When you see the phrase, “The Crown”, what do you think of? I think about royalty; kings and queens, etc., especially British royalty. There is a TV show in its last season called “The Crown” which follows the life of Queen Elizabeth II who just passed away in 2022. Queen Elizabeth II’s great-great-grandmother was Queen Victoria, who has been called the “Grandmother of Europe.” (picture) Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, who were first cousins, looked to consolidate royal power through marriage. They had nine children, each of whom married important European royal families. Queen Victoria’s grandchildren served as (or married) the kings or emperors of most of Europe. There was King George V of the United Kingdom, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, King Haakon VII of Norway, Ferdinand I of Romania, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, King Constantine I of Greece, Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden, and King Alfonso XIII of Spain. When World War I broke out Wilhelm II of Germany was at war with his cousin George V of the United Kingdom and cousins-in-law Nicholas II of Russia and Ferdinand I of Romania. Several of Victoria’s issue remain on European thrones today. King Harald V of Norway, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden and King Felipe VI of Spain all descend from Victoria and Albert.
In our scripture today we are going to investigate another royal family, the royal family of Esau. For the past several weeks we have camped out on the idea that God cares and provides for all people even non-covenant peoples. We have also seen comparisons between the descendants of Esau and Jacob. Esau has had children and grandchildren who have become chief of clans and tribes. He and his descendants married into the family of Seir the Horite who lived in the hill country of Seir. Eventually Esau and his family migrated there and the nation of Edom was established. Today, we will see that Esau’s descendants have now become kings of Edom. They are ruling as chiefs and kings in their own land long before the nation of Israel ever comes into being. Esau and his descendants had it relatively easy, increasing in number and absorbing the land and people of Seir. In comparison, Jacob and his family will find themselves in Egypt due to famine and then live there in slavery for 400 years. Finally, as God commands Moses to lead them out of Egypt into the Promised Land they will wander in the wilderness for another 80 years before finally conquering their own land. It will take them a long time to become the monarchy that Edom has already established.
As we think about the hardships that the Israelites, God’s chosen people, went through compared to their cousins and as we think about the hardships that we, as Christians, seem to go through compared to those in the world, we see that success, power and prestige seems to come easy to those living by the world’s standards. But the Israelites, God’s chosen people lived by a higher standard, God’s standard. God tested and tried the Israelites but the Edomites, the non-covenant side of the family of Abraham, don’t seem to be. And we might ask ourselves why? I think the answer lies in what God’s plan and purpose was for the Israelite people. They were to be a holy, set apart people, in the world, in order to be ambassadors of God to their neighbors. They were blessed by God to be a blessing to others. They were to usher in the coming Messiah to the world and spread his gospel. For them to fulfill this plan and purpose they needed to be tested and refined in the fire of slavery, wandering the wilderness, and exile. Esau and the Edomites did not have such a plan and purpose and did not need to be tested.
As Christians, all the above is appropriate for us as well. We are called to be a holy and set apart people. We are blessed by God to be a blessing in the world. God has a plan and purpose for us to pursue, grow and multiply disciples. And the Bible says that we will be tested and tried in God’s refining fire as well. All the Israelites testing, trials and tribulations, and ours as well, are so we will bear much fruit and when that fruit is realized and seen by the world it will be for the glory of God. Which brings us to the big idea this morning that God tests his people, for the bearing of much fruit, to the glory of God. As we prepare to open God’s Word this morning, let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, we ask your Holy Spirit to come down in this place and in your people. We pray for open hearts and open minds as we study your Word. Use your holy scripture to teach us, reprove us, correct us and train us in righteousness so that we may be complete and equipped for every good work. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
This morning we are wrapping up Genesis chapter 36, the genealogy of Esau. We will be looking at verses 31-43. There will be three points this morning. The first point is the Introduction found in verse 31. Follow along as I read. This is what God’s Word says: “These were the kings who reigned in Edom before any Israelite king reigned:”
Before we see the lists of kings, they are introduced to us with this caveat: “These were the kings who reigned in Edom before any Israelite king reigned.” Again, Esau/Edom is compared to Jacob/Israel. Before Saul became King of Israel there were already eight generations of kings in Edom. In Numbers 20:14, we see these words, “Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom.” This refers to when the Israelites, being led by Moses in the wilderness, were getting ready to pass through the Transjordan and enter the Promised Land. Moses sent messengers to ask the king of Edom to let them pass by unharmed. He promised they would stay on the King’s Highway and pay for any water used by them or their livestock. The king of Edom refused and even threatened to attack them with the sword. Later, King David would conquer the Edomites and rule over them for a time. These events fulfilled Isaac’s blessing on Esau found in Genesis 27:40, “You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother.” Numbers 20:14 confirms that Edomite kings were already ruling before the Israelites entered the Promised Land.
