The Written Account of the Generations of Esau

36:1 to 37:1

Moses edited and compiled eleven familydocuments in the book of Genesis. The major structural word for Genesis is toldot, which means the written account of, or this is what became of these men and their descendants. The noun is often translated generations, histories or descendants. After the section on the written account of the generations of Jacob from 25:19 to 35:29, we have the tenth toldot, the written account of the generations of Esau. The previous toldot told us about the establishment of Jacob, the son of promise, and the nation of Isra’el. Part of what became of Jacob was Esau; therefore, this tenth family document tells us about the dispensing of his non-seed line. Because he was Isaac’s son, God would make him into a great nation, but he was not the son of promise.

It is now clear that the last five toldots have a carefully constructed structure. The non-seed lines of Ishmael and Esau alternate with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph to form the line of blessing.

The toldot of Terah (the Abraham narrative) 11:27 to 25:11

The toldot of Ishmael 25:12-18

The toldot of Isaac (the Jacob narrative) 25:19 to 35:29

The toldot of Esau 36:1 to 37:1

The toldot of Jacob (the Joseph narrative) 37:2 to 50:26

Like his brother, Jacob, Esau grew into a great nation, the Edomites. This is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Rebekah when the twins were born: Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated (25:23). The Edomites lived in Mount Seir, south and east of the Dead Sea, rather than Canaan. Thus, this toldot is the fulfillment of the patriarchal blessing given to Isaac in 25:23 and 27:39-40. It also explains the future relationship between the nations of Isra’el and Edom. Like the two brothers, this relationship was often hostile; yet, there was always a sense of brotherhood just below the surface (Deuteronomy 23:7; Obadiah 10-12).

The role of Esau’s foreign wives has been accented (36:2-5) in order to emphasize that Esav stepped outside of God’s will. His genealogy also includes the detail that his descendants, like those of Ishmael before him, settled outside the Promised Land (see 36:6-8 and compare it to 25:18). Having thus dispensed the non-seed line of Esau, Moses, the human narrator, is now prepared to follow the promises of God through the descendants of Jacob, which he will do in the last major unit of Genesis, the Joseph narrative.543


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