GENESIS - CHAPTER 36
A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
Copyright 2000 James Melough
This chapter is one which commentators and readers alike appear to have agreed to by-pass, and at least two reasons present themselves as a possible basis for that decision. First, the chapter consists mainly of lists of names which in themselves yield no apparent spiritual message. Second, there appears to be confusion both as to the names and the number of Esau’s wives.
If, however, we believe that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim 3:16-17), then we must agree that those words are no less true of this chapter than of any other in the Bible.
In regard to the first difficulty: the spiritual message lies, not in the names themselves, but as with all Scriptural names, in their meanings, and those meanings have a great deal to teach us.
In regard to the second difficulty: the problem is more apparent than real, and the clue to the solution is given us in the very first verse, “Esau ... is Edom.” The same person is known by two different names, and as was Esau, so were his wives: they too were known by different names.
They are mentioned first in Ge 26:34 “Esau ... took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite.” Concerning his third wife, we read in Ge 28:9 “Then went Esau unto Ishmael, and took unto the wives which he had Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife.” Now in verses 2 and 3 of our present chapter these wives are brought before us again as the women who were the mothers of his sons, but they are described by different names: “Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite,” is now called “Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite.” The one who in chapter 28:9 has been called “Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebajoth,” is here called “Bashemath Ishmael’s daughter, sister of Nebajoth.”
This leaves the matter of Judith to be explained. She appears to be the same one mentioned here in chapter thirty-six as Aholibamah. In verse two she is described as the “daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite.” Clearly it is the woman’s mother, not her father, who is referred to here as Anah. This, then, rules out the Anah of verse twenty, for he was a man, the son of Seir. It also rules out the Anah of verse twenty-four, for though Zibeon is his father, he is clearly spoken of as being a man, not a woman. It rules out also the Aholibamah of verse twenty-five, for it is her father, not her mother, who is there called Anah. A careful reading of this chapter reveals that the same name could be used for both men and women, compare, for example, verses 25 where Aholibamah is a woman, and 41, where it is the name of a man. It is apparent also that the same name was used to describe those of different generations. Compare, for example, verse 20 where Anah is the name of Zibeon’s brother, with verse 24, where it is the name of his son. Zibeon the Hivite, Aholibamah’s grandfather, is not to be confused with the Zibeon who is Seir’s son. All things considered therefore, it seems reasonable to conclude that Judith (mentioned only once, chapter twenty-six, verse 34) and Aholibamah are the same person. It seems that in Ge 26:34, where she is called Judith, her lineage is being given from her father’s side, whereas in this present chapter, where she is called Aholi-bamah, her lineage is being given from her mother’s side.
Before beginning our verse-by-verse study of this chapter we should also take time to note again that Esau represents the flesh, and not just the flesh in the believer, but the flesh as a separate entity. This chapter which details the proliferation of these sons of Esau, declares also symbolically the character of the flesh, for it begins and ends by reminding us that they were Edomites, inveterate enemies of God’s people, a race of whom God has declared, “And thy mighty men, O Teman, shall be dismayed, to the end that every one of the mount of Esau may be cut off by slaughter. For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever” (Ob 9-10). The flesh is the inveterate enemy of the spirit.
36:1. “Now these are the generations of Esau, who is Edom.”
In such cases as that of Abraham and Jacob, their new names were indicative of a new state, and replaced their old names, but such was not the case with Esau. His name Edom is connected with the day when he sold his birthright for a mess of red pottage, Ge 25:30. His state had become worse, not better, for that day he demonstrated that he was a “profane person” who despised spiritual things.
Esau means shaggy: his doings, and Edom means red,” and Seir, the territory he ruled, means shaggy: hairy: goat-like. All of these combine to paint a picture of evil. Shaggy, the meaning common to both Esau and Seir, points to the shagginess of the goat, and the goat was the animal used for the Sin offering on the day of atonement. The implication is that there is sin connected with both. Edom red is almost identical with Adam man: red earth, and of Adam it is written, “The first man is of the earth, earthy” (1 Co 15:47), and “... in Adam all die” (1 Co 15:22). No more accurate picture of the flesh could be painted.
The idea of duplicity is also conveyed in the interchangeability of the two names (whichever would best serve the expediency of the moment could be used). This is always the characteristic of the flesh.
A question which presents itself at this juncture is, Why is the history of the godly line interrupted here to give us the development of the godless line of Esau?
The Scriptures themselves supply the answer, “That was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual” (1 Co 15:46).
36:2. “Esau took his wives of the daughters of Canaan; Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite.”
As has been noted in previous studies a wife represents the expression of a man’s spiritual life, the godly wife representing the expression of true spiritual life; and the ungodly, the expression of what passes with the unregenerate for spiritual life. The divine ideal is one man, one wife, the indissolubility of that bond showing the indissolubility of the bond that links the believer with his new spiritual life. It is significant that in the case of Abraham and Jacob, though they had several wives, only one wife was loved. In Esau’s case, however, there is nothing to indicate that he loved one more than another, or, in fact, that he loved any of them. Esau’s taking wives is the symbolic demonstration of the truth that the flesh will seek to ape the spirit. The natural man, for example, is not without religion. With him, in fact, religion is equated with spiritual life.
First it is said that his wives were Canaanites, but Canaan means trafficker. The flesh is always ready to “traffick” in spiritual things even though it has no consciousness of the claims of God.
The first-named is Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, but we have found that she is identical with Bashemath who is first mentioned in Ge 26:34. In that chapter we noted that she represents purely natural fleshly “worship” as opposed to true spiritual worship. Here, however, she is not called Bashemath, but Adah which means ornament: he adorned. With the natural man his worship is nothing more than an ornament or adornment, an outward thing of relatively little value. In regard to outward ornament or adorning, however, God has this to say, “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning ... but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price” (1 Pe 3:3-4). And this the natural man knows nothing of. He does not have a meek and quiet spirit, and with him such a spirit has no value.
The reader is referred to the notes on Ge 26:34 for the significance of her being the daughter of Elon the Hittite. Elon means might: terebinth: oak: plain. He represents the power of Satan manifesting itself under the guise of true worship.
Hittite means terror, reminding us, in the present context, that the natural man’s “worship” is the result of a superstitious fear of God rather than a reverent trust in Him.
Aholibamah means tent of the high place.” She was the daughter of Anah afflicted: answered, and she in turn was the daughter of Zibeon versicolor: dyer: hyena? who was a Hivite shower of life: liver. Since this whole chapter is the symbolic portrait of the flesh, the meaning of her name must also have an evil significance. The high place , therefore, may speak, not of the high place to which the believer is lifted by God’s grace, but of the high place to which the unbeliever is lifted by pride. The tent, then, would represent the dwelling place of pride (in this case, the body of the unbeliever).
The meaning of the name of her grandfather Zibeon speaks of a change of color that was designed to deceive, that wasn’t genuine; and the third meaning of his name, hyena (a carrion-eater) represents one who eats unclean food. Transferred to the spiritual realm, this gives the portrait of a deceiver feeding on the impure lies of the arch deceiver, Satan. Small wonder, then, that the name of his daughter Anah, Aholibamah’s mother, should mean afflicted: answered. Affliction must always be the “answer” (that which is given back) to deceit and uncleanness.
Her being a Hivite continues to emphasize the thought of evil, for the Hivite represents one, who though unsaved himself, would nevertheless undertake to set himself up as an example for others to follow. In other words, he would show others how to live, how to get to heaven, even though he himself is unaware that he is on the way to hell together with his deluded followers.
36:3. “And Bashemath Ishamel’s daughter, sister of Nebajoth.”
This Bashemath shouldn’t be confused with the other wife Bashemath who was also Adah. This present woman is the same one also called Mahalath in Ge 28:9, and to avoid repeating what has already been noted relative to the significance of that name, it is suggested that the reader study the notes for that chapter, while the notes on Ge 26:34 should be studied for the significance of the name Bashemath.
