Successful challenges

Jonathan D. Safren yonsaf at
Mon Dec 20 08:05:20 EST 1999

Jonathan Bailey wrote:

> ---------- Original Message ----------
> >Dear Jonathan,
> >What do you do with Gen. 36 31,  "And these are the kings that reigned
> >in Edom before there reigned a king of/over Israel"? Even Rashi
> >attributed this king-list to the time of King Jehoshafat, leading Ibn
> >Ezra to proclaim that his book should be burned. What do you do with all
> >the other verses indicating late authorship of the Pentateuch?
> Gen 36,31 is a matter of interpretation. I interpret the verse as Moses basically saying
> "Edomites have already had a slew of Kings, and we haven't even had one yet."
> Now remember, this is after Jacob had gotten the birthright, yet there had already
> been a slew of Edomite kings, and none for Israel. The theme is that the temporal
> things of the world get their glory first, but only for a while, while the things of God
> have to wait for a time, but then they get their glory. At least this is how I interpret the
> passage from my pauline lense.
> Now we know that Israel conceived itself of Israel far before the monarchy, and
> expectations of a king were probably common. After all, everybody else, even fleshly
> Esau, had them. The use of the infinitive here may indicate that the author was not
> speaking from the perspective of an author in the far future about an already
> completed event. Therefore I see it somewhat like 'they already have all these kings
> and we haven't even gotten one yet'. Such would be an attidute of the Jews in Egypt,
> wondering about what it means to get the birthright and be slaves in Egypt while the
> fleshly brother loses his birthright and becomes the founder of a great nation. This
> statement is a good indicator of a tradition or a source that Moses would have
> incorporated into Genesis.

Dear Jonathan,
There wasn't any permanent settlement in Edom until the mid-13th century BCE.
The Edomite kingship wouldn't have been established immediately, but only after a process of
development, as in Israel. The Bible is not talking of kings of Esau, but kings of Edom. There's
quite a list, and if the list isn't talking about local kinglets reigning at the same time (as
the judges in the Book ofJudges), then Edomite kingship was established some time before the
Israelite one. The author of the list in Gen. 36 is looking back at all this.
Jonathan D. Safren
Dept. of Biblical Studies
Beit Berl College
Beit Berl Post Office 44905

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