Genesis (Part 162)

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

Genesis 36: 15-19

15 These are the chiefs of the sons of Esau. The sons of Eliphaz the firstborn of Esau: the chiefs Teman, Omar, Zepho, Kenaz, 16 Korah, Gatam, and Amalek; these are the chiefs of Eliphaz in the land of Edom; these are the sons of Adah. 17 These are the sons of Reuel, Esau’s son: the chiefs Nahath, Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah; these are the chiefs of Reuel in the land of Edom; these are the sons of Basemath, Esau’s wife. 18 These are the sons of Oholibamah, Esau’s wife: the chiefs Jeush, Jalam, and Korah; these are the chiefs born of Oholibamah the daughter of Anah, Esau’s wife. 19 These are the sons of Esau (that is, Edom), and these are their chiefs.


This section tells us about the “chiefs” or “dukes” of the sons of Esau.

Ellicott’s Bible Commentary explains some of the talking points regarding the translation choice to use the word “dukes” or “chiefs.”

(15) Dukes.—Duke is the Latin word dux, a leader; but the Hebrew word alluph signifies a tribal prince, It is derived from eleph, a thousand, used in much the same way as the word hundred with us for a division of the country. Probably it was one large enough to have in it a thousand grown men, whereas a hundred in Saxon times was a district in which there were a hundred homesteads. For this use of it, see Micah 5:2Each alluph, therefore, would be the prince of one of these districts, assigned to him as the possession of himself and his seed.

The word in question, from Strong’s Dictionary, is this:

אַלּוּף ʼallûwph, al-loof’; or (shortened) אַלֻּף ʼalluph; from H502; familiar; a friend, also gentle; hence, a bullock (as being tame; applied, although masculine, to a cow); and so, a chieftain (as notable, like neat cattle):—captain, duke, (chief) friend, governor, guide, ox.

The Pulpit Commentaries adds the following on this topic, as well as going on to address verse 16:

Genesis 36:15Genesis 36:16

These were dukes of the sons of Esau. The אַלּוּפים, derived probably from אָלַף, to be familiar, whence to join together, or associate, were Edomite and Horite phylarchs or tribe-leaders, ἡγεμόνες, (LXX.), chieftains of a thousand men (Gerlach). At a later period the term came to be applied to the Jewish chiefs or governors of the Restoration (Zechariah 9:7Zechariah 12:5). The sons of Eliphaz the firstborn son of Esau; duke Teman, duke Omar, duke Zepho, duke Kemaz (vide on Genesis 36:11), duke Korah,—inserted here probably by clerical error from Genesis 36:18 (Kennicott, Tuch, Knobel, Delitzsch, Keil, Murphy, Quarry), and accordingly omitted in the Samaritan Pentateuch and Version, though still retained by Onkelos and the LXX; and on the hypothesis of its genuineness explained by some as the name of a nephew of Eliphaz (Junius); of a son by another mother (Ainsworth); of a son of Korah (Genesis 36:18) by the widow of Timua (1 Chronicles 1:36), who, having died without issue, left his wife to his brother (Michaelis); of some descendant of Eliphaz by intermarriage who subsequently rose to be the head of a clan (Kalisch),—duke Gatam (vide Genesis 36:11), and duke Amalek (vide Genesis 36:12): these are the dukes that came of Eliphaz in the land of Edom; these were the sons of Adah.

It might be alarming in some circles to read a note that a translation of the Bible contains a “clerical error.” Perhaps it is even more alarming to read that the Samaritan Pentateuch does not contain this error. (And then what do you do about disagreements within the Church as to which Books should even be *in* the Bible at all?) This draws into question what is meant by “inspiration” and how we should view the translated and/or transcribed text, and the relationship of these documents to the original text. I tend to fall into line with the viewpoint of the following video: Scripture’s point of origin (i.e. God) is correct and infallible thing about the text itself, whereas the process of putting that God-breathed thought onto paper can sometimes lead to mistakes. There’s more to it than this, obviously, but I sometimes think that people have this notion, regarding Scripture and inspiration, that David or Moses or Peter or Paul sat down to write (or sat down with their scribe as he wrote) and everyone involved kind of has their eyes roll into the back of their head, things start happening, and then when it’s over they’re all excited to see what God literally wrote down as though they played no actual part in it other than to be the vessels through which God directly did it. As a result, whenever a clerical error is discovered within the text, the reaction ends up being out of line with the nature of the mistake.

Continuing with The Pulpit Commentaries:

Genesis 36:17

And these are the sons of Reuel Esau’s son; duke Nahath, duke Zerah, duke Shammah, duke Minah: these are the dukes that came of Reuel in the land of Edom; these are the sons of Bashemath Esau’s wife (vide on Genesis 36:13).