36:4. “And Adah bare to Esau Eliphaz; and Bashemath bare Reuel.”
Eliphaz means God of fine gold: my god has refined. He is Esau’s firstborn, and this marks him as being also the representative of the flesh, and therefore evil. Gold is always the symbol of glory, but in spite of the seeming good meaning of the name, we have to recognize that Eliphaz does not portray divine glory. Whatever glory may be connected with him is a glory other than that of the true God. Whatever refinement there may have been has been also that of a god other than the true God. The natural man may have glory and refinement, but neither one is from God.
Bashemath spice, representative of the worship of the natural man, produces Reuel which means associate ye with God: tend ye God. Esau’s sons continue to depict the flesh in one way or another. It will always seek to disguise its true nature, often under the appearance of being in close association with God, and of “tending” Him or rendering Him service. In spite of the good that seems to be implied in the meanings of this son’s name, however, the truth remains that the flesh can have no association with God, nor can it render Him any service.
36:5. “And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these are the sons of Esau, which were born unto him in the land of Canaan.”
This woman who represents pride, and who seems also to be identical with the Judith of Ge 26: 34, bears three sons to Esau, the first of whom is Jeush meaning he will succor. Since the believer looks to God as the One Who will succor him in the hour of need, and since the flesh frequently mimics the spirit, we may perhaps be justified in taking this son to represent that tendency of the flesh to disguise itself as a spiritual thing by an appearance of trust in God, when in fact, there is none.
The second son is Jaalam, meaning he will hide, and again there is the thought of mimicry. The believer knows the Lord Jesus Christ as his Hiding Place, and the flesh is by no means averse to employing a disguise in which it appears also to have the same trust in Christ.
Korah, the third son, means ice: bald. While there are few Scriptural references to ice, there are many to hail, which in many ways is similar to ice, and hail is always connected with divine wrath and judgment. For example, it was one of the judgments sent upon Egypt, Ex 9:22, and again in Re 8:7 hail is one of the symbols of divine wrath in connection with the trumpet judgments.
Baldness seems also to have an evil connotation, for it is almost invariably mentioned in connection with judgment and mourning.
Korah therefore, as we should expect, speaks of the evil connected with the flesh, but his being the third son borne by Aholibamah connects itself also with the thought of resurrection, and in this we are reminded that there is connected with the flesh the resurrection of death, as there is connected with the spirit the resurrection of life.
These sons of Esau were born unto him in the land of Canaan, reminding us that in that sphere which should be exclusively that of the spirit, the flesh will intrude itself and bear its evil fruit.
36:6. “And Esau took his wives, and his sons, and his daughters, and all the persons of his house, and his cattle, and all his beasts, and all his substance, which he had got in the land of Canaan; and went into the country from the face of his brother Jacob.”
This verse tells not just of Esau’s removal from the land of Canaan, but it emphasizes how complete that removal was: everything he possessed went with him out of Canaan. In this we learn the truth that the flesh has no part with the spirit. Canaan, as the God-appointed place for a redeemed people, represents the spiritual dwelling place of God’s redeemed. The flesh may intrude into that place for a little while, the years when the believer is here on earth in the body, but the flesh cannot enter heaven. “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Co 15:50). He went “from the face of his brother Jacob.” Obedience requires that the flesh must always give way before the spirit. It was Israel’s disobedience that resulted in the Canaanites remaining in the land. God’s desire was that they be exterminated.
The implication here is that Esau departed from Canaan sometime after Jacob’s return, yet 32:3 makes it clear that he was already dwelling in Seir before that return. The commentaries I’ve consulted haven’t addressed this problem, and the only suggestion I can make is that God, foreknowing Jacob’s return, prepared for it by compelling Esau, through undisclosed means, to leave Canaan before Jacob actually returned. By inserting the record of Esau’s removal from Canaan out of its actual chronological order, God would focus attention on the more important spiritual lesson that faith and unbelief cannot dwell together.
36:7. “For their riches were more than that they might dwell together; and the land wherein they were strangers could not bear them because of their cattle.”
This situation is almost identical with that which brought about the separation of Abraham and Lot in chapter thirteen. There the spiritual picture was of the separation of a carnal believer from a spiritual, but here it is the picture of the separation that must always exist between the flesh and the spirit. The similarity of the two is due to the fact that carnality in the life of a believer is simply the result of the activity of the flesh in his life. And as it was with Abraham and Lot so is it also with Jacob and Esau: it was their increased riches that brought about the separation. The spiritual lesson is easily read: there cannot be an increase in spiritual wealth in the life where there is also an increase in the things of the flesh. The more a man grows spiritually the more necessary he will find it to be separate from the things of the flesh; and conversely, of course, the more he grows in the things of the flesh the more will he find himself separated from spiritual things.
36:8. “Thus dwelt Esau in mount Seir: Esau is Edom.”
Since we have discussed the significance of these three names in verse two we need not repeat it here.
God’s repetitions are for emphasis, and here He repeats what He has already declared in verse one, “Esau is Edom.” He represents the flesh, and God would emphasize that the flesh is evil and the enemy of the spirit. Esau goes to dwell in Seir, a place, which in the very meanings of its name, is marked out as being the symbolic dwelling place of sin. Such is the flesh: it cannot be happy in “Canaan.”
36:9. “And these are the generations of Esau the father of the Edomites in mount Seir.”
Having given us the names of the sons born to Esau in the land of Canaan, God now sets before us the multiplication of those sons in the land of Seir. Before going on to examine the meanings of these sons, we should take time to note the similarity between this verse and verse one. In both it is said, “These are the generations of Esau,” but in verse one it goes on to say “who is Edom,” but here it continues with the explanation that he is “the father of the Edomites.” This isn’t just needless repetition. Verse one declares Esau’s character: he is Edom, which we have seen to be almost identical with Adam red earth. In other words Esau is as Adam was. “The first man is of the earth, earthy (and) as is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy....” (1 Co 15:47-48). But it is emphasized that he dwelt in Canaan before he went to Seir, and it was in Canaan that his sons were born. Esau was no helpless pawn in the hand of Fate. He began with every possible advantage (as did Adam), but by an act of his own free will, and to gratify bodily appetite, he bartered away those advantages. So is every son of Adam. Here on earth every man has the opportunity to obtain eternal life, but whether he will have that gift depends on an act of his own free will. Many, like Esau, continue in self-willed disobedience, with the result that they too, at the end of life on earth must go out to dwell eternally in the place of torment reserved for all who reject Christ.
While verse one declares Esau’s character, verse nine declares what results from that character: “Esau was Edom,” and an Edomite could only beget Edomites. Some of these sons became dukes and kings, but they were still Edomites. You can educate the flesh, make it moral, make it religious, etc., but it will never be anything but flesh; and of the flesh God has declared that it cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Esau, having despised his birthright to Canaan, goes out to dwell in the land of Seir where he multiplies, but as the foe of God and His people.
One of many examples of the murderous hatred of the flesh against the spirit is recorded in 1 Sa 21 and 22. There we read of “Doeg, an Edomite” (1 Sa 21:7; 22:9,18) slaying eighty-five of the priests of the Lord.
36:10. “These are the names of Esau’s sons, Eliphaz the son of Adah the wife of Esau, Reuel the son of Bashemath the wife of Esau.”
This verse repeats the names mentioned in verse four, and since we have considered the meanings of the names there we needn’t repeat them here. We should note, however, that again, this isn’t just needless repetition. Verse four records their birth in Canaan.
There was potential for good, but here we find them out of Canaan and settled in the land of Seir. From this point on we see them as Edomites. Their multiplication there simply displays symbolically the strength of the flesh as the enemy of the spirit.
36:11. “And the sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho, and Gatam, and Kenaz.”
