Blessings for Esau

The land of their sojournings could not support them because of their livestock. So Esau settled in the hill country of Seir. (Esau is Edom)” (Gen. 36:7b–8).

- Genesis 36

We are back in Genesis today after our brief look at the identity and destiny of the twelve tribes of Israel. The extended genealogy of Esau in Genesis 36 is a long genealogical list that sets the stage for the final section of Genesis. Moses typically inserts the family history of the unfaithful son just before he begins to relate the history of the heirs of Abraham’s covenant. We see this happen in 25:12–18, for example, where Moses gives us the “generations of Ishmael” right before the account of Jacob’s life in 25:19–35:29. Chapter 36 tells us about Esau’s offspring, and chapters 37–50 contain the history of Jacob’s sons, especially Joseph.

Several things are notable about this chapter. First, the names of Esau’s Canaanite wives in 36:1–3 do not match the names of his wives given in 26:34–35 and 28:9. It is possible that some of Esau’s wives changed their names after they married him, thereby accounting for these differences. However, the more likely explanation is that Esau married many more wives after fraternizing with the Hittites (26:34–35) and the Ishmaelites (28:9). This squares well with the description of Esau’s sexual immorality in Hebrews 12:15–17. If Isaac’s oldest son lived for the moment, forfeiting his spiritual blessing to satiate his physical hunger (Gen. 25:29–34), surely he would be capable of giving into his momentary lusts by taking as many wives as his heart desired. 

Also, Genesis 36 stresses the physical blessings that came to Esau despite his sin. His sons founded the great nation of Edom (v. 8). Since they were born in Canaan, the land God gave to Abraham and his progeny (v. 5b), it is clear the blessings on faithless Esau were tied to his residence in the realm where the Lord’s work was seen most visibly. Likewise, many temporal (but not eternal) benefits come to those who profess faith and join a church, where God now shows Himself most visibly, even if they do not trust Christ. 

Edom’s existence brings to pass the Almighty’s prediction that Esau will father a great nation (Gen. 25:23). And if God kept His promise for this faithless son of Isaac, we can be sure he will keep all the promises He has given His people (Matt. 6:25–34).

Coram Deo

Paul admonishes us to examine ourselves to see whether we have true faith (2 Cor. 13:5). The blessings we see in our lives are by themselves not sufficient proof that we belong to God. After all, Esau was blessed and was yet shown to lack faith. True devotion to Christ is shown in our repentance for sin, the fruit we have in our life, and our faithfulness in the task the Lord has given us. That is, we must seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33).

Passages for Further Study

1 Chron. 1:34–54
Ezek. 35
Obad. 19–21
1 John 2:19

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