by Robert Brow    (

Brow Publications, Kingston, Ontario (e-mail: 2004

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Genesis 36:1-30  
Genesis 36:31-39  
Genesis 36:40-43  

GENESIS 36:1-30      (The genealogy of the Edomites descended from Esau)

 36:1   The Jewish people are descended from the twelve sons of Jacob (35:22-26).  In this chapter we are given the origins of the Arab tribes descended from Jacob’s brother Esau.

 Note : The Arab nation eventually  included all the tribes connected with Abraham’s relatives.  From his nephew Lot came the Moabites and Ammonites who lived east of the Dead Sea (19:36-38).  After the death of Sarah (23:1-2) Abraham married Keturah.   She was called a concubine because her children did not have a right to the family lineage (25:1, 5).  Their tribes included the Midianites,   and they lived in “the east country” of central Arabia (25:1-5).   Abraham’s first-born son Ishmael first lived with his mother in the wilderness of Paran, which is now called the Sinai Peninsula.  There he married an Egyptian woman (21:20-21), and they had twelve sons who were the first sheikhs of the Ishmaelite group of tribes (25:12-18).  

 In the process of time the Ishmaelites included other tribes by war and marriage so that all Arabs are now called bene ishmael (children of Ishmael).   Abraham’s Aramean relatives in Haran (10:22; 11:27-31; 24:10, 24, 29; 28:1-2), who were later called  Syrians,  also became Arabs.   All these tribal groupings were  forged over two thousand years later into one Arab nation by Muhammad (c.570-632).    His armies also subjugated  (628 AD) the tribes descended from Joktan (10:25-30; 1 Chronicles 1:19-23)) who had been divided from the family of Eber (10:25).   Instead of moving north-east to Haran, these had traveled due south from Ur to settle in what is now called the Yemen.  

 The original Hebrew and Arabic languages were derived from Canaanite, the Hamitic language which Abraham (probably a Sumerian, see notes on 10:24; 11:10-11),  learned in the promised land.   According to the Table of Nations Canaanite belonged to the Hamitic group of languages that included Ethiopian, Egyptian, Canaanite, and the languages of North Africa (10:6-20).    Nimrod established Ethiopian, the language of Cush (the Horn of Africa)  in Assyria and Babylonia (see notes on 10:8-12).  As a result all Arabs were able to adopt closely related forms of a single Hamitic language, later called Arabic, which is a very close cousin of Hebrew.

 The only records of how Arab origins and their tribal genealogies were connected with Abraham are found in the above chapters of Genesis (see the book on Ishmael the Arab).   The beginning  of the 3,800 year quarrel between Arabs and Jews is given in Genesis chapters 16 to 21.  And a careful reconstruction of all the dates that are given fits into a consistent picture of patriarchal times.  This makes nonsense of the Wellhausen hypothesis based on irreconcilable documents (J, E, D, and P), and the usual attitude of many Old Testament scholars who assume that Genesis is made up of ancient myths with very little historical foundation.


36:2   At the age of 40 Esau had taken two Canaanite women from the Hittite tribe as his wives (26:34). 

36:3  When he saw that his parents, Isaac and Rebekah,  did not approve of his Hittite wives (26:34-35; 27:46; 28:1, 6-8)  Esau decided to regain his parent’s favor and marry within the Abrahamic family.  He chose Ishmael’s daughter Mahalath, sister of Nebaioth, also known as Basemath  (25:13; 28:9). 

36:4-5   Esau’s son from his Hittite wife Adah was Eliphaz, and their sons are listed in 36:11, 15-16.   Four more clans were descended from Ishmael’s daughter Basemath, 36:10, 13.  Three other clans originated from Esau’s other Hittite wife Oholibamah (36:5, 14, 18).

 36:6-8   It seems that while Jacob was away for twenty years in Haran Esau moved his family into the area of Mount Seir which was south of the Dead Sea.  The reason given is that there was no room for the two sons of Jacob to live in the area of Hebron (although absent, Jacob was already viewed as the heir of the line of Isaac)..  

 36:9-14   The descendants of Esau are carefully listed.   His oldest son was Eliphaz son of Adah (also known as Judith) the Hittite woman by whom he had five sons (26:34).   The next son was Reuel son of Mahalath, also known as Basemath,  who had four sons   (28:9).  And his other Hittite wife, named Oholibamah (the name occurs again in 36:41) gave him another three sons.   A note is added that the Amalekites were descended from Timna, a concubine of Eliphaz (36:12, 16; see Numbers 13:29; 14:25, 43, 45; Judges 6:3, 33). 

 36: 15-16 Esau’s firstborn son Eliphaz was the ancestor of seven Edomite tribes (first mentioned in 36:11).  

 36:17  When Esau married Ishmael’s daughter Mahalath he gave her the name  Basemath (baashemath which was perhaps the term of endearment or nick-name previously given to his second Hittite wife Oholibamah (28:9; 36:3, 18).   Mahalath had four sons who also became Edomite tribal leaders.

 36:18   Esau’s other Canaanite wife was Oholibamah.   She apparently did not have a child till after Esau had married Ishmael’s daughter.    Three more Edomite tribes were descended from her. 

 36:19   That gives us a list of fourteen tribes that originated from Esau.   We can imagine the huge population explosion that occured.  As a result there were constant wars between them and the Jews who returned from the Exodus (1 Samuel 14:47; 2 Samuel 8:14; 2 Kings 8:20; 14:7).   The population was also kept down by ruthless genocide (as in 1 Kings 11:15-16).

 36:20-30   In addition to the tribes descended from Esau there were aboriginal people called Horites (Hebrew hori, horim means cave dwellers, 14:6).   Their tribal names are listed here, but they were later dispossessed by the descendants of Esau  (Deuteronomy 2:12, 22). 


GENESIS 36:31-39   (The first Edomite kings)

   Reigning over the Edomite tribes there was a succession of eight kings including Bela, Jobab, Husham, Hadad, Samlah, Shaul, Baalhanan (meaning Baal is gracious), and Hadar (the list is repeated in1 Chronicles 1:43-54).   These were not hereditary, as in European monarchies, but according to frequent Arabian practice they were chosen to replace a ruler who died or became incompetent.   They were not necessarily descended from Esau, and they reigned in the six hundred years before David, the first hereditary king among the Jews.


GENESIS 36:40-43  

36:40-43    It seems that as a result of tribal warfare the main Edomite groupings changed after the death of Esau’s sons (listed in 36:15-19, 1 Chronicles 1:51-54)This constant tribal regrouping continued throughout the history of Arabia.  



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