Saturday, February 20, 2010

Two Named 'Esau'

Alice C. Linsley

As can be seen from the diagram, there are two named Esau in the Bible and both are related to the Horites of Edom. The Horites of Edom were known to have a reddish skin tone. King David was described as reddish, likely owing to his Edomite blood.

Esau the Elder married the daughter of Chief Elon. The "sons of Esau" said to dwell in Seir (Deut. 2:4) must refer to the sons of Esau the Elder, a contemporary of Chief Seir. Esau the Elder had 2 wives: Basemath (Ishmaelite) and Adah (Kenite). 

Reading Genesis 36, without knowledge of the kinship pattern of Abraham's people, one gets the mistaken impression that there is only one Esau and that he had 3 wives: Basemath, Adah and Oholibamah. (A fourth wife, Mahalath, is mentioned in Genesis 28:9.) However, as seen in the diagram above, it was the younger Esau, Jacob's elder brother, who married Oholibamah, the great granddaughter of Seir.

Esau married well. Oholibamah's mother was the high ranking Anah and Anah's father was Zibeon, a Horite chief.[1] Oholibamah was the mother of Korah the Elder, the grandfather of Korah the Younger who opposed Moses in the wilderness. This was a priestly line with connections to the Harwa [2] of Egypt. Oholibamah means the tent of the high place, or the shrine tent.

Consider how often we find two with the same name in the Bible.  There are two Enochs, two Lamechs, two Nahors, two Esaus, two Korahs....etc.  When we find two with the same name, we recognize that one is the Elder and one is the Younger. The pattern is due to the intermarriage of patrilineal clans (called "kinsmen" in Gen. 31:42), with chiefs having two wives: one a half-sister and the other a patrilineal cousin.  The cousin bride named her first-born son after her father.  The cousin bride's father is "the Elder" and her son is "the Younger." We have seen this unique kinship pattern in analysis of the relationship of the descendents of Cain and Seth, and the descendents of Ham and Shem.  This naming prerogative of the cousin bride was already a custom in the time of Lamech (Gen. 4). Lamech’s daughter, Naamah, named her first-born son Lamech.

You are probably shaking your head, wondering how to keep these two-somes straight! It isn't easy without having the diagrams in front of you. Kinship analysis, a specialized field of cultural anthropology, involves preparation of diagrams using the genealogical data.  After the diagrams are prepared and checked for accuracy, analysis of the kinship begins.

Familiarity with the cousin bride's naming prerogative enables us to recover the names of some chiefs who have been given symbolic names, that is, names that are etiological etymologies. For example, Leah's first-born son is Reuben and we are told his name derives from raa beonyi, meaning "Yahweh has seen my misery." A second explanation relates the name to Leah's hope of winning Jacob's love by bringing forth a son. In this case, the name derives from yeehabani, meaning "he will love me."  It is more likely that Reuben is ra'a ben, meaning "behold, a son."

Esau's name is explained as referring to the color red - Edom (Gen. 36:2). This could as easily be translated "ruddy", an adjective applied to King David who had Edomite blood through Tamar. The same source relates the name to an abundance of hair: “The first to be born was red, altogether like a hair cloak; so they named him Esau.” (Gen. 25:25)

What is the origin of the name Esau and what connection does it have to the central message of the Bible? Cheyne associates the name with "Usu" of Tyre. (Stade's "Zeitschrift," 17.189)  This is interesting because of the connection between Jesus and Tyre.  Hiram, the king of Tyre, was allied by kinship to David. Hiram is also known as "Huram" and "Horam", which are versions of the shorter names Hur or Hor. Midrashic tradition names Hur as Moses’ brother-in-law, the husband of Miriam. Hur’s grandson was one of the builders of the Tabernacle. I Chronicles 4:4 lists Hur as the "father of Bethlehem", that is the patriarch of the place known as the "city of David".  In other words, the king of Tyre and David had common Horite ancestors, and as the Genesis genealogies and Ezekiel 28:11-19 indicate, the Horite lineage can be traced back to Eden. The Horites believed that the Son of God would be born of their bloodline and they expected Him to reveal Himself to them. This was fulfilled when Jesus Christ, the Son of God, visited Tyre (Matt. 15:21-28; Mark 7: 24).

Another view is that Esau is related to the Hebrew asa - to do, to fashion, or to accomplish. Or it may be related to the African word Ishan. Since some of Abraham's ancestors came out of Africa, we should expect the name Esau to be traceable to that area from which they came (Nigeria and Lake Chad). The name Esau is Ishan in Nigeria. The Arabic, Aramaic, Chadic and the Hebrew names are linguistically equivalent because they share a common Afro-Asiatic root. Because of the linguistic correspondence, some Islamic scholars suggest that Esau is Esa or Issa, the Quranic name for Jesus. This raises a fascinating possibility that the son beloved of the father, whose birthright was denied him by Israel, is a type of Jesus Christ!

