Friday, July 09, 2010

The Records of the Sons of Esau - Genesis 36:9-19


These then are the records of the generations of Esau the father of the Edomites in the hill country of Seir. . . . These are the sons of Esau (that is, Edom), and these are their chiefs.

The Bible provides us great details in respect to the generations that followed Esau from his five sons. We have left out all the verses with all their names. What matters for us is that here is clear evidence that God cares about each one of us. True it records only male children for in those days the culture was indeed very patriarchal in nature. It is not a statement against women. Women were revered as we have seen time and time again even up to this point in Genesis. In fact, the records provide the names of the male offspring based on who there mother was, even when that mother was a concubine rather than a full spouse.

In verse 15 we are introduced to the ‘chiefs’ or as the King James puts it, the “dukes” of the sons of Esau. It appears that the clan were divided into tribes, whose names were taken from the different sons. The word ‘duke’ here is likely equivalent to the sheiks or emirs of the modern East rather than a reference to high rank and wealth as in the British peerage. There are fourteen of these dukes or chiefs in Esau’s Edomite people. Each likely had command of a certain number of soldiers. You will remember back in Genesis 27:40 that Esau and his people were to live “by the sword”.

Let us note also that what we have here is simply a listing of names of Esau’s sons and grandsons. Their history is not given. The author of the book seems to want to focus on recording only that part of Abraham and Isaac’s history through which the Promise is fulfilled. Those names that would come after these names here are for the most part, at least in Esau’s lineage, lost forever. But, as we will find out, that is not the case for Jacob’s bloodline of the Israelites, those who are rightfully heirs to the Promised Land. There is no reason to think that Esau’s dukes and chiefs did not prosper or become great in number through the generations that came after them. In fact, God allowed Esau to prosper numerically before He made that a reality for Jacob as we found out from our earlier studies. Worldly men do indeed prosper. The problem is that the prosperity does not last forever. Kingdoms fall. But when God decides to bless His own, it lasts longer and leads to full spiritual eternal prosperity.

Titles of ‘human’ honor seem to be more at home outside the spiritual family of God. In the true spiritual family of God, we will see the title of “shepherd” and “shepherd boy” play the prominent role.

So should we as Christians bestow titles on each other? (Honorary degrees come to mind.) There is nothing in scripture to prohibit it as I read it. The problem is not the title; it is whether or not the title owner overestimates his/her worth because of it. True honor comes from God and God alone. In the history of mankind, it is better to be a King or a Priest appointed by God than one appointed by man.

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