Saturday, December 19, 2009

Who was Oholibamah?

Alice C. Linsley

Oholibamah is one of the most fascinating women in the Old Testament. Her name means "most high tent" or "tent shrine" and she is mentioned six places in Genesis 36. From her name, and based on the genealogical information in Genesis, we may safely conclude that she was associated with the Horite priestly line of Seir.

© 2004 Alice C. Linsley

Diagram of Moses’ Ancestry

       ∆ Seir
           ∆ Zibeon
         O Anah
                    Esau ∆ = O Oholibamah (Gen. 36)
                        ∆ Korah the Elder
                      Ishar  O =  ∆  = O  Jochebed
               ׀       ׀
              Korah ∆      ∆ Moses

Oholibamah is the only woman in Genesis whose mother, Anah, is figured in the line of descent in place of the father. Anah was the daughter of Zibeon. Genesis 36:24 tells us that Zibeon had a son named Aiah. Yet it is Anah, his daughter, who takes center stage as the mother of Oholibamah. Aiah is mentioned only once but Anah and Oholibamah are mentioned repeatedly.

That Anah and her daughter Oholibamah are important is evident from the diagram above. It is rare that females are listed in the line of descent of chiefs. In Oholibamah's case, she is listed because of her status - not because her father had no sons. We are told that she had a brother named Dishan.

Genesis 36:2 tells us that "Esau took his wives from the daughters of the Canaanites: Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite; Oholibamah the daughter of Anah, the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite; and Basemath, Ishmael's daughter, sister of Nebajoth."

Oholibamah is remembered as a wife of Esau and that marriage was arranged because of Oholibaham's high rank. she was probaly the daughter of a Canaanite priest. She is important also as the mother of Korah, the ancestor of Korah the Younger who opposed Moses in the wilderness. Amram's son by his cousin bride was named Korah. Amram had 2 wives, following the pattern of his ancestors. Jochebed was his half-sister bride (as was Sarah to Abraham).

According to Genesis 36:5, Esau and Oholibamah had three sons: Jeush, Jalam, and Korah. All were born in Canaan. This Korah is the grandfather or great great grandfather of Korah the Younger who died when the earth opened and devoured him and his fellow conspirators (Numbers 26:10). Here we see the continuing theme of competition between two brothers and we see that the events of the later chapters of Genesis are not chronologically far removed from the events narrated in Exodus and Numbers.

According to Genesis 36:18, Oholibamah's three sons became the chiefs of their clans. Someone of Oholibama's clan "found the hot springs in the desert, as he pastured the donkeys of his father Zibeon" (Genesis 36:24b).

Again we see that the cousin bride named her first-born son after her father. We first saw this in Genesis 5 with Naamah, Methusaleh’s cousin bride, who named her first-born son ‘Lamech’ after her father. We found it also with Keturah, Abraham's cousin bride, who named her first-born son Joktan after her father.

Genesis 36 poses difficulty because Anah is also listed as a ‘son’ of Zibeon (verse 24) and Oholibamah is listed as an Edomite chief (verse 41). "These were the names of the chiefs of Esau, in their tribes and places, in their countries and nations: Chief Timnah, Chief Alvah, Chief Jetheth, Chief Oholibamah, Chief Teman, Chief Mibzar, Chief Magdiel, and Chief Zaphoim." The term ‘son’ in reference to these two women means person through whom descendents are traced and 'chief' suggests that Oholibamah was the titular head, not necessarily the ruler.

Oholibamah is an enigma. She is mentioned repeatedly as an important woman of Edom, yet little is known of her. Her connection to the house of Korah is indisputable, and Korah's claim to the rights of primogenture were probably justified.

David had Edomite blood through Tamar and Moabite blood through Ruth. Likely David was related to the priestly line traced through Oholibamah. This is why II Samuel 8:18 speaks of David's sons as being priests. They didn't serve in the office of priest, but they were of a priestly line, and this was the line from which Jesus would come.

