Genesis 36:1–2 – 1 These are the generations of Esau (that is, Edom). 2 Esau took his wives from the Canaanites: Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, Oholibamah the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite,
Genesis 36 is a chapter full of names. In that genealogy, we read of the descendants of Esau, the Edomites. And one might ask why God has chosen to record this chapter for us. Honestly, I’m just not that interested in reading a list of the descendants of a man who does not carry the promise of God or move forward the biblical story line.
But before we turn our noses up on such a chapter and skip it, let’s remember a couple of things at least. Genesis 36 is a record of the faithfulness of God. The Lord keeps all of his promises—all of them. Back in Genesis 17:17-21, God promised Abraham that Ishmael would be a strong man who fathered nations. Then God recorded for us that fulfillment in the genealogy of the sons of Ishmael in Genesis 25:12-ff. Similarly, In Genesis 27:39-40, God promised Esau through Isaac that he would be strong, but not blessed like Jacob. In the genealogy of the Edomites in Genesis 36, we see that God did exactly what he said he would do.
We also learn in Genesis 36 that the Edomites, who could have stayed near Jacob to participate in the blessing of the Lord, moved to live among the Canaanites. There is a clear delineation being made, a clear separation between those who are the people of God and those who are not. God works to show us that the family line that carries the promise of God is preserved and not confused or corrupted in any way.
In this chapter, we see reminders of common grace. Though the Edomites are not the people of God, not willing to worship and follow God, not part of the line of promise, they still are blessed. Sons and daughters are born to this people. They expand and gain land and wealth (cf. Gen. 36:6-8), even discovering lovely things like hot springs in their land (v. 24).
This chapter also shows us where certain enemies of the nation of Israel come from. WE find out that the descendants of Esau are the Edomites, a people who become a thorn in Israel’s flesh. We read in verse 12, “Timna was a concubine of Eliphaz, Esau’s son; she bore Amalek to Eliphaz,” which shows us where the Amalekites come from.
When God made a covenant with Abraham, he promised him relationship with God, a land, and a nation of descendants which would produce kings. Now, as we follow the line of Edom, we see that, though this nation has not chosen to follow the Lord, they have still been blessed with land and possessions, many descendants, and even kings (v.31).
No, 43 verses of names of the descendants of Esau may not always be exciting. But do not let yourself assume that there is no value in it. God is good. God is faithful. God blesses the world with common grace. God fulfills all his promises. And God keeps his people. We see all this hinted at even in a chapter many like to skip in their reading plans.