Teman means southward; Omar I will say; Zepho his watching; Gatam reach thou the end: their touch; and Kenaz the nest sprinkled. Inasmuch as the south is associated with a walk of faith, the lesson of Teman may be that the flesh wearing the cloak of religion, can give the appearance of walking by faith, even though it knows nothing of faith. Omar very clearly declares the truth that the flesh too, can talk much about “religious” things; while the watching connected with Zepho may point to the truth that the flesh can also “watch,” i.e., watch its ways, be outwardly very moral.
I regret that I am unable to determine the spiritual significance of Gatam and Kenaz, and must therefore, leave them without comment, though a few thoughts suggest themselves. The second meaning of Gatam their touch may be meant to remind us of the sensual character of the flesh. In connection with Kenaz, the nest is related to birds, which almost invariably are the symbols of the evil spirits of the air (the turtle dove and the pigeon are two exceptions), so that the thought here may relate to the evil spiritual character of the flesh, as Gatam does to its sensuality.
There is a significant omission in regard to all of Esau’s sons: we aren’t given the names of any of their wives; and their children, in fact, are counted as being the children of Esau’s wives, see verses 12, 13, 16 and 17. As has been noted in previous studies, the wife is the representative of the expression of a man’s spiritual life. The omission of the names, or even of the mention of these women therefore, is the symbolic declaration of the fact that these sons of Esau didn’t have what the wife represents - spiritual life.
There is further significance in the fact that while we are not given the name of the wife of Eliphaz, we are given the name of a woman who was only his concubine, through whom he became the father of Amalek.
And there is yet another significant omission in this list of the sons of Eliphaz. From verse sixteen it seems clear that he had also a son called Korah, yet while Korah is listed among the dukes who came from Eliphaz, he is not listed among the sons. Since the Holy Spirit is a meticulously careful Penman we know that this omission is deliberate and not accidental. By deliberately omitting the name of Korah from the list of the sons of Eliphaz, God is leaving the recorded number at six, the number of man, sin, weakness, failure, the number that falls one short of the perfect number seven. This deliberate omission stamps the line of Esau through Eliphaz with all the evil that is connected with the number six. We might also note that Eliphaz, like his father Esau, was a firstborn. The firstborn is always the representative of the flesh.
36:12. “And Timna was concubine to Eliphaz Esau’s son; and she bare to Eliphaz Amalek; these were the sons of Adah Esau’s wife.”
Timna means thou wilt withhold. I am certain that there is spiritual significance attached to all these names, but this is another one I must leave for the present, since I cannot understand its spiritual lesson.
While some have taken this woman to be identical with the daughter of Seir, the Horite prince, mentioned in verse twenty-two, it seems very unlikely that the daughter of such a powerful prince would ever occupy the position of a mere concubine. It seems more likely that they were two different women. The use throughout this whole chapter of the same name for two different people tends to produce the confusion behind which the flesh always seeks to hide its true character.
Through Timna, Eliphaz begets Amalek which means people of lapping (licking up), and while the meaning of the name yields no clear spiritual lesson, the history of Amalek and his descendants leaves no doubt as to what he represents. While Esau represents the flesh as an independent entity, Amalek represents the will of the flesh, striving continually against the spirit, and producing that unceasing warfare that will not end until our earthly course is finished. He gave his name to his descendants, the Amalakites, the first people to attack Israel in the wilderness, causing God to declare “I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.... the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation” (Ex 17:14-16).
We have noted already that they are called the sons of Esau by Adah, though they were, in fact, his grandsons. However diversified the line may become; however much the flesh may seek to obscure its origin, God reminds us that it begins with Esau. The flesh is always the flesh no matter what disguise it may assume.
36:13. “And these are the sons of Reuel: Nahath, and Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah: these were the sons of Bashemath Esau’s wife.”
In verse four we have noted that Reuel associate ye with God: tend ye God, represents that activity of the flesh by which it would seek to create the impression that it is in close association with God, and is rendering Him much service, while, in fact, it is at enmity with Him.
With regard to his sons, Nahath means rest: descent; Zerah, a rising; Shammah, desolation: appal-ment, and Mizzah, from sprinkling. Nahath may portray that false rest which results from ignorance of the rest which God gives, while the second meaning of his name descent may be meant to declare that the path of the man enjoying this false rest is downward: it ends in hell.
Zerah a rising may speak, not of the resurrection (rising) of the believer out of spiritual death, but of that rebellious rising up of unconverted man to walk in the energy of the flesh in defiance of God.
Shammah points to the eternal appalling desolation that will be the portion of the unbeliever in the lake of fire.
I regret being unable to see the spiritual significance of Mizzah, and must therefore, leave it without comment.
As with Eliphaz, there is no name of Reuel’s wife, and these children are counted as sons of Bashemath the wife of Esau. God continues to remind us that the flesh, no matter what form it may take, is always the flesh.
36:14. “And these were the sons of Aholibamah, the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon, Esau’s wife: and she bare to Esau Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah.
In our study of verse two we have already considered the meanings of Aholibamah, Anah and Zibeon, and in verse five we have looked at the meanings of the names of her three sons, so there is no need to repeat them here. As with the others, the earlier mention of their birth in Canaan may be to indicate the potential for good, but in this repetition of their names we are being shown that that potential was never realized. Instead they are now set before us as dwellers in Seir, multiplying and enlarging themselves in evil, the avowed enemies of God. There is the same potential for good or evil in every life. The natural man need not remain in that state. God’s gift of eternal life is offered to every man. The same potentials lie also in the believer: good will be produced as he yields himself to the impulses of the new nature; evil, as he yields to the impulses of the old.
Two things are peculiar to the record of Aholibamah’s sons. First, they are not mentioned in connection with the land of Seir until after the record of the birth of the sons of their two half-brothers Eliphaz and Reuel. And second, there is no mention of any children of these three sons, a fact which would indicate that they died childless, or that there is deliberate omission of the names of their children. Whichever explanation is correct, the absence of any children speaks symbolically of the cutting off of their line. Their lives were not perpetuated. This is the more significant when we note that according to verses two and three Aholibamah was Esau’s second wife, but here, where they are all dwellers in Seir, she is mentioned as being in third place, the number of resurrection. The very one whose line we should therefore, have expected to be continued is the one that is, symbolically at least, cut off. The flesh has no better expectation than the resurrection of death where it will be cut off for ever.
It should be noted that this son Korah is not the same as the Korah mentioned in verse sixteen, where the one referred to is Esau’s grandson through his son Eliphaz.
36:15. “These were the dukes of the sons of Esau: the sons of Eliphaz the firstborn son of Esau: duke Teman, duke Omar, duke Zepho, duke Kenaz,”
36:16. “Duke Korah, duke Gatam, and duke Amalek: these are the dukes that came of Eliphaz in the land of Edom; these were the sons of Adah.”
The word that is translated “duke” means “leader: head of a thousand,” and designates nothing more than a petty chieftain.
We have already noted in our study of verses eleven and twelve that by seeming deliberate omission, the number of the sons of Eliphaz has been stamped with the evil significance of the number six, but in recording the rulers who came from Eliphaz the number is seven. In the former list we are presented with the character of the flesh: it is the epitome of all the evil, but also weakness, associated with the number six; but here we are being shown its power to work evil in the life of the man who submits to its dominion, and the number accordingly is seven, the number of completeness. What the flesh is in “Canaan” (the God-appointed dwelling place for the believer) is shown in the number six: it is weak. It is a different story, however, when the believer goes out of “Canaan” to dwell in “Seir” (the domain of sin): there the flesh has all the power associated with the number seven.
Though these dukes were the sons of Eliphaz by his concubine, and by an unnamed wife or wives, they are counted as being the sons of Adah who was also known as Bashemath. In this God would teach us the power of the flesh working under the guise of religion and false worship.
