We can’t take the Bible seriously and ignore genealogies.
If we’re compressing where The Story of Redemption begins down to only 50 chapters, a chapter like this matters. I’m guessing the writer didn’t sit down and think, “What’s the best way to bore to tears post-modern readers 3,500 years from now? I know! Genealogy!” There’s a strategic reason for this right here.
A couple of our guiding questions in Genesis are How did we get here? and How did they get here? The Genesis story continues all the way through Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These are the “Books of Moses,” the Jewish Torah. We are meant to read them as a coherent whole. Genesis is a story of origins not just for the nation of Israel, but also of many of the characters (i.e., nations) Israel encounters in her early history.
So here in this chapter the “they” is the nation of Edom, who plays a significant role in the story of Israel in the wilderness, particularly Numbers 20. And where do these antagonists come from?
Esau. The son of Isaac. The brother of Jacob/Israel.
It makes me wonder if the message here is that, if you go back far enough, your enemy turns out to be your brother. And maybe when we come to that realization, it’s much more difficult to hate your enemy.
And here in chapter 36 we hear about chiefs and kings—kings even before Israel has kings. It’s a passage that to me reverberates in stories like Game of Thrones or Wheel of Time or even Tolkien’s Silmarillion. This story of God is so epic, here we tell you about characters we don’t have time and space to elaborate on. Just know that they’re there.
What about you? What do you see?