THE TÔLDÔTH ESAU.
(1) The generations of Esau.—This tôldôth, consisting of Genesis 36:1 to Genesis 37:1, is very remarkable, if it were only for the difficulties with which it abounds, and which have too often been aggravated by the determination of commentators to make Holy Scripture bend to their pre-conceived ideas as to what it ought to be, instead of dutifully accepting it as it is. It begins with an enumeration of Esau’s wives, in which the names are different from those given in Genesis 26:34; Genesis 28:9. Next we have the genealogy of Esau, upon the same principle as that whereby the tôldôth Ishmael was inserted immediately after the history of Abraham’s death (Genesis 25:12-18); but this is followed, in Genesis 36:20-30, by a genealogy of the Horite inhabitants of Mount Seir. Among these Esau dwelt as the predominant power, but nevertheless on friendly terms, for a reason which we shall see hereafter. We next have a list of kings who are said to have reigned in Edom “before there reigned any king over the children of Israel.” This is not a prophetical portion of the Bible, but a dry genealogical table, and the attempts made to evade the plain meaning of the words, namely, that at the time when this list of kings was written there were kings in Israel, are painful to read, and can have no other effect than to harden sceptics in unbelief. Of these Edomite kings, it is remarkable that they do not succeed one another by hereditary succession, nor have they the same capital, but seem to belong to a time of anarchy, like that which existed in Israel under the Judges. During this period the Edomites and Horites were fused together, chiefly by conquest (Deuteronomy 2:12; Deuteronomy 2:22), but partly also by the gradual dying out of the inferior race, just as the red man is fading away in North America, and the Maori in New Zealand. Finally, we have a list of the eleven dukes of Edom, “after their places.” As these dukes represented tribes or clans, this catalogue is geographical, and as such it is described in Genesis 36:43, and was intended to give the political arrangement of the land at the later date when this addition was made, and when considerable changes had taken place since the time of the first settlement.
These last two documents, forming Genesis 36:31-43, were probably added at the time when the Books of Samuel were composed; but as we find the list of the kings given also in 1 Chronicles 1:43-50, and as at that date great activity existed in completing the canon of Holy Scripture, some suppose that the lists in both places are by the same hand. It is entirely wrong to describe them as interpolations; for it was the rule to add to and complete genealogies; and besides there existed in the Jewish Church a living authority in the prophets who had the right and power to make necessary additions to the Divine record. It is to the “schools of the prophets” that we owe, under God’s providence, the existence of most of the Old Testament Scriptures, and the preservation of all of them; and they did not preserve them for the sake of the authors, but for the sake of what was written. And there is nothing derogatory to the authority or inspiration of Holy Scripture in believing that the prophets were from time to time moved by the Spirit to add to what had been written. The contents of the Old Testament bear witness everywhere to the scrupulous fidelity with which men guarded in the prophetic schools the sacred deposit entrusted to their care; but it is equally certain that we find notes inserted from time to time, as in Genesis 35:20. No one can doubt but that the remark that the pillar standing on Rachel’s grave “unto this day” was the same stone which Jacob had set up, was inserted at a later date, and apparently after the conquest of Canaan. So in Genesis 14:7 we have a note inserted subsequently to the establishment of the kingly office. Why should there be any difficulty in believing that these two lists of kings and dukes, added to complete a genealogy, belonged also to a time when there were kings in Israel?
It is probable, however, that the list of kings given here is of an earlier date than that in the first chapter of Chronicles, for Hadar (more correctly, in Chronicles, Hadad) seems to have been living when this document was composed, and hence the full information about his wife.” In Chronicles (1 Chronicles 1:51) there is added “Hadad died-also.” And if he really were alive when this catalogue was written, he had by that time been dead for centuries; for its date would then be one comparatively early.
Aholibamah the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite.—She is supposed to answer to Judith the daughter of “Beeri the Hittite,” in Genesis 26:34. But in Genesis 36:24-25, we find her genealogy given again, and Zibeon, the father of Anah, the father of Aholibamah, is there described as a Horite. Now, as Hivi (Hivite) and Hori (Horite) differ in Hebrew only in the length of the top of the middle letter, and as mistakes in the transcription of Biblical names are of constant occurrence, it seems certain that Aholibamah was a Horite, and therefore, entirely distinct from Judith. Judith, the first wife, apparently had no children, and hence arose the temptation to Esau to marry some one besides. Hence, too, Adah comes in her proper order, as being the first wife who had sons; and Eliphaz as the son of the first wife who had children, has the right of primogeniture. Hence, too, Aholibamah in the genealogy is always placed third. She was the fourth and last wife taken, and her children are placed after those of Bashemath. And this was a matter of far too great importance in a genealogy for there to be any mistake made in it. And now we see the reason for giving the genealogy of the Horites, and also why Esau took the Horite land for a possession. In some expedition into the country of Seir, Esau had married the daughter of one of the dukes there, and through her had acquired a right to ducal rank. Through her family, moreover, he had friendly relations with one portion at least of the Horite people. Our knowledge of the princely Hittites has of late been too largely increased for us to be able to connect a Horite race with them, and Rebekah distinctly calls Judith and Adah-Bashemath daughters of Heth. Excepting the Semites, no race in Palestine stands so high as the Hittites, and no race so low as the Horites. But their rulers were probably of a higher breed; and Esau’s invasions of their country, his final settlement there, and the introduction of the genealogy of “Seir the Horite,” together with Aholibamah’s place as the last of Esau’s wives, all are facts which strongly confirm the supposition of his having contracted a Horite marriage during Jacob’s absence in Padan-aram.
The meanness of the Horites is not a deduction merely from their having dwelt in caves, for the country is so admirably adapted to this mode of living that it still exists there; but they are omitted from the table of nations in Genesis 10, and seem generally to have been a feeble aboriginal race.
Genesis 36:41Duke Aholibamah, duke Elah, duke Pinon,
Genesis 36:42Duke Kenaz, duke Teman, duke Mibzar,
Genesis 36:43Duke Magdiel, duke Iram: these be the dukes of Edom, according to their habitations in the land of their possession: he is Esau the father of the Edomites.