Genesis 36:18

And these are the sons of Aholi-bamah Esau’s wife; duke Jeush, duke Jaalam, duke Korah: these were the dukes that came of Aholibamah the daughter of Allah, Esau’s wife. In the two previous instances it is the grandsons of Esau that become the alluphim or heads of tribes, while in this it is the sons, which Havernick regards as a mark of authenticity (vide ‘Introd.,’ § 20).

Ellicott also notes that verse 18 gives us sons, as Dukes, instead of grandsons – which is the case with Esau’s other wives:

(18) Duke Jeusn . . . —Aholibamah’s three sons are dukes, but only the grandsons of the other wives. The reason of this probably is that she belonged to the dominant family of Seir, and her sons took the command of districts and tribes of the Horite people in her right.

Who are the Horites? We have met them previously in Genesis 14, but the reminder is good. From The Encyclopedia of the Bible:

HORITE hôr’ īt; HORIM hō’ rem (חֹרִימ׃֮; LXX χορραῖοι). The LXX transcription consistently distinguishes the velar fricative of “Hittite” and “Horite” from the laryngeal spirant of “Hivite.” The former it writes as ch (χ, G5896), the latter with no separate consonant but a coloring of the adjacent vowel (e.g., Euaios for חִוִּ֖י). This distinction is an apt reflection of the evidence from both alphabetic (Ugaritic) and syllabic cuneiform texts (Akkadian and Hittites). Phonetically, “Horite” is the OT Heb. equivalent of extra-Biblical “Hurrian.” Many OT references to “Horites” do not seem to fit Hurrians. The personal names of the “Horites” in Genesis 36:20-30 do not conform to Hurrian patterns, but seem rather to be Semitic. It is claimed that no archeological evidence exists for Hurrian settlements in Edom or Trans-Jordan in general, whereas the OT reports “Horites” living there (Gen 14:6Deut 2:1222). These E Horites, the predecessors of the Edomites, were apparently not Hurrians. On the contrary, it is maintained that the name “Horite(s)” originally stood in the Heb. text of Genesis 34:2 and Joshua 9:7, and the LXX still retained it, whereas in Isaiah 17:9, both MT and LXX have replaced it with secondary forms. These Horites are called W Horites, because the passages cited indicate for them a residence in the region to the W of the Jordan. They are to be kept distinct from the E Horites, the predecessors of the Edomites. The W Horites, it is claimed, are non-Semites related to the peoples called Hurrians in extra-Biblical texts of the 2nd millennium b.c. The etymology of the name of the E Horites may be the Sem. noun for “cave,” identifying the pre-Edomites of Seir as “cave-dwellers,” whereas the etymology of the name of the W Horites is obscure, being involved with the obscure origins and relationships of the poorly understood Hurrian language.

And also From the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:


ho’-rit, ho’-rim (chori, chorim; Chorraioi): Denoted the inhabitants of Mt. Seir before its occupation by the Edomites (Deuteronomy 2:12). Seir is accordingly called Horite in Genesis 36:20, 30, where a list of his descendants is given, who afterward mixed with the invading Edomites. Esau himself married the daughter of the Horite chieftain Anah (Genesis 36:25; see 36:2, where “Hivite” must be corrected into “Horite”). The “Horites” in their “Mt. Seir” were among the nations defeated by the army of Chedorlaomer in the age of Abraham (Genesis 14:6). The Hebrew Horitc, however, is the Khar of the Egyptian inscriptions, a name given to the whole of Southern Palestine and Edom as well as to the adjacent sea. In accordance with this we find in the Old Testament also traces of the existence of the Horites in other parts of the country besides Mt. Seir. In Genesis 34:2 Joshua 9:7, the Septuagint (Cod. A) more correctly reads “Horite” instead of “Hivite” for the inhabitants of Shechem and Gibeon, and Caleb is said to be “the son of Hur, the first-born of Ephratah” or Bethlehem (1 Chronicles 2:501 Chronicles 4:4). Hor or Horite has sometimes been explained to mean “cave-dweller”; it more probably, however, denotes the “white” race. The Horites were Semites, and consequently are distinguished in Deuteronomy 2:12 from the tall race of Rephaim.

Horites = חֹרִי Chôrîy, kho-ree’; from H2356; cave-dweller or troglodyte; a Chorite or aboriginal Idumaean:—Horims, Horites.

As the note implies, there is some mystery surrounding these people. The notes seem to link them with “cave-dwellers” or “troglodytes” which might imply that these people were light-skinned. Remembering too that we encounter Horites fighting alongside giant clans in Genesis 14, perhaps there is something additionally unnatural about them from the perspective of the Biblical writer. That would not be surprising considering the prevailing theme that many of Canaan’s inhabitants were unnatural and not quite human.

Verse 19 is a summary of this section. From The Pulpit Commentaries:

Genesis 36:19

These are the sons of Esau, who is Edom, and these are their dukes.

The next section continues with an exploration of Esau’s line of descent.