Why Should We Care About the Lineage of Esau? (Genesis 36:1)

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Genesis 36 officially marks the end of any kind of mention of physical Esau. Sure, he’s referred to as a metaphor in later passages and as the patriarch of the Edomites, but as for Esau himself, his story is over.

He doesn’t leave without a bang, though.

The last time we saw him, he was making up with his brother Jacob and possibly waiting for him to visit him near Seir. The Text doesn’t indicate that meeting ever happened, but it also doesn’t say that Esau was particularly angry about that, so take it for what you will.

What we do know about Esau from Genesis 36 is that he became a really powerful figure in the Pre-Israel times. In several ways, Esau becomes the unrighteous counterweight to Jacob’s righteousness.

Let me explain. Over the last several chapters, we’ve seen Jacob emerge as a man of great wealth with a huge family and a legitimate claim to a large parcel of land (Canaan).

Esau grows in exactly the same way. Genesis 36:1-8 records that Esau also had a large family, lived in the land of Seir, and had so much wealth he couldn’t live peacefully in the same area as Jacob. 

But that’s where the similarities end. As we’ve already seen, Esau married a woman that was not quite what his parents were hoping for. Apparently Esau was okay with that, because Genesis 36 reveals that he has two more wives — both of them Canaanites, as well.

What makes Esau’s story fascinating is that he mirrors Jacob in nearly every single way. The wealth, the family, the land — it all is the mark of someone who has prospered.

But spiritually, he’s as far away from God as humanly possible. When the two brothers met in Genesis 32, Jacob talked about God often. Esau never brought up God’s name even once. This shows the radical departure of these two brothers who would otherwise have nearly everything in common. 

It also shows that the family dynamic that so many homes encounter today. In the same family, you may have several members who are successful in their own right. From the outside looking in, it may seem like they’re all clones of each other.

Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll find that where one is on fire for God, another is apathetic. One is financially motivated, and the other is driven to please God.

The spiritual side is what matters most. While different family members may grow in their own right, the one who “chooses the good part” will be the one who really has it all. Jacob chose God, Esau chose self, and you can see what happened to each.