Oholibamah appears to prefigure the Virgin Mary. Oholibamah, the Most High Tent, housed the seed of Messiah through David, and her mother's name is Anah. The Virgin Mary, whose womb became the tabernacle of the Most High God, was the daughter of Ana. So Oholibamah is both an historical person, an ancestor of David, and an archetype of the Woman in Genesis 3:15.

There is a lovely Toparion appointed for this Sunday.  Here are the words:

Prepare, O Bethlehem, for Eden has been opened to all!
Adorn yourself, O Ephratha, for the tree of life blossoms forth from the Virgin in the cave!
Her womb is a spiritual paradise planted with Divine Fruit:
if we eat of it, we shall live forever and not die like Adam.
Christ comes to restore the image which He made in the beginning!

Related reading:  God's Word Never FailsMary's Priestly Lineage


olmon said...

(O‧hol‧i‧ba′mah) [Tent of the High Place].

1. A Canaanite wife of Esau. She bore him three sons, Jeush, Jalam, and Korah, all of whom became sheiks of Edom. Oholibamah was a daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Hivite Zibeon.—Ge 36:2, 5-8, 14, 18, 25; see ANAH.

2. The designation of an Edomite sheik; some scholars would apply these listed names to places, believing they should read, “the sheik of Oholibamah,” and so forth.—Ge 36:40, 41; 1Ch 1:51, 52.

Chumba David said...

Early in the morning of Tuesday 3rd July, I had a dream where I heard the name Oholibama thrice. Could be that the Holy Spirit has something for me? Your write up about this personality in the Scriptures is fascinating.

Anonymous said...

Alice, have you ever looked in the the Book of Jasher to solve the mystery of Genesis 36?

The Book of Jasher lists the Dukes of Edom as the sons of Oholibamah and Esau (the Elder).

Timnah, who became the concubine of Eliphaz, is not the daughter of Seir, but the firstborn daughter of Jeush the firstborn son of Oholibamah.

As the firstborn, Timnah became the first Duke of Edom and is listed in Genesis 36.

Jeush gave his daughter Timnah as a wife to Egyptian Shinue.

When Sinuhe went back to Egypt, Timnah refused to go with him and became the concubine to Eliphaz.

Eliphaz, the firstborn of Esau, is well known from the Book of Job; he was the king of Themanites and relative of Job. (Septuagint 42:17)

The youngest son of Esau and Oholibamah was Korah, and the youngest of Korah was Iram, also known as Emran.

In Salalah, ancient city of Oman where Frankincense Trail ends, there are several very ancient tombs; one belongs to Biblical Job, the other to the Emran's family - family of Mary, mother of Christ.

Alice Linsley said...

Yes. See Two Named Esau here:

Also see Edom and the Horites:

Korah is not a name. It is a title and means priest. It is like the word Kohen.

Alice Linsley said...

Chumba David, Oholibamah is the figure who speak of the Virgin Mary in the future, and of Hathor-Meri in the past. She is a link, or a sign post pointing back in time and forward in time to the fulfillment of the first promise of God to Abraham's people - that a woman of their Horite ruler-priest lines would conceive by the "overshadowing" and bring forth the Seed /Son of God. (Gen. 3:15) Jesus claimed to be that "Seed" who would fall into the ground and die in order that He might give live to the world (John 12:24). Blessings to you!

Joshua Browning said...

I'm sorry, but I'm a little lost on how the Korah descended from Esau could be the same Korah who defied Moses in the wilderness. Korah in Exodus would have been an Israelite, a descendant of Jacob, not Esau. Esau's descendants became the Edomites. There is no mention that Esau's family went to Egypt with Jacob's family.

Alice Linsley said...

Joshua, Look at the kinship diagram at the top again. You will note that there are two named Korah. The Korah who defied Moses's authority was his half-brother, the grandson of Korah, the Elder. This reflects the cousin-bride's naming prerogative which you can read about here:

This is a distinctive trait of the marriage and ascendancy pattern of these ruler-priests. You can read more about this pattern here: