IIT UBF - University Bible Fellowship at IIT




The Other Guys

Date: Nov. 4, 2018

Author: Dan Bockenfeld

Genesis 36:1-43

Key Verse: Genesis 36:1

This is the account of the family line of Esau (that is, Edom).

Fall is definitely here. There is a chill in the air, and midterm elections are happening this week. I don’t want to get political, but these midterm elections have the potential to shift the balance of power in our nation and in our state. Even though it is not time to vote for a President, we all know the name of our current President, Donald Trump. We remember the previous President Barak Obama. But let’s go further back in time, who was the first President? Right, George Washington. Who was second? John Adams. Who was ninth? That’s a little harder. Well, it was William Henry Harrison. How about 16thPresident? Abraham Lincoln. How about 23rd? Benjamin Harrison. He was the grandson of the ninth President. See, so many people became the President but we don’t even remember all of them very well. Let’s talk about other elected officials. Who are our current Senators? Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth. What about Representatives? There are 18 of them. Let’s not get into it. All of these people are or were successful in their own time. It is a massive achievement to become President or a Senator or a Representative, but there are those who are famous and then there are the other guys. In today’s passage, we see the other guys. They are not the chosen descendants or great and powerful people whose names ring throughout time. They were very successful, but now, thousands of years later, they are just names in a book, without much context. It is actually one of those passages, where we wonder what are we going to learn from this? So, let’s take a look.

Last week, we saw the end of Jacob’s narrative. He was still very much alive, but the story’s focus would begin to shift from Jacob to his sons, specifically Joseph. But before we get to Joseph, we have this passage, which is mostly a list of names – a list of Esau’s descendants. Now, Esau, if you remember, was Jacob’s twin brother. Esau was the older brother by mere seconds, but he was still the firstborn. Jacob had tricked his brother into giving up his birthright for some red stew, and then he tricked his father into thinking that he was Esau to receive the blessing of the firstborn. Esau was so upset that he wanted to kill is brother, so Jacob fled. Jacob was gone for twenty years, and during that time, Esau’s family grew, and he moved on from the region of Canaan. His rage against Jacob cooled and when he returned, Jacob and Esau were reconciled. Our passage begins, “This is the account of the family line of Esau (that is, Edom).” (1) This first verse is simply the title of the section and mentions Esau by his name and his nickname, Edom, which means “red”. He was called that because his skin tone was red and because of the red stew he sold his birthright for. I find it interesting that his people are known as Edomites and not Esaites. The nickname took greater prominence in history.

The next few verses go into his wives. They say, “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—also Basemath daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth.” (2-3) There are three wives mentioned here. Adah, Oholibamah and Basemath. In an earlier account, Esau’s wives had different names. Now this could be because of a number of reasons. A lot of people had different names and nicknames and the difference could be on account of that. At any rate, two of the three women were Canaanites and the other wife was Ishmael’s daughter. The two Canaanite women were a source of grief for Esau’s parents. Adah was the daughter of Elon the Hittite and Oholibamah was the daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon and great-granddaughter of Seir. Basemath was Ishmael’s daughter. Ishmael was Abraham’s son through Hagar the Egyptian and Nebaioth was Ishmael’s firstborn son. Some of these names become very well-known during their time.

Next, we learn about Esau’s children. “Adah bore Eliphaz to Esau, Basemath bore Reuel, and Oholibamah bore Jeush, Jalam and Korah. These were the sons of Esau, who were born to him in Canaan.” (4-5) Adah gave birth to Eliphaz, which means, “my God is pure gold”. It is a name that we see elsewhere in the Bible, as one of Job’s friends was named Eliphaz, but it wasn’t this Eliphaz. Basemath was the mother of Reuel, which means “friend of God”. Reuel was also a very common name, Moses’ father-in-law was also named Reuel, along with a Gadite and a Benjamite. Oholibamah was the mother to three sons: Jeush, Jalam and Korah. Again, Korah is a name that pops up with other people in the Bible, including the Levite that rebels against Moses in the desert.

After these sons were born, Esau packed his bags and moved away. The passage says, “Esau took his wives and sons and daughters and all the members of his household, as well as his livestock and all his other animals and all the goods he had acquired in Canaan, and moved to a land some distance from his brother Jacob. Their possessions were too great for them to remain together; the land where they were staying could not support them both because of their livestock. So Esau (that is, Edom) settled in the hill country of Seir.” (6-8) Esau took everything he had and moved away from the land of Canaan, where Jacob would stay. Both Esau and Jacob were very wealthy, and like the time of Abraham and Lot, Esau decided to move away from Jacob and move away from the Promised Land. This coincides with the fact that Esau would not be God’s choice to be the heir of the promise. By his own choice, Esau leaves with everything he had, the whole kit and caboodle, and settles in the hill country of Seir.