Something we will notice in the king list that follows is that it is evidence of an elective kingship instead of a dynastic one. This means that the succession of kings was not based on heredity, like we see in the United Kingdom. The eight kings will succeed each other in an orderly fashion but no king is a son of the previous one. Also, the place of origin or the capital city is different for each king. This may be the only evidence of a non-dynastic monarchy in the ancient Near East, except for the election of King Saul. When Saul was made king of Israel, there was no provision made for Saul’s sons to take over the throne after him like there was for King David.
Last week, Pastor Stuart made the point that God provides for all people even people outside the Abrahamic covenant. Esau descendants may have been outside the covenant, but they weren’t outside the story of God’s work in the world. This point will be reaffirmed by the list of Edomite kings as they represent the first stage of the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham in Genesis 17:16. God speaking to Abraham about Sarah says, “I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” The Edomite kings were a direct fulfillment of the promise to Abraham. Lastly, in 1 Samuel 8:5, when the Israelites wanted a king “like other nations”, it is possible that the Edomites were one of the nations they had in mind.
Our second point is Succession found in verses 32-39. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “Bela son of Beor became king of Edom. His city was named Dinhabah. When Bela died, Yobab son of Zerah from Bozrah succeeded him as king. When Yobab died, Husham from the land of the Temanites succeeded him as king. When Husham died, Hadad son of Bedad, who defeated Midian in the country of Moab, succeeded him as king. His city was named Avith. When Hadad died, Samlah from Masrekah succeeded him as king. When Samlah died, Shaul from Rehoboth on the river succeeded him as king. When Shaul died, Baal-Hanan son of Akbor succeeded him as king. When Baal-Hanan son of Akbor died, Hadad succeeded him as king. His city was named Pau, and his wife’s name was Mehetabel daughter of Matred, the daughter of Me-Zahab.
We see a recurring formula here: X died and Y succeeds him as king and his city was named Z. As I said earlier, no son ever succeeded their father as king. We also see that the capital city changes with each king. They ruled out of the city where they lived, as King Saul did. The first king was Bela, son of “Beor.” Bela means “eloquent.” In Numbers 22:5, we also see that Balaam, a wicked prophet, is the “son of Beor.” Bela’s capital city is “Dinhabah” which is an unknown. When Bela died, Yobab, son of Zerah from Bozrah became king. The name Yobab is also seen in Genesis 10:29 as he is identified as the third great grandson of Shem. The resemblance of names goes to show the fact that the Israelites and the Edomites were related. We have seen the name Zerah earlier as the grandson of Esau and Bosemath. Bozrah is one of the Edomite towns most often referred to in the Bible. We see it named in Isaiah 34:6 and Amos 1:12 where those prophets prophesied about God’s judgment on the nations who against Israel.
The third king was Husham which means “broadnosed” in Arabic. He was from the land of the Temanites. A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that one of the friends of Job was Eliphaz the Temanite. The fourth king was Hadad, son of Bedad. His name is associated with the Syrian storm god meaning “thunderer.” With him we have our first antidote; an explanation that Hadad defeated Midian in the area of Moab. This was probably to distinguish this Hadad from the one mentioned in verse 39 as the eighth king. Bedad means “separate/alone” and this one’s capital city was Avith. The fifth king was Samlah, which means “protection” in Arabic. His capital city was Masreqah which is related to the noun “vine” and was probably located in a vine-growing area. The sixth king was Shaul which means “requested” and his capital city was Rehoboth on the River. Rehoboth means “open spaces” and the river could refer to either the Euphrates or the Jordan.
The seventh king was Baal-hanan, son of Akbor. Baal-hanan means “Baal is gracious” and Akbor means “mouse.” Baal-hanan is the only king not ascribed a capital city. The eighth and last king on the list is Hadad and his capital city is Pau. And again we get some explanation: he was the husband of Mehetabel, who was the daughter of Matred, who was the daughter of Me-Zahab. Mehetabel means “El (God) does good”; Matred means “to run continually”; and Me-Zahab means “waters of gold.” It was unusual to name two women in an ancestral line. It may be that the women’s names conveyed a great splendor that meant “continuous running waters of gold.”
Our third point is Settlements found in verses 40-43. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “These were the chiefs descended from Esau, by name, according to their clans and regions: Timna, Alvah, Jetheth, Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon, Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, Magdiel and Iram. These were the chiefs of Edom, according to their settlements in the land they occupied. This is the family line of Esau, the father of the Edomites.”
