Genesis 36: The Nation of Esau Established

Esau leaves Canaan, not because of any lingering conflict between he and his brother, but because “…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, So Esau dwelt in Mount Seir. Esau is Edom.” Genesis 36:7-8

This was the same reason that instigated the separation of Abram and Lot in Genesis 13: too much livestock to be comfortably supported by the land. Esau was called Edom, meaning red, due to the color of his hair and his ruddy complexion.

There is additional context to Esau leaving the land, and it is more important than the reason of livestock. Esau’s wives came from the land of Canaan, from among the idolatrous culture and ungodly influence of the native people. Because of this, Esau and his family are no different than the surrounding people of Canaan. Remember that Rebekah had worried over the wives of Esau: “When Esau was forty years old, he took as wives Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite. And they were a grief of mind to Isaac and Rebekah.”

Esau’s legacy is a poor one in terms of following God, but a rich one in terms of material wealth. The family relations, kings, chiefs and assorted individuals listed in this chapter all represent “Edom,” the name of the kingdom over which Esau had oversight. Although Esau did not receive the birthright, Isaac’s first blessing or the promises of the Abrahamic covenant, God still blessed him with wealth and made his family a great nation.

Indeed, the blessing that Esau received from Isaac in Genesis 27:39-40 is coming to fruition: ““Behold, your dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above. By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; and it shall come to pass, when you become restless, that you shall break his yoke from your neck.” Esau served his brother Isaac, only to eventually break free and preside over his own nation.

This is the legacy of Esau: a man that made unwise decisions is yet materially blessed by God while suffering the consequences of those decisions: familial and divine exile. There is a hint of Esau’s redemption running through the end of his story here in chapter 36, but there is not proof of it. God, granting mercy and judgment alike, seems to leave Esau with the appropriate mix of both.

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