and since I am few in number, they will gather themselves together against me and kill me. I shall be destroyed, my household and I.” 31 But they said, “Should he treat our sister like a harlot?”

  1. Finally, after all of the bloodshed, Jacob speaks. Too little, too late! Beyond that, he spoke about the wrong thing: self-preservation. That’s not to say that his fears weren’t legitimate. War was indeed possible, as the surrounding cities could gather themselves to fight the household of Jacob. Granted, he had many servants in addition to his sons, but it’s doubtful that he commanded an army.
  2. The problem was that Jacob was concerned for himself. He may have now been worried about his household being destroyed, but he hadn’t done anything in Dinah’s defense when she was violated. It was only when he was personally endangered that he said anything. He should have spoken up for his daughter. (As a dad of a girl, I cannot understand this!)
    1. Again, Jacob may have had faith at this point, but he was far from perfect!
  3. Simeon & Levi justified their actions, saying that their sister had been treated like a prostitute (implying that Jacob had known, and done nothing about it). They had a righteous cause, but a wrong action.

Genesis 35 – Jacob’s faith and family

  • Rededication at Bethel (1-15)

1 Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother.”

  1. For all the trouble that seemed to brewing where he was, God moved Jacob away (at least, temporarily). Where was he to go? Bethel – back to the foundations. [Genesis 28:10-22] This was where Jacob made his initial vow to the Lord, and God reminded him of it – this was to be its culmination. Jacob needs some reminders, and God ensures he will get them!

2 And Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves, and change your garments. 3 Then let us arise and go up to Bethel; and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me in the way which I have gone.” 4 So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods which were in their hands, and the earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree which was by Shechem.

  1. The household of Jacob had “foreign gods”! Literally, they had “Foreign Elohim.” The one household in all the world that ought to have been totally dedicated to the true God had idols in their midst. Some had initially been carried out from Padan Aram, others may have been part of the plunder of Shechem. Where it all originated, we don’t know – but it shouldn’t have been there in the first place!
    1. There are times we might want to do some self-examination. How much of the world have we allowed to come into our Christianity? How much do we find us relying on ourselves, rather than Jesus – or depending on legalism rather than grace? Paganism can come from more than one source, and it can sometimes be subtle.
  2. Paganism may have been in his house, but Jacob himself was committed to the Living God. He knew that God “answered” him, and continually answered him, always being with him. God had been faithful, even when Jacob was not. Jacob had been the recipient of much grace – and would receive much more! (As do/have we!)
  3. Jacob finally took leadership of his home, and purified his family away from the pagan influences. It may have seemed like a small step, but it made a big difference. Burying the earrings and idols was like putting them in the grave, killing off the stuff of the world in order to follow God. Jacob obviously could not force his family to have faith, but he could certainly set an example for them.

5 And they journeyed, and the terror of God was upon the cities that were all around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob.

  1. Remember that Jacob feared war in 34:30; here it shows how God protected the family. A supernatural “terror of God” fell upon the various surrounding cities. They hadn’t feared Simeon & Levi, but they certainly feared the omnipotent God!

6 So Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him. 7 And he built an altar there and called the place El Bethel, because there God appeared to him when he fled from the face of his brother.

  1. All of this ought to seem very familiar, as Jacob is retracing some previous steps. “El Bethel” = “God of the House of God.” This is where he had first heard from God, having a vision from God. In the past, he had erected a pillar; now he built an altar. It truly became a house of worship.
  2. Why did Jacob name the altar? Jacob remembered his beginnings: “because there God appeared to him.” — Remember your beginnings in the faith! Remember how you first met Jesus, and followed Him as Lord. Remember your “first love.” (Rev 2:4)

8 Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and she was buried below Bethel under the terebinth tree. So the name of it was called Allon Bachuth.

  1. Interesting side note. This is the first mention of Rebekah’s nurse, and we are not given any reason why she would have been traveling with Jacob’s family. She must have been with him for quite some time, considering there’s no indication that Jacob had seen his parents after arriving back in the land. Before Jacob went to Padan Aram, his mother had told him that she would send for him when Esau calmed from his anger (Gen 27:45). Perhaps Deborah had been sent at that time, and remained with Jacob ever since. (Surely she was quite aged by this point!)
  2. Allon Bachuth” = Terebinth/Oak of Weeping.

9 Then God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Padan Aram, and blessed him. 10 And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.” So He called his name Israel.

  1. It was back in Peniel/Penuel that God changed Jacob’s name to Israel. Here, God confirms the change. This time there was no vision of wrestling, no crisis to be averted – it was just God and Jacob. The change that God declared upon Jacob had never been meant to be temporary; it was a complete and total change of identity. (Same with us in Christ!)

11 Also God said to him: “I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body. 12 The land which I gave Abraham and Isaac I give to you; and to your descendants after you I give this land.”

