What does Genesis 36:2 mean?
ESV: 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,
NIV: Esau took his wives from the women of Canaan: Adah daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon the Hivite--
NASB: Esau took his wives from the daughters of Canaan: Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah the daughter of Anah, the granddaughter of Zibeon the Hivite;
CSB: Esau took his wives from the Canaanite women: Adah daughter of Elon the Hethite, Oholibamah daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon the Hivite,
NLT: Esau married two young women from Canaan: Adah, the daughter of Elon the Hittite; and Oholibamah, the daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon the Hivite.
KJV: Esau took his wives of the daughters of Canaan; Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite;
NKJV: Esau took his wives from the daughters of Canaan: Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite; Aholibamah the daughter of Anah, the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite;
Verse Commentary:
The record of Esau's generations begins by listing his wives (Genesis 36:3). Unlike his father Isaac and his brother Jacob, Esau took wives from the local Canaanite peoples. Abraham had insisted that Isaac not marry a Canaanite woman and intermingle the covenant people of God with the idol-worshipping local populations (Genesis 24:2–4). If Esau had been given this same instruction from Isaac, he didn't follow it (Genesis 27:46).

The first two wives, listed in this verse, are Adah and Oholibamah. Basemath is listed in the following verse. Oddly, the names of these three and their fathers do not match the wives and fathers given in Genesis 26:34 and 28:9. It is not clear why. Scholars suggest that perhaps Esau had six wives, not necessarily all at the same time, and these three were the most significant. It's also possible the names of his wives were changed at some point (Genesis 17:5; 32:38; 36:8).
Verse Context:
Genesis 36:1–8 gives a summary of what happened to Esau, the twin brother of Jacob. Esau is called Edom, literally meaning "red." This connection comes from his birth (Genesis 25:25) and an incident with his brother (Genesis 25:30). The land where he settles is also named for Esau's appearance; "Seir" literally means "shaggy." The nation of Edom grows after Esau moves away from Jacob's rapidly growing family. Jacob was given the name "Israel" by God. Over time, the "brother" nations of Israelites and Edomites will become bitter enemies. The short prophetic book of Obadiah predicts harsh judgment on Edom for their treatment of Israel (Obadiah 1:1–2).
Chapter Summary:
Genesis 36 describes the generations of Esau, mostly focusing on the genealogy and rulers of the land of Edom. Repeatedly, the chapter emphasizes that Esau is Edom, repeating an association made earlier in Genesis (Genesis 25:25, 30). The Edomite people are his descendants. The regions in the land of Edom are named for his offspring. The chapter diverts briefly to give the genealogy of the Horite people (Genesis 14:6) who occupied the land before it was conquered (Deuteronomy 2:12). Finally, the chapter lists eight kings of Edom, along with the chiefs whose names became associated with the regions their clans occupied.
Chapter Context:
Genesis 35 concludes with the death of Isaac. It marks the end of the story arc which focused on him (Genesis 25:19). Genesis 36 briefly describes the generations of Esau, Jacob's twin brother, listing his sons, grandsons, and the kings of Edom, the nation that came from Esau. This is parallel to how Genesis 25:12–18 relayed the fate of Ishamel, another son who did not carry the line of promise. Genesis 37 begins the generations of Jacob, focusing mostly on the story of Joseph.
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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