36:17. “And these are the sons of Reuel Esau’s son; duke Nahath, duke Zerah, duke Shammah, duke Mizzah: these are the dukes that came of Reuel in the land of Edom; these are the sons of Bashemath Esau’s wife.”
What was true of the dukes of Eliphaz is true also of the dukes of his brother Reuel: they were born “in the land of Edom.” The flesh can’t multiply in “Canaan” the domain of the spirit; for multiplication it must leave “Canaan” and go to “Seir” the domain of sin.
Again, as in the case of Eliphaz, these sons born to Reuel by an unnamed wife or wives, are counted as the sons of Esau’s wife Bashemath, known also as Mahalath. This Bashemath was a different woman from the Bashemath who was the mother of Eliphaz, and who was known also as Adah. The meaning of the name is the same in both cases, and the meaning of this woman’s other name, Mahalath, has been examined in Ge 28:9. It means making sick: sickness: appeasing, and in that earlier study we took her to represent a mimicry of true spiritual life. That meaning, taken in conjunction with the meaning of her other name, Bashemath, which seems to represent false worship, marks these sons of Reuel as being representative of that activity of the flesh which operates under the disguise of false worship and a mere empty profession of faith in Christ.
36:18. “And these are the sons of Aholibamah Esau’s wife; duke Jeush, duke Jaalam, duke Korah: these were the dukes that came of Aholibamah the daughter of Anah, Esau’s wife.”
What is true of the other dukes is true also of these: verse five announces their birth, and declares their character, but verse eighteen indicates their power, and that power is the power of the flesh.
The dukes that came of Reuel were four, reminding us that the flesh is an earthly thing inseparably linked with the testing of God’s people. Those that came of Aholibamah were three, and in this we see the truth that while the spirit is associated with the resurrection of life, the flesh can anticipate only the resurrection of death, when it will be destroyed.
36:19. “These are the sons of Esau, who is Edom, and these are their dukes.”
One cannot read this record of Esau and his descendants without being impressed by the bewildering confusion of the names. Esau, for example is also called Edom, and each of his wives has two names. In addition, there is a strange duplication of names. Mahalath and Ada, for example, are both known also as Bashemath. The same duplication is found in the names of the children. There is a Korah who is the son of Aholibamah, and a Korah who is the son of Eliphaz; an Anah who is the daughter of Zibeon, and an Anah who is the son of Seir, and yet another who is the son of Zibeon. There are also two Zibeons, one who is the grandfather of Esau’s wife Aholibamah, and another who is the son of Seir. Whatever other reasons there may be for this confusion (and I am certain there are others) one, at least, suggests itself. This is the genealogy of those who represent the flesh, and the difficulty of clearly tracing the line back to its source simply points to the attempt of the flesh to disguise its origin. But God sweeps away all the disguises, all the confusion. He declares “These are the sons of Esau, who is Edom....” The flesh has its origin in the one who is of the earth: earthy, fallen, ruined Adam.
36:20. “These are the sons of Seir the Horite, who inhabited the land; Lotan, and Shobal, and Zibeon, and Anah,”
36:21. “And Dishon, and Ezer, and Dishan: these are the dukes of the Horites, the children of Seir in the land of Edom.”
The record of Esau’s descendants is interrupted here, and the line of Seir is introduced. This man who had given his name to the land before the time of Esau, is clearly shown to have been the father of the Hori or Horims, and in De 2:12 we read “The Horims also dwelt in Seir beforetime; but the children of Esau succeeded them, when they had destroyed them from before them, and dwelt in their stead.”
It might be well at this point to stop and examine a few things connected with this man Seir, and the land to which he gave his name. Confusion has been caused by the fact that it appears to have been also called Edom long before Esau “who is Edom” ever came into it. In fact, it would appear that Esau did not give his name to it, but that since Edom means red, the name was derived from the fact that red sandstone is a conspicuous feature in many locations. One of the most famous cities of the region is Petra or Sela which was carved out of the cliff face, and which remains to this day, practically unchanged, and is referred to as the “rose-red city half as old as time.” The land was called Edom (red) because of the predominant rock color long before it was possessed by Esau who is Edom (red).
Another and far more significant matter, however, requires to be discussed in connection with the man called Seir, and the land of the same name, but before beginning that discussion we should look at Esau again.
We have noted already that his other name, Edom, is virtually the same as Adam man: red earth. This, however, is not the only point of similarity between Esau and Adam. Adam’s life began in Eden, the most beautiful part of the earth before sin came in. Esau began his life in Canaan, the land “flowing with milk and honey,” the fairest of all lands after sin came in. Adam, by disobedience, forfeited both his right to continue dwelling in Eden, and his right to govern the earth for God. Esau, by despising his birthright, lost both his inheritance in Canaan, and his right to rule over his brethren. Adam went out from Eden to dwell in a world, that by comparison, was desert. Esau went out from Canaan to dwell in Seir, which, by comparison, was desert. Adam became synonymous with the flesh, the enemy of the spirit. Esau became typologically synonymous with evil, and with enmity against God’s people.
But let us go back to the age that preceded that of Adam. The world over which Adam ruled had been the domain of an earlier ruler, Satan (see notes on Ge 1:1-2). The land of Seir or Edom, over which Esau (Edom) ruled had also been the domain of an earlier ruler, Seir the Horite. But we have seen that Seir means shaggy: hairy: goatlike, and that the very meaning of his name links him with sin. There seems to be little doubt that Seir is simply a type of Satan, just as Esau is a type of Adam, who is synonymous with the evil of the flesh. The land of Seir (Edom) therefore, is a type of this world, the original ruler of which was Satan.
Returning now to our study of verses twenty and twenty-one: Seir, type of Satan, is described also as “the Horite,” which means my cave: cave-ite: my whiteness: my noble, and the idea of evil continues to be emphasized, for in Scripture a cave is very frequently associated with death and burial. It is generally believed, in fact, that these Horites were cave-dwellers, so that there is a particular aptness in the relationship between their actual state and what they represent spiritually. Since the whole context here is evil, we must take the two seeming good meanings my whiteness: my noble as being also evil. The whiteness (righteousness), and the nobility, are according to a standard other than God’s.
He had seven sons, and again, since they represent evil, the seven speaks of the completeness or fullness of evil. Lotan means their covering; Shobal, flowing: shooting forth: waving; Zibeon, versicolor: dyer: hyena; Anah, afflicted: answered; Dishon, a thresher; Ezer, treasure; Dishan, their threshing: their treading.
The significance of Zibeon and Anah has already been considered in our study of verse two, and though the Anah in that verse is a woman, while this Anah is a man, the meaning is the same.
Since the general connotation here is evil, the meaning of Lotan’s name their covering, may refer to the covering of self-righteousness which is Satan’s substitute for the only covering acceptable to God: the righteousness of Christ which clothes the believing sinner.
Shobal flowing: shooting forth: waving, may speak of the earthly abundance that is Satan’s poor substitute for the more abundant life found only in Christ.
Two thoughts connect themselves with the meaning of Dishon a thresher. One has to do with the process by which grain is separated from the husk, a process that is used symbolically of “beating out” (studying) the “wheat” of the Word. The other refers to the figurative language used to describe the infliction of punishment by God, for example, Hab 3:12 “... thou (God) didst thresh the heathen in anger.” In the present evil context there may be a reminder that in the proclamations of the great false church (Satan’s counterfeit of the true Church) there may be what seems to be the result of “threshing” the Word, but which is in reality his corruption of that Word. And connected with threshing as a figurative description of affliction, is the reminder that Satan has always been the evil “thresher” of God’s people.
In Ezer treasure we have the warning that Satan’s offer of earthly treasure is the means by which he has induced multitudes to forfeit eternal treasure.