This final list is a list of chiefs descended from Esau according to their clans and regions. “According to their clans” is the same formula used in the Table of Nations in Genesis 10. Four of the eleven names we have seen before: Timna, the concubine of Eliphaz and sister of Lotan, son of Seir. Oholibamah, daughter of Anah, a wife of Esau. And Kenaz and Teman, sons of Eliphaz and chiefs of Edom. The other seven names are new to us: Alva which means “ascend”, Yetheth, Elah which means “terebinth”, Pinon which was a known copper mining and smelting site in Edom, Mibzar which means “fortress”, Magdiel which means “fruit (gift) of El” and Iram.
One of the problems with identifying this list is how to reconcile it with the chiefs of Esau listed in verses 15-19. First, these may be later chiefs of Edom than those mentioned earlier or second the list in verses 15-19 may be genealogically arranged and this list is geographically arranged. This list is referred to as regions and settlements in the land they are occupying. Hamilton says, “The names that follow might refer to the names of the dwellings rather than of the chieftains.” And Wenham says, “It has been suggested that this is a list of the administrative districts of Edom since some of the names are place names.” The word “occupy” here is the same as “held.” It is the same word that we saw when Esau first appeared in Genesis. If you remember, at the twin’s birth, Jacob took “hold” of Esau’s heel. This may be a deliberate play on words to mark the last appearance of Esau in the book of Genesis. The fact that Edom “held” these lands again fulfills the promise to Abraham in Genesis 17:8. They have gained secure possession of the land of Edom just as Israel will have secure possession of theirs. This language indicates that both the Edomites and the Israelites received their land by divine commission from God.
Lastly, the ancestral heritage of the Edomites is reaffirmed reminding us that Esau was their father. Esau’s descendants have become clans, chiefs, kings and districts. They have an established political structure and royalty. There is no doubt that they are flourishing. Esau has now become a dynasty with eight kings in succession and chiefs in eleven districts. Their power and the extent of their monarchy is incredible. Their impact would be felt for centuries after Esau’s death and these cousins of the Israelites would relentlessly and persistently oppose them for a long time to come. Interestingly, when Jesus stood before King Herod at his trial, Jesus was standing in the line of Jacob and Herod was standing in the line of Esau. Herod was an Idumaean, which is the Greek equivalent of an Edomite. This descendant of Esau ridiculed and mocked Jesus, a descendant of Jacob, who was the Son of God.
There is a warning to us in this chapter. We need to be careful in our dealings with others so that we don’t allow a bitter root to grow up and cause trouble in the future as we see in the story of Esau. Hebrews 12:14-17 says, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.” We must make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy because if we don’t, we could be perpetuating conflict not only in our lifetime but in the lifetimes of our descendants far beyond anything we could ever imagine. That brings us to the first next step on the back of your communication card: My next step is to live in peace with everyone and to be holy.
As I conclude today, I want to revisit our big idea: God tests his people, for the bearing of much fruit, to the glory of God. Again, in Hebrews 12:5b-11, we see these words, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
Archaeological digs have been done in Bozrah (King Yobab’s capital city) where they have found effigies in stone and pottery from after the Patriarchal period showing that there were generations of idolatry in that area. This didn’t happen overnight but may have been birthed by Esau as the material outweighed the spiritual in his life. Interestingly, Baldwin says, “Despite the struggle of the prophets in Israel over the same issue excavations have nowhere near unearthed a plethora of idols in the territory of Israel and Judah. Esau’s defection set a precedent, which was later to lead to identification with the idolatrous religion of the local population.” Baldwin goes on to say, “If it had not been for the many forms of divine discipline which culminated in the Exile the story would have been of the same sorry decline among Jacob’s descendants. It was the mercy of God that refused to “give them up” and instead worked to produce a people who were capable of receiving his salvation which is the theme of the rest of the OT.
The story of Jacob was different than the story of Esau in that God tested and disciplined his chosen people, for the bearing of much fruit, to his glory. It is the same for us today, as Christians. We need to endure hardship as discipline and accept God’s perfect discipline in our lives knowing that he does it for our good, in order that we share in his holiness. It will not be pleasant and it will be painful but it will produce a harvest of righteousness and peace if we are willing to be trained by it. And through it all, God will receive the glory. That brings us to the second next step this morning, which is to “Accept God’s testing and discipline in my life, in order to bear much fruit, so that God will receive the glory.” As the ushers come to gather the tithes and offerings and the praise team comes to lead us in our final song, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, thank you for this time to dive deep into your Word. Help us to strive to live in peace with everyone and to be holy so we aren’t leaving conflict in our wake. Help us to accept your testing and discipline, in order to bear the fruit in our lives that is honoring and glorifying to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.