Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.
34 When Esau was forty years old, he took Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite to be his wife, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite, 35 and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.
These two verses are kind of stuck on to the end of this section before we get a narrative transition starting with Chapter 27.
When we heard of Isaac and Esau previously, we read that Isaac favored him due to his hunting acumen and the food he provided. By contrast, Rebekah preferred Jacob. Here though it seems that Esau is making life “bitter” for his mother and father.
From Ellicott’s Bible Commentary re: verse 34:
(34) Esau was forty years old.—He was there fore of exactly the same age as Isaac was when, sixty years before, he married Rebekah. But by thus inter marrying with idolaters Esau violated the great principle laid down by Abraham (Genesis 24:3), forfeited thereby his birthright, and, as such marriages were illegal, is even called a fornicator in Hebrews 12:16. As his conduct was regarded by his parents with “grief of mind”—Heb., bitterness of spirit: that is, with mingled anger and sorrow—Esau partially repented, and took as a third wife a daughter of Ishmael (Genesis 28:9). In the Tôldôth Esau (Genesis 36:2-3) the names are different, and a fourth wife, of the inhabitants of Seir, takes the place of Judith.
Judith.—The names are remarkable, as showing that the Hittites spoke a Semitic tongue. Judith is the feminine form of Judah, and means praised. Beeri can scarcely be the original name of her father, as it means well-finder, but was probably gained by his skill in discovering water. We find it, however, in the genealogy of Hosea (Hosea 1:1). Bashemath or Basmath, the fragrant, was the name also of a daughter of Solomon (1 Kings 4:15); and Elon, oak-grove, was the name of a judge (Judges 12:11).
As this conduct of Esau prepares the mind for his final rejection and loss of the birthright, the place of these two verses would rightly be at the beginning of Genesis 27:0. The Jews arrange them as a separate section.
Esau marries at the ripe age of 40 – while his father Isaac is 100 years old.
Judith = יְהוּדִית Yᵉhûwdîyth, yeh-ho-deeth’; the same as H3066; Jewess; Jehudith, a Canaanitess:—Judith.
Bashemath = בׇּשְׂמַת Bosmath, bos-math’; feminine of H1314 (the second form); fragrance; Bosmath, the name of a wife of Esau, and of a daughter of Solomon:—Bashemath, Basmath.
Elon = אֵילוֹן ʼÊylôwn, ay-lone’; or (shortened) אֵלוֹן ʼÊlôwn ; or אֵילֹן ʼÊylôn ; from H352; oak-grove; Elon, the name of a place in Palestine, and also of one Hittite, two Israelites:—Elon.
Esau has two wives simultaneously and they are both from outside of Abraham’s family. The comment above tells us that Esau’s marriage to idolaters was a problem. However, we have no indication that Esau’s own mother was not an idolater when found by Abraham’s servant prior to her marriage to Isaac. The limitation from Abraham for his servant was that Isaac’s wife not be a Canaanite:
Genesis 24: 3 that I may make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell,
Perhaps the reason Abraham insisted on Isaac having a wife from his homeland is that he knew a woman from there would be more likely to adopt his own religious customs. Perhaps he had another reason. Either way, we are not told whether Isaac imposed a similar restriction for is son. If so, it is not mentioned. Either way, Esau marries Canaanite Hittite women.
The Pulpit Commentaries says the following about verse 35:
Which were a grief of mind (literally, bitterness of spirit) unto Isaac and to Rebekah—possibly because of their personal characters, but chiefly because of their Canaanitish descent, and because in marrying them Esau had not only violated the Divine law which forbade polygamy, but also evinced an utterly irreligious and unspiritual disposition.
The Pulpit Commentaries refers to a divine law against polygamy. However, it is not clear to me where exactly that divine law is stated. We see most of the patriarchs practicing monogamy. However, Abraham himself – at least for a time – has a child by Hagar while Sarah is his wife. After Sarah’s death, Abraham remarries a woman named as Keturah. Genesis 25:6 tells us further that Abraham had concubines.
concubines = פִּילֶגֶשׁ pîylegesh, pee-leh’-ghesh; or פִּלֶגֶשׁ pilegesh; of uncertain derivation; a concubine; also (masculine) a paramour:—concubine, paramour.
Genesis 25: 5 Abraham gave all he had to Isaac. 6 But to the sons of his concubines Abraham gave gifts, and while he was still living he sent them away from his son Isaac, eastward to the east country.
Given the limited information regarding the law on polygamy and marrying idolaters, I am led to believe that the trouble with Esau’s wives was related very specifically to their Canaanite origin and to interpersonal conflict with Isaac and Rebekah.
In any event, it may be the case that this pair of verses ending Chapter 26 plays a significant role in explaining the behavior of the various family members in the next set of verses from Chapter 27.