Reading through the Bible together
To the modern reader Genesis 36 may appear to be wasted space in scripture. Why so much detail about a family line (Esau & the Edomites) that leads nowhere?! Actually this chapter may inform current believers, especially Adventist believers, about appropriate attitudes toward others of God’s children who do not live and believe as we do.
It is true that one day Babylon and her adulterous daughters will be judged and destroyed (Revelation 17 & 18). In the same way Esau’s family line opposed God’s people and ultimately faced judgment and destruction (Isaiah 34:5, and the entire book of Obadiah). But notice God’s attitude to Esau’s family line in the meantime. God promised to Abraham a multitude of nations (Genesis 17:4). Before the birth of Jacob and Esau, God told Rebecca that two nations were in her womb (Genesis 25:23). Later God instructed the Israelites, “You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother.” (Deuteronomy 23:7, ESV). In fact, God told the Israelites during their wilderness wanderings not to contend with the people of Esau, not to expect any of the land God have given to them, and to peacefully purchase food and water from them because they were Israel’s brother (Deuteronomy 2:2-5).
Genesis 36 reminded Israel precisely who their estranged brothers were. Genesis 36 reminds us that we have estranged brothers and sisters who are also the children of God’s care. Genesis 36 calls to mind Jesus’ words, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold.” (John 10:16, ESV)
Director of Outdoor Leadership and Education
Southern Adventist University