David had Edomite blood through Tamar and was descended from the most ancient priestly line through Oholibamah and the Horite Zibeon. 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 the priestly line from which Jesus came. So we find a parallel between Oholibamah and the Virgin Mary.  Oholibamah, the Most High Tent, housed the seed of Messiah through David, and her mother's name is Anah. Likewise the Virgin Mary's womb became the tent of the Most High God, and her mother’s name was Ana.


1.  The Horites appear to have been a confederation of clans including Sheba, Joktan, and Jebu. Culturally they reflect the customs of ancient Egyptian and Sudanese royalty.

2. Sarki also means ruler among the people of Kano (biblical Kain). They reside in west central Africa which is where Noah and his ancestors lived according to the Genesis genealogical data. Sarki are also a people group living in the Orissa Province of India. This connection between India and Nigeria has to do with the ruler-priests, called Harwa, who spread the Afro-Asiatic worldview around 12,000 years ago. They even went beyond India to Nepal because there are Sarki who live as ‘Haruwa’ in the Tarai region of Nepal. The word Haruwa is equivalent to the ancient Egyptian word Harwa, meaning priest.

Related reading:  Petra Reflects Horite Beliefs; Seats of Wisdom; Edom and the Horites


Maria said...

I just noticed in Gen 36:40-41, two of the chiefs are women, Timnah and Aholibamah. Are any of the rest of them women and what may be the significance of that?

Alice C. Linsley said...

Hello, Maria. That is a great question! The other females in the chart are Adah (the same name as one of Lamech's wives, Gen 4) and Anah (the same name as Ana, the Prophetess who identified the young Jesus as the Messiah, Luke 2).

The tribes of southern Arabia recognized prominent women as the matriarchs of clans. The first of these was Hagar from whom came the Hagarites. It appears that she had other children after she returned home to the shrine between Kadesh and Bered. That the Hagarites are distinct from the Ishmaelites is evident in Psalm 83 where they are listed separately. The Hagarites were allies based on kinship with the Ishmaelites, the people of Edom (descendents of Seir the Horite), and the people of Moab (descendents of Lot).

Anonymous said...

The Benin Kingdom in Nigeria is known also as Idu kingdom and its people bear names with the suffix "Idu". Also, the land of the Edomites was known as Idumea. I'll try to find out the meaning of Idu according to the Benin.
By the way I think it is more than coincidence for the Jebusites and Edomites to be found close to each other today.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Very good comment, YT! Thanks.

No coincidence. The Jebusites and the Edomites were part of the Horite confederation. Melchizedek was a Jebusite priest who prayed and offered sacrifice for Abraham after battle. Horite priests had responsibility to make atonement for blood guilt.

the real akan said...

I see what you are saying with the names, Esau the elder would actually be Adom(adam). The horites go back to the garden of eden. Thats what the whole story is a about. Esau adom is the stuck under sin...and jacob brings the christ jesus, the new man. Same story with Rachael's 2 sons... Saul is Benjamin and edom...David is actually judah and joseph(egypt). As david (dodo) actually came from jair. giving him the rightful rule over all firstborn son.

Alice Linsley said...

Esau the Elder was Esau the Younger's maternal grandfather.

The Horites are from Eden, a vast well-watered region that extended from the headwaters of the Nile to the Tigris-Euphrates Valley. "Son of Man, raise a lament over the king of Tyre and say to him: Thus says the Lord God: You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and flawless beauty. You were in Eden, in the Garden of God; every precious stone was your adornment... and gold beautifully wrought for you, mined for you, prepared the day you were created." (Ezekiel 28:11-18)

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus' true identity is recognized in the ancient island city of Tyre, not on a mountain as in Matthew's Gospel. For Mark, the Messiah’s appearing means the beginning of the restoration of Paradise. Perhaps the evangelist was thinking of this passage from Ezekiel 28. That would explain why Mark makes so much of Jesus’ visit to Tyre.

Tyre was the home of Hiram I, the father of the Tyrian king who helped to build Solomon’s temple. Hiram I was kin to David and sent skilled artisans to help David build a palace in Jerusalem, “the city of the Great King” (Matt. 5:35). Hiram is also known as "Huram" and "Horam", which are versions of the names Hur, Hor and Harun (Aaron), as in Jabal Harun, the Mountain of Aaron. According to Midrash, Hur was Moses’ brother-in-law, Miriam’s husband. Hur’s grandson was one of the builders of the Tabernacle. I Chronicles 4:4 lists Hur as the "father of Bethlehem", a settlement in the heartland of Horite territory.

In other words, the common ancestors of Hiram I and David were Horites, a caste of ruler-priests who anticipated the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15 because their Horite lineage went back to Eden. The Horites believed that the promised Seed of the Woman would be born of their blood and they expected Him to visit them. In Mark 7:24, this expectation was fulfilled when the Son of God visited Tyre, where we are told Jesus “could not pass unrecognized.”