Dishan their threshing: their treading, is almost identical with Dishon, and the spiritual significance would appear to be also the same, except that in Dishon the emphasis is upon the one who does the threshing, Satan; while in Dishan the emphasis is upon the result - God’s people are afflicted and trodden down.
”These are the dukes (princes) of the Horites my cave: cave-ite: my whiteness: my noble. There can be little doubt that these Horite princes are but types of those evil spiritual princes of Satan who are continually employed in the attempt to destroy men whom God would save. The Bible assures us that there are princes, both good and evil, among the spirit creatures, for in Dan 10:13 we read the words of the mighty angel sent by God to Daniel, “But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me....” Commentators are agreed that “the prince of ... Persia” mentioned here is not the human, but the evil spiritual ruler appointed by Satan to rule over the kingdom of Persia. They may seek to disguise themselves as being righteous (my whiteness) and noble (my noble), but God would remind us that they are creatures of death (my cave; cave-ites).
There were seven of these Horite dukes or princes, and the number points to the fact that they represent the evil spiritual forces which are Satan’s counterparts of the seven-fold fullness of the Holy Spirit. “... and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God” (Re 4:5). (Incidentally, there is only one Holy Spirit. The reference to the “seven Spirits of God” is to the completeness of the Spirit’s power).
Dukes they might be, but they were “the children of Seir,” the shaggy, hairy, goat-like epitome of evil, and as was the father so were the children: they also represent evil.
“... in the land of Edom.” We have seen that the land of Edom or Seir is a type of this world. It is here where men dwell that the evil forces of Satan also dwell and operate.
36:22. “And the children of Lotan were Hori and Hemam; and Lotan’s sister was Timna.”
Since we have already examined the meanings of Lotan and Hori, it is necessary only to look at Hemam and Timna. Heman means crushed: crusher. At first glance these meanings would appear to be contradictory. How can one be crushed, and at the same time be himself a crusher? The truth concerning all the evil spirits is that they are indeed “crushed” by God, and can function as Satan’s “crushers” only by God’s permissive will. Satan, their prince, has been “crushed” at Calvary, and operates today only by God’s permission.
In verse twelve we have looked at Timna, the concubine of Esau’s son Eliphaz, and though this woman in verse twenty-two seems to be a different person, the meaning of the name remains the same. It means thou wilt withhold. Since Seir and his whole line are clearly representative of evil, this daughter must also represent evil. The spiritual lesson here is less obvious than in some of the others, but certainly one thought that presents itself in connection with withholding is that while God desires to bestow His gift of eternal life, the whole activity of Satan centers around his desire to withhold that gift from men. One means by which he accomplishes this end is by inducing a submissive spirit that will neither resist his activity nor question his false doctrine. Since a woman in Scripture represents that spirit of submission (either to God or Satan), this Timna appears to represent that submission which is to Satan rather than to God.
36:23. “And the children of Shobal were these: Alvan, and Manahath, and Ebal, Shepho, and Onam.”
The first child produced by Shobal flowing: shooting forth: waving was Alvan, meaning their ascent: iniquitous one. While the first meaning, in a different context, might have a good connotation, there can be no doubt that in the present context, and in conjunction with the second meaning, this Alvan represents evil. “Their ascent” seems to point to that proud aspiration which led Lucifer to seek the place that belongs only to God, and which leads the children of disobedience to reject the claims of that same God. That proud “ascent” by which man sets himself above the need of God’s salvation is an “iniquitous one,” having its source in the one who is himself the personification of iniquity.
The second child of Shobal was Manahath resting place. As Satan himself is the antithesis of God, so has he also an evil converse for everything good, though he will seek to disguise that evil as good. In the Lord Jesus Christ sinners find true rest as they accept His invitation, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). Satan’s substitute for rest, however, is that deadly lethargy described in Pr 24:33-34 “Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: so shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.” The “resting place” represented by Manahath is that deadly complacency induced by Satan, from which countless multitudes awake, too late, in hell.
The third child is Ebal meaning heaps of nothing: heaps of confusion, and in him we are taught the truth that while Satan will lead men to “heap (earthly) treasure together” (Jas 5:3), God warns against this deadly folly, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt ... but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven....” (Mt 6:19-20). He who heeds Satan’s lie will discover, too late, that what seemed to be treasure when viewed only in the dim light of earth, is after all only “heaps of nothing: heaps of confusion.”
Shepho is the fourth child of Shobal, and his name means his bareness: his prominence. Since four is the number of testing, the lesson of Shepho may be that the judgment or testing at the great white throne will reveal the “bareness” of the man who was beguiled by Satan into believing that the garment of self-righteousness, woven out of good works, was sufficient for the eye of God. The church in Laodicea was warned, “I counsel thee to buy of Me ... white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear....” (Re 3:18).
The second meaning of his name his prominence conveys the warning that the man who makes himself an heir of judgment because he would not make himself an heir of life, will find no refuge in obscurity. Men will be judged, not in mass, but as individuals, and prominence will attend that judgment, for each man’s thoughts, words and deeds will be exposed. The Judge is He Who discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart, and in the day of judgment He will lay bare the secrets of each man’s life.
Onam, the fifth child, means their vigor (masculine): their iniquity. He represents the iniquitous activity of evil. In him God would warn us that this is the character of every activity of Satan. The Shepherd of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps as He watches over His own, and Satan likewise, neither slumbers nor sleeps as he watches for an opportunity to ravish God’s sheep. Nor does his evil genius know weariness in shepherding his dupes down the broad and crowded way that ends in hell.
36:24. “And these are the children of Zibeon; both Ajah, and Anah: this was that Anah that found the mules in the wilderness, as he fed the asses of Zibeon his father.”
The meaning of Zibeon’s name has been considered in our study of verse two, and though this Zibeon seems to be a different individual, the meaning remains the same and has the same spiritual significance.
There is undoubtedly a reason for its being emphasized that Zibeon was the father of both Ajah and Anah, but I am unable to determine what that reason may be.
Ajah means falcon: kite. Both of these are unclean birds, and if further evidence were needed that Ajah represents evil we have only to remember, that apart from the turtle dove and pigeon, fowls have an evil connotation throughout Scripture. For example, in Mt 13:3,19 the fowls are declared by the Lord to represent Satan or his demon servants. In Ajah therefore, we are reminded that the air is the realm inhabited by those evil spirits who serve the prince of darkness.
Anah means afflicted: answered, and we have already encountered this name in verse two where it is the name of a woman; and though here in verse twenty-four it is the name of a man, the meaning remains the same. To distinguish him from others of the same name he is described as “that Anah that found the mules in the wilderness, as he fed the asses of Zibeon his father.”
In our study of verse two we noted that Zibeon represents a deceiver feeding on the impure lies of Satan, and attempting to induce others to do the same.
The meaning is the same in relation to this other Zibeon also. His son Anah therefore, like the daughter of the other Zibeon, represents the affliction that will be the ultimate reward of such deceit.
With regard to this Anah’s finding mules in the wilderness, some manuscripts contain the word “springs” instead of “mules,” and the Amplified Old Testament rendering of this portion is “... who found the hot springs in the wilderness....”; while, according to Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown it is “water springs.” Springs of water (hot or cold) would appear to be correct, for in a land where water was scarce, the finding of a spring would bring the finder distinction, whereas the finding of a few mules would be a matter of relatively little importance. If the springs were of cold fresh water then I cannot understand the spiritual lesson here; but if the A.O.T. rendering “hot springs” is correct then I do see a clear spiritual lesson. The value of any spring in that region lay in its ability to supply water to quench the thirst of men and animals. A hot spring therefore, was a worthless thing. The spiritual lesson, however, lies in what water represents. Fresh cold drinking water is a type of the Word in its ability to refresh and cleanse, but water from a hot spring seems to represent the Word under the influence of the heat of mere human emotion, being rendered thereby worthless, unfit to drink. It is no small part of Satan’s work to bring the influence of mere emotion to bear on the Word, for by that influence it is robbed of its power to quench spiritual thirst. Satan’s “Anahs” are still “finding hot springs” in the “wilderness” which is this world. The “hot springs” are where you find the Word being dispensed according to the interpretation of mere emotion or even intellect apart from the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. And as natural hot springs are useless curiosities, attracting attention simply by reason of their peculiarity, so are their spiritual counterparts - centers to attract and amuse the curious, but lacking the ability to provide the “water” needed by the soul.
It is said also that he made his discovery “as he fed the asses of Zibeon his father.” The ass represents the body as the servant of the old nature, so that his feeding the asses of Zibeon would speak of the work of Satan’s evil vassals in feeding the old nature. In the spiritual realm also the two go together: where you find the “hot springs” you find also the old nature being fed.
36:25. “And these are the children of Anah: Dishon, and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah.”
Just to eliminate some of the confusion concerning the Anahs in this chapter, we should remember that there are three of them. There is the woman in verse two. She was the daughter of a Hivite called Zibeon, and she was the mother of Aholibamah, one of Esau’s wives. The Anah of verse twenty is a man, the son of Seir the Horite; and in verse twenty-four there is another Anah, son of the Zibeon who is the son of Seir the Horite. The Anah we are considering here in verse twenty-five is the son of Seir the Horite. Since we have already considered the meanings of both Anah and his son Dishon, it is necessary only to note that this Dishon is not to be confused with the Dishon mentioned in verse twenty-one. There Dishon is the son of Seir the Horite; here he is the son of Anah, and grandson of Seir the Horite. We have also considered the meaning of Aholibamah, so it remains only to note that she is not to be confused with the woman of the same name in verse two who became Esau’s wife, nor with the man of the same name in verse forty-one.
36:26. “And these are the children of Dishon; Hemdan, and Eshban, and Ithran, and Cheran.”
Since we have already considered the meaning of Dishon we need not repeat it here. The meanings of the names of his children are: Hemdan their desire; Eshban fire of discernment; Ithran their abundance: their excellence; and Cheran as shouting for joy: their lamb: their pasture.
They are the children of one whose name means a thresher, and in spite of the seeming good meanings of their names, we have to remember that this whole line of Seir seems very clearly to be God’s symbolic portrait of the evil that has its source in Satan.
I am unable to determine the spiritual significance of Hemdan and Eshban, but Ithran may perhaps be intended to remind us that what Satan induces men to see as abundance, will be revealed, too late, as abject poverty; what seemed, by earthly standards, to be excellence, will prove to be vileness.
In Cheran we may read the warning that the joyful shouting which is the accompaniment of earthly pleasure will give place eventually to the eternal wailing of despair.
The second meaning of his name their lamb would remind us that there may be an occupation with Christ apart from faith, and eternity will reveal the worthlessness of that occupation.
Pasture is one of the symbols of the Word, the place where Christ’s sheep feed, and in which they find rest. The third meaning of Cheran’s name their pasture would warn that Satan often deceives men into believing that faith is synonymous with the study of Scripture. Eternity will reveal - too late for many - the vast difference.
36:27. “The children of Ezer are these, Bilhan, and Zaavan, and Akan.”
Ezer treasure has been considered already in our study of verse twenty-one, so we will go on to an examination of the meanings of his sons. Bilhan means their decrepitude; Zaavan, their removal: their disquiet; and Akan oppression.
The decrepitude associated with the meaning of Bilhan points to the spiritual decrepitude of those who are deceived into thinking that they possess the vigor of eternal life, when, in fact, they are spiritually dead.
In Zaavan we may learn the lesson that the security offered by Satan will be exposed for the false thing it is. Multitudes of deceived men, lulled by Satan into believing that they had eternal security, will find themselves removed from among the living and consigned to a place where rest is unknown. In the second meaning of his name their disquiet, we have the warning that the false quiet enjoyed on earth by Satan’s dupes, will have to be exchanged for the eternal wailing and endless wandering of the lost in regions of darkness and torment.
Comment on Akan is scarcely needed. The deliverance that Satan seems to offer will prove eventually to be but the most terrible oppression.
36:28. “The children of Dishan are these, Uz, and Aran.”
Since Dishan has been considered in our study of verse twenty-one, we will go on to examine the spiritual significance of Uz and Aran.
Uz means counsel, and in this we are reminded that Satan presents his deadly counsel in opposition to the good counsel of God.
Aran means a wild goat: I shall shout for joy. The domestic goat we have seen to be the animal frequently used as the Sin offering. The wild goat, however, seems to represent sin indulged in wildly and without restraint, while the second meaning of Aran’s name I shall shout for joy, may point to the pleasures of sin which many enjoy, but the enjoyment is only “for a season.” Satan has a path to hell suited to every human inclination. Some choose the path of moral rectitude; others, the path of unrestrained abandonment to the gratification of every lustful desire. The one way, however, leads just as surely to hell as does the other.
36:29. “These are the dukes that came of the Horites, duke Lotan, duke Shobal, duke Zibeon, duke Anah,”
36:30. “Duke Dishon, duke Ezer, duke Dishan: these are the dukes that came of Hori, among their dukes in the land of Seir.”
The presentation of Seir’s sons follows the same pattern as that of Esau’s: first they are presented as sons, and then as dukes, and the spiritual lesson is the same. As sons, they reveal their character: they are of the blood line of Seir. As dukes they disclose their power.
We indicated in our study of verse twenty that Esau is a type of Adam, while Seir is a type of Satan. Adam is associated with sin in the flesh; Satan, with sin in the spirit. In connection with one of the links in the line that represents the flesh we noted in verse eleven that God, by deliberately omitting one of the sons of Eliphaz, put the stamp of weakness (the number six) upon the flesh. In the case of Seir, however, there is no such omission: the number of the dukes is the same as the number of the sons, and that number is seven. The flesh through which Satan works may be weak, but there is no weakness connected with the mighty prince of Darkness. His power is second only to that of God.
God would remind us of the folly of attempting to do battle with Satan in our own strength. It is only in Christ that we are overcomers.
It is emphasized by a two-fold repetition that these are the dukes that came of the Horites or the Hori, and we have seen in our study of verse twenty that death is clearly connected with the meaning of the name Hori. By emphasizing that they are Horites, rather than that they are sons of Seir, God would remind us, that powerful as Satan is, he and all who serve him are doomed to die. His power will come to an end.
While their ancestral line is linked with Hori, their sphere of activity is linked with the land of Seir, the realm of sin. They have no power outside of that realm. The man who would deliver himself from their power must not cross the boundary of that dark realm. The enemy has no power over the man who walks “in the paths of righteousness.”
36:31. “And these are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel.”
We have noted already that Edom represents, not only the flesh, but also man in the flesh, and in 1 Co 15:46 we are reminded that the believer, before becoming a spiritual man through faith in Christ, was a natural man, in the flesh, in Adam. This is the same truth being declared symbolically in the statement, “These are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel.” Edom speaks of what we were in Adam, in the flesh; Israel speaks of what we are in Christ, in the spirit. These Edomite kings therefore, represent the evil forces that rule through the flesh, and we should never forget that the flesh in the believer is as much their domain as it is in the unbeliever. Flesh is flesh, as much in the believer as in the unbeliever. The great difference, however, is that the believer has a choice as to whether he will submit to its control. The unbeliever has none. The kings of Edom were simply the vassals of the evil king who rules in every age over the children of disobedience. The kings of Israel as to their office (not as they were in themselves), are types of Christ who rules over the children of obedience, the true Israelites commanded or ruled by God.
36:32. “And Bela the son of Beor reigned in Edom: and the name of his city was Dinhabah.”
Bela means swallowing; Beor, a burning; and Dinhabah, give thou judgment.
Even as he rules, Bela is but the servant of that sinister king of darkness whose rule will cause his subjects to be swallowed up in death. His natural father was Beor a burning, simply a type of the evil spiritual father whose children will be with him in the eternal burnings of the lake of fire.
His city was Dinhabah give thou judgment. This city represents the sphere in which Satan presumes to exercise his evil judgment in opposition to the righteous judgment of God. He himself, however, as the object of that righteous judgment, will be cast for ever into the lake of fire.
36:33. “And Bela died, and Jobab the son of Zerah of Bozrah reigned in his stead.”
Death is imprinted on this section of the record. Seven times in unbroken succession we read of an Edomite king who reigned, and then died. And Death continues to stalk through the earth, as tireless today as when he strode through Edom, carrying away to eternal darkness the sons of disobedience.
Satan never lacks an instrument to do his bidding. Bela may die, but Jobab takes his place, and carries on the evil reign. His name means he will cause crying; Zerah, a rising; Bozrah, a fold. The significance of Jobab’s name needs no comment, and the “rising” connected with the meaning of Zerah, since it certainly can’t have a good connotation, may refer to that rising up of the creature against the Creator, which began with Satan. The significance of the fold is less easy to determine, though certainly it is no small part of Satan’s work to delude men into thinking that they are gathered into a safe fold, when, in fact, they are being gathered together for judgment.
36:34. “And Jobab died, and Husham of the land of Temani reigned in his stead.”
Husham means their haste. Temani, a district in Edom, is generally believed to have been named after the grandson of Esau whose birth is recorded in verse eleven. It means southward.
While Scripture commends the haste that speeds to obey God, it condemns the haste of those who run to do evil.
There can be no question that the haste connected with the meaning of Husham’s name is of the latter class. It is the haste of Satan to accomplish man’s destruction.
The south in Scripture is indicative of the path or the dwelling place of faith, but Canaan is the divinely appointed dwelling place for God’s people, and this district Temani, while it may have the appearance of faith, is in the land of Edom. The faith that believes the truth of God brings life, but the faith that believes the lie of Satan brings death. Christ reigns over those who “dwell” in Him. Satan reigns over those who dwell spiritually in “Temani,” the place that is symbolic of a false faith.
36:35. “And Husham died, and Hadad the son of Bedad, who smote Midian in the field of Moab, reigned in his stead: and the name of his city was Avith.”
Hadad means noisy; Bedad, solitary; Midian, contention: strife; Moab, from father: what father?; and Avith, overturning.
This king demonstrates another characteristic of the realm where Satan is king: in contrast with the peace and quiet of the realm of faith, there is noise and confusion designed to distract the victim from any contemplation of his true state. Amid the noise and confusion of Satan’s kingdom, the still small voice of God is little likely to be heard.
Hadad’s father was Bedad solitary. The noisy confusion of which Hadad is the symbol, comes from a father who is the symbol of that solitary evil spirit whose rebellion has severed him eternally from fellowship with God, and therefore, from fellowship with all others. God desired to have fellowship with man, and to accomplish that desire, gave His only Son to pay the price of man’s redemption. Fellowship is based on love, but Satan knows nothing of love. He is filled with hatred of God, of man, of virtue, and, in fact, of all that God approves. He must therefore, remain for ever solitary.
Bedad is described as the one “who smote Midian in the field of Moab,” and this would seem to be almost a spiritual contradiction, for it is Satan (whom Bedad personifies) who is the author of the contention and strife represented by smitten Midian. And yet there is no contradiction. This evil master of contention and strife is the same one, who in a soon-coming day, will appear to bring peace to this strife-torn world, as he makes an agreement with Israel at the beginning of the Tribulation, which is described by God as an “agreement with hell.” But it will be a false peace, quickly forgotten amid the horrors of the great Tribulation. God reminds Israel, “And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand....” (Isa 28:18). Satan may appear to have smitten “Midian,” but it is at best a temporary smiting, designed to deceive the unwary, and bring them into eternal tribulation.
The “field of Moab” is a picture of this world. Moab means from father: what father?, a meaning which should remind us that this world is similarly unaware of the identity of its spiritual “father.” He is Satan.
The city which was the center of Hadad’s administration was Avith, meaning overturning. This points to yet another characteristic of Satan’s rule. He is continually “overturning” the very men who are his earthly instruments. As each one serves Satan’s purpose he is upheld until he is no longer useful, then he is “overturned,” cast aside, like Judas, to make room for another unwitting pawn, who will in turn, be also cast aside to make room for yet another. And as he uses men, so does he also use nations: as the usefulness of one ends, he overturns it to make room for a more suitable replacement.
36:36. “And Hadad died, and Samlah of Masrekah reigned in his stead.”
Samlah means enwrapping; and Masrekah, place of the choice vine. While the whole context of this section speaks of evil, there is a further reason to recognize that Samlah enwrapping represents evil. Lot is the man who represents the carnal believer, and the meaning of his name is almost identical with that of Samlah: it means a wrapping. The wrapping therefore, may speak of that covering which, Satan assures man, will cover him better than the robe of righteousness provided for the believer by the Lord Jesus Christ. Satan’s “wrapping” takes many forms. Morality, philanthropy, religion, good works are only a few of those forms.
Samlah was of Masrekah place of the choice vine. The land of Canaan was the place of the choice vine, for it was there that God had planted Israel, and Israel is God’s “choice vine.” “Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt ... and planted it” (Ps 80:7), “For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant....” (Isa 5:7). Masrekah therefore, speaks of the place where God’s people dwell, and in this we may read the warning that wherever you find a believer, there you will also find an agent of Satan seeking his harm.
36:37. “And Samlah died, and Saul of Rehoboth by the river reigned in his stead.”
Saul means requested and it is perhaps not without significance that the only men in Scripture bearing that name were evil. This first one clearly represents evil. The second one we read of was the Saul who became the first king of Israel, and who is very obviously a type of the Tribulation age beast ruler; and the third is the Saul who was the bitter enemy of the Church until his conversion, after which his name was changed to Paul.
The meaning of his name first appears to yield little in the way of spiritual instruction, until we remember that it was a disobedient Israel that requ- ested a king, and were given Saul. And again it was the same disobedient nation that chose Caesar instead of Christ, “Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar” (Jn 19:15). As it was by a matter of their own choice that Israel “requested” both Saul and Caesar to be their kings, so is it with men in regard to their spiritual king: men are under Satan’s dominion by choice. Satan rules only where Christ is rejected.
Saul was from “Rehoboth by the river,” and it is unclear which river is meant here, though it is very likely that it was the small stream Zered flowing into the Dead Sea at the south-eastern end. His being from Rehoboth by the river therefore, would teach us that as that river ended in the Dead Sea, so will the path of the unbeliever end also in death.
Rehoboth means broad places, and speaks of that imagined liberty of false religion that permits man to choose his own way to heaven, and denies any necessity to trust in the finished work of Christ.
36:38. “And Saul died, and Baal-hanan the son of Achbor reigned in his stead.”
Baal-hanan means Baal is gracious: Lord of grace, and Achbor means a mouse. The previous king we have seen to be connected symbolically with the broad places which speak of the liberty offered by false religion, a liberty that allows man, not only to choose his own way to heaven, but which allows him also to live in sin. Man, however, has a conscience, and that conscience troubles him when he does choose to live in sin, but Baal-hanan portrays the Satanic solution for a troubled conscience: Baal is gracious, he is lord of grace. The Bible teaches that God’s attributes exist in equal measure: His love is not exercised at the expense of justice. When He pardons sin it is on a basis of perfect justice. Believers are forgiven, not because God has just decided to sweep their sins under the rug, but because the full punishment for their sins has been borne by their Substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ. But Satan’s lie is that God, above and beyond all else, is a God of love and grace, Who is too loving and gracious to send anyone to hell. Hell is filled with deluded souls who believed that lie. God will forgive no one who doesn’t believe that “the wages of sin is death” (Ro 6:23), and that “the gift of God is eternal life,” bestowed only upon the man who accepts Christ as his personal Savior.