At this point, the passage, again, gives a list of Esau’s descendants. It gives a list of Esau’s sons and some of his grandsons. “This is the account of the family line of Esau the father of the Edomites in the hill country of Seir.” (9) While he was in Seir, Esau and the Edomites became powerful and would eventually displace the people of Seir. The region’s name would change from Seir to Edom. “These are the names of Esau’s sons: Eliphaz, the son of Esau’s wife Adah, and Reuel, the son of Esau’s wife Basemath. The sons of Eliphaz: Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam and Kenaz. Esau’s son Eliphaz also had a concubine named Timna, who bore him Amalek. These were grandsons of Esau’s wife Adah. The sons of Reuel: Nahath, Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah. These were grandsons of Esau’s wife Basemath.” (10-13) Esau only had one son with Adah and Basemath each, but each of these sons gave Esau many grandsons. Eliphaz, Esau’s oldest became the father of five sons from his wife and another son from a concubine named Timna. Reuel, the son from Basemath, became the father of four sons. Oholibamah bore Esau three sons, but the passage does not give the names of the grandchildren from her.

In the next section of the passage, it talks about chiefs of Edom. This is nearly an identical list from the one right above it, but it serves to show the power and influence of Esau’s descendants. Every one of Esau’s children and grandchildren was powerful and prosperous as to be a chief of a tribe. None of Esau’s descendants were weak or unimportant. Even Amalek, the son borne from a concubine was powerful enough to become the chief and founder of the Amalekites, which would become a nation of its own. The Edomites were strong, so much so, that they were able to displace the Horites of Seir and dominate the region.

As the passage continues, there is a weird shift, almost a sidebar. Most of the passage is a record of Esau’s family, but right in the middle there is an account of the people of Seir. The people the Edomites replace in the region. “These were the sons of Seir the Horite, who were living in the region: Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, Dishon, Ezer and Dishan. These sons of Seir in Edom were Horite chiefs.” (20-21) Seir had seven sons that are listed, and they, too, were chiefs like the children and grandchildren of Esau. Again, this is to show the power of the sons of Seir, but it also shows the power of the Edomites. The Horites in Seir were wealthy and powerful. The account of Adah, the son of Zibeon and grandson of Seir is the only account to give any detail. “This is the Anah who discovered the hot springs in the desert while he was grazing the donkeys of his father Zibeon.” (24) This little blurb about Anah shows a couple of things. He discovered hot springs or water in the desert. When you have animals, water is vital, especially in the desert. So if Adah discovered a source of water in the desert, it would add to his power and influence in the region. He would control a source of prosperity. Also, the verse mentions that Adah as grazing his father’s donkeys. Again, this is a sign of how rich Zibeon and Adah were. Donkeys were great pack animals that were used to carry goods for trade. If Zibeon had a number of donkeys, then he was a rich merchant. It is also interesting because Adah was the father of Oholibamah, one of Easu’s wives. Esau married into this rich and prosperous family, but Esau’s holdings and power would surpass that of his father-in-law Adah.

After the list of Horites, the passage returns to the Edomites and talks about kings. “These were the kings who reigned in Edom before any Israelite king reigned:”. (31) Edom became a prosperous nation before Israel even established itself. Edom had kings before Israel, perhaps even hundreds of years beforehand. This passage lists eight kings of Edom: Bela, Jobab, Husham, Hadad, Samlah, Shaul, Baal-Hanan and another Hadad. Now, if you notice from the passage, these kings don’t seem to be related to one another. There wasn’t a hereditary line of succession nor was there a central capital. These kings operated more like the line of judges in Israel after they took over the land of Canaan. The most powerful in the region took over after one king died. It is interesting that two of the kings were named Hadad, which was the name of Syrian male deity, otherwise known as Baal. Also, one of the kings is named Baal-Hanan, which means “Baal is gracious”. You start to see a pattern in these kings. The Edomites, as a whole, were not worshippers of God. Three of their kings refer to Baal. God wasn’t a priority in Edom, but this is not unexpected. Esau married to Canaanites, who probably worshipped their own gods including Baal. Many times, in the Bible, wives heavily influence their husband’s beliefs. Now, that doesn’t mean that there weren’t believers of God in Edom. Job was probably from the region. He is mentioned as being from Uz which is in Edom and one of his friends Eliphaz was a Temanite, which was an Edomite. Obviously, Job was a worshipper of God.

Edom became a powerful nation who rose to prominence before Israel. They had kings before Israel and prospered well before them. They seem to be very successful from the point of view of the world. The Edomites were wealthy and powerful, but as a whole they did not worship God. It looks like they became prosperous without devotion to God. God’s chosen people would go on to become slaves for hundreds of years, while the people God rejected became a powerful nation. They displaced an entire other nation and became more powerful and influential than them. This looks like it is support for the argument about not needing God. There are a number of people out there that do not think that they need God. Some people think that the Lord is the source of a lot of trouble in this world. Wars are fought because of belief and there is no benefit in religion and God. Some people think that religion and belief are just an excuse to push an agenda and live off of fear. I mean, there are people today who claim to be Christian, who use their supposed belief to push their own fear-driven agenda. There is a lot support for the thought that we don’t need God. It’s not God’s fault. Humanity has done it to themselves because of sin, but that thought is horribly short-sighted. Edom looks prosperous in this passage. Edom looks far more impressive than Israel at this point and for hundreds of years, but to stop there doesn’t show the whole story.

Edom was strong and impressive, but during the rule of King David in Israel, Edom become subject to Israel. What the Lord told Rebekah came to pass, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:23) For all their strength and power, they could not stop David. David was a man after God’s own heart. Now, he wasn’t perfect, but he tried to follow God and corrected his behavior when he realized what he had done. God promised David a lasting kingdom, but Israel and Judah were just shadows of what was to come. However, they conquered Edom and subjugated them, all the way until the fall of Judah. Even then, their prominence had faded from history. Nowadays, there is very little record of the Edomites outside the Bible. The Egyptians lumped the Edomites together with the people of Seir and called them the Shosu. The Edomites eventually get conquered and absorbed during the Babylonian and Persian rules and they become the Idumeans of the New Testament, the most famous of which was King Herod the Great, a man so insecure in his rule that he murdered toddlers and babies.

Edom was a prosperous and powerful nation without God, but now they are just names in a book. They are names without any background. They are names of people that we have no clue who they are. We read this passage with these men with crazy names and wonder what in the world could this message be about. They are names in a book, but they are not names in the Book of Life. It’s true: you can be prosperous without God in this world. You can be famous, rich and powerful without God, but that is as good as it gets. That is all there is and only goes downhill from there. How many people have you heard about got what they wanted in this world? Perhaps it was an athlete who wanted to get the championship. Northsiders, the Cubbies finally won the World Series two years ago, now what? The wait is over and has begun again. People go for victories or records, but none of those things last. They will always get supplanted. Someone might be the greatest of all time, at that time. However, time continues to pass, and you will be supplanted. If all you seek is in this world, then that is all you get and what awaits you after you die is either torment or nothingness, which is still torment.

But, if you seek things that are greater than this world, if you seek God, what you have in this world is as bad as it can get. No matter how good of a life you have in this world, it will be infinitely greater with God in heaven when your name is in the Book of Life. When it is time to rise up, there will be a new heaven and new earth with a new holy city. The Bible says of this city, “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:27) The only way to enter the city is to be in the Book of Life, but we can’t write ourselves in there. It is the Lamb’s book of life. The book belongs to Jesus and he is the one who can put our name there.

The accomplishments of humanity are insignificant compared to what God has done. We’re just kids posturing. My two oldest kids are in school. Ella is seven and in second grade, while Lucas is in kindergarten. They both have homework, but sometimes Ella thinks her homework is hard, but always calls Lucas’ homework easy. Of course it is easy for her, she did those things two years prior. I think her homework is easy. I’ve been to college and have a master’s degree. Her second-grade homework isn’t a big deal if I did it. Our accomplishments are like kindergarten or second-grade homework to the adult God. We’re nothing, but the Bible shows us, “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-30) God loves to take those who know that they are weak to shame the strong. Edom was strong, but because David followed God, he conquered the powerful Edomites. God took the weak Israel to shame the strong Edom.

There was one time where I thought that I didn’t need God. I never grew up knowing God and in college, I thought that I didn’t need him. I actually viewed God as an inhibitor. I thought that God was keeping me from living my full potential. I was plagued with insecurities even though I had a number of perceived strengths. I’m tall, some people say that I am handsome, I’m bright and quick to understand, I was compassionate and kind-hearted, I was a friend to the friendless, but none of that mattered. I felt alone and frustrated. I was never able to turn any of those perceived strengths into anything that mattered, and I blamed God for it. For a worldly standpoint, I had everything, and life should have worked, but it didn’t and the only reason I could think of was that God didn’t want it to. But it wasn’t God who was keeping me from my desires. Not having God was hindering me. It was the lack of God in my life that kept me from growing and being better. I would sit in despair, but I realized how far away from God I was and how much I need him, and it has been over sixteen years since I realized that. Now, my life isn’t just peachy keen since I realized that. I still battle feelings of loneliness, constantly. My soul still feels the burden of the lies that I hear about what it means to be successful. But I know they are lies because I know who my God is. Because of Jesus my name is in his book of life. None of my strengths amount to anything, so that God can amount to everything. I need God. I need Jesus.

In this world, you can get far without God. There are so many people who do great things without relying on God. You can be rich, famous, powerful, and you can be beloved by others all without God. There are so many people who live like that, but that is so short-sighted. You can have so much more. You can live such a greater life. It might not even seem possible, but everything will just fall apart without God. There are things that are greater than what this world can offer. Deep down, we all know that because we don’t find satisfaction. We think that nothing lasts forever, but when we seek God and find him through Jesus, we finally realize that the only thing that lasts forever is found in him who died for us on the cross. When we find Jesus, life is so much better, no matter how crappy it is, because we know that what we experience in this world is nothing compared to the joy and love we find in Jesus.

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