  1. God Almighty” = El Shaddai (אֵ֤ל שַׁדַּי֙). This is only the 2nd time the title has been used, the first being Genesis 17:1, when God appeared to Abraham at 99 years of age, commanding him to walk before God and be blameless. Most people are familiar with the title from the popular song, but don’t have much of an idea of what it means. Scholars are actually uncertain as to the definition. It is a common title God uses for Himself, and perhaps linked to the idea of mountains. The translation of “God Almighty” comes due to the Latin Vulgate (omnipotēns), which was their best guess of how to refer to the strength that is implied. The point is that it does seem to refer to strength – the immovable might of the Creator God. God can do what He says He can do.
  2. For Jacob, this is especially important in terms of the covenant. God reiterates to Jacob that the covenant land and blessing is officially passed to him. The promise of a land, a people, and a Messiah are now Jacob’s to expect.
    1. For us, it is especially important in terms of our covenant of salvation!

13 Then God went up from him in the place where He talked with him. 14 So Jacob set up a pillar in the place where He talked with him, a pillar of stone; and he poured a drink offering on it, and he poured oil on it. 15 And Jacob called the name of the place where God spoke with him, Bethel.

  1. This is the 2nd pillar at Bethel, and the 2nd naming of Luz as Bethel. It is a total rededication of Jacob, based on his renewed calling from God. (There come moments when rededication is necessary.)
  • Rachel’s death (16-20)

16 Then they journeyed from Bethel. And when there was but a little distance to go to Ephrath, Rachel labored in childbirth, and she had hard labor. 17 Now it came to pass, when she was in hard labor, that the midwife said to her, “Do not fear; you will have this son also.”

  1. Although Rachel had longed for many children, over the years she had only borne one: Joseph. Finally she was pregnant again, but it cost her life.
  2. Do not fear” – not an exhortation that she would live, but a comfort that her son would live.

18 And so it was, as her soul was departing (for she died), that she called his name Ben-Oni; but his father called him Benjamin.

  1. Terribly sad circumstances for the birth, but her son was to be a son of joy. Rachel originally named him for her death (“son of my sorrow”); Jacob overruled and named him as a blessing (“son of my right hand”).

19 So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). 20 And Jacob set a pillar on her grave, which is the pillar of Rachel’s grave to this day.

  1. Interestingly, Rachel was not buried in the family tomb at Mamre. Apparently Jacob had been on his way there, but Rachel died too soon. She was buried near Bethlehem – a site that was apparently still known to the Hebrews of Samuel’s day. (1 Sam 10:2)
  • Reuben’s betrayal (21-22)

21 Then Israel journeyed and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder. 22 And it happened, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine; and Israel heard about it. …

  1. This was a terrible betrayal by Jacob’s firstborn. Not only was it incestuous, it was likely a preemptive move by Reuben to establish himself as the leader of the clan. Reuben was the firstborn of Jacob and Leah, and with Rachel dead, Reuben made a move to defile (so to speak) the maid of Rachel, leaving the line of Leah as pure.
  2. Although Genesis says nothing of Jacob’s (Israel’s) response, he clearly remembered the act, citing it as the reason Reuben lost his birthright (Gen 49:4). Interestingly, the right of the firstborn was denied to the 3 eldest sons of Israel: Reuben, Simeon, and Levi (Reuben for his betrayal, and Simeon & Levi for their vengeance), which made none other than Judah next in line. From which tribe did Jesus arise? Judah.
  • Summary of sons (23-26)

… Now the sons of Jacob were twelve: 23 the sons of Leah were Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, and Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun; 24 the sons of Rachel were Joseph and Benjamin; 25 the sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s maidservant, were Dan and Naphtali; 26 and the sons of Zilpah, Leah’s maidservant, were Gad and Asher. These were the sons of Jacob who were born to him in Padan Aram.

  1. Strictly speaking, only 11 of the 12 sons were born in Padan Aram; this is simply a summary of the 12 patriarchs.
  • Isaac’s death (27-29)

27 Then Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre, or Kirjath Arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had dwelt. 28 Now the days of Isaac were one hundred and eighty years. 29 So Isaac breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people, being old and full of days. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.

  1. Amazingly, Isaac had survived this entire time. Rebekah seems to have died long before, but Isaac lived to the grand old age of 180. Isaac’s death brought Esau & Jacob back together, perhaps for the last time. They seem to have maintained the peace between them, even as they lived far apart.

Genesis 36 – Origin of the Edomites

Due to the length of the passage, and the repetition of many of the names, we will cover only the highlights. Keep in mind, it’s not that the names are unimportant. Surely to the people who knew them, they were very important – they were family! Each individual was a man or woman made in the image of God, and God loved them as His own creation. Yet as they relate to the nation of Israel, and the history leading to the Messiah, the names have far less importance to modern readers today. The remainder of the chapter shows the rise of Esau’s family to prominence among the people of Mount Seir, and why eventually the entire people group became known as the Edomites. Esau’s children married into prominent families among Seir, and themselves became the majority of the chiefs of Mount Seir. Because they were able to hold onto their authority throughout their generations, the region became Edom.