Baal-hanan was the son of Achbor a mouse. In Le 11:29 the mouse is declared to be unclean; in 1 Sa 6:4,5,11,18 it is mentioned as one of the plagues sent by God upon the Philistines because they had taken the ark, and in Isa 66:17 God describes the wicked whom He is going to consume as being those who eat “swine’s flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse.” If there was any question as to Achbor’s being symbolic of evil, that doubt is removed by the evil implied in the meaning of his name. He is a type of Satan himself, unclean, abominable, the object of God’s eternal wrath and judgment. In Baal-hanan is seen the representative of anyone (man or spirit) who is the spiritual child of the unclean master portrayed in Achbor, Satan.
36:39. “And Baal-hanan the son of Achbor died, and Hadar reigned in his stead: and the name of his city was Pau, and his wife’s name was Mehetabel, the daughter of Matred, the daughter of Mezahab.”
Strangely, everything about this eighth king seems to speak of good rather than evil, and the explanation may lie in the very fact that he is the eighth, for eight is the number of a new beginning. The reign of evil in Edom is ended or completed with Baal-hanan the seventh king. A new beginning is introduced with Hadar the eighth.
Edom, we have noted, is a picture, not only of the flesh, but also of this world where Satan is king. His might and power have been depicted in the seven Edomite kings whom we have just been considering. (We should note the interesting comparison between this seven-fold symbolic presentation of Satan, and the presentation of Christ as endued with the seven-fold fullness of the Holy Spirit in Isa 11:2 “the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom ... understanding ... counsel ... might ... knowledge ... fear of the Lord”). Evil reigns, however, only by divine permission, and for God’s appointed time. It will come to an end when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to take possession of the “field” which He redeemed at Calvary out of the hand of the evil usurper. That glorious reign of the Prince of Peace is depicted, it would seem, in the reign of Hadar.
Hadar means honor, and honor is one of the attributes of Christ mentioned in Re 5:12.
Pau is the name of his city, and it means they cried. Believers are likened unto a city, Re 21:9-10, “And there came unto me one of the seven angels ... saying ... I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. And he ... shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.” That city is composed of all those who repented and cried out for mercy. Their cry was answered, and they were placed in that body which is the bride of Christ, and which is depicted as that holy city where God will dwell eternally in the midst of the redeemed.
A further indication that Hadar is symbolic of Christ is that there is said of him what is not said of his predecessors: he had a wife, and we have noted already that the wife represents the expression of spiritual life. But we have noted also that she may be the expression of both true and false spiritual life. There is no question, however, as to the kind of spiritual life portrayed by Mehetable. Her name means God’s best. Since Hadar is a type of Christ, Mehetable, then, is a type of the Church, the bride of Christ. As she reigned with Hadar over Edom, so will we also reign with Christ over this world, which has been for so long, the sphere of Satan’s evil rule.
A further indication of the truth that Mehetabel is symbolic of good is that she occupies the third place (number of resurrection) in the recorded genealogy. We have been resurrected out of spiritual death, and it is in resurrection that we will reign with Christ.
Her mother is Matred, which means causing pursuit: continuing. It is faith in Christ that makes a man the object of Satan’s vicious pursuit, but it is also faith in Christ that guarantees his “continuing” eternally, the happy possessor of eternal life which Satan cannot destroy.
And her grandmother is Mezahab which means waters of gold. There was a river in Eden, and in the new earth there will be “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Re 22:1). Water is the Scriptural symbol of the Word. Those who drink that Word (believe in Christ as Savior) here on earth, will drink also of that pure river in the paradise of God eternally.
But there is gold also connected with the meaning of her name, and gold is the Scriptural symbol of glory. “Gold” is also connected with salvation, as it is written, “Whom He justified, them he also glorified” (Ro 8:30).
Evil may reign in “Edom” for seven generations. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Ps 30:5). Satan’s evil reign is almost ended. Christ promised, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go ... I will come again....” (Jn 14:2). The moment of fulfillment of that promise is very near.
36:40. “And these are the names of the dukes that came of Esau, according to their families, after their places, by their names, duke Timnah, duke Alvah, duke Jetheth,”
36:41. “Duke Aholibamah, duke Elah, duke Pinon,”
36:42. “Duke Kenaz, duke Teman, duke Mibzar,”
36:43. “Duke 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.”
In seven Edomite kings God has shown us the evil spiritual prince who is the power behind the men on the thrones of earth, and now in this final list of “the dukes that came of Esau” He bids us look again at the characteristics of that evil administration as exercised through the men who are Satan’s unwitting puppets.
These seem to be additional later dukes that came of Esau. The fact that we find among them two names (Kenaz and Teman) from the list given in verse fifteen, need mean nothing more than that they are simply ancestral names used by later generations. The meanings, however, remain the same, and that being so, the spiritual significance remains the same. We shall therefore, omit those names which occur in earlier verses, and list the verses where the names are found, so that the reader may easily refer to the relative comments. They are as follows: Timnah (alternative spelling of Timna), vv. 12,22; Aholibamah, vv. 1,5,14,18,25; Kenaz, vv. 11,15; Teman, vv. 11,15,34.
The first name, then, remaining to be examined is Alvah which means iniquity: above is Jah. The first meaning explains itself: iniquity is the product of the flesh. With regard to the second meaning, Jah is a contraction of Jehovah, used in the sense of Victor. Above all is Jehovah Who will judge iniquity.
Jetheth means a tent pin: nail, and one thought at least connects itself with this. It was with a tent pin or nail that Sisera, the enemy of Israel, was slain, “Then Jael Heber’s wife took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer ... and smote the nail into his temples.... So he died” (Jg 4:21). In Jetheth therefore, we may be intended to read the warning that the flesh brings death.
Elah means a terebinth: an oak. The oak is frequently used in Scripture as a type of the cross, which is itself the symbol of God’s judgment upon sin. Whatever other spiritual lessons are to be learned from Elah, one certainly is that it was the flesh that made Calvary necessary, and the man who will not trust in Christ as the One Who bore the sinner’s judgment, must himself suffer the eternal judgment of God in the lake of fire.
In Pinon, meaning distraction, we are reminded that Satan is the master of distraction, continually employed in distracting man from the contemplation of his true spiritual state and his need of a savior.
Mibzar means a fortress, and I regret that I am unable to understand its spiritual significance, unless perhaps, it is to remind us that the flesh is Satan’s “fortress,” and such is the strength of that fortress that none but Christ is capable of conquering it.
Magdiel my preciousness is God, would seem to be completely out of place spiritually among these names which belong to the descendants of Esau, who is so clearly a type of evil. We know of course that it isn’t out of place, for the Holy Spirit is infallible. To avoid unprofitable speculation therefore, on what is unclear to me, I must leave this name without comment.
Iram means their city. The sure hope of the believer is that he will dwell eternally in that holy city which is the abode of God. The vain expectation of Satan’s dupes is that they, too, will dwell eternally in that same city apart from faith in Christ as personal Savior.
The murky chronicle that begins with “Esau, who is Edom,” ends with “he is Esau the father of the Edomites.” Esau or Edom represents the flesh, and of the flesh it is written, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (Jn 3:6), and “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Co 15:50). The Edomite can only produce more Edomites, and as the Edomites were the enemies of God’s earthly people, so is the flesh the enemy of God’s spiritual people.
Satan may employ a thousand disguises to hide his true character, but in this chapter God strips away all the disguises and shows us the enemy as he is, a malignant evil spirit, the archenemy of God and also of man. The revelation is given so that we might the better recognize the enemy, and be on our guard against his wiles.