Genesis (Part 123)

Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.

Genesis 28:6-9

Now Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Paddan-aram to take a wife from there, and that as he blessed him he directed him, “You must not take a wife from the Canaanite women,” and that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and gone to Paddan-aram. So when Esau saw that the Canaanite women did not please Isaac his father, Esau went to Ishmael and took as his wife, besides the wives he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebaioth.


It’s interesting here that we see Esau – belatedly – trying to please his parents.

From Ellicott’s Bible Commentary at verse 6:

(6) When Esau.—The solemn transfer of the birthright to Jacob, and Isaac’s complete assent thereto, must have been the cause of no little grief to Esau, and evidently it made him feel that he had greatly contributed to this result by his own illegitimate marriages. When, then, he sees Jacob sent away to obtain a wife, in accordance with the rule established by Abraham, he determines also to conform to it, and marries a daughter of Ishmael. She is called Bashe-math in chap 36:3, and described in both places as “the sister of Nebajoth,” in order to show that as Nebajoth “the firstborn” (Genesis 25:13) was undoubtedly the son of Ishmael by his first wife, “whom Hagar took for him out of the land of Egypt” (Genesis 21:21), so also Mahalath shared in this precedence, and was not the daughter of any of Ishmael’s subsequent wives, or of a concubine.

And that Jacob obeyed his father and his mother, and was gone to Padanaram;

And Esau seeing that the daughters of Canaan pleased not Isaac his father;

Then went Esau unto Ishmael, and took unto the wives which he had Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife.

From The Pulpit Commentaries:

When (literally, and) Esau saw that Issue had blessed Jacob, and sent him away to Padan-aram, to take him a wife from thence; and that as he blessed him he gave him a charge,—literally, in his blessing him (forming a parenthesis), and he commanded him—saying, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan; and that (literally, and) Jacob obeyed his father and his mother, and was gone (or went) to Padan-aram; and Esau seeing that (more correctly, saw that) the daughters of Canaan pleased not (literally, were evil in the eyes of) Isaac his father; then (literally, and) went Esau unto Ishmael (i.e. the family or tribe of Ishmael, aiming in this likely to please his father), and took unto the wives which he had (so that they were neither dead nor divorced) Mahalath (called Bashemath in Genesis 36:3the daughter of Ishmael (and therefore Esau’s half-cousin by the father’s side, Ishmael, who was now dead thirteen years, having been Isaac’s half-brother) Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebajoth,—Ishmael’s firstborn (vide Genesis 25:13)—to be his wife.

It’s difficult to reconcile the text telling us that Isaac and Rebekah could not stand Esau’s wives with his ignorance of that fact which we read here. Was he genuinely ignorant or did he finally realize that their feelings on the matter matter and have repercussions? It’s difficult to say.

We are also not told in the text that Isaac and Rebekah approve of the new wife, either.

We learn in the notes that Mahalath’s brother’s name is provided in order to explain from which of Ishmael’s wives she was born. His wife has an interesting name:

Mahalath = מַחֲלַת Machălath, makh-al-ath’; the same as H4257; sickness; Machalath, the name of an Ishmaelitess and of an Israelitess:—Mahalath.; מַחֲלַת machălath, makh-al-ath’; from H2470; sickness; ‘Machalath’, probably the title (initial word) of a popular song:—Mahalath.

Mahalath = “stringed instrument”

More in Esau’s wives from Wiki:

Mahalath was, according to the Bible, the third wife of Esau, daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth. Esau took Mahalath from the house of Ishmael to be his wife, after seeing that Canaanite wives (as was the case of his first two wives, Basemath and Judith) displeased his father, Isaac (Genesis 28:6–9).

Esau sought this union with a non-Canaanite, in an effort to reconcile his relationship with his parents,[1][2] namely with his father Isaac whose blessing he sought (Genesis 28:6–9). However, there is no record of his parents’ approval for the union of Esau and Mahalath. She bore a son, Reuel, to Esau. (Genesis 36:4)

In Genesis 36:2,3, on the other hand, Esau’s three wives are differently named; his family is mentioned as composed of two Canaanite wives, Adah, the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Aholibamah, and a third: Bashemath, Ishmael’s daughter. Some scholars equate the three wives mentioned in Genesis 26 and 28 with those mentioned in Genesis 36, in the following way:[3]

* Basemath (Genesis 26:34–35) = Adah (Genesis 36:2,3), the daughter of Elon the Hittite;

* Judith (Genesis 26:34–35) = Aholibamah (Genesis 36:2,3), also a Canaanite;

* Mahalath (Genesis 26:34–35) = Bashemath (Genesis 36:2,3), Esau’s cousin and third wife, daughter of Ishmael