Question: Why does the Bible include any of this? Simple: They were family. Like Genesis did with the family of Ishmael (Gen 25:12-18), it does with the family of Esau. These were relatives of the Israelites, just as much descended from Abraham as was Isaac and Jacob. Like any family tree, Genesis follows out those bloodlines a bit to show the later generations of Israelites what happened.

Additionally, the Edomites had a lot of interaction with the Israelites through the centuries. In Moses’ day, God forbade the Hebrews from fighting the Edomites, even though Edom had denied passage to the Hebrews after they left Egypt (Dt 2:5, Num 20:14-21). They were kin, so they were to be left alone. Things didn’t stay that way for long, and Saul fought against Edom during his reign (1 Sam 14:47), whereas David actually conquered them, making them his servants (2 Sam 7:14). Eventually, Edom would throw off the rule of Judah, and they even cheered the conquest of the Jews by Babylon…something for which they would incur the everlasting wrath of God.

Even so, it all began somewhere, and Genesis (this book of beginnings) details it here.

Some of the highlights:

1 Now this is the genealogy of Esau, who is Edom.

  1. This is emphasized throughout the chapter, some form of it being repeated at least 4 times in Chapter 36. To the reader, there was to be no doubt of the kinship relation between the two countries.

6 Then Esau took his wives, his sons, his daughters, and all the persons of his household, his cattle and all his animals, and all his goods which he had gained in the land of Canaan, and went to a country away from the presence of his brother Jacob. 7 For their possessions were too great for them to dwell together, and the land where they were strangers could not support them because of their livestock.

  1. Like Lot & Abraham, the land was not large enough to support both the households of Esau and Jacob. Esau had moved away prior to Jacob’s return (Gen 33:16), and the fact that he did indicates that Esau had submitted to the reality of Jacob receiving the covenant blessing. The land promised to Isaac rightly belonged to Jacob; not Esau, and over the course of 20 years, Esau had come to grips with this and moved someplace else that he could call home.
  2. There is not much in the Biblical text that speaks of Esau’s faith (if any), but there is at least some submission to God in this.

12 Now Timna was the concubine of Eliphaz, Esau’s son, and she bore Amalek to Eliphaz.

  1. Although it is uncertain that this Amalek is the Amalek that later became a nation and a threat to Israel, this is the first mention of the name in the Bible. It would not be unlikely that this distant relative of Israel became jealous of God’s blessing on Israel, and sought to take things for their own nation.

24 These were the sons of Zibeon: both Ajah and Anah. This was the Anah who found the water in the wilderness as he pastured the donkeys of his father Zibeon.

  1. Among all the listings of names, there is this unusual account of finding water in the wilderness. It must have been a famous event at the time, for it to be included in the annals of Scripture. Water in the wilderness is a rare occurrence, which was one of God’s miraculous provisions for Israel as they wandered for 40 years.

31 Now these were the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the children of Israel:

  1. Although Moses was the writer/compiler of Genesis, already there was a view towards a future kingdom, as was even proclaimed by God in Genesis 35:11. Kings were to come from the line of Jacob, specifically one king: King Jesus!
  2. That said, the kingdom of Edom was established before the kingdom of Israel. Even so, the kingdom of Israel would last longer. Edom has long since passed away, and we already taste the kingdom of Jesus…soon to come in all its glorious fulness!

43 … Esau was the father of the Edomites.

  1. The chapter wraps up as it began, focusing on Esau as the patriarch of the Edomites. This was his family & history. Even as eventual enemies of Israel, they found their origin in the God of Israel. Likewise, they found their judgment in the God of Israel, as God cleared that no survivor of theirs would remain (Obad 18).
  2. Whether they admit it or not, all people find their origin in the Lord, and all people will face the Lord for judgment. The only question is if we will face His judgment as His enemies or as His children.


Much happened within the family of Jacob! There was terrible tragedy & silence in the face of it – there was vengeance, paganism, and betrayal. But there was also renewal and rededication. In the midst of all that Jacob did wrong, God’s plans and promises for him never changed. God still called him Israel, and God still gave him the promise of Messiah Jesus. All Jacob needed to do was to trust Him, and follow Him (something with which his brother & descendants struggled).

There aren’t many guarantees in life, but we can guarantee this: we’re going to screw up. There will be times we drop the ball, and other times we purposefully do what is obviously wrong. When that happens, don’t give up. Don’t think that because you failed once (or twice, or however many times) that you are always a failure & that God has given up on you. He hasn’t! Don’t you give up on God!

Those aren’t the times to run away from the grace of Jesus; those are the times to cling even harder to Him than ever. Remind yourself of His promises – remind yourself of your beginnings with Him – rededicate yourself to His service, if need be, but don’t give up! Admit your sin, ask His forgiveness, and then walk forward in